Transcending the Urge to Binge Eat

The caged bird longs to leave, and the door is open but it doesn’t know it can fly out.

– Swami Yogananda


Transcending the Urge to Binge

As you are first learning how to eat in synchronicity with your physical appetites vs. your emotional appetites, there may be, scratch that, there will be times when a non-hunger related urge to eat tries to sink its teeth into you like a tick on a dog. This post, gleaned from the award winning book, The Body Love ManualHow to Love the Body You Have As You Create the Body You Want, is filled with 3 powerful binge transcending techniques that you can turn to in an emergency.  Familiarize yourself with them and then try them out to see which one or which few work best for you.  I’m going to be adding in additional tips each week for those that need extra support in dealing with their more challenging feelings. Let’s get started.

Introductory Binge Transcending

There are three main ways to handle an urge to binge.  You can:

  1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that are stimulating the urge to eat, and try to understand what is driving the urge to eat (i.e. need for down time, tenderness, fun, a release from stress, a prompting to take action). Your understanding of what is driving the binge should help you to create a calmer state of mind, which will help you to wait for the urge to pass, like a wave on the ocean. Keep in mind that every emotion has a purpose, a message and a limited life span.
  1. Allow yourself to eat,, giving your undivided attention to your food (no phone, computer or television)
  1. Take action to prevent the urge by using one of the tools in the Binge Transcending Toolbox (See The Body Love Manual- Chapter 8).

The ideal choice is to surrender to your feelings, sitting and breathing through the discomfort, in order to determine what they are attempting to tell you.  My own attempts to avoid or hold my feelings at bay by overeating ended up creating the very thing I was trying to avoid, more bad feelings that came with stuffing my body.  I ended up creating circumstances in which I had no choice but to feel.  Your souls know that feelings, especially the hard ones, drive you inward.  That internal journey is where we evolve and mature, it is the place where we break free of a limiting cocoon, and spread our wings and take flight into a life that is bigger, more interesting and richer than we had ever imagined. I can see now in retrospect that my connecting with my feelings and addressing them with compassion reduced dramatically my emotional appetites which allowed me to reach my healthiest weight…permanently.

So, given this truth, ideally you will become intimate with your feelings and choose is Option One.  However, this sometimes just feels too intense. On those occasions, you need some other options. Listed below are tools I use to get to an empowered state where I am able to say no to food that I am really not hungry for in the first place.

  Binge Transcending Toolbox – 3 Powerful Tools

Depending upon your schedule, marital and job status, you will have varying timeframes within which to work through a binge.  Sometimes you will need a tool that can help you when you are in a big pinch for time, an emergency tool, if you will.  At other times, you will have more time and space to get to the core of what is driving your urge to eat.  Some of the tools will bring you to a state of harmony in your body and calm your untamed mind.  From this state of peace you will be able to make healthy conscious choices about whether or not you want to eat.  Other tools will provide you with a healthy and fun distraction that you can enjoy until the urge passes.  Still others are just meant to put a little time and space between you and the food. Try to find one or two tools that work best for you and stick with them.  It can be more effective than bouncing from tool to tool because your familiarity with individual tool will allow you to default to it naturally with time. You’ll have automatic and effective resistance techniques when you are struck by a non-hunger related urge to eat.  But by all means, feel free to try all of them at one point or another in your process.

Tool #1:  Breathing Exercise

Relaxation breathing is the best thing you can do to calm your body and your untamed mind and thereby reduce the anxiety that promotes compulsive eating.  Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s quote:  “He who breathes deepest lives longest,” highlights the health effects of deep breathing.  Deep breathing will slow you down and relax you, allowing you to engage your will to resist the urge to binge.  It suspends your untamed mind’s endless stream of negative thought so that you can focus on all of the ways that you will benefit from allowing yourself to live at your natural weight.   Here’s what to do:

Sit in a chair with your back straight and your feet planted on the floor, ideally in a quiet and private space.  Gently close your eyes and put your hands over your stomach with the tips of your fingers facing in towards your belly button.  As you breathe in – as slowly as possible – through your nose, allow your breath to fill your stomach. You should feel a noticeable expansion throughout your rib cage and stomach.  Direct your breath to fill your stomach first rather than puffing out your chest.  The breaths that fill your abdomen are the ones that have the greatest relaxation impact. Your belly should feel like a beach ball being slowly inflated under your hands.  There should be minimal movement in your upper chest area.  Exhale through your nose, slowly and completely until you have no breath left.  Repeat this cleansing breath three times.

Next, allow yourself to practice the following breathing pattern. Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for four counts and then release your breath slowly and gently to the count of eight.  Repeat this exercise eight times (or more if you wish) until you and your body feel more relaxed. Check in to see how you feel following the process.  Do you feel calmer? More centered?  More at peace?  Breathing in a rhythmic pattern such as this one can support you in creating a sense of internal calm that will allow you to make a conscious adult choice about eating rather than making a childlike and impulsive decision from a state of emotional upset.

Tool # 2: Craving Control Exercise

The next breathing technique we are going to practice is alternative nostril breathing.  Alternative nostril breathing calms your untamed mind, relaxes your body, increases your energy levels, improves your overall mood and even gives you a natural high.  It is a breathing technique that has proven to be exceptionally powerful for conquering addictions and it has been around for a long, long time.

This technique is most effective if you are comfortably seated in an upright position with your eyes closed or downcast. Begin by placing the thumb of your dominant hand (the one you write with) on one side of your nose and your Index (pointer) finger on the other side. Close off the nostril next to your index finger by pressing on it gently, just enough to close off the airflow.

