So it’s the day after Halloween, and you’re surrounded with candy. Now what?
First things first: Candy isn’t bad. And you aren’t a bad person for wanting to enjoy candy! Applying moral values of goodness and badness to food is a sign of disordered eating and an old standby from the diet-guilt playbook.
Now that that’s out of the way, remember that eating candy doesn’t have to be a binge — UNLESS you think of it as a binge. So what the heck does that mean? Feeling out of control over candy fuels binge eating, whereas taking ownership of the situation defuses it.
This is a simple, but not easy, differentiation that is crucial to overcoming binge eating. So I’m going to break it down into five steps:
- Find your guilt-free zone. Think of a time when you’ve let yourself eat whatever you want with zero guilt, and start embracing that mindset. Maybe it was during the holidays, or on your birthday, or way back when you were a kid and you had no idea that diets even existed. You just ate until you got tired of eating: no regrets, no judgments, no planning out tomorrow’s punishment at the gym.
- Commit to it. Now think of a time where you tried to “control” your eating around forbidden foods. “I’ll just have one piece of cake,” you may have said to yourself, and at 2 a.m. you snuck out of bed and ate the whole damn thing. When you’re stuck in the binge eating cycle, “controlling” binge eating just isn’t a viable option. The best option is to recognize this as an opportunity to realign your relationship with food. This is a process, not an instantaneous fix, so you need to fully commit to it.
- Play the long game. Binge eating is a sign that your body’s hunger hormones are out of whack, and it takes time and effort to help them reset. Don’t expect an overnight change. This is not about avoiding a binge once. This is about healing binge behavior forever.
- Define the situation. Eating involves more than just the act of consuming food; it’s also the thoughts and feelings you have while consuming food. Whether you make those thoughts negative or positive will define whether this experience is just another binge that makes you feel terrible about yourself, or a productive step toward a binge-free life.
- Flip the script. If you’ve spent your whole life hating yourself for eating things that taste good, it may be hard to turn that self-talk around. Here are a few binge triggers you might face, and how to defuse the situation by flipping the script in your head:
- Scarcity: “This candy only appears in my house once a year. This is huge. Who knows when I will have candy again because candy is bad and I am bad and can’t control myself around candy.” —> “Candy is available whenever I want candy. The real question is: Do I want this candy right now?”
- Negativity: “You are a pig. You always do this. You can never just be normal. Why can’t you ever just eat like a normal person.” —> “Feeling out of control around food is my body’s primal response to being deprived of food over the course of many years. It is not a failing of willpower. Eating whatever I want right now in this moment is a productive and effective step toward curing binge eating behaviors.”
- Weight: “I will gain weight if I eat this candy.” —> “My weight is none of my business. That’s why I will take my bathroom scale and beat it like a piñata and never weigh myself again.”
- Lack of control: “Once I start I can’t stop myself.” —> “I have permission to eat until I don’t want to eat anymore, 10000% guilt-free. It is all part of overcoming the binge eating cycle.”
- Diet mentality: “Eating candy is a sign of weakness/I can’t get off track/I must avoid temptation.” —> “The diet industry makes zillions of dollars inflicting guilt upon dieters. Their language is holding me prisoner to a life of yo-yo dieting. The ideas of weakness, staying ‘on track,’ and resisting ‘temptation’ are all created by and propagated by diet marketers, and I don’t need to listen anymore. The only voice I need to listen to are the messages from my own body.”
You can do this. (Yes, you.) Just imagine your life without binge eating, dieting, or self-loathing, and it only takes a few months and some self-love to make it happen. Happy eating!