#011: My top 4 changes to stop binge eating

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Listen in to hear how I stopped binge eating after almost 30 years

When you’ve been bingeing or overeating for decades and have tried everything you can think of to stop, what ends up making a difference?

Well, I binged for nearly 30 years, so I for sure know what it’s like to feel stuck.

And I also found a way to stop bingeing and overeating.

In today’s episode I’m going to let you in on the 4 changes I made that helped me finally move through the binge eating and get to the other side.

Listen in to hear exactly how I moved from pressing the escape button on my life to starting to enjoy it on my own terms. And these steps continue to make all the difference to the food I eat and how I move my body.

You’ll come away with new strategies that you can apply in your own life.

Click here to get your guide to making small changes with a big impact on your eating!

View the full episode transcript

For nearly 30 years I’d been waiting until I was different before I got involved in my own life.  

It looked like: When I’m slim and healthy and don’t overeat, I’ll

  • Be confident
  • Go swimming
  • Get fit
  • Have fun and feel carefree
  • Find success (as if success was something I’d just stumble across!)
  • Be liked
  • Be good enough

While I was focused on food it was as if I’d pressed the pause button on the rest of my life.

That well worn phrase, “What you focus on gets bigger”—yep! That was definitely the case for me when it came to food, my body and bingeing.

So I stopped waiting & started building in more of what I enjoyed.

Welcome to the YoYo Freedom Podcast.

This is the place to learn actionable, step-by-step tools and strategies to help you stop bingeing or overeating and start feeling relaxed and confident around food, 

so that you can show up for your life on your terms.

I’m Gemma Keys and I know first hand what it’s like to feel out-of-control around food and trapped in the pain of binge eating and body-shame.

There is a way out. 

Keep listening to discover your path to food freedom.

Hello and welcome!

Today I’m gonna get a little bit more personal than usual—hopefully in a way you’ll find really helpful too!

So, in this episode you’ll hear about the 4 changes I made that finally helped me move away from binge eating in a way that actually lasted. And I was struggling with bingeing and overeating for nearly 30 years, so I’d tried A LOT of other things before I got to these!

I’m sharing these partly because I hope it allows you to get there quicker than I did.

And also to let you know that, even if you’ve been struggling with binge eating for DECADES, like I was, there is a way to stop—to eat differently and to feel good in yourself and about yourself. 

I’m guessing some of these 4 changes might be a little different from what you’re used to hearing or might have heard before, but these 4 shifts really did make all the difference for me, and they can for you too.

I’m going to start here by getting a little bit uncomfortable telling you what my eating and my life used to be like.

The reason it’s uncomfortable isn’t because I’m ashamed—because I understand so much better why the bingeing was there now—but it’s more because it takes me right back to the feelings of being in it … And that definitely wasn’t a happy place to be.


Mid teens, I was a really shy, uncomfortable, young person. I’ve always been very tall so felt a bit separate, and I just tried to hard to be liked and always seemed to get it wrong!

Honestly, I didn’t care about health—when you’re a teenager you think you’ll live forever, right? But I did care about my weight and what I looked like because I was convinced that was the fast route to acceptance.

I started sneaking extra food like puddings or lunchbox snacks or one of my favourites was to trim the edge of my mum’s cakes and mash it up with ice-cream.

And I think it was just to escape, zone out, not have to think about hard things or get down to homework, recover from any challenges in the day in a way that was secret and private and just for me.

By the time I was buying 5 or 6 chocolate bars on the way home from school and eating them before dinner I was definitely packing on the pounds, and getting comments about my weight.

Over the next 15 years I tried to replace the food with other things that I thought wouldn’t make me fat—like booze, cigarettes, boyfriends, and even (in air quotes) healthy options—like running, juicing, endless short-lived health kicks, all the diets & food plans I could find.

All that time I didn’t understand why couldn’t be “normal”

It seemed as if I couldn’t do without the chocolate, sugar, cake, ice-cream and sweets. if I couldn’t get them I felt panicky and desperate, as if I was at sea in a storm without a life-raft.

So I had this real LOVE-HATE relationship with bigneing. I needed as a way to cope but also I wished so much that I’d never, ever do it again.

And that’s how it continued really for many years. Whenever anything happened that I couldn’t see a way though—if I was tired, hungover, socially anxious, had an argument with friend, a break up, a bad day at work; if I felt lonely, resentful, bored, stuck or not good enough … Food was there.

