Author: Richard

23 Top Tips from our Recovered Clients

Our clients are a constant source of inspiration to us.
Their bravery, wisdom and perseverance are truly amazing.

We’ve seen time and time again how valuable their experience is to others.
The insights they share can offer tremendous benefits for everybody involved!

Having this in mind, we’ve reached out to our recovered clients with one simple, and yet incredibly important, question:

‘What tips for recovery would you like to share with others?’

Below are the tips they’ve learned during their own recovery journey from bulimia and binge eating. Those are the lessons that can turn into guideposts for numerous other sufferers of problem eating. We hope, as do our clients, that they will inspire you to keep on going even in the darkest of times.

Use these tips as reminders that there’s always a way forward and it’s always, without an exception, worth it.

23 Tips for Binge Eating And Bulimia Recovery

1. Be active in your own recovery.

‘I had attempted recovery so many times that I was ready to give up all hope.

For 23 years, recovery was at the top of my New Year’s resolution list. For the past 23 birthdays, I blew out the candles on my birthday cake with only one wish in mind – and that wish was to be free of my eating disorder.

I finally realised that I needed to stop making promises and wishes.
I realised that I needed to stop waiting for a miracle and instead be an active participant in my own recovery.

I don’t know why it took so long.

23 years of being numb, missing out on nurturing relationships, hating myself and destroying my body. I’ve finally had enough! I wanted to live and bulimia was not living.’

2. Do something else after eating.

‘What made all the difference to me was learning how to distract myself from my disordered thoughts.

When I experienced a binge urge after eating, I would stop for a moment, take a deep breath, go to the other room and do my very best to think about something else.

I know this may sound silly, but it really helps! I haven’t purged once since I started doing this.

Also, if you find yourself alone at home and there’s nobody there to help you fight the urge to binge, try and distract yourself. Do something – anything!

Get out of the house and take a relaxing walk. Call somebody and have a chat. Wash the dishes. Do something you love.

If you get to the point where you’re doing something else, the urge ultimately fades. It’s hard as hell to get there, I know – but fight for it!’

3. Accept all foods.

‘One thing I’ve done is I’ve accepted ALL foods.

There are no good or bad products.

I don’t have to avoid anything when it comes to food.
All I have to do is try and eat healthier, wholesome foods most of the time. As long as I do that, having little treats here and there is absolutely fine!

Restricting your food choices is one the worst things you can do – it just sets you up for a binge further down the line.

You need to broaden your diet and stop labelling certain foods as ‘binge’ foods, hence forbidden. All food is good food if it’s consumed in moderation.’

4. Surround yourself with mentors.

‘I had so much to learn at the start of my recovery!

I remember feeling lost, confused and lonely a lot of the time, and I realised that I needed to do something about it.

The solution for me was surrounding myself with people who could show me the way forward, like my HealED Coach, my therapist and the BEST MENTOR of all – other recovered people.

If I felt sad or lost my motivation, I could turn to them for help. It made all the difference to me.’

5. Have a structured meal plan.

It’s really important for me to have a meal plan.

3 meals, 3 snacks, eaten at certain hours and in a certain place.

I know that it doesn’t work for everybody – some people like to keep their days flexible.

I’m well into recovery now and I find myself enjoying flexibility as well from time to time, but having that pattern at the ready helps me to stay on track – and at the very start of my journey, I found it absolutely crucial.’

6. Clean up after a meal.

‘Cleaning up after a meal is really helpful.

I always make a point of putting away any leftovers, doing the dishes and cleaning the table. There are stacks of tupperwares in my fridge every night!

Some might have only two pieces of chicken in them, but thinking about putting them away helps me to stop myself from eating past the point of satiety.

Somehow I feel less anxious about having food inside me after I do the dishes. I hated doing it before recovery, but now I really enjoy it – and there’s an added benefit of having a clean kitchen all the time :)

It’s almost like I put a full stop at the end of my meal by cleaning everything up.’

7. Realise just how dangerous eating disorders really are.

‘It might seem strange, but looking at some of the more disturbing information and photos out there really helped me realise what I was doing to myself.

Sure, it’s tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore your eating disorder altogether, but you need to learn to be honest with yourself if you truly want to recover.

You need to accept that you need help – and that it’s OKAY to need help!

There’s nothing for you to be ashamed of.’

8. Have a binge-busting strategy at hand.

‘It helps me to know exactly what I’m going to do if I experience a binge urge and to identify the situations that can trigger such urges.

For example, I tend to start feeling bingey after returning home from work in the evening, so I always think of some activity that I can occupy myself with during those tough hours.

I might read a book, or call a friend and chat for an hour, or do some knitting – and by the time I’m done, I don’t feel like bingeing anymore!

At the start of my recovery journey, I used to make a detailed schedule for myself, so that every single hour of every single day was occupied and there was no room for bingeing in my day-to-day life.

I don’t have to be so strict with myself anymore, but I doubt that I would be where I am now if I didn’t plan my time in this way during the first few months.’

9. Look at recovery as a process of climbing a mountain.

‘It’s a long dang hike. There are days when you move up greatly and there are days when you hardly make any progress at all.

It’s absolutely normal! It’s okay to slip up and binge once in a while. If a binge was tantamount to failure, none of us would have ever recovered!

A binge is just a tiny step backwards.

It doesn’t mean that you’re at the bottom of the mountain all over again.

Whatever happens, pick yourself up from where you are, observe your surroundings, see how far you’ve come and move from there.’

10. Don’t let yourself get too hungry.

‘I found that allowing myself to get too hungry in-between meals resulted in me bingeing later on.

I had a busy schedule and eating at my pre-planned meal times wasn’t always an option.

What helped me though was having some snacks with me at all times, so that I could quickly eat something at work if the hunger got too intense.

It seems so simple, but it works wonders!

11. Be patient.

‘Change can be slow.
Change can be difficult.
Change requires constant follow-ups and it may take longer than you’ve expected, so patience is absolutely key to your recovery!

My best advice would be to foster patience in your recovery process.

Your eating problems didn’t develop overnight, so it’ll probably take longer than that to free yourself from them.

Take things slowly, don’t rush the process and discover a pace that fits your needs best.’

12. Discover a sense of serenity.

‘With all of the chaos that goes on in our minds and bodies, we must have a source of serenity in our lives.

I’m a very artistic, hands-on person, so things like knitting, crocheting or painting do wonders for me.

It allows me to just step outside of all that’s going on around me and focus on myself for a moment.

Simply sitting outside, taking a walk or doing a crossword helps too.’

13. Get enough sleep.

‘Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep every night in order to feel rested and energetic.

I find that getting enough sleep lowers my stress levels and reduces the intensity of my binge urges, so I always make sure to have a proper rest.

It has helped me tremendously!

14. Make eating an intimate affair.

‘What helps me is turning every meal into an intimate affair.

I like to prepare my food very beautifully, play some ambient music in the background and really focus on what I’m eating – the taste, the flavour, the texture (as opposed to mindlessly scarfing the food down in a binge trance!).

I also love to eat whole foods.

Whole foods are foods in their most natural state – apples, avocados, almonds, onions, garlic, olive oil, strawberries… YUM!

Knowing that your food is nutritious (and naturally low-cal!) makes you feel so much better about what you’re putting into your body.’

15. Stop making comparisons.

‘I know it’s tempting to make food comparisons.

You see people leading seemingly healthy lives on low-carb or low-calorie diets and you might desperately want to do the same, but you need to remember that you’re recovering from a potentially life-threatening eating problem at the moment.

Your body is exhausted and probably malnourished. Your basic nutritional needs are vastly different from other people’s.

It all changed for me when I realised that what other people are eating has nothing to do with what’s best for me, especially at this point in my life.

I don’t have to compare myself to anyone.

All I really need to do is focus on living MY best life and being the best version of ME.’

16. Commit to eating regular, balanced meals.

‘I honestly believe that the sooner you commit to eating regular, balanced meals, the sooner you’re going to experience the amazing benefits that recovery can offer.

