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Breaking the Binge Cycle: The Power of Routine - Part 1 of Be Binge Free New Year Series

Binge Eating Disorder is a common eating disorder where an individual consumes unusually large amounts of food in short periods. If you've ever found yourself asking, "Why am I eating so much?" or "How do I stop this urge to binge eat?", you're not alone.


woman struggling with binge eating

The good news is, there are ways to break this cycle and regain control over your relationship with food. Developing a healthy daily routine is a crucial first step towards this goal.


This is the first part of our New Year's series that is going to help you Be Binge Free in 2024. Across the next few articles we'll be discussing all things Binge Eating and Binge Eating Disorder as well as helping you to develop healthy routines, discovering coping strategies, making behavioral changes, overcoming challenges and more.


This first article aims at exploring the importance of creating a daily routine and how it can help reset habits, develop a more positive mindset and reduce binge eating.


enjoying food with friends

Understanding Binge Eating Disorder


Binge eating, a psychological condition, is characterised by episodes of consuming large quantities of food, often in response to stress or negative emotions. These episodes are followed by feelings of guilt, shame and loss of control.


Binge eating disorder is often misunderstood and many tend to conflate it with emotional eating or even stress eating. I find the easiest way to help people understand where binge eating lies in comparison to these is to visualise our eating behaviours existing on a dial.


On one side of the dial we have normal, healthy eating behaviours whearas, at the other side, we have the likes of binge eating and other eating disorders. As the dial turns further from normal eating to binge eating we would see, along said dial, the likes of stress eating and emotional eating.


While some of the behaviours are similar, they aren't to the same degree of binge eating disorder nor are is long term maintenance of the behaviours as a coping strategy a major concern.


So, what exactly drives binge eating behaviour?


Factors Contributing to Binge Eating and Binge Eating Disorder


Three main elements contribute to the cycle of binge eating.

  1. Self-worth based on weight: For many individuals struggling with binge eating, their self-esteem is inextricably linked to their weight. This mindset can lead to unhealthy habits and disordered eating.

  2. Extreme dieting: People with a negative body image often adopt unhealthy diet restrictions aimed at weight loss that are hard to maintain. These unsustainable eating patterns can lead to food cravings and eventually binge eating.

  3. Critical self-talk: After attempting to maintain strict dietary standards, individuals often give up and the resulting wave of critical self-talk can lead to an extremely negative emotional state resulting in a binge eating episode. The critical self-talk that then follows can then lead into a cycle of a negative internal narrative driving low self-esteem / self-worth, negative mood and emotional state and binge eating. While often described as a cycle I see this situation as more of a spiral as it tends to worse over time and with each cycle.


theoretical model for the drivers of binge eating behaviour

Image from published article; Processes and pathways to binge eating: development of an integrated cognitive and behavioural model of binge eating (2019).


How is binge eating disorder clinically defined?


The DSM-5, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by healthcare professionals around much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders, has identified four primary criteria that have to be met for a binge eating disorder diagnosis.


Those are;


  1. You feel a sense of loss / lack of control when eating - often described by individuals who are dealing with these issues as dissociating or an “out of body” experience

  2. Eating a relatively large amount of food in a short period of time (2 hours).

  3. Marked psychological distress and feelings of shame, guilt, anger and resentment during and after an episode.

  4. Having these episodes at least 2 days a week for 6 months or at least 1 day a week for 3 month


The Power of Routine in Managing Binge Eating


Creating a daily routine can be a game-changer for those struggling with binge eating. A structured routine reintroduces a healthy amount of control in one's life. Regular meal times can help reduce hunger-driven urges to binge eat as well as better manage cravings by ensuring that your body is consistently nourished throughout the day.


The Importance of Structured Eating


Structured eating focuses on organising meals as an act of self care aimed with fostering a balanced diet and a positive relationship with food. Over time, your body will learn to communicate effectively regarding your nutritional needs. This systematic approach includes the timing, type, and quantity of food consumption.


