I want to first point out that this post is NOT backed by evidence or by science. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we define what binging is, and how the definition of a binge itself may actually result with more binges. When binges occur, they’re almost always followed by a great deal of guilt, the need to restrict as a form of punishment or getting back on track, which then results with the insatiable cravings that don’t seem to be fulfilled without once again binging. While I think I’ve made it pretty clear already, I’ll state it simply: it’s a vicious cycle

So I began to think about how we wrap our minds around what a binge is, and also how by nature when we talk about binges, there is a negative connotation attached. And I cannot help but wonder: what would happen if we began to redefine binges all-together?

Plan a binge

Recovery tends to involve a great deal of black-and-white thinking, or all-or-nothing thinking. When we rely on this type of mindset, anything that happens that is outside of our “right” behavior, then the whole goal itself feels ruined, and therefore we become “failures.” When the goal is to quit binging completely, we’re actually setting up a pretty overwhelming and potentially unrealistic goal for ourselves. Again, this may be my biased opinion because I believe moderation and balance is key to a healthy lifestyle. Let’s put it in other terms that doesn’t involve food: if you tell me that I can NEVER buy another pair of shoes (I really love boots), then the whole idea of buying shoes coincidentally becomes more enticing. When I give in (because that WILL happen because I am human and because the “craving” for a new pair will increase), then I automatically judge myself and my actions negatively.

The same thing happens when we tell ourselves “I can never binge ever again!” It sets up a win-or-lose thought process and we’re left with a pretty tough goal to accomplish. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I am saying that I think there may be a better way to set up initial goals to stop binging. Step one: actually plan a binge. It might sound crazy (but it may be so crazy that it works). Pick a specific food you want to binge on, or historically have shown that you do binge on. Pick a specific day (or two days) of the week that you actually allow yourself to binge on the food. The catch? Set a limit. For example, if you tend to binge on multiple desserts, allow yourself just three of them. If you tend to binge on multiple fast food restaurants on your way home from work, switch your route home so that you only can stop at two of the drive-throughs. Have a specific plan in place that allows for a binge.

Creating ownership of the binge

By planning a binge, you are actually taking responsibility for it. Many binges occur in a way that seems completely out of control and at a time that you aren’t really prepared for. They creep up on you inconveniently and are never truly welcomed. So of course it becomes easy to blame the action on the diagnosis of binge eating disorder. However, planning out the specific binge (how much and when) can actually place the ownership of the binge on YOU rather than a diagnosed disorder. It gives control back in a situation that otherwise feels anything but controlled. The ultimate goal of this? That over time taking ownership of a binge can actually lead to forgiveness of your self. This means less guilt and shame, less need to restrict in order to compensate, and fewer binges as a result of the restrict-binge cycle.

Identify its purpose, and move on

Own up to the binge itself. “I binged on ______, and ___(this)___ is why, and I’m feeling ______ as a result.” A lot of times the binge happens so quickly that there isn’t really time given to reflect on the purpose behind it in the first place. So we’re left with multiple binges in a row where each one feels like an extension of the last, and the whole purpose gets lost somewhere in the middle of them. When we don’t identify the purpose behind our actions, then we’re more likely to continue doing the same actions because they’re familiar and they are believed to be coping mechanisms. In all honesty, binging IS in fact a way to cope! However, it may not be the one that you initially wanted to choose for yourself. This is where identifying the “why” becomes so crucial.

When we identify the motivation behind our actions, or the precipitating event, then we’re more able to also identify alternative ways of coping. If the purpose behind the binge becomes lost, then the binge itself becomes an almost automatic response to any life crisis or situation that feels unmanageable. Take a second to breathe (and breathe again), and build self-awareness behind the binge all-together. You may find that you felt really safe and comfortable in the very moment of the binge. When we’re able to identify how we’re feeling in the moment, we can also start to think of other coping skills (that don’t involve binging) that provide us with those SAME feelings.

The last step? Move on and more forward with your day and week. One binge throughout the week does not define you as a person, or your ability to continue progressing in recovery. So you binged seven days in a row? Try for only six next week.