If you already read my story [Click Here to Read My Story] you know that I used several different techniques and personal improvement approaches to finally stop binge eating. After going the first month without a single binge I reflected on why I was finally successful and how my new strategy was working for me. I drew it on a sheet of paper and taped it to my wall. Since I’m also a nerd I immediately saw how this strategy was the same general strategy I used when I played tower defense video games (my favorite). That kept me motivated and I practiced the strategy daily to keep from binge eating again.
I’ve continued to use the tower defense strategy to this day. I’ve remained almost completely binge free (I’m not perfect either) and I’m getting physically healthier bit by bit each month. Since it’s been working so well for me I thought I would share it with everybody else. I took the time to slightly update my original drawing and explained each piece of it in detail below. I’m sharing it in hopes that it might help others who are struggling with or who are also recovering from Binge Eating Disorder.
Not Understanding the “Experts”
Before describing how the strategy works I thought I’d take a moment to explain why reading and following all those self-help books, programs and approaches did not initially work for me. You may be experiencing some of these same frustrations.
- Never Seemed to Work With Each Other: I could never understand why all the different pieces of advice from all those experts didn’t fit or work together. Some experts even recommended things that other experts recommended against. I could never tell who was right and who was wrong. There seemed to be no consistency across the huge spectrum of self-help techniques and programs.
- Not Seeing the Whole Person: Most self-help gurus don’t seem to take a “whole person” approach when they recommend a solution. Unfortunately most eating disorders like Binge Eating Disorder have lots of interrelated problems that can’t be tackled individually. They also can’t all be addressed within the scope of a single book or program.
- Shotgun Approaches: I’m a very structured person and I need things to follow a logical pattern before they make sense to me and I apply them. Unfortunately many eating disorder programs and self-help books seemed to randomly address the issues in no logical order or structured approach. They would be all over the map. After reading most books I wouldn’t know where to start.
- Overwhelming: When I did try to follow expert advice I often became overwhelmed with all the information and inconsistently applied it. Typically I would buy a book, try an approach for a week (if I was first able to understand it all) and then give up, never touching the book again.
But when I began to look at the problem like I did when I played a strategy game I could finally understand the big picture and tactics I needed to handle my personal binge eating problem.
Tower Defense Explained
Using a tower defense strategy to stop binge eating is simple. It only has two major components.
- Several Lines (or Layers) of Defense: To keep your binge urges at bay and not let them become a binge attack you need several good lines of defense (shown in the blue boxes). Those defenses should be made up of different types personal improvement techniques ranging from internal philosophies to tips and hacks for dealing with certain binge situations. You need to use several techniques at the same time so you can fully manage all the issues that made you susceptible to binge eating in the first place.
- Continuing Processes: Once built you must always check and improve your defenses (the purple lines that make up the circle). A binge will only strike when your defenses are weak or if a technique doesn’t fit with your personality or current life situation. If you do binge eat you should review your defenses, improve them, and try again. A tower defense strategy also requires you to prepare techniques and countermeasures ahead of time to actively defend against a binge attack if your other defenses didn’t keep it from occurring in the first place. It’s all part of a continual process to stop binge eating
If a binge attack occurs and if you give in to your urges it’s OK. Just review what happened. Be honest with yourself. Try to improve the line of defense that broke down. Use a different variation or totally new technique if you want. It’s just like working to get to the next level of a strategy game. It’s about progress, not perfection.
The Lines (or Layers) of Defense
The lines of defense will generally fall into one of these different categories. You want to ensure you are emphasizing and reinforcing each line of defense, not just a few of them. They all need to be strong to repel a binge eating attack.
- Motivation & Inspiration: Find what motivates you and keeps you going when you are in your worse state of mind. Maintain a positive attitude about your situation. Remember why you are trying to stop binge eating and how good you will feel when you no longer do it. Understand that this is all part of a process. Find inspiration wherever you can.
- Mindfulness: The act of binge eating is a conscious decision to give into strong primitive urges that are coming from deep inside your brain. Being mindful and observant of what you’re thinking and of your actions can help remove you from the immediacy of your cravings and will automatically give you some more control. Meditation is a great tool to build up mindfulness plus it can help with other defensive layers, especially happiness. Meditation can also help alleviate other underlying problems you may be struggling with.
- Happiness: Happiness and mindfulness go hand in hand. Happiness is a state of mind, not a goal or the result of having done something. Learn how to foster your own internal happiness and try to stay in that state. Allowing yourself to experience happiness will have a profound influence on all other areas of your life. Just letting yourself be a little bit happy will dramatically reduce the influences that drive you to binge. When a binge attack occurs this happiness will be another source of strength for you.
