Journal Before You Binge

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know I’m not a fan of diets. As I have said before, 95% of diets fail.

Hope surges briefly when compulsive overeaters start diets and begin to lose weight. It helps that the first week of weight loss on any diet is mostly water, which quickly makes your clothes feel looser. But, after a few months most dieters gain back the weight they have lost plus some.

Why don’t diets work? Compulsive overeaters eat to get something that food doesn’t provide. This might be companionship, love, a sense of purpose, knowing what to do next, or a relief from boredom. Once compulsive overeaters connect with what food is giving them emotionally, they can work to find other ways to get whatever it is.

And their compulsive overeating diminishes.

That’s not to minimize how difficult it can be to connect with whatever it is that makes you eat. It may take months or years before compulsive overeaters truly understand why they are overeating.

So, where do you start?

When compulsive overeaters first work with me, they may turn to food so fast they have no awareness that a desire for something else precedes it. It has become such a habit, they eat before they have any awareness of the lack they are trying to fill in their life.

With time and work in therapy, the process of compulsive overeating begins to slow down. Overeaters become aware of when they are eating without being hungry. They recognize that they buy things in the grocery store or bakery automatically, because those treats tasted good in the past. They may begin to realize their memory of how wonderful those foods are far exceeds what the foods taste like today.

One way to slow down and insert some awareness into this process is, when you begin to recognize you are about to compulsively eat, to write first.

Many compulsive overeaters try to head off a binge by restricting their eating or forcing themselves to do a task they don’t want to do. But this deprivation usually creates a bigger binge, later on.

It is ultimately awareness of the emotional issues underlying compulsive eating which will diminish it. So, I recommend you take a few minutes to write about what’s happening inside you before you eat.

This doesn’t have to be anything formal. In fact, the quicker and easier it is, the more likely you will do it again.

I recommend having something you can write on at hand at all times, be it a comment on your phone or a small notepad in your purse. It’s amazing how making it a little more convenient can move you in the right direction.

I often set a timer before I write. I find it intimidating to face a blank page that appears to go on forever. If I set a timer for five minutes, I know that, at the end of that time, I can go on to something else. But, usually by that time I have hit a roll and want to continue. Or I’ve figured out what I need to recognize and don’t need to write any more.

Journaling before you eat is the beginner’s version. The advanced version is having someone in your life you can call or text before you eat.

Of course, that may take some work if you don’t talk to anyone about your eating, either because you’re ashamed of it or you don’t have anyone you talk to deeply about your life. It can take a while before you overcome your blocks to reaching out to someone in that way.

But when you do, it is unbelievable how less alone you feel. How much less ashamed. How much more empowered and hopeful you feel about your eating and your life.

That is when you can truly make headway on overcoming compulsive overeating.

Would you like to start talking to someone about your compulsive overeating? Contact Tory Butterworth, PhD, for a free 20 minute assessment