The best time to start eating nutritious meals is definitely now.

I’ve been doing my best to have some carbohydrates, fat and protein in every single meal that I consume ever since the first day of my recovery.

It was a big step and a scary challenge at first, but striving for food balance is definitely one of the main reasons behind my success.’

17. Find a hobby!

‘Bingeing and purging used to take up A LOT of my free time, so when that ritual was gone, I had no idea what to do with all of the extra hours in my day that I suddenly acquired!

I knew, however, that I needed to occupy myself with healthy and productive activities instead.

I use jogging, writing and knitting as time fillers now.

Jogging provides me with a physical release, writing helps me sort through my feelings, and knitting relaxes my mind.

Some people meditate. Some do yoga. Some sing or dance.

Whatever your new hobby is, make sure that you love it because you’ll be doing lots of it!

18. Remember that every binge urge will peak, then fade.

‘What goes up must come down, right?

Whenever I have a bite of my trigger food and find myself yearning to eat another 20 servings, I remind myself that if I just wait this binge urge out, it’ll ultimately disappear.

I don’t have to give in to it, and neither do you.’

19. Seek support.

‘I know only too well how painfully lonely eating disorders can be. If that’s how you feel, it might do you good to share your struggles with your loved ones or connect with people who are going through the same experiences as you.

It took some time for me to open up to my family and tell them all about my eating disorder, so I sought help online during the first couple of months of my journey.

I was surprised to find out how many people were also dealing with the same challenges and how many of them were ready to be there for me!

It’s easy to feel like the only disordered person in the world if you’ve isolated yourself from others, but once you get out of that bubble, you see that it couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are people out there who truly do care about you – even if they don’t know you in real life.

Make sure that you have such people in your life. I promise, recovery is so much easier when you have somebody to confide in.’


20. You can start over every minute of every day.

‘When you do give in to your urges, don’t write that day, or even that afternoon, off. So what if you slipped up? That doesn’t mean it’s all over! Get back on the horse and just keep going.

Take all of that anger, sadness, guilt and pain that you’re feeling right now, and convert it into a fighting spirit!

Don’t let a little slip-up hold you back.

Don’t beat yourself up, don’t obsess over it, don’t punish yourself.

You’re allowed to wipe the slate clean every minute of every day, and then concentrate on the now.’

21. Know your triggers.

‘If triggers get in your way, write them down. Think about them, analyse them and figure out a way to deal with them in a healthy manner.

I’ve learned that it’s best to fight your triggers by REALLY getting to know them.

Recovery is a personal journey where you get to figure out who you are and how you operate.

Be self-aware and embrace YOU – fears, triggers and struggles included.’

22. Do yoga.

‘I feel grateful to my eating disorder in a way, just because it allowed me to discover the pleasures of yoga!

It has given me so much more than I ever thought possible. I’ve found inner peace, healing, acceptance and love there.

Meditation and mindfulness also helped with my anxiety – I’m much less likely to binge now that I’m feeling calm and relaxed.

It’s been a huge turning point in my recovery and I recommend yoga to everybody who’s willing to listen to me!’

23. Stop blaming others.

‘Learning to deal with triggers in the outside world is hard.

At the start of my recovery, I really struggled with being around friends who tried to feed me junk food 24/7 or talked about their diets all the time.

I used to put all of the blame on them. I used to get angry with them for bringing binge foods around to my house, for tempting me to eat with them, for talking about diets and weight loss. I used to blame them for triggering me.

I’ve since realised that there’s simply no use in doing that. I know some people avoid social situations to get away from these triggers, but honestly, that’s not life!

There’ll ALWAYS be triggers around us, so we need to find ways of dealing with them.

Making myself accountable was an important step for me.

If I did slip up and binge, it wasn’t my friends’ fault.

It was all on me.
And no, it didn’t mean that I had to blame myself for it! What I had to do was learn to accept my slip-ups, learn from them and then simply move on.’

What you should do now

1. If you’d like us to help you recover from binge eating or bulimia, you can sign up to our coaching program and one of our expert coaches will work with you one to one.

2. If you’d like to learn more about recovery, go to our “Helpful Guides” page.

Let’s get started shall we?

A warm welcome from Ali and Richard

We’re so excited to have you here.

You’ve found a community of like-minded people who are open to discovering that real change is possible.

This program has transformed the lives of so many people and I’m confident that you can benefit from it as well.

If you suffer from binge eating, bulimia or any other form of problem eating, you know how much control it can hold over your life.

Eating food fills you with simultaneous feelings of pleasure, guilt, dread and shame. Somehow you can just eat, eat and eat, without ever reaching the point where you feel truly satisfied. Afterwards you worry about weight gain and berate yourself for lacking control.

You feel hopeless, stuck and doubtful if anything can ever change.

We’ll be your guides throughout the program. (Ali and Richy)

We’ve been coaching sufferers of bulimia and binge eating disorder since 2007. We’ve also published two successful books, “The Bulimia Help Method” and “The Binge Code”. They have some of the best reviews within their field and an incredible 96% approval rating on

We come from a holistic background. We’re both qualified yoga instructors, so we understand the importance of focusing on the physical aspects of eating issues, and not just the mental ones.

We also have a team of professional coaches on board, including nutritionists, doctors and even an Olympic weightlifting champion!

We honestly believe that the journey we’re about to embark on together is going to change your life for the better.

Don’t wait any longer. You’ve waited long enough. The time for a healthier, happier and more balanced you is NOW.

Let’s get started shall we?
To begin lets see how this program works.

Let’s start with the big picture.

What is this program all about?
How does it work?
And why should I even care?

So, what’s this all about?

If this program could be summed up in just one word, that word would definitely be “BALANCE”.

Your cravings for sugary foods, your binge urges, your excess weight… All of this is your body’s way of telling you that you’re off balance.

The goal of this program is to help you get your balance back.

  • A balanced body doesn’t want to hold on to excess weight.
  • A balanced body doesn’t want to binge on food.
  • A balanced body houses a happy, healthy mind.

Regaining your balance will enable you to tune into your body and make intelligent, intuitive decisions about the kinds of food that are right for you (we call this balanced eating).

  • You’ll feel more confident, relaxed and in control around food.
  • You’ll feel more in control of your life.
  • You’ll improve your sense of overall well-being.
If there’s one key to life-long recovery, it’s learning to listen to your body so you can maintain balance. The good news is that listening to and understanding your body is a skill. It’s something we can get better at. :)

So let’s look into this idea of balance a little closer. The first thing we will look at it is…

How did I get out of balance?

Our body loves being in balance (homeostasis). Our body has its own internal regulators that are designed to maintain balance.

When we are hot, our bodies sweat to cool down, when we need energy, we feel hunger, when we need to rest we feel tired.

The problem is that most of us are chronically out of touch with our own bodies.

We spend all day running from one task to the next.
We spend hours trapped in our own heads.
We ignore how our bodies feel.
We follow diets that tell us when and what to eat, instead of listening to our own hunger.
We ignore weariness and just drink another cup of coffee.
Some of us ignore the very fact that we have a body which is crying out for help!

By continuously ignoring the needs of your body, you weaken your connection to it.
The subtle communication signals between you and your body start to disappear.
You don’t feel these subtle signals of hunger, stress, physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion anymore.

And so we lose our balance by losing touch with our natural bodily regulators.

What happens when I’m disconnected from my own body?

When we’re out of touch with our bodies, balance turns into a distant memory.

  • You stop feeling genuine hunger.
  • You overeat, you undereat, you become chronically stressed, you get burnt-out.
  • You become physically malnourished and emotionally drained.
  • You experience binge urges, panic attacks and chronic pains.
  • You feel empty, hungry for meaning, lonely, restless and completely lost.

Think of it this way…

It’s like being a tightrope walker in a circus.

