In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our March-April 2011 issue, a reader asked WebMD's Everyday Fitness expert, Pamela Peeke, how to stop bingeing.
Q: I stick to my diet until my stress level hits a certain point. Then I binge and feel horrible. How can I stop?
A First off, a definition: A "binge" is the rapid consumption of an excessive amount of food at one sitting, usually 1,000 to 2,000 calories or more. Many people binge because they are anxious or depressed. Many binge secretly, which brings on more feelings of shame and guilt.
Research shows that consuming large quantities of refined sugar and fat really does decrease levels of stress hormones. But the resulting calmness is short-lived, and afterward, you're likely to feel emotionally drained as well as physically uncomfortable.
At its core, bingeing is not about food. It's about a consistent difficulty coping with life's stresses. The key to nipping your binges in the bud is to learn how to adapt and adjust to the ups and downs of everyday life.
A few tips: Learn to be mindful of every mouthful you eat. Try sitting down and breathing deeply when you feel stressed, rather than running to the fridge. Get help learning new problem-solving skills -- ones that are productive and constructive, not self-destructive. Keep junk food out of your house, so if you do binge, you do it on healthy food. Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself when you binge. Falling off the wagon occasionally is natural when you're learning new habits.