- Address Possible Underlying Issues: It’s very likely that you have some possible underlying emotional or physical issues that helped drive you to binge eat or that came along the way due to your eating habits. These include stress, depression, anxiety, medical conditions, etc. Use your mindfulness training to help identify them and then come up with a plan to start addressing them either yourself or with professional help. Sometimes just acknowledging the underlying issue(s) allows many people to start resolving them on their own.
- Physical Exercise: The human body is a machine that’s designed to be used in order to function correctly. Being a little physical and getting your heart rate up a bit helps release your “feel good” hormones (eg. serotonin, endorphins and dopamine), maintains your energy levels (eg. insulin and blood sugar) and reduces those negative stress hormones (eg. cortisol). Simply a few brisk walks a week or using your muscles with some yoga or stretching will dramatically improve how you feel. Keeping your body in balance will provide a strong line of defense against a binge attack. Adding in more exercise will also help tremendously with losing weight later on if that’s a long term goal of yours.
- Eating Habits: Having better eating habits does not mean dieting and trying to lose weight. For a binge eater the best way to start eating better is to quit dieting altogether. Restrictive diets often compound binge eating problems. They cause unnecessary dips in blood sugar and increase the desire to eat foods “not on the diet.” The best methods to improve your eating habits are to add in more fruits and vegetables and learn how to better manage your hunger levels. Leptin and ghrelin are two critical hunger hormones that can easily become out of synch if you are a binge eater or eat when you are not truly hungry. Once you straighten out some of your eating habits you’ll notice the urge to binge further reduced. Having a better sense of your true hunger will also help you eventually lose weight.
- Programs & Experts: There are many, many, many different self-help books, programs, organizations and experts out there to help people with eating disorders. Some are very intense and expensive while others take a more relaxed approach. This defensive layer lets you explore what help is available and try those you think could really work for you. I’d suggest starting with the most low cost approaches first (in terms of consuming your time and dollars). Just keep in mind that no one person or self proclaimed expert or program is the answer for everyone or to everything. Move on to a different approach or program if what you tried is not working for you or is not a fit for your personality.
- Mental Hacks & Tricks: A mental hack is knowing how the mind works and then figuring out how to use that to your advantage, especially when you’re trying to improve something about yourself. One example is using a reward other than food for every day that you don’t binge. Another example might be knowing your own binge triggers and having a rock solid plan ready for each situation. Knowing yourself and how you tick is key to working towards something positive. As well realize that most programs and experts will share tips and techniques that are just mental hacks, not hidden secrets to unlocking the curse of binge eating. Simply borrow some of their hacks if you don’t want to try their full programs and give those a try.
The Continuing Processes
The Process cycle is what builds and maintains your lines of defense. It also helps you deal with binge urges and attacks when they occur. The process continuously rotates through these 4 stages:
- Learn & Improve: Reading this article shows you have already begun the first stage, learning. You must learn all you can about your binge eating problem and all the various methods available to resolve it. You must also realize that failing along the way is just another method of learning which technique does not work or if a technique needs to be changed a bit. That’s the improvement half of this stage.
- Track: In order to know where you’re going you need to know where you have been. Take notes or possibly keep a journal of your thoughts and what you are trying as a part of your treatment plan. Another benefit to putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper is it will help you better understand some of your own challenges and then come up with new ways to deal with them.
- Defend: Hopefully the lines of defense you are building up will reduce the frequency of your binge attacks. But when you feel a binge attack about to occur you need to actively defend against it and fight back. You must be able to recognize the moments and feelings before a binge attack takes place so you can take proactive steps to keep from binging and know how to immediately stop yourself if you do begin to binge eat. Having your own personal checklist of countermeasures printed out or memorized will become very important.
- Review: Always continue to review your lines of defense and what you did in each cycle. If you gave in to a binge attack then identify the technique that didn’t work and tweak it a little bit to improve it or look for a different technique altogether. Sometimes you can try multiple techniques within a line of defense and then continue to only use the one that seems to be helping the most.
Continue going through all four stage of the cycle and you’ll notice your lines of defense beginning to build up nicely. Just remember that it’s an improvement process and you likely won’t see results immediately. Also don’t be hard on yourself if you continue to have binges. It’s all a part of the strategy. Again, think progress, not perfection.
I think if you give it a chance you’ll find that using a tower defense strategy to stop binge eating can give you a much bigger picture of how to approach your binge eating and what changes you need to make to finally stop doing it.
For you nerds like me or for you gamers, imagine approaching your Binge Eating Disorder like you would an intense tower defense strategy game. Please note that I’m in no way trying to make light of such a serious problem. It’s what I used to help myself. If you’ve tried everything else it can’t hurt, can it?
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’m sorry for such a long post but I wanted to put it all out there in one place for those who might be interested. I hope this has given you another approach you can possibly use. I wish you the best of luck!