These strategies are from The Hunger Fix – a book that offers tried-and-true tips on how to stop mindless eating. Even better, Dr Pam Peeke also offers advice for overcoming food cravings that go right to the heart of the problem.
“Among women who binge eat, 83% were abused as children,” writes Dr Pam Peeke in The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. “Often when [food] addicts ‘fall off the wagon’ or have trouble with their recovery, it is because they’re still struggling to deal with their earlier traumas – and they revert to self-medicating with their False Fix (mindless binge or emotional eating).”
The first way to stop mindless eating is to figure out why you’re addicted to food – are you bored, unhappy, or anxious? Or maybe you’re like me…you were abused or neglected as a child, and your food cravings are your attempt to fill the emptiness inside. I get it. You are not alone, so take heart! I’ll share Dr Peeke’s advice on how to overcome food cravings and my own tips for stopping the mindless eating binge monster that is so eager to ruin our healthy habits and intentions.
7 Ways to Stop Mindless Eating and Overcome Food Cravings
So, how do you stop those mindless eating binges? By figuring out what the “pay off” is. These tips for stopping mindless binging will get you started, and help you remember that overcoming or treating emotional eating is a long process.
There are no quick fixes – but there are healthy tips that will change how you see yourself and treat your body.
Improve your working memory
Your working memory is your short-term memory; you use it to remember what groceries you need to buy at the store or where you need to pick up the kids later today. If you cram too many things into your short-term memory, you’ll forget why you want to overcome food cravings and stop mindless eating.
“When your working memory is overloaded with the 50 other things you have to get done by the day’s end, it can be hard to remember the ultimate reason why you want to resist that Snickers in the checkout line,” writes Dr Peeke in The Hunger Fix.
Memory games can help strengthen your working memory, which will help you turn down the short-term pleasure (binge eating a carton of ice cream, or emotional eating two bags of Doritos) in favor of the long-term reward (feeling good about your body, loving who you are, and not feeling like crap because you couldn’t stop eating).
Read books The Hunger Fix if you know you’re emotionally unhealthy
Dr Peeke’s in The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. explains how food addiction works and why we can’t stop eating. I’m the same way – I could eat until the cows came home, and then I’d eat those too! I LOVE to eat, and I know it’s because I was neglected and in foster homes as a child. I didn’t realize that neglect is child abuse until I was 30 years old.
If you can’t stop eating, you need to think about the roots of the problem. Being aware of why you binge on food or are addicted to food won’t necessarily stop you from heating, but it’s a great place to start.
The Hunger Fix is one of the best books I’ve read on how to stop eating because it takes you through three stages, and combines practical tips with psychological insights.
Get counseling or join a Food Addicts support group
Don’t try to stop emotional eating alone! Join a group of like-minded women and/or men, and learn from them. Talk about why you can’t stop eating, and how they stop eating. Share strategies for overcoming emotional eating. Say, “I can’t stop eating”, out loud. Share your secret, and you’ll see you’re not alone.
Learn how others stopped mindless eating
How did I stop eating? I started doing yoga by myself at home. The insights I gained in counseling were good because they increased my self-awareness, but counseling didn’t stop me from overeating. That may be because I was only in counseling for eight months, and I wasn’t ready to quit my food addiction.
The truth is, I still lapse into binge eating marathons. Sometimes the temptation and craving to eat as much as I can is too much, and I succumb. One of the ways to overcome emotional eating is to let yourself be weak and imperfect sometimes. Now instead of beating myself up about overeating, I console myself. I am gentle with myself, and lovingly accept that my need overcame my common sense, and I lost control.
Combine practical and emotional tips on how to overcome food cravings
Developing self-awareness and practicing self-compassion is excellent, and so is keeping your fridge and cupboards stocked with foods you can stop eating! Joining an overeaters anonymous support group is good, but so is spending time with people who have a healthy relationship with food.
One of the main things that helped me stop eating was marrying a guy who could take food or leave it. He enjoys eating, but always stops when he is satisfied (not stuffed). His healthy attitude towards food has rubbed off on me and changed my relationship with food.
Learn how to treat yourself with TLC (tender loving care)
Do you like who you are, or do you hate yourself? Sometimes food addiction stems from feelings of guilt, shame, self-hatred, and perfectionism. If you struggle with negative feelings towards yourself, read How to Stop Hating Yourself.
I hated myself for a long time, and for a long time I wondered why I couldn’t stop eating. Now I see the connection, and it has helped me stop binging.
Find ways to give your life meaning
The more interesting things you do in life, the happier and healthier you’ll be – and the less likely you’ll crave food as comfort and security. “What would you do if you felt absolutely no fear and had limitless time and money?” asks Dr Peeke in The Hunger Fix. “Would you create art? Start your own business? Try out for a play? Learn to pole dance? Run for political office?”
Blogging and writing gives my life meaning – but sometimes I sacrifice my blogging time to give in to those overwhelming food cravings. I hate when I do that, but I try to forgive myself and allow myself to be human. Running with my dog, practicing my flute, doing yoga, praying, reading, spending time with my husband, and being with my Little Sister gives my life meaning.
If you want to stop compulsive eating, you need to fill your life with things you love to do. This doesn’t mean you’ll overcome mindless binging overnight, but it may help you today. And it’s today that counts.
What do you think about these tips for overcoming food cravings and mindless eating binges? I welcome your comments below! I can’t offer advice or counseling, but you may find it helpful to share your thoughts.
If you don’t make much money, read 10 Tips for Eating Healthy When You Don’t Make Much Money.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.