Tightrope walkers rely on small, subtle signals from their bodies to know if they’re off balance or not. They are constantly tuning into their bodies, listening to their biofeedback and adjusting their position in order to maintain balance. This enables them to achieve the amazing feat of walking on a rope.

If those subtle bodily signals were to disappear, the tightrope walker would come crashing to the ground. Think of yourself as that tightrope walker, and the rope as your health.

No bodily signals, no balance – and off you fall.

Your body is always communicating with you. A steady stream of subtle feelings, sensations and feedback is constantly informing you about your current state. The big question is, are you listening?

So how do I regain my balance?

To regain your balance, you need to get back in touch with your body.
Once you do that, you’ll be able to use its signals to ensure that you stay balanced.
If you keep listening to your body, you can avoid being too hungry, too stressed or too emotionally exhausted.

This is empowering in the best possible way.
We can use our feelings as a touchstone for what is right and wrong for us.
We become our own guru. We follow our own path. We do what works best for us.

See the HealED Roadmap to see exactly how you can do this.

I’m feeling sceptical about this.

I’m sure you do.

If you’ve tried to overcome your eating issues in the past and were unsuccessful, you may very well doubt if recovery is even possible. You might think that it can work for other people, but not for you.

Because of the diversity of success stories that we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing over the past decade, we can tell you without a doubt that NO ONE is beyond help.
There is no such thing as being too weak or too broken to break free from binge eating.

You CAN recover.
You can get over this.
You CAN get your life back.

You can live a life that is completely free from any urges to eat vast quantities of food.

It doesn’t matter if you binge on food once a week or multiple times a day. It doesn’t matter if you’re overweight, underweight or normal weight. If you tend to lose control around food, you’re in the right place. This program has been designed for YOU.
Let HealED become your blueprint for success!

HealED Road Map

What steps do you need to take to overcome binge eating and bulimia?
How do you get from point A to point B?

Below is the HealED Habits Road Map.

It’s based on a process that we’ve developed over the period of 10 years of working with clients who struggle with eating issues.

This Road Map uses the power of habits to bring about lasting change.

The HealED Habits Road Map

Here is what you need to know.

When it comes to breaking free from problem eating, it’s not just about one thing. One tool or technique doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. Because of that the HealED Habits system is modular. You’re free to choose the modules that are relevant to you. It presents a broad spectrum of strategies that strengthen each other.

You get to choose your own path here.
You get to do it your way.

  1. Everyone starts at the same place (Stage 1).
  2. Everyone has the same destination (Stage 3).
  3. But you can choose your own modules in-between. (Stage 2 modules)


Let’s explore each one of those stages further.

Stage 1

Everyone starts here.
This stage is all about your fundamental recovery skills. It undoes the damage that your eating disorder or dieting has done to your body.

A lot of problem eaters tend to be so chronically out of touch with their bodies that they’re unable to feel any subtle sensations.
They feel ravishing binge urges instead of subtle hunger signals.
They become so numb to any subtle emotions that it’s as though they’re walking in a fog.
If you’re one of those people, you need to go through a repair phase to help your body regain its balance.

This stage will help you to:

  • Reduce your binge cravings.
  • Introduce some stability into your daily life.
  • Teach your body to respond to, process and be satisfied with normal food portions.
  • Build a solid foundation for going through with the rest of the program.

In this stage, we focus on 4 core habits:

Eat regularlyLearn to eat mindfully and begin to understand how food affects your body
Eat enoughUnderstand your hunger and get comfortable with it. This habit is designed to build the foundation for our final phase of Balanced Eating.
Balance your mealsUnderstand your hunger and get comfortable with it. This habit is designed to build the foundation for our final phase of Balanced Eating.
Stop purgingFor sufferers of bulimia only.

I recommend working on these habits in the above order.

It’s incredibly important to address the physical aspects of recovery first. Read our guide on how diets lead to eating disorders to get an understanding of why we approach it this way. To put it simply, this approach ensures that you get the most bang for your buck. You notice the results quicker and they’re much more impressive.

Make sure that you’ve covered all of these core habits before moving on with the program.
Some people experience a MASSIVE reduction in their binge urges after completing this phase!

Stage 2:

After you’ve completed the Stage 1, you can move on to Stage 2 of the HealED Habits program.
In this stage, we address multiple aspects of recovery. This is where the program gets personal. You’re welcome to pick and choose the modules that are relevant to you.

Here are the modules in this phase:

Module: Peace with Food

For many of us, food is a battleground and hunger is the enemy. If your life revolves around strict diet rules, restriction and black-and-white thinking, this module will help you to make peace with food.

Eat All FoodsLet go of strict food rules and limitations (they don’t work and they only lead to binge eating in the long run!)
Eat more real foodUse food to nourish your body and reduce cravings that are caused by malnutrition.


Module: Body Awareness

Start to trust, understand and feel confident in your body.

Eat with awarenessLearn to eat mindfully and begin to understand how food affects your body
Tune into hungerUnderstand your hunger and get comfortable with it. This habit is designed to build the foundation for our final phase of Balanced Eating.


These modules are a great place to get started. We will be adding more modules and habits in future.

We hope that you’re excited to go on this journey with us! We’ll stay with you every step of the way, providing you with tips, tools and strategies to help supercharge your journey towards real and lasting freedom from eating issues.

Tune into Hunger

What’s the problem?

If you’re a problem eater, hunger can turn into your worst enemy. What is a completely natural and non-threatening bodily signal for many others might seem erratic, confusing and overwhelming for you.

Sometimes you might experience hunger that is completely ravishing. At other times, you may not feel hungry for hours, or even days, on end.

Being out of touch with your internal hunger and satiety cues can force you to rely on artificial external cues, such as diet plans, calorie counting, or bingeing and purging.

You might also find yourself eating for emotional reasons. Not feeling physical hunger often causes people to use food as a psychological crutch.

After a while of disregarding your bodily signals, it can become difficult for you to figure out how much you should eat.

Instead of mild, natural hunger, you might only experience powerful binge urges.

Not knowing how much food you should consume often causes intense fear. You might find yourself worrying constantly, asking yourself if you’ve eaten too much and not being able to answer the question.

As this anxiety grows more and more powerful over time, some people turn to purging in an attempt to deal with it – and purging makes matters even worse.

Okay, what’s the solution?

In order to recover from problem eating, we need to get back in touch with our natural, balanced hunger.

Before we can fully trust our hunger again, we need to become aware of it and get comfortable with how it feels. We need to explore and learn as much as we can about our own personal hunger.

It’s like reconnecting with a long-lost friend.
The connection is still there – it’s just that it’s been neglected for a while.

If you want to rebuild your friendship with your own body and its natural instincts, you have to nourish that connection. You have to listen to your body’s needs and you have to respect those needs.

The good news is that the first step in this process is relatively easy.

All you need to do is start paying attention to your hunger cues.
The more attention you pay to your natural hunger cues, the easier they’ll be to notice.

For a long time, I didn’t trust my hunger. I saw it as my enemy – something to be ignored, fought with and challenged.

Yet I realised that in order to really make peace with my body and food, I needed to make peace with, listen to and understand my hunger first. And you do too. ♥

In time, once your hunger signals have been fully restored, you’ll be able to use them to decide what, when and how much you should eat.
You’ll be able to trust them and let them guide your natural food choices.

Hunger is complex. The more you explore it, the more it reveals about itself and your physical being. Once you get familiar with it, you’ll be able to let your hunger guide you, advise you and help you to enjoy your life to the fullest.

Science & Studies

Over the years, numerous scientific studies have successfully demonstrated the relationship between hunger awareness and a more balanced, happier life.

One of these studies examined 372 men and women.

They were divided into three groups: those who exercised rigid control over their eating habits, those who were a little bit more relaxed and those who simply followed the wisdom of their internal hunger and satiety cues.

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that the people who listened to their internal bodily signals were the least likely to report episodes of disordered eating and body image concerns.

They were also able to appreciate their body much more than the first two groups.

Even the people whose control over their eating habits and hunger signals was described as “flexible” tended to be much less comfortable with their bodies!

