How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Food

If you have binge eating disorder or think you might, you can learn how to form a positive relationship with food -- and that can help you stop overeating.

Think about food as source of nutrition and energy instead of something to relieve stress or to be avoided. It may seem hard at first, but you can change the way you feel as you improve your eating habits.

Don't Diet

Bingeing might have made you gain weight, as it does for a lot of people. But trying to cut calories or not eating certain kinds of foods can trigger overeating, and that can make it harder for you to recover from the disorder. It can lead to a cycle of dieting and bingeing that’s hard to break.

If you want to lose weight, talk to your doctor about when and how to do it. You want to make sure it doesn’t affect your recovery. With proper help, many people lose weight after they stop bingeing.

Make Regular Meals a Habit

Don’t skip meals. Being very hungry can make you more likely to overeat. It also ups the odds you’ll choose foods that are high in fat and sugar, which can trigger a binge.

It’s important to eat breakfast every day, too. A morning meal can help curb hunger all day long.

Choose healthy foods for meals and snacks. You’ll get nutrients that your body needs. You might also feel fewer cravings for unhealthy foods that make you want to overeat.

Healthy choices include fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich foods like eggs, chicken breast, salmon, and Greek yogurt.

Keep Cravings Out of Sight

Don’t stock your fridge and pantry with foods high in sugar or fat, or with other treats that make you want to overeat. Just having them around can start a binge.

Also, keep less food -- even the healthy kind -- in your home while you’re recovering. Since most people tend to binge in private, keep only as much food as you need for a short period. That can give you less of a chance to binge.

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Seek Support

The way you think about food and act around it can be “contagious,” research shows. That’s why it’s smart to spend time with friends and family members who are healthy eaters. Don’t fall into the trap of eating alone – you may be more likely to binge.  However, you might want to avoid people who make negative comments about your eating or your weight.

Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

Many people binge because it makes them feel less stressed, at least in the short term. You might not be able to avoid stress, but you can practice healthy ways to relax.

Exercise, meditation, or a phone call with a friend can soothe you and help ease the urge to overeat.

Get Professional Help

A psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist who specializes in eating disorders can teach you new ways of thinking about food.

For example, you can learn how to replace negative thoughts with more realistic ones. Instead of saying, “I had a cookie and blew it, so I might as well eat the entire batch,” you might try thinking, “It’s OK to have one cookie every now and then.”

Therapy can teach you to view food as a source of energy and nourishment, instead of a way to feel better. The medication lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse) is the first FDA-approved medication to treat binge eating disorder by curbing bingeing episodes. Some antidepressants have also helped. There is a new medication naltrexone hcl/bupropion hcl (Contrave) to help with weight loss.You may want to consider a support group.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 01, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Brunner, T., Appetite, December 2011.

Christakis, N. The New England Journal of Medicine, July 2007.

Deckersbach, T. Nutrition and Diabetes, September 2014

Iacovino, J. Current Psychiatry Reports, August 2012

Jean Fain, LICSW, psychotherapist and teaching associate in psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance / Harvard Medical School.

KidsHealth.org: “Binge Eating Disorder.”

Mathes, WF. Appetite, June 2009.

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