Overcome Bingeing and Obsessions with Food

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overcome bingeing

In her book The Appetite Awareness Workbook (New Harbinger Publications, 2006), Linda W. Craighead, PhD has created a plan to “overcome bingeing, overeating, and obsession with food” by teaching individuals how to listen to their body’s needs.

She states that “[f]irst you break down your eating problem into specific problem-eating episodes.” Individuals become more aware of why they start eating as well as why they stop eating. Even making the decision to eat just “because I feel like eating” is a choice.

Craighead’s Eating Paths

Although Craighead says the goal of eating is to follow a normal eating path, the more common paths are more challenging – normalized overeating, binge eating, and restricted eating. The more often a path is followed, the more likely it is the path that will be followed when an individual sits down to eat.

Normal Eating
Normal eating may not be a person’s usual pattern. Normal eating focuses on “regulating amount (not type) of food”. The goal is to avoid getting too hungry before eating so a person doesn’t overeat. It also involves paying attention while eating and stopping when satisfaction is reached.

Normalized Overeating
Normalized overeating is eating past moderate fullness or eating for reasons other than hunger. Although Craighead doesn’t discourage eating for pleasure, she points out that one’s reactions to moments of overeating can cause restrictive eating that then sets one up for later bingeing.

Restrictive Eating
Restrictive eating may seem “normal” for people used to calorie-controlled diets. Willpower replaces biological needs for food. Restriction can lead to a backlash of bingeing or overeating past the point of fullness.

Binge Eating and Getting Stuffed
Binge eating is a problem because it feels “different, not normal, and very distressing.” At some point while eating, the individual feels out of control. Getting stuffed Craighead defines as eating large amounts of food without feeling any loss of control.

Appetite Awareness Training

The goal of appetite awareness training is mindful or normal eating – eating what one most wants to eat when hungry and stopping eating when no longer hungry. While many traditional diets have the individual follow what the diet designer designates, in appetite awareness training an individual doesn’t record what they eat but how they feel physically and emotionally before and after eating.

To monitor your appetite, record the time of eating and define it as a meal or a snack. Then on a scale of one to ten (Craighead uses a scale of one to seven with half steps in between), with one as "too hungry" and ten as "ignored fullness" rate how one feels before eating and then after eating.

The individual then defines the eating experience as positive, neutral, or negative – explaining in a few words any negative feelings. By becoming aware of the physical and emotional sensation associated with eating, Craighead suggests that over months one can learn to make decisions toward normal eating habits.

The goal of appetite awareness training is to eat regular meals and snacks to avoid getting too hungry and triggering overeating. The individual resists eating when not hungry and stops eating when full.

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