Another in-depth study, which focused on a group of patients in an eating disorder treatment center and took place over a period of two years, revealed that developing the ability to eat in an intuitive way and to recognise one’s natural hunger cues can aid in the recovery of sufferers of all the major eating disorders.

Research like this allows us to conclude that hunger is much more than just a simple bodily response – instead, it’s an integral part of who we are. Disregarding our hunger can have serious consequences when it comes to our overall well-being.

Your body is always communicating with you. A steady stream of subtle feelings, sensations and feedback constantly informs you about your current state. The big question is, are you listening?

Pick a new habit

Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.

Rate your hunger before every meal

Shortly before each meal (or snack), stop for a moment, take a deep breath and focus your attention fully on your body. Try to be as aware of your hunger as possible.

Ask yourself:
“How hungry am I and what does it feel like?”

Everyone is unique and no two people experience hunger in the exact same way.
While a growling stomach and a hollow feeling inside it are the usual physical signs, they may not become noticeable before it’s too late. Keep that in mind and look out for other symptoms of hunger, such as:

  • Lightheadedness.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Empty, uncomfortable feeling in the stomach.
  • Irritability.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Shakiness.

Try and rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely hungry and 1 being not hungry at all.

What number would you assign to your current experience of hunger?

Now consider how you want to use this awareness. Answer to the following questions:

  • Are you sure that your hunger is physical, not emotional?
  • Do you still want to eat?
  • If so, how much?
  • What kind of food is your body craving?
  • What type of food would bring you the greatest satisfaction?

Helpful tips

Keep in mind that daily hunger fluctuations are completely natural and normal. As you begin to get back in touch with your hunger, you might notice that it fluctuates all the time. For no apparent reason, you may feel only slightly hungry one day, yet completely ravenous the next. Your body is very complex and its hunger levels depend on numerous factors, such as:

  • Exercise and other physical activities.
  • Your previous food choices.
  • A woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • Genetics.
  • Amount of muscle.
  • Metabolism.
  • Amount and quality of sleep.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Mood and stress.
  • Drugs and medicines.

Sometimes there are no obvious reasons for day-to-day hunger fluctuations. Nevertheless, we must accept that changes in hunger levels are normal and trust that our body knows best.

If you’re still learning to trust your hunger again, this can be scary. You may feel greedy or out of control, while in reality your hunger is absolutely normal. Try and remember that there’s nothing for you to be afraid of. 

Ready to move on?

Once you’re back in touch with your hunger, you’ll be able to use it as a guide when it comes to your recovery journey. Try and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you able to recognise your personal sensations of hunger?
  • Are you eating consistently when you’re hungry?
  • Are you less scared of your hunger signals?
  • Do you feel more at peace with your natural bodily instincts around food?

If so, then you’re more than ready to move on!

Eat with Awareness

What’s the problem?

The funny thing about those of us who have issues with food is that even though we spend hours every day obsessing about food, the last thing our minds want to think about when we finally do sit down for a meal is… well, the meal in front of us.

It’s as though one part of us wants us to eat and enjoy it, while the other one doesn’t and forces us to zone out.

If you’re a problem eater, a part of your mind is likely to feel guilty about eating. We don’t want to think about the food we’re consuming. We want to forget all of those diet rules that we may be breaking.

We end up eating in a trance.
We lose the ability to be present while eating.
We lose the ability to feel our own natural hunger and satiety signals.
Diets set up rules around food and disconnect people even further from their own experiences of hunger and fullness.

This, of course, leads to further problems.

If we don’t feel fullness, we don’t know when to stop eating – so we just keep on eating. Many of us overeat simply because we’ve forgotten how to listen to our bodies.

If we stop feeling genuine hunger, we tend to eat for emotional reasons. We seek comfort and a temporary escape from loneliness, stress or boredom in food. This leads to further overeating.

“I’ve worked with lots of binge eaters — you’d think they’d enjoy food. But a lot of them say they haven’t really tasted what they’ve been bingeing on for years.”

Okay, what’s the solution?

The solution is to introduce some peaceful presence into our eating habits.

The best way to achieve this is to try and start eating mindfully.

You may be wondering what ‘mindful eating’ means. Mindfulness is just another term for ‘being present’.

In a nutshell, eating mindfully is all about slowing down and paying more attention to your food during meal times. It sounds so simple, but it takes discipline and practice. ♥

Mindful eating might help you to get back in touch with those subtle sensations of hunger and satiety.

It can also bring a sense of balance into every aspect of how you eat – and, eventually, how you live.

It might seem ridiculously simple, but eating with awareness will help you to recognise hunger and fullness sooner. You will begin to understand and learn what foods your body really likes and how much food it takes for you to feel full. It sounds easy, but it’s literally life-changing :)

Science & Studies

The growing popularity of mindful eating has led to some of the world’s top universities putting its theories to the test. These experiments provided some fascinating results.

A joint study conducted by Duke and Indiana State Universities revealed that binge eaters who participated in a nine-week program of mindful eating went from binge eating four times a week to just once a week. Even when they did binge, they reported that their binges were much smaller and they felt less out of control while bingeing. Participants of the experiment also noticed that mindful eating helped them to truly enjoy the food that they were eating every single day.

Another study concluded that mindfulness techniques can help people to consume less sugary treats. After eating mindfully for five and a half months, the majority of 194 participants of the experiment reported that their cravings for sweets had reduced significantly. Even more importantly, these cravings remained weaker for as long as 12 months after the experiment had ended!

It’s clear then that the effects of mindfulness on problem eating can be extremely powerful, as well as long-lasting.

How can you know when to stop eating if you’re not paying attention to your fullness signals?

Pick a new habit

Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.

Choose one meal and commit to eating it mindfully

Start with just one meal. Try to eat one meal or one snack mindfully every day. Even if you eat just the first few bites mindfully, it can still help you to break the cycle of wolfing your food down without paying any attention to it.

Savour each mouthful. Chew it slowly and taste it fully. Enjoy the flavours, the textures one bite at a time. Swallow and pause for a breath before scooping up another bite.

I’m not saying that you have to eat at a snail’s pace. All you need to do is try and eat your food a little slower than usual. It takes about 20-30 minutes for your body to register that you’ve eaten enough food, so slowing down can significantly reduce the possibility of overeating. :)

Get into the habit of putting your utensils down after each bite

Try and put your utensils down for a moment after each bite. Allow yourself to notice — and enjoy — the taste and texture of your food. Take a breath. Pick up your utensils again and repeat.

If you’re eating around others, use this break to make conversation or ask a question. It will make the breaks much more natural. However, you should take a moment to refocus your attention and to stay present even when you’re eating alone.

Helpful tips

Tips for slowing down

  • If slowing down is a struggle, try using a timer. When you’re done eating, see how many minutes have gone by. Voilà – you have a baseline for improvement! Now do your best to finish your meal one minute later the next day. Keep doing that for two weeks and you’ll slow your pace of eating down by nearly 15 minutes!
  • Alternatively, try and set a minimum number of chews per bite. It might seem a little bit strange at first, but stick with it for a few days and see if it helps you to slow down.
  • Avoid getting too hungry in-between meals. If you’re feeling absolutely ravenous, eating slowly is likely to be much harder.
  • If there’s a slow eater with you during meal times, try to follow their pace of eating to give yourself an idea of a natural, healthy eating speed (children or very chatty people are ideal candidates!).

Tips for eating with awareness

  • It might be helpful for you to have a designated eating place. Sitting down at a table, with nothing but your plate and a glass of water or a cup of tea before you, is pretty much perfect. It allows you to tell your mind, loud and clear, that this is where you eat food. As a result, once you’re finished eating your meal, it’s much easier to just stand up and leave the food behind.
  • If you find it hard to let go of stress, try lighting a candle or playing some music. You’ll send a clear signal to your brain, telling it that the food battle is over. So sit down, remove all distractions and do your best to make it pleasant.
  • Try and avoid multitasking during your meals. Don’t look at your mobile device, your computer or your TV. Instead, look at the food. Enjoy the beauty of the thing you’re about to eat.
  • The old adage which says that “the banquet is in the first bite” couldn’t be more true. Depending on the food and the level of hunger, it takes three to six bites for most people to notice a decrease in flavour and satisfaction. It doesn’t mean that you should stop eating after the first six bites, but it might encourage you to savour your food to the fullest.
“Try to approach food non-judgementally. Many people bring a host of negative emotions to the table – from guilt about blowing a diet to childhood fears of deprivation or wastefulness. I joke with my clients that if I could put a microphone in their heads and broadcast what they’re saying to themselves when they eat, it would have to be bleeped out!

Ready to move on?

This is really a life-long skill. There is no fixed end point. Nevertheless, feel free to move on once you’ve got into the habit of eating at least one meal mindfully each day.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t go smoothly. This is challenging and it might be hard to stay committed and focused.

As long as you’re making an effort to eat mindfully each day, you’re good to go :).

Eat All Foods

What’s the problem?

We always desire what we can’t have. It’s human nature. If you tell a child that they can play with any toy except the red truck, guess what toy they’ll want to play with?
The same happens with food.

Restricting any type of food is, without a doubt, one of the leading causes of eating issues. Even if we forbid ourselves access to only one food group (for example, carbohydrates or fat), sooner or later it results in overeating.

When we tell ourselves that we “can’t” eat certain foods, they become tastier, more special and certainly more desirable. That’s why problem eaters tend to binge on foods that they don’t normally allow themselves to have.

So why do we still limit our access to certain products?

It’s because after years of food restriction, diets and disordered thinking, we’ve been left with the notion that certain foods are “good” and “safe”, while others are “bad” and “fattening”.

Every diet comes with its own set of rules and things we should or shouldn’t eat.
Eat this, don’t eat that.
Eat that before 7 PM every second Tuesday.

We hear messages like “carbs make you fat!” .
We get lost, confused, frightened, afraid to eat anything in case it causes our bodies to expand like balloons.

We want to eat healthily, we really do, so we try our best to follow these rules.
But it’s too hard, too strict, too controlled.
We miss those tasty foods that we don’t allow ourselves to eat.
We feel miserable and deprived.

Eventually, we give in and eat something “forbidden”.
We break a rule.
We feel weak, ashamed and guilty.
These feelings often cause us to lose control and binge – which makes the guilt even worse.

And so a simple act of breaking a food rule (which shouldn’t be a rule in the first place!) can snowball into a day-long binge fest.

Here’s the reality: any diet that demands you to give up your favorite foods is not only ridiculous, but also unsustainable.
Who wants to live like that? You’re not the problem here, strict food rules are! ♥

Science & Studies

Studies show that food rules lead to overeating and bingeing.

One study looked at the eating behaviours of two groups of people: those who lived by strict food rules and those who did not. The researchers asked individuals from each group to consume a high-calorie milkshake. Afterwards they could eat as much ice cream as they wanted.

Those who followed strict food rules in their everyday lives went on to eat significantly more ice cream after drinking the milkshake. The researchers hypothesised that they continued to overindulge because they felt bad about breaking their food rules (Herman & Mack, 2975).

In a similar study, participants were asked to consume either a milkshake or a serving of cottage cheese (both containing the same number of calories), before going on to eat as much ice cream as they liked.

Those who initially consumed the milkshake went on to eat considerably more ice cream than those who chose the cottage cheese – even though the calorie content in the two foods was identical!

The researchers suggested that individuals with strict food rules experienced more guilt after consuming the milkshake because they believed it to be “forbidden”. This guilt triggered the urge to keep on eating.

These experiments show that whenever we try to adhere to strict food rules, we’re only setting ourselves up for failure. The more we restrict our food intake, the more likely we are to overeat (Holmes et al, 2014).

Eventually our food rules – the very things that are supposed to keep us safe – lead to bingeing.

Okay, what’s the solution?

Not allowing ourselves to eat food we enjoy leads to deprivation – and deprivation makes us miserable and prone to bingeing.

We need to acknowledge that these foods are important to us.

By depriving ourselves of these foods, we’re denying a large part of our own being.

Food is more than just sustenance.
It holds deep emotional connections too.
Perhaps your granny used to comfort you with some ice cream when you were little.
Perhaps the smell of a warm apple pie overwhelms you with calmness, security and joy.
These foods are special to us.
They have a special place in our minds.
We deserve to allow ourselves to experience the emotional satisfaction that they give us, guilt-free.

The truth is that all foods have a place in a healthy, balanced diet.
That’s right! ALL FOODS.

The quality of your food intake is best assessed by looking at the overall picture.
It’s all about balance, variety and developing a non-restrictive, non-judgemental attitude towards food.

But if I allow myself to eat my “restricted” foods, won’t I just end up bingeing on them?

By allowing yourself to eat all foods, you’ll gradually remove the anxiety, guilt and fear associated with certain products.

By confronting this fear, you’ll expose it as fake. These foods will quickly lose the sense of dread that is attached to them.

If you can eat something every day, you tend not to crave it as strongly anymore.

Eventually, a piece of chocolate could be as exciting as an apple.

I’m not saying that you should eat 10 bars of chocolate every day in place of your regular meals (besides, it wouldn’t take you very long to grow tired of chocolate!). What I am saying is that it is absolutely fine to eat some chocolate when you feel like it. You shouldn’t avoid foods because you think they’re “bad”.

Let’s get this straight… You’re going to eat these foods anyway, whether you try to avoid them or not.

Would you rather have loads of candy at once, or lots of small pieces that you can enjoy over time, guilt-free?

Pick a new habit

Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.

Include a portion of your “restricted food in your main meals

Try and add a small portion of your “restricted” food to at least one of your main meals every day.

If you’re struggling with doing that, start with a small portion of a product that you find the least scary. Once your anxiety around it decreases, take it up a notch and give other foods a try.

This strategy is known as “exposure therapy” and can be extremely effective.

It works by gradually exposing you to the thing you fear, starting with the least scary version of it. As you overcome your fears one step at a time, you can eventually get rid of them altogether! ♥

Think of food as “sometimes food” and “all the time food”

Get into the habit of looking at food in a new way.
Forget about food being “good” or “bad”. This attitude doesn’t help you and it certainly doesn’t prevent you from eating the food anyway!

From now on, no food is considered “bad” or “unhealthy”.

By refusing to label certain foods as “bad”, you’re removing their power over you.

If a food isn’t “bad”, then there’s no need for you to feel guilty after eating it.

If you’re allowed to eat all types of food, then there’s no reason for some of them to trigger a binge.

If you feel the need to label your food in some way, divide it into two groups: “sometimes food” and “all the time food”.

“All the time food” includes real, whole products that are packed with macronutrients and are guaranteed to promote good health. Examples of such products include:

  • Fruit.
  • Vegetables.
  • Meat and tofu.
  • Bread, rice, potatoes and pasta.
  • Oils.

“Sometimes food” is all about more energy-dense products, such as:

  • Chocolate.
  • Ice cream.
  • Chips.

Remember that all of us need to allow ourselves to eat our “sometimes foods”. No food should ever be off limits.
You don’t need to eat perfectly to be perfectly healthy!

During the worst times of my bulimia, one bite of chocolate was enough to cause me to spiral into a full-blown bingeing and purging session.

This is exactly what we want to avoid.

Instead of seeing food as something that can only be undeniably right or shamefully wrong, imagine balanced eating as a spectrum. ♥

Helpful tips

  • If you’re worried that exposing yourself to “restricted” food can lead to a binge, try and eat it when you’re at your best both mentally and physically – perhaps when you’ve eaten a well-balanced breakfast or feel relaxed and well-rested.
  • You can also try and think about this in reverse. When would it not be safe for you to eat those foods? Perhaps when you’re tired? When your period is due? When you’ve had a stressful day at work? When you’ve been restricting?
  • If you tend to binge in the evening, it’s probably a good idea to avoid any “restricted” foods at that time of day – at least until you’re feeling stronger and more confident.
  • Use positive affirmations when thinking about “restricted” food. Try and repeat: “Food is just food. It can’t make me fat just because I eat a serving.
  • Throw away any leftovers after eating if you’re tempted to binge on them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for support. Call a friend and let them know that you’re struggling if you feel like you’re about to binge. Our HealED Coaching Service works great for situations like that as well. You can always reach out to your personal recovery coach and receive guidance and emotional help.
This may push you outside of your comfort zone. That’s okay. This is you taking your first tentative steps towards food freedom. Don’t worry – there’s no need to rush. Just take it one step at a time.
Trust me, you can absolutely do this! :)

Ready to move on?

If food rules are wreaking havoc on your life, you might want to spend a little extra time here. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It’s okay if you need a few weeks or even months to achieve a real sense of balance. Just continue challenging yourself and introducing new foods into your daily life.

Eat More Real Food

What’s the problem?

It turns out that being low or deficient in certain micronutrients — vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — can lead to you craving everything from cheese and steak to chocolate and curly fries.

Your insatiable hunger and frequent binge cravings may very well be a sign of nutrient deficiency.

It’s usually caused by:

  • Eating food that’s lacking in nutrients (like fast or overly processed food).
  • Cutting out whole macronutrient groups, such as carbohydrates, from your diet.
  • Choosing the same familiar, safe foods over and over again.
  • Being overstressed, overworked and just overdoing it in general.

This is something you definitely need to consider if you have an issue with binge eating. If you’re constantly feeling hungry despite consuming enough (or more than enough!) food, take a look at the quality of the food that you’re eating.

If your food is lacking in adequate nutrition, feeling properly satisfied after eating is next to impossible.

Stephen O’Rahilly, Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine at Cambridge University, has a great way of putting it:

“People talk about feeling full, but that’s not actually what they are feeling, as the stomach capacity is huge. The feeling of fullness, usually generated in the brain, is a response not to food volume, but to nutrients. The gastrointestinal tract registers the contents of food we consume, then produces different ‘anti-eating’ hormones, which travel to the brain and trigger a feeling of fullness.”

So even if you’re consuming enough calories, you may still experience severe binge cravings. They’re your body’s way of crying out for what it needs. Mere bulk (such as eating four packets of rice cakes) isn’t capable of providing a feeling of real satiety and satisfaction. Only adequate nutrition can do that.

This is simply how our bodies work. It’s a part of our inbuilt survival mechanism. We need nutritious food to survive and function. If your body is deprived of nutrition, it will fight back!

Okay, what’s the solution?

The solution here is to eat a wider variety of real food.

Real food is loaded with important nutrients. Real food is packed full of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, protein, carbohydrates and fat – or, in short, everything that you need to satisfy and nourish your healing body and dramatically reduce those binge cravings.

So what exactly is real food?
The answer is simple. Anything with one ingredient that hasn’t been created by a man (or a woman) is real food. For example, the only ingredient in a lemon is… a lemon. The only ingredient in an onion is the onion itself. Real food is simply whatever the heck that food is – and that’s it.

Here are some handy examples of real foods that can provide you with the three main macronutrients:

  1. Protein:
  • Grass-fed beef.
  • Chicken.
  • Lamb.
  • Wild salmon.

2. Complex carbohydrates:

  • Asparagus.
  • Broccoli.
  • Carrot.
  • Kale.
  • Sweet Potato.
  • Other vegetables and fruit.

3. Healthy fat:

  • Olive oil.
  • Coconut oil.
  • Avocado.

It’s important to realise that eating real food has nothing to do with restriction, dieting or ‘clean’ eating. You’re not expected to eat fresh, whole foods exclusively.

This isn’t about avoiding any specific type of food. You don’t have to eat perfectly and you don’t have to turn this into a strict, restrictive rule. An attitude of subtraction just doesn’t work here, so I encourage you to focus on addition instead.Think about all of the wonderful whole foods that you can add to your diet!

Think about whole-wheat bread, plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, a variety of grains, nuts…
You don’t have to cut any of your other favourite products out of your daily ration. As long as your biological needs are satisfied, enjoying any type of food is absolutely okay.
After all, this is the very essence of balanced eating.

Science & Studies

If you’re carrying around some extra weight and losing a few pounds would benefit your health, you may find this next study interesting. Researchers (Bolio et al., Obesity Research 2004; Vol. 12: A41) have proven that individuals who eat a nutrient-rich diet can lose weight without the need for calorie restriction.

The participants of this study had to eat 2,100 calories per day. If they were still hungry, they were allowed to eat some more. Despite the absence of food restriction, these people still managed to lose weight and reduce the amount of fat around their waists over the course of the experiment.

It’s clear that weight loss can occur in the absence of a low-calorie diet if people allow their bodies to have access to adequate nutrition.

In one 12-week study, a number of diabetic or pre-diabetic people were put on a paleolithic diet containing lots of fresh meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs and nuts. At the end of the experiment, their blood sugar levels had reduced by 26%. Blood sugar levels play a big role in our cravings, so it’s not difficult to imagine what a huge difference this can make to those of us who are suffering from problem eating!

Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to know how to process real food. They recognise these foods and know exactly what to do with them.

Pick a new habit

Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.

Include a vegetable source in each meal

Get into the habit of adding some vegetables into each of your daily meals and snacks. Not only are veggies packed full of nutrients and fibre, but they will also help you to feel fuller and more satisfied for longer!

Some ideas of how to do that include:

  • Have a salad as a snack or a light lunch.
  • Combine some carrots, celery and other veggies with hummus for a balanced and filling snack.
  • If you’re eating a sandwich, make sure to include more than just ham and cheese in it. Tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers work great in this case!
  • Throw some vegetables into your meat stew.
  • Use veggies when making green smoothies.

Develop a habit of cooking real food

Find a few simple recipes that are based on whole ingredients (fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, beans and the like) and try them out over the coming week. They might be as simple as a fruit salad or a vegetable soup – in fact, the easier it is to prepare them, the better.

As you get into the habit of cooking real food, you might want to try and purchase a couple of handy kitchen appliances to make your food preparation even more pleasurable. Things like slow cookers, steamers, blenders and vegetable spiralizers are all great places to start.

If you’re not used to cooking, the prospect of making your own food day in and day out might seem pretty scary. Trust me, it isn’t at all as difficult as it might seem at first. On the contrary, cooking real food can be extremely enjoyable!

Snack on real food

It’s an excellent idea to try and snack on things like fruit, veggies and nuts. They’re easy to carry around with you, there’s little or no preparation involved and they’re great sources of lasting energy.

Here are a few suggestions of whole, balanced snacks:

  • Dried fruit and nut mixes.
  • Various veggie or fruit salads.
  • Green smoothies.
  • Whole fruit, like apples, berries, bananas, peaches and anything else you can think of!

Buy more real food when shopping

Get into the habit of buying more products from the fresh food section of the supermarket. Just do what you can to purchase the least processed versions of your favourite foods. For example, regular oatmeal is preferable to instant oatmeal. However, even instant oatmeal is a whole grain, so it’s still a good choice.

Here are a few other products that you could purchase during your next shopping trip:

  • Whole-wheat bread.
  • Whole-grain pasta.
  • Brown rice.
  • Various grain mixes.
  • Quinoa.
  • Bulgur.
  • Barley.

Helpful tips

  • Keep it simple. It doesn’t matter if a head of broccoli has more nutrition than a carrot. There’s no need to worry about specific nutritional values. Just focus on eating more real food. By doing so, you’ll naturally start making more balanced choices.
  • If you’re stuck for ideas, think about the types of food that your grandmother or great-grandmother would have eaten and use that as a guideline.

Ready to move on?

Eating more real, fresh food is an ongoing habit. You may have already developed it as you worked on your previous modules. If that’s the case and you’re absolutely sure that your body is being properly nourished, then you’re more than welcome to move on to the next step.

However, if your daily meals are still lacking in proper nutrition, I encourage you to try and spend more time focusing on including plenty of real food in your diet.

Balance Your Meals

What’s the problem?

When you binge on food, chances are you don’t binge on salad. You binge on muffins, pies, sweets, fizzy drinks, donuts – or, in other words, refined carbohydrates.

Why does that happen?

Well, first and foremost, refined carbohydrates are a very appealing source of energy, so your body is naturally drawn towards them.

However, what perpetuates the cycle of bingeing is the ability of refined carbohydrates to cause a sudden rise in your blood sugar levels.

Here’s how it works:

  1. After being consumed, refined carbohydrates are quickly broken down into simple sugars, which cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
  2. High levels of sugar are toxic to your cells, so in an attempt to help you, your body releases insulin, which pulls this sugar from your blood.
  3. However, insulin is too good at its job: instead of helping your blood sugar levels to go back to normal, it sends them plummeting to levels that are too low.
  4. When there’s not enough sugar in your blood, your brain sends out powerful signals that direct you to binge on huge quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods.
  5. As you give in to these natural cravings, a new binge leads to a new blood sugar crash – which leads to another binge, which leads to another crash… Soon enough you find yourself trapped in a seemingly never-ending roller coaster of sugar highs and sugar lows.
I’ve sketched this out in a graph (see below) to make it a little clearer for you. :)

This natural survival mechanism is biologically predetermined.

So how do you know if your blood sugar levels are unstable?
Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Intense sugar cravings.
  • Energy dips (especially after meals or late in the afternoon).
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, being jittery or shaky.
  • Anxiety or agitation.
  • Brain fog and having difficulty concentrating.
  • Extreme hunger.

Okay, what’s the solution?

The best way to stabilise your blood sugar levels is to ensure that each meal (and preferably each snack) has a balanced combination of the three primary macronutrients. These macronutrients are complex carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Balancing your meals in this way will help your body to:

  1. slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream;
  2. prevent intense sugar highs and rapid crashes;
  3. slow down the process of digestion, so that you can feel fuller for longer and absorb more nutrition from food.

The sooner you commit to eating regular, balanced meals, the sooner you’re going to experience the amazing benefits that this approach to food can bring you. A constant balance of macronutrients is absolutely key to breaking free from binge cravings and food obsession.

Science & Studies

Numerous studies have shown that a balanced diet can have a huge impact on problem eaters who are trying to get better.

In one of these studies, 20 bulimic women were put on a sugar-stabilising diet to see if it would help with their urges to binge and purge.

Within three weeks, all of the women stopped bingeing – and even more importantly, they remained free from binges in the long run too (Dalvit-McPhillips, 1984).

That’s a truly amazing result, considering that the only thing they did was stabilise their yo-yoing blood sugar levels!

You need to balance your food intake to ensure that your body is no longer deprived. A great way to do this is to have at least one serving of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat in each meal.

How to do it

You should begin the process of learning how to eat in a balanced way by ensuring that each of your meals is made up of 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat (in terms of calories, not volume).

Think of it as a simple 2/1/1 ratio.

Let’s keep this really simple. Roughly half of your plate must be dedicated to carbs, a quarter dedicated to protein and a quarter dedicated to fat. That’s it.However, keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science. You don’t have to portion out your plate perfectly. Treat this ratio simply as a rough ballpark. ♥

Here are some examples of balanced meals that contain all of the three macronutrients:

  • Half a plate of rice and broccoli, one quarter of chicken and one quarter of avocado.
  • Half a plate of whole-grain pasta, one quarter of fish and one quarter of cream-based sauce.
  • Half a plate of baked potato and vegetables, and half of roasted meat with gravy.
  • Half a plate of fresh salad and half of cheese omelette.

I know all about it from personal experience. If I eat toast or cereal for breakfast, I get hungry by mid-morning. On the other hand, eating scrambled eggs, porridge or kippers (even if these amount to the same number of calories that can be found in a bowl of cereal) keeps me going well into the afternoon. ♥

Pick a new habit

Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.

Include more complex carbohydrates in each meal

Complex carbohydrates are extremely important for recovering problem eaters, so making sure that you’re eating enough of them is a great start. These macronutrients will not only help you to feel energised, but they will also considerably weaken your binge urges.

Add a serving of complex carbohydrates to all of your main meals.

Here are some ideas that can help you do that:

  • Add some vegetables.
  • Add a portion of beans.
  • Add some whole grains.

Include more fat in each meal

Forget about the old maxim which states that “eating fat makes you fat”. As it turns out, it couldn’t be further from the truth!

There are three different types of fat – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Eating these three kinds of fat in moderation can drastically improve your health. Because consuming enough fat induces a satiety response in the brain, it can even help you to shed some unneeded weight!

If you feel like you’re not eating enough fat throughout the day, make sure to include a portion of fat in each of your meals. Some ideas of how you can do that include:

  • Cooking your meals in butter or coconut oil.
  • Adding a portion of mixed nuts.
  • Adding a splash of olive oil to your salad.
  • Adding an avocado to your meals.

Include more protein in each meal

You’ve probably heard that eating enough protein is extremely important – however, it’s very easy to consume too little of it if you’re not actively monitoring your protein intake.

Protein will help you to restore lost muscle mass and will aid in repairing damaged tissue. It will also make you feel fuller for longer, balance your blood sugar levels and reduce your binge cravings. All of this is absolutely essential for anybody who is recovering from problem eating.

If you think that your protein intake is too low, start adding more protein to each of your daily meals. That includes breakfast too!

The best sources of protein are soft and easy to digest. Examples of such products include:

  • Stewed meat or poultry.
  • Cooked fish.
  • Legumes.
  • Scrambled eggs.
  • High-quality protein powders.

Take it to the next level by balancing your snacks

If you can balance your main meals, you should also try and apply the same guidelines to your snacks. Even the tiniest snack can combine all of the three macronutrients and provide your body with the nourishment that it so desperately craves.

Simply think of some foods that can be prepared quickly, are easy to carry around with you and, most importantly, contain some proper nutrition. Here are a few suggestions that you might find useful:

  • Homemade protein bars.
  • Protein shakes.
  • Green smoothies.
  • Vegetables with hummus.

Helpful tips

  • Eggs are a great source of protein. Try adding some eggs to your breakfast or other main meals.
  • Have some balanced snacks on hand in case you encounter an unexpected binge urge or can’t have your main meal on time.
  • Don’t obsess over these macronutrients. You may be tempted to measure out and weigh your food, you may want to count calories or try and find out the exact amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat in your meals, but this is simply not necessary. On the contrary, it can do more harm than good! All you need to do is be aware of an approximate ratio of these macronutrients in your meals to be able to move forward.

Ready to move on?

Once you feel like you’ve mastered the ratio of macronutrients in your 3 daily meals and 3 snacks, you can step forward and into our next module.

Eat Enough

What’s the problem?

This is a big one. Not eating enough food is one of the leading causes of problem eating.

This is because thousands of us undereat on a daily basis – and, as sad as that is, a lot of us do it on purpose.

In an effort to restrict our food intake, we skip breakfast.
Then we have a light lunch and do our very best to avoid snacking throughout the day.

Once evening comes, we’re absolutely famished. This is when our bodies usually give in to our natural cravings and we suddenly find ourselves eating everything that we can get our hands on.

This is simply how our bodies work. They need food to survive and they fight us when we try to deprive them of nutrition.

Restrictive diets just don’t work. It’s a fact. They lead to weight gain and episodes of binge eating. When food is restricted throughout the day, bingeing becomes much more frequent. And the stricter this food restriction is, the stronger the binge urges grow in response.

These urges are biological. It’s how our bodies react to prolonged hunger.

It’s an instinctive response and has nothing to do with our psychological state.

If the healthiest, happiest person on the planet restricted their food intake, they would make themselves susceptible to powerful binge urges too.

Even minor undereating over a period of a few days can lead to bingeing. It’s no surprise then that weeks or months of intense dieting frequently result in serious eating issues.

This is interesting stuff! If you want to learn more, we’ve got you covered. You can learn more about how diets lead to binge eating and eating disorders by reading our in-depth guide here.

Okay, what’s the solution?

The solution is to stop restricting.
You need to eat enough food to satisfy your biological requirements.

Now you’re probably wondering how much food the average person requires to get them through the day. Most guidelines state that the number of calories that a person should consume daily is 2,000.

However, it turns out that it isn’t that simple after all.

In 1993, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was originally going to state that the recommended number of daily calories for one person was 2,350. However, its officials then decided that this number was too cumbersome.

To make things simpler, a recommendation of 2,000 calories was adopted instead. That’s 350 calories, or one whole meal, less than the original calculation!

Recent research suggests that the original number was an underestimation as well.

Modern experiments have revealed that both women and men (who are moderately active and within a healthy weight range) expend around 2400 and 3050 calories per day respectively.

That’s a huge difference compared to the number that the FDA, along with so many others, is using!

The truth is that numerous factors affect the amount of food that your body requires.

These factors include age, height, weight, activity level, metabolic health and several others.

As a result, it’s nearly impossible to calculate how many calories you will digest, absorb and use up during the day.

That’s why calorie counting isn’t effective.

The best way to ensure that you’re eating enough is learning to listen to the natural signals that your body is sending you. And for these signals to get through to you, you first have to stop restricting your food intake.

I know that this might come as a bit of a shock, but it’s impossible to stop bingeing if you’re eating 1,500 calories a day when your body requires more than 2,000 calories. Yes, impossible! Personally, I don’t go under 2,200 calories. I’m a relatively active female, so this amount suits my needs perfectly.

However, it’s important to understand that everyone is different. You may need to adjust this number to meet your personal requirements.

Science & Studies

One study has revolutionised the way we look at food restriction and its effect on humans. It’s called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment took place in 1944. Its participants were put on a diet of 1,600 calories per day for 6 months. Over time, they began to suffer from various psychological side effects, such as anxiety, food obsession and depression.

Even more important to us is the fact that once the experiment had ended, some of its participants found themselves bingeing on more than five thousand calories a day.

Long-term restriction resulted in cravings that didn’t go away even when the stomachs of the experiment’s subjects were absolutely stuffed!

This is where it all began for us – the Minnesota Starvation Study. It blew our minds when we first read it. It was the first experiment which proved that there is a HUGE physical element in disordered eating. It’s definitely worth reading in full. Here is a link to the study.

Another large study concluded that girls who dieted frequently were twelve times more likely to report binge eating (yes, that’s right, TWELVE TIMES!), while boys who did the same became seven times more likely to binge eat.

With results like that, it couldn’t be clearer that restricting one’s food intake really does lead to intense cravings, frequent overeating and other forms of problem eating.

If you held your breath for a minute, you’d feel a massive urge to breathe.
If you didn’t drink any liquids for a day, you’d obsess over water.
Why would it be any different if you didn’t eat enough food?

Pick a new habit

Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.

Add one extra snack to your Heal Plan

You can try adding one more snack to your existing Heal Plan and see if it helps you to feel stronger and more in control of your binge urges. It might seem like a small change, but it can truly make a huge difference!

Some balanced and satisfying snack ideas include:

  • Protein shakes.
  • Green smoothies.
  • Dried fruit and nut mixes.
  • Vegetables with hummus.

Increase the portion sizes of your meals

If you want to ensure that you’re consuming enough calories throughout the day, you can try and increase the portion sizes of your main meals. Simply add a couple of new ingredients to them and see how your body reacts to a more substantial portion.

For example, if you’re having a tuna sandwich for lunch, include some veggies, cheese or boiled eggs in it. You’ll add more nutrients, as well as calories, to your meal and will have more energy to go about your daily tasks.

Eat more nutrient-dense snacks

A handy trick to ensure that you’re eating enough calories is to eat nutrient-dense foods as snacks.

Concentrate on foods that provide you with calories and a wide array of nutrients, such as protein and healthy fat. A combination of nuts, seeds, oil and nut butter works great in this case. It won’t make you feel overly full and it will help you meet your daily calorie needs with ease.

Here are some examples of nutritious snacks:

  • Protein or granola bars.
  • Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese with fruit.
  • Nut butter and crackers.
  • Trail mix.

Make your main meals more nutrient-dense

You can try and increase the quantity of nutrients in your main meals as well. All it takes is a couple of small adjustments – add them all up and they will result in a much more varied and satisfying daily menu!

Some easy ways to make your meals more nutritious include:

  • Cooking your eggs with butter.
  • Cooking your oatmeal with whole milk instead of water.
  • Adding some olive oil and avocados to your salad.

Try eating 6 small meals instead of 3 meals and 3 snacks

If you’ve restricted your calorie intake for a long time, your body might struggle to adjust to having full meals at the start of your recovery journey.

One way of making this transition easier on yourself is having 6 small meals instead of 3 bigger meals and 3 snacks every day.

This strategy will allow your stomach to get used to digesting regular meals again and will help you to consume enough food daily.

Keep in mind, however, that your 6 daily meals shouldn’t turn into 6 small snacks. Try and make sure that they’re still quite substantial and provide you with all of the necessary macronutrients.

Consume nutritious, high-calorie drinks

Another way of getting used to consuming more food is drinking your calories. If you don’t feel hungry when your next meal time rolls around, try and replace your main meal or snack with a tasty, nutritious, high-calorie drink.

When making these drinks, make sure that they provide you with the necessary macronutrients. For example, your portion of complex carbohydrates can come from fruit, your source of protein can be whole milk, yoghurt or protein powder, and your serving of healthy fat can take the shape of an avocado or a spoonful of nut butter.

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for these drinks, here are two recipes of balanced, nutritious shakes:

  • Chocolate, banana and nut butter: Mix one banana, one scoop of chocolate-flavoured whey protein powder, one tablespoon of your favourite nut butter and a glass of whole milk.
  • Vanilla and mixed berries: Mix one cup of mixed berries (fresh or frozen), one scoop of vanilla-flavoured whey protein powder and a glass of whole milk.

Helpful tips

  • If you’re physically active, you may need to increase your calorie intake even further. Depending on your activity level, eating 2,500, 3,000 or even more calories every day might be completely natural – and indeed essential – for you.
  • If you start feeling full too early on in your meals, consider limiting drinks during meal times. It goes without saying that keeping yourself hydrated is still extremely important, but many people find that drinking during meals reduces the overall capacity of their stomachs and causes them to feel too full.
  • If you have problems with purging, try and stick to foods that you feel comfortable eating. You can tackle your trigger foods once you’re ready to do that, but it’s important to take it one step at a time for now.
  • Don’t panic if you notice your weight fluctuating a little during this period – it’s completely normal and is usually caused by temporary bloating. However, if a slightly bigger number on the scale can trigger you to binge, purge or engage in other unhealthy behaviours, avoid weighing yourself for the time being.
  • If you’re severely underweight and/or tend to consume less than 1,000 calories a day, you have to be very cautious when increasing your calorie intake. Your body might not be used to consuming a healthy amount of calories and it can be very dangerous for you to start eating bigger portions too quickly. Please consult a doctor before going forward with your recovery.

Ready to move on?

Here are some questions that can help you to decide if your daily calorie intake has to be upped:

  • Do you feel genuinely satisfied after your meals and snacks?
  • If you’ve experienced symptoms like dizziness, shakiness and the like in the past, are they gone now?
  • Has the frequency and intensity of your binge urges considerably decreased?

If you’ve answered negatively to any of these questions, you’re probably still eating too little. You need to gradually increase your calorie intake.

If you’re still experiencing powerful binge urges, it might also be a sign that you’re not eating enough. Spend more time making sure that your calorie intake satisfies your biological needs.