Self Soothing Strategies
13 Strategies for self soothing and binge eating
- When you feel a binge coming on, stop for a second. Just stop. Just for a second. Enough time to read this list, or to try one of the steps. You can carry on your binge later if you want to.
- Stop and notice exactly what thoughts you are having and how you might be feeling. Are you thinking ”I don’t care, I’m going to eat. Stuff it!” (insert more appropriate aggressive language!) Ask yourself gently: what experience were you having that made you so uncomfortable you wanted to stuff food inside you? Begin to take note of these experiences.
- Think of your binge eater as a child you care about, and you as an adult who is trying to comfort the child.What kinds of things would you say to this little girl or boy, to reassure them?Would you say ”Stuff you, I don’t care about you! I don’t care how you feel!’ What are they going through and what do they want to hear? How could you be kind to them?
- Is there someone you can ask for support, connect with or talk to, before you start eating? You can also ask friends to list all the things they like about you. If you can’t contact anyone when you need them, think of a person you feel safe with. Think about what they would say now and practice letting their positivity in.You may wish to set up supportive structures around food. For example, could you eat with friends or relatives, instead of alone? Or could you hang out with someone at a time when you would normally be feeling low
- Think of a place where you’ve felt safe and remember it, call it up. Experience in your imagination and in your body, what was it like to feel safe and happy there?
- Is there a word or phrase that can give you a moment’s respite in difficult situations (e.g., choice, breathe, you’re worth it, etc)? Call this up and practice remembering what it feels like and the effect it has had on you in the past.
- You can use an elastic band on your wrist, a reminder on your phone, a post-it on your computer or fridge, to remind you of all or any of this.
- Start making a list of non-harmful strategies for self-soothing (e.g. spending time with people who like you, spending time with people or things that make you laugh, phoning a friend, going for a walk, pampering yourself, reading, listening to music, finding time to relax, watching a film, reading something that really interests you etc).
- During a binge, see if you can identify with the taste of food. See if you can eat more slowly and savour every second of it. See if there are moments of displeasure in the taste. Mindfully notice every taste, bite and swallow, and how this affects you. If you can’t do that, notice how fast you eat and what that does to you. What thoughts do you have ? What physical and emotional experiences do you have?
- Instead of promising yourself you will go on a strict diet, take a really small step in the right direction. This can be anytime; before, during, after a binge, or include this into your daily life. Research shows this is a lot more effective than deprivation or trying to do too much at once. For example, include a little more of something healthy into your diet. Water for example. If you don’t like water, you could try to find a way to make water palatable to you. Try warming it up, adding ice, putting it in your favourite container, fizzy water, water with lime, lemon, cucumber or mint, try healthier liquids like coconut water or vegetable juices.
- Stay bodily, physically, energetically with your feelings and be kind to them. This may help to shift the experience from the immediate situation to where the feelings come from. With your hand on your heart, ask yourself what is it you really need? Do this even if you can’t provide the solution. Eventually this practice will help you to address the need.
- Once you’ve identified what feelings or experiences you might be stuffing, take steps to address the particular feeling or experience. For example, you may feel angry that you’ve been overlooked by someone, that someone was rude to you, or that you are the only one who ever cleans the kitchen! All of these relate to self esteem and how you communicate your needs. Begin to explore those needs and how they can be communicated. Internet research is a fantastic thing for this. And sometimes you may need professional expertise to help you with these, and to go further.
- We’re diving deep now! Notice that, when you are obsessive about food, you are kind of unavailable and may be dissociated. Be interested in how your body does this and what it’s like for you. How might this be affecting your whole life and relationships?
One or more of these approaches may work best for you, so don’t feel you have to do them all at once! These are strategies that may take time to explore and learn. Gradually implemented into your daily life and practice they will help you change your harmful habits organically.