4 Tips for Managing Holiday Binge Eating
We’re quickly approaching the holiday season after a difficult 2020. While we all undoubtedly deserve the chance to sit back, relax, and enjoy some time off, the holiday period can be very difficult for people who struggle with binge eating.
Whether it’s your nosey aunt who comments on your appearance, or the abundance of all your favorite cakes, or even the complete lack of daily structure, it’s variables like these that make the holiday period difficult to enjoy among those who binge eat.
If this is resonating with you, then keep reading.
I’m going to discuss some simple and effective ways to help you not only get through this period but also enjoy it because you deserve it!
Let’s go through 4 steps to help you manage binge eating over the holidays.
1. Be Prepared
If you’re not prepared and don’t have a plan on how to attack the holiday season, then don’t expect things to magically work out for the best.
Lack of preparation will only make things worse; you’ll binge much more frequently, you’ll feel constantly ashamed or guilty, and this holiday season will be remembered as one of misery rather than joy.
The fact that you’re reading this is a good indication that you’re probably starting to make some plans on how to get through the holidays.
This is essential.
The sooner you prepare the stronger the likelihood of success.
The other 3 steps below will give you some insight towards how you might prepare for the holidays.
2. Know Thyself
Knowledge is power. And knowledge of your inner workings is fundamental for helping you to manage binge eating.
By this, I mean you need to do some deep reflection about what exactly it is that triggers you to binge.
It’s not enough to say things like “when I feel low I binge” or “when I’m hungry I binge”.
You need to be more specific and you need to understand, in as much detail as possible, what’s driving the binge.
Perhaps some emotions (e.g., anger) are more powerful than others (e.g., sadness).
Or perhaps your tendency to delay eating for 6 or more waking hours is responsible for the binge rather than a more “general hunger”.
Or it might be that your binges spiral out of control whenever you get a taste of fast food.
If you don’t understand this level of detail, then the chances are you won’t know what needs changing.
Therefore, when you’re approaching the holiday season, for a couple of weeks or so, journal your eating behavior.
Find out exactly what’s causing you to binge.
Document not only what, when, and how much you eat each day, but also take note of what’s happening during these times, what you were thinking and feeling, and any behaviors that might be of relevance.
When you identify the precise triggers, you can then develop some strategies to prevent these things from occurring again in future.
3. Develop a Routine
Although the holiday period interferes with our usual structure, you need to do your best to stick to a regular routine.
This is because a lack of structure can create a sense of chaos, and we know that chaos and binge eating go hand in hand.
To help you develop a routine, consider planning and doing the following:
1. Wake up at the same time each day
2. Plan to eat 3 meals and 3 snacks per day, no longer than 4 hours apart
3. Go to bed roughly the same time each night
4. Schedule in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day
5. Do one thing you enjoy once a day, like getting a massage, practicing some yoga, playing your favorite video game.
If you’re able to create a regular routine, then you’re much less likely to be distracted by or preoccupied with food, and your energy will be invested towards being productive throughout the day!
4. Step out of your Comfort Zone and Socialize
Binge eating can feel isolating.
Binge eating forces us to avoid social interactions, which makes the problem even worse.
However, socializing is actually one of the strongest binge eating protective factors.
There are a couple of reasons for this:
First, good social interactions have a positive effect on our self-esteem and sense of self-worth. We know that binges are triggered by moments where we question who we are as a person.
Second, socializing allows you to stay in the moment and therefore stops you from dwelling on past or future events.
There’s good quality evidence showing that being more mindful of our situations prevents episodes of binge eating.
So this holiday period, make sure you step out of your comfort zone and have good quality interactions with family members you might not have seen for a while.
Even though you might not want to, just remember that you’re doing this for you – no one else.
These 4 tips might be the kick-start you need to finally enjoy the upcoming holiday season.
However, for you to manage binge eating during this time, you need to put in the work.
It will be very difficult to get a hold of your binge eating if you’re complacent – being proactive, diligent, and motivated are fundamental for getting you through this time.
Most importantly, enjoy your time off!
About the Author
Dr Jake Linardon (PhD) is the founder of Break Binge Eating and works as a Research Fellow at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. Jake’s work involves trying to better understand and treat eating disorders, particularly through the use of innovative technologies. Jake has published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, across the world’s leading psychiatry and clinical psychology scientific journals, and serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Eating Disorders and Body Image. Jake is passionate about increasing access to evidence-based care among people with eating and body image issues.