By Jessica Sepel@jshealth

For so many of my clients, it is the dirtiest word imaginable. Binge eating can be a truly scary experience, and for many, it becomes larger than life.

Food takes over. You eat more than you think you should. You eat until you feel sickly full. And you feel cannot control it. The food quite literally takes over your mind and body.

I believe binge eating has become an epidemic. Every second client in my clinic feels they binge.

It can happen due to stress, anger and even happiness. And in my opinion, it happens from having a complicated relationship with food – as well as not feeling good enough. You binge on food to fill those feelings of overwhelm.

And then…

The guilt, the anxiety and the self-loathing begin.

And it happens again out of guilt and anger at yourself.

A horribly vicious cycle.

So why do binges happen? In my opinion as a nutritionist:

Because of the two D words: DIET and DEPRIVATION.

I used to binge because I would diet and deprive myself. I feared food.

It took a lot of time and work, but now I can honestly say I have not binged for years! Once I truly healed my relationship with myself and, in turn, with food, I don’t get the same urges to binge. My current way of eating and my lifestyle actually protect me.

You see, I’ve found that as long-term dieters, people class food as “good” or “bad.” You don’t see food as a source of nourishment; instead you fear foods and obsess over it. And you deprive yourself – you deny yourself the foods you love or crave.

Eventually, it all becomes too much. The deprivation becomes too difficult. And this, of course, usually turns into overeating or binge eating.

If you are a fad dieter, you are used to eating low calorie and low fat artificial “foods.” These food-like products leave you feeling very unsatisfied nutritionally; and often artificial sweeteners in these foods brings on even more intense cravings! So what can you do to get out of this excruciating cycle?

1. Let go of diets and deprivation. You have to give yourself PERMISSION to eat your favorite foods, with joy. Incorporate healthy foods – you’ll quickly learn to enjoy them because they nourish and protect your body. Your body deserves this respect. Become a conscious eater – eat what you wish, but remember moderation.

2. Forgive yourself. Let go of what you ate yesterday or last weekend – today is another day and your body can handle an imperfect day! Trust your body will break the food down, and then get back onto your journey of healing

3. Tune into your appetite. And eat when you are hungry! Don’t let your mean girl shut down the hunger signals. Eat. I always have something in my bag just in case I get hungry when I am out. It’s a little trick that brings peace of mind. You need to feel you always have access to food in the beginning.

4. Remember that food is abundant. Clients often tell me they fear there is not enough food at meals. Perhaps as a child their mom didn’t cook enough at dinner time, or because they deprived themselves for so long they fear food is scarce. Remember you can always have more later or tomorrow – you can! Keep some for tomorrow instead of eating the whole thing now. Food is abundant. We live in a world where food is everywhere! The body can’t handle too much food at once. Have some now and have some later. See, dieters tell themselves they can’t have it later or tomorrow – because “starting tomorrow I am going to be good – I am not going to touch one unhealthy thing.” The pressure that comes with that statement eventually leads to a binge.

5. Remember you are good enough. For many, it helps to see a counselor to remind yourself of this or to figure out what you don’t believe you are. You need to make peace with yourself in order to have a peaceful relationship with food.

6. Food is food. Why do we give it so much power? Food shouldn’t be such a complex thing in our lives. Food is here to keep us alive and well – that’s it. It’s not there to comfort us or fill in emotional gaps. We give it too much emotional power.

7. Plan ahead. And snack in between meals – this really helped me. I always have access to healthy snacks whether I am at home or out. And I will plan ahead as best as I can the night before so I have a rough idea of where I’ll be able to access healthy meals if I am out. Or perhaps I need to pack my own healthy meals. If I am at work meetings, I’ll ensure I have raw nuts in my bag in case I don’t have a healthy café nearby.

8. Don’t eat the moment you get home. You are stressed and frantic. You need to take 10 minutes to shower, breathe, put your phone down, get into comfy clothes and then proceed to the kitchen – in a calm state. It’s a good idea to pre-plan what you will eat before you go to the kitchen. Think about what it is you truly feel like, put it onto a plate and eat it with total mindfulness.

9. Sit down when you eat. Never ever eat when standing, on the phone, in front of the TV, or in front of the fridge. This is my golden rule. You will over eat if you do because you are not being conscious of what you are putting into your body. Sit down with every meal. Always put your food on a plate.

10. Make each meal pleasurable. Get satisfaction out of your food! I get so excited about preparing my meals. I make them pretty and colourful. I sit down calmly and enjoy each mouthful. I usually make a positive blessing before I eat – “Thank you for this nutritional food. This food is going to nourish my body.” It creates a peaceful feeling when eating, and I feel satisfied after the meal. I don’t feel like eating more. I eat what I want and say no to food I don’t like. Sometimes you may feel like a bit of a food snob, but that’s okay. Eat the foods you actually love. This will come as you begin to heal your relationship with food.