Begin with a slow out breath through the nostril that is closest to your thumb, feeling the air empty from your lungs as you exhale completely. Now take a deep and slow “in” breath through that same nostril.  Now close off that nostril gently with your thumb, lift your index finger off your alternate nostril and exhale slowly and gently through that nostril. When you reach the point where you can’t exhale any more air, take a deep in breath through that same nostril.

Next, lift your thumb off your alternate nostril and gently close off your other nostril with your index finger.  Release your breath through the nostril closest to your thumb slowly and evenly and take an equally slow and even breath in through that nostril.  Close off that nostril with your thumb and raise your index finger allowing the air to flow out of that nostril slowly and evenly, and then take a luxurious in breath, then close off that nostril and return to the other nostril allowing the air to flow by lifting your thumb and releasing your breath.  With a little practice this breathing technique will be quite simple.  Simply stated it is a back and forth inhale and exhale from nostril to nostril.

Continue this breathing pattern as long as necessary to calm your body and move past the non-hunger related eating urge.  With each inhale, focus on becoming increasingly conscious of the character of each breath.  Just as no two snowflakes are exactly the same, the same can be said about each of your breaths. Focus on making your breaths slow, steady and even.  Take your time.  There is no rush whatsoever and the more relaxed your breath is, the more relaxed your body will be. Breathe as naturally as possible, making the transition from one nostril to the next as smoothly as possible.  If you are trying this breathing practice for the first time, spend 2-5 minutes practicing with your dominant hand and then switch to your non-dominant hand and continue the practice for an additional two to five minutes.

The goal is to nurture and calm yourself with your breath, almost like a gentle internal massage. Be sure to continually refocus your attention on the flow of your breath, releasing any thoughts that float into your mind as you do so.  Just put the thoughts on a white fluffy cloud and allow them to drift away as they arise.  At first they may come up constantly. Don’t let that discourage you.  Just continually return your thoughts to your breath.

The reason you will feel so good after engaging in this practice is because this breathing pattern balances the right and left hemispheres of your brain, which creates a strong sense of well being physically and emotionally.  When you breathe consciously, you are choosing one of the healthiest modalities available to nurture yourself.  It requires courage to break your pattern of overeating and a willingness to consider healthy substitutes to eating, and you are infinitely capable of accessing this bravery. Allow yourself to tune into how your body feels as you oxygenate it, feeding it the healthy nourishment of deep breathing.

 Practice #3: Self-Coaching Conversations

A “Self-Coaching Conversation” is an internalized or spoken (out loud) conversation with yourself in which you inspire, nurture and guide yourself, in love and compassion, to resist the urge to binge.  You will address yourself from the most compassionate, wise and loving part of who you are. Those that feel embarrassed to hold a conversation with themselves because they think that it is too “new age” for their tastes or just plain crazy, I invite you to entertain the following question:  What do you think is more ridiculous: repeatedly stuffing your feelings down with food and beating yourself up for it afterwards or having a conversation with the part of yourself that is upset?  The answer is pretty clear when you look at it from that perspective!  Be loving with you!

If you are feeling sad or hurt, ask your inner child what she wants. Keep prodding and asking until you get an answer.  Is it a hug?  Attention? Does she want you to slow down and spend time doing something fun with her?  Is she looking for compassion? A non-food treat of some sort? Often simply by hearing her desires you will find your need for food fades and evaporates.  If she is frightened, ask her what she is frightened of? Ask her, “What is the worst thing that could happen here if you don’t eat?” When you realize that the overwhelming majority of your fears are phantoms that can be unmasked as soon as you turn the light of your awareness on them, you will relax and trust your life process.

A Self-Coaching Conversation is an extraordinarily powerful method for bringing yourself into the present moment and from that place making the best possible choices for your body.

I talk with myself frequently, and it is like having a friendly conversation with someone who cares about me deeply.  Accessing the sweet inner voice has played a huge role in my ability to calm myself and bring myself back to the present moment.   When I combine the breathing with a loving inner (or outer) dialogue, magic happens every single time as I gain access to strength that I didn’t know I had!  You can dialogue with yourself frequently throughout the day, any time you find yourself feeling tense, worried or frightened.  Just pretend you are talking to a sweet, innocent child if you need a little jumpstart to your sweet talk.  I found when I talk to myself out loud, I am more likely to pay attention to the conversation. I can hear myself with greater clarity. It feels more real to me and is more effective than an internal dialogue.  It is one of my self-loving practices that I have found pivotal in my ability to avert a binge.

That’s it for today…these should be more than enough to get you started practicing being with your feelings. Remember, your feelings are your friends, alerting you to any stinkin’ thinkin’ you may be entertaining, consciously or subconsciously…Let me know how they are working for you!

Add a comment May 4, 2011

Hello world!

I’m writing this blog for all the women out there who have been disliking or even hating their bodies for some time and who want to develop a healthier relationship with their bodies so that they can free themselves from self-judgment and compulsion around food.  A by-product of transcending self-judgment, in addition to the natural high you create for yourself, is releasing any excess weight you carry.  Clearly there is no down side to loving that body of yours!  So welcome!  I want this blog to be a resource for you.  I’m going to be sharing everything I know about how to love your body and yourself, tools and perspectives that have transformed my life in phenomenal ways! How do I define phenomenal?  I regularly experience bouts of pure euphoria, I’m laughing harder than ever before, I’m more accepting of myself which translates to less stress and I’m living a life I didn’t even dream possible.  That’s what I want for you!  It’s within your reach, you might just not recognize that yet because you’re too busy being hard on yourself.  But if you lighten up on yourself, your body lightens up too!  It makes perfect sense doesn’t it!  The other way is clearly a bum route…so it’s time to get on board the body love train and take a trip to joyville!

Peace out…and in…


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1 comment October 7, 2009






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