Principles of Structured Eating

  • Eat within 1 hour of waking

  • Maintain 3-4 hour intervals between meals

  • Consume 3 meals a day, with 2-3 snacks in between

  • Opt for balanced, well-portioned meals


Benefits of Structured Eating


Structured eating can replace the detrimental cycle of food restriction and bingeing with a healthy pattern of regular meals. By planning your meals in advance, you can shop for food more mindfully and avoid impulsive, unhealthy food choices. Other benefits of structured eating include:

  1. Reduced Shop Visits: Meal planning can minimise the frequency of visits to the shop, which can often induce anxiety for someone battling binge eating disorder.

  2. Cost Effectiveness: Meal planning is usually more affordable compared to last-minute food choices which may involve dining out or ordering takeaway.

  3. Reduced Decision-Making: A meal plan simplifies the number of food-related decisions you have to make daily, reducing overwhelm and providing added stress relief.

  4. Defined Boundaries: Structured eating allows you to establish clear boundaries for each meal, giving you control over your food consumption.

  5. Social Benefits: Regular meal times enable you to enjoy meals with your family and friends which, in turn, could help provide the added benefit of an accountability partner (s).


Implementing Structured Eating Practices


Implementing structured eating requires time and effort. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Plan at least 5 lunches and 5 dinners for the week ahead.

  • Be flexible with your meal plan. It's okay to change your mind and adjust your meals.

  • Make a shopping list of all the ingredients needed for your weekly meal plan.

  • Schedule one or two major shopping trips each week.

  • Don't forget to include snacks in your meal plan.

  • Share your intentions with your family and friends so they can provide support.


nutritious meals

Other Lifestyle Changes to Support Binge Eating Recovery


While developing a daily routine is crucial, incorporating additional lifestyle changes can further support your journey towards overcoming binge eating. Here are some additional strategies:

  1. Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of binge eating and decrease stress levels.

  2. Stay Hydrated: Staying hydrated throughout the day can curb impulses that may lead to binge eating.

  3. Establish a Healthy Evening Routine: Getting adequate sleep can regulate your appetite and reduce the risk of binge eating.

  4. Practice Mindful Eating: Mindfulness techniques can be incredibly helpful in promoting healthier behaviours. Mindful eating involves focusing on your present eating experience, helping you recognise when you are no longer hungry.

  5. Seek Professional Help: If you're struggling with binge eating, consider seeking professional help. Binge eating disorder specialists can help you understand your triggers and work with you to overcome harmful habits, objectively track progress, provide motivation tips and empower you to make long term change.


In Conclusion


Managing binge eating disorder is a journey that requires dedication and patience. Establishing a healthy daily routine is a significant first step towards recovery and allows you to experience daily small successes. By developing regular eating habits, reducing impulsive food choices, and seeking professional help, you can move towards a healthier relationship with food. Remember, it's okay to seek help and take small steps towards progress. Let this be the first step you take this year to Being Binge Free and follow this series to stay motivated and be sure to check out our course "Be Binge Free" as well as other resources and how you can beat binge eating disorder for good!


Article summary;

  • Plan at least 5 lunches and 5 dinners for the week ahead

  • Be flexible with your meal plan

  • Make a shopping list of all the ingredients needed

  • Schedule one or two major shopping trips each week

  • Don't forget to include snacks in your meal plan

  • Share your intentions and learning lessons with family and friends for support and to celebrate progress

  • Exercise regularly to reduce binge eating risk and stress levels

  • Stay hydrated to curb impulses that may lead to binge eating

  • Establish a healthy evening routine for better appetite regulation

  • Practice mindful eating to recognize when you're no longer hungry

  • Consider seeking professional help from binge eating disorder specialists

  • Managing binge eating requires dedication, patience, and a healthy routine

  • Take small steps towards progress and seek help if needed

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