Breaking the binge habit

Over-indulging can be bad for your health, whether it’s munching through a family bag of chips on your own, watching endless hours of TV or worse, both at the same time! Here are some tips to help you break the habit.

Australians spend an average of 13 hours a week watching television. If you’re prone to snacking while binge watching, you’re consuming energy without using it up and fostering habits that are bad for your health.
“Binge eating can become quite a serious condition for many people,” says Bupa dietitian Gemma Cosgriff. “It can impact on your physical health, and the negative self-talk of that can have an impact on your mental health, too.”
But it is possible to change your behaviour – all it takes to start is a little conscious effort.

The first step in overcoming mindless snacking

Your first step is to become aware of the concept of mindful eating. This means making eating your primary focus, rather than doing it purely out of habit.
“If you eat while doing other activities, you’re not really focusing on the fact that you’re eating,” explains Cosgriff. “It can be easier to over-consume and eat things that you might not otherwise eat if you were more aware.”
There’s more to mindful eating than just doing one thing at a time, however.
“When we talk about mindful eating, we’re talking about the thoughts, emotions and sensations that occur as you’re eating,” says Cosgriff.
It’s also far easier to stop eating when you’re focusing on it. That’s because when you’re more mindful of eating, you’ll notice when you feel satisfied with the amount you’ve eaten.
“This can help you avoid over-eating and eating out of habit,” says Cosgriff.
lady eating and using laptop

How to stop eating out of habit

Breaking a habit doesn’t have to be immediate, and Cosgriff recommends trying one of these suggestions at a time and becoming used to that before adding in another change. The following could help break your habit and have you overcoming binge eating:
  • Have a designated eating spot. “Set a goal for everyone in the family to only eat when you’re sitting at the dinner table,” Cosgriff suggests. “This makes you sit down and focus on the fact that you’re eating, what you’re eating, enjoy the flavours and textures and think positively about eating.” Turn off the television in the background and make your meal times social.
  • Set a positive goal. It’s time to make some promises in a positive way. “Think about a realistic goal, such as ‘I’m going to watch TV without snacking three times this week’ and tick the days you achieve this goal. Don’t use crosses if you don’t achieve it, just focus on the ticks,” says Cosgriff.
  • Make little reminders. Having some plans in place for those moments when you are tempted to binge eat can set you up for success. “Put little notes on the fridge and the cupboard that say, ‘Am I hungry?’” says Cosgriff. “When you take a moment to observe your thoughts and how you’re actually feeling you can start to make a change in your habit.”
  • Replace your snacks. “Stopping a habit can be really hard, but if you substitute it [with another activity] then you’re still busy with your hands,” explains Cosgriff. She suggests replacing your usual snacks with a hot drink such as herbal tea, or a cold drink such as sparkling water with lime or a jug of water with fresh fruit in it for flavour, or eating healthy snacks such as a piece of fruit or some unsalted nuts.
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