When I first started trying to get out of B.E.D., I had no idea how to break out of the vicious cycle that I was trapped in for so long. Once I identified the physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that were part of my disordered eating habits, I had a place to start.
So, today I thought I’d share with you a way to visualize your own binge cycle. Take a piece of paper and orient it horizontally (“landscape” view to those who know computers and printing modes). At the top of the page write, “Physical Sensations”. On the right side of the page write, “Thoughts”. At the bottom write, “Feelings” and on the left side of the page write, “Behaviors”. Under each category write the numbers 1, 2, and 3. Now, in the top left hand corner of the page write, “Event/Situation”.
Think back to the most recent time you binged or overate. Close your eyes and try to remember the events of that day. When you have a picture in your mind of the things that happened that day, prior to your binge or overeating, open your eyes. Write some of those events/situations under that category on your paper.
Mine might look like this:
Event/Situation: Busy day at work with no time for lunch break; ate cupcake at 3pm when I was really hungry; went to a meeting at the end of the day and two of my co-workers argued.
So, those are the situations that led up to the start of the binge cycle that day. Now comes the hard part: identifying the physical sensations, thoughts and feelings that you had. Here’s an example:
Physical sensation: 1. stomach rumbling; flushed cheeks; lightheaded
Thoughts: 1. I’m so hungry. I need to eat right now or I might pass out.
Feeling: 1. Anxiety
Behavior (my response to the feeling): 1. Grabbed the nearest snack and started eating while standing up in the kitchen.
Okay, so you’ve now written something next to the “1” in each category. Keep going with the cycle. What happened next?
Physical sensation: 2. no change; still feeling really hungry
Thoughts: 2. That was stupid. I could have prepared a healthy meal, but I’m just standing here snacking.
Feeling: 2. Annoyed; frustrated
Behavior (my response to the feeling): 2. Look through cabinets for other foods that will taste good.
See how everything is connected? Keep mapping out the elements of your cycle until you have listed the binge or overeating under the “behavior” category. Once you have it all mapped out, you can decide where you might make a change next time. Here are some options:
1. Tackle the problem at the very beginning of the cycle by making time for regularly spaced meals and snacks so you never get that really hungry feeling.
2. Create a list of alternatives to bingeing/overeating (e.g., go for a walk; call a friend; start a creative project) and have them available when you notice yourself about to binge.
3. Modify your thoughts so that you’re gentler on yourself.
4. Practice mindfulness techniques in order to learn to tolerate the physical sensations and distressing emotions (anxiety, annoyance, frustration).
Those are just a few ways to break the binge cycle. I’d love to hear from you if you try this. Let me know what works: megansbook2006[at]yahoo.com.
Peace, joy, and health.