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3 Behavorial Techniques to Stop Compulsive Eating


Concrete action steps are often the backbone of an eating disorder treatment strategy.

When it comes to compulsive eating, focusing on a few strategies for success can help you make shifts not only in your behavior, but in the way you think about food.

If you're feeling stalled in terms of making progress in this area, try the following techniques:

Ritualize your meals

According to the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (IPE) "ritualizing" meal time can be one of the most powerful ways to end compulsive eating because it forces you to slow down and be completely present with your food.

In situations where you feel the frenzied emotions that come before a binge, those are the precise moments to slow down, set the table, light a candle, perhaps, and make your meal a ritual.

"Truly, sitting down and setting out your food beautifully will go a long way when it comes to slowing down and stopping a binge," IPE stated on their blog. "Most of us binge standing up, or eating in hiding, or in the car. We eat in ways and places that do not signal our system: 'Hey, we’re eating, this could be delicious food, let’s enjoy it!'"

The relaxation response

When we engage in deep breathing, we trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and the relaxation response.

Finding ways to calm the internal chaos within, IPE writes, is a simple but effective way to stop compulsive behaviors, like overeating.

"It’s just not possible to be possessed by the hungry wild animal within, or overtaken by a tidal wave of eating, when we are in a relaxation response," they wrote.

Relaxing activities, like deep breathing, yoga, or meditation may help reduce the urge to use food as a coping mechanism - or to continue eating when we're not hungry.

Allowing feelings

According to Geneen Roth, eating disorder expert and author of "When Food is Love," sitting with your feelings instead of running from them is a practice that can help shift knee-jerk reactions around food into more conscious choices.

"Allow yourself to feel the boredom, sadness, or anxiety," she said in a U.S. News & World Report article, "without using food to change the channel on what's happening in your life."

Source: US News & World Report, Institute for Psychology of Eating