Below are activities and practices you can work on while getting treatment and beyond.
Practice mindful eating. Most people with BED think their access to food should be restricted, Lawson said. But it’s actually the opposite: Building a healthy relationship to food means there’s no restriction, which means “food becomes more pleasurable and yet less powerful.”
To practice mindful eating, Lawson suggested the following: Turn off all electronics, and sit down at the table. Plate your food so it’s visually pleasing. Take your time eating by paying attention to the temperature, texture and flavor of your food. Pause after several bites. Pay attention to your body. Are there any physical sensations of hunger or fullness? Next take a few more bites. Then pause, again. “Continue this process as you gain awareness of how food feels in your body and what cues you get that you are still hungry or are at a comfortable fullness.”
If you usually eat with others, suggest they try mindful eating, Lawson said. “No matter if someone has binge eating disorder or not, we could all stand to slow things down a little more and be more thoughtful of our simple everyday experiences, like eating,” Lawson said.
Rethink movement. In our society exercise is synonymous with pain or weight loss. But movement can be pleasurable. Pershing suggested readers reclaim your body’s right to enjoy movement simply for the sake of the experience. What movements sound fun to you? “Think about ways you loved to move, to play, as a child,” she said.
Movement is important. “It allows people to be in their bodies, to feel a sense of being capable and powerful. Our bodies are designed to move, to enjoy the world through action and tactile experience.”
Movement also is “powerful for survivors of any trauma where the body was the site of the damage,” Pershing added.
Practice self-care. “[B]e playful and experimental with your self-care and emotional life,” Lawson said. “See what is safe, soothing, releasing or empowering to you and be gentle with yourself if something you try doesn’t hit the spot.”
For instance, she suggested carving out alone time with no obligations; trying a hobby you used to enjoy; tapping into your creativity by writing a poem, coloring a picture or taking photos; creating a soothing playlist to listen to while eating mindfully; and engaging in body positive e-courses like this one.
Explore your own weight biases. For Turner, who struggled with BED for many years, addressing how she felt about bodies in higher weights, including her own, was a critical part of recovery. “If I could not accept that some bodies are bigger and might always be, including mine, then how would I step off of the binge cycle that resurfaced every time I tried to pursue weight loss? Acceptance and understanding the internalized weight biases that fuel many of my body image issues was a huge final step for me.”
Surround yourself with body and recovery positive information. Pershing recommended reading books such as Eating in the Light of the Moon along with the blog “About Face.” She also encourages clients to ditch magazines and TV shows, such as “The Biggest Loser,” which glorify thinness and perpetuate body shame.
Find healthy ways to process emotions. “I’m a big fan of mindfulness or meditation techniques that help you let go of ‘spinning’ thoughts and stress in your body,” Matz said. She also noted that some people find journaling helpful.
Build a support system. It can include “people who understand the benefits of quitting diets and practicing the Health At Every Size® approach,” Matz said. This might be in person or an online support group, she said.
Also, educate your support system on what works for you and what doesn’t, Pershing said. This might include requesting that they don’t discuss diets or ask you about weight loss or gain, she said.
Be honest with yourself and your team. If you binged or restricted, need more coping skills, or your emotions have been unpredictable lately, tell your team, Lawson said. Whatever the issue, be honest.
“I have heard time and time again from clients, ‘I actually feel better now that I told someone.’ The act of sharing takes away the power of anything that we deem is ‘too much to share.’ Nothing is too much to share,” Lawson said.
Practice self-compassion. Speak to yourself in the same way you’d speak to a close friend or child, Matz said. “Or imagine how someone who cares about you would talk to you.” Don’t worry if self-compassion feels foreign. It’s a skill you can learn.
Notice self-judgment. Do you still tell yourself that you’re “good” for eating certain foods, and “bad” for eating other foods? This is leftover judgment from the diet mentality.
“Instead, pay attention to when your eating experiences feel good (you ate something that satisfied you and stopped when full) and when they feel bad (you ate something that was too heavy and got so full you felt uncomfortable),” Matz said.
“It’s not just semantics! That same pizza can be the perfect match on one day, and feel uncomfortable at another time.”
Overall, remember that “there is freedom from food and body obsession,” Lawson said. “[I]t can be a rocky road, which is why it’s so important to have a support system of friends, family and professionals.”
Recovery is possible for everyone. It starts with seeking help.
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Reclaiming Yourself From Binge Eating: A Step-by-Step Guide to Healing by Leora Fulvio
The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel
Beyond a Shadow of a Diet: The Comprehensive Guide to Treating Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Eating and Emotional Overeating by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel