When will compulsive overeating stop? – is a common question people struggle with in recovery. There is often a deep wish that after a binge, this will be the last time. That can be also followed by a sense of hopelessness as one remembers how long this destructive pattern has been going on. It is important to consider that the habit of overeating compulsively is an addictive behavior developed over time and can become a very deeply ingrained coping mechanism. So to stop compulsive overeating isn’t so simple as anyone who has this habit knows so well. Maintaining a proactive approach to break the negative cycle is important and challenging.
There are many tools that can help and change the behavior. One tool that is important is to recognize is what are the triggers. A trigger could be a particular emotion, situation, food – anything that you know in the past has made you run to food for comfort, support or escape in a destructive way. In twelve step programs that focus so well on addictions, there is an acronym that is helpful- H-A-L-T. HALT represents 4 common triggers of addictive behavior and a simple direction to stop and consider alternatives. H- stands for hunger- when we allow ourselves to get too hungry we are likely to make poor food choices. A- stand for anger – when we are overwhelmed with a strong feeling as anger, we are likely to try to stuff feelings down with food. L- lonely – when we are lonely and in need of contact, we can reach out for food instead of soothing contact with a person. T- tired – when we let ourselves get too tired and exhausted, we are more prone to overeating and bingeing.
Learning that we can develop alternatives that are positive and healthy gives us hope over time. We learn when we are vulnerable to compulsive overeating and can be prepared to make better choices for ourselves. Healthy habits of eating and self-care and nurturing ourselves all aid in recovering from compulsive overeating.