And when there were young children in the mix, that happened even more regularly, because having little kids is no walk in park!

A binge was big enough to take me out of the game, in that I had zero energy or motivation or ability to be nice to anyone, and just wanted to lie on the sofa and watch tv or sleep. 

I felt so bad after a binge that, whatever the other feeling or problem I was trying to avoid or escape—it was overshadowed. So, in that way, the bingeing did it’s job pretty effectively—it took me out of myself for a moment and helped me forget.

As you’ve probably guessed, over the years my weight fluctuated a lot — by about 50 lbs—which is 23 kg or 3 and a half stone.

I honestly believed the food was the problem and never looked at the reasons I was eating like that—and, ironically, focusing only on what I was eating and in particular the number on the scale, was what kept me spinning in a cycle of binge eating and dieting and weight fluctuation and all the other issues that come with that for so many years.

I truly believed that if I could just get a grip of my eating and drop the weight, my life would be perfect.

Which is why it took me so long to get to these 4 changes. And it was these changes that finally helped me drop the bingeing and stablise my weight, treat my body like a friend rather than an enemy to battle against, move into a life I genuinely enjoy and accept and like who I am.

So, what were the 4 changes? Well here they are:

The first was to Take it Slow—to focus on tiny shifts that made a little difference every day.

Instead of all-or-nothing diets & exercise plans where I was clearing out all food in house, bought loads of new stuff, committed 100% to seeing it through to the letter because if I didn’t go all in—I read—I might as well not bother

you know the ones, right? Well, me too. And I’d certainly done that enough times to know it didn’t last for me.

So instead, (and you might have heard me mention this before) I envisaged myself as a ship in the immense ocean. As that ship continues on its course, the captain or navigator might shift it’s trajectory by say 1-degree. And that shift is so minimal it’s barely noticeable as it happens or as the ship continues on it’s journey. But that tiny shift changes the direction of the ship so much that it ends up reaching an entirely different destination

I began to gradually take small steps forward to find ways to support myself that felt good and that I could keep going with, whatever came up on a day to day basis.

As long as I was doing those little things, I was moving forward and making progress. I was looking after myself in a different way.

It meant I no longer fell off the wagon, because the steps were so small and easy they added up without me noticing, and made a little trip up so easy to recover from.

Now the steps that work are so individual—they depend on your life, your preferences and characteristics, your people and your work—there are so many things that make you unique.

But, for me, here were some small steps that helped me move forward, especially in the beginning. And I didn’t do all these at once, just one at a time until each came more naturally until it was just part of my day.

  • Starting the day with a glass of water and carrying it with me throughout the day so I was more likely to stay hydrated (especially after coffee & wine)
  • Going to bed 30 minutes earlier—which at least created more of an opportunity to get enough sleep
  • Getting outside for 10 minutes every day, without headphones so I was listening to the sounds around me and was closer to nature, especially the birds—which I found so soothing and a brilliant way to quieten my internal chatter
  • I began to use kind and encouraging words toward myself—you know, that internal self-talk—and I picked myself up on it whenever I started beating myself up.
  • I got curious about why I was turning to food. To start with, that was something I could only do afterwards, but it showed me so clearly what needed my focus
  • I began to pay more attention to what I actually liked, rather than what I should do or what other people expected of it. It was so interesting—and not so risky as I didn’t have to change anything right away, just notice.
  • I also made easy substitutes for a typical binge food, but made it with more nourishing ingredients. I remember an early one was a chocolate spread substitute I found and it really did help me get through some times I still wanted to binge, but with less of a negative impact on my my brain, my emotions & all the other physical stuff that comes with a bingeing episode.

Those were some of the really small changes that helped me at the beginning. Maybe you’d like to try some or, if you’d like to explore and find others that work better for you, you can download a guide to take you through the process in the show notes at yoyofreedom.com/11

The second change I made was to stop putting my life on hold. That old like, “I’ll do it when I’m slim,” “I’ll be happy when I’ve stopped bingeing“ “I’ll be good enough when I’ve got myself together “

For nearly 30 years I’d been waiting until I was different before I got involved in my own life.  

It looked like: When I’m slim and healthy and don’t overeat, I’ll

  • Be confident
  • Go swimming
  • Get fit
  • Have fun and feel carefree
  • Find success (as if success was something I’d just stumble across!)
  • Be liked
  • Be good enough

While I was focused on food it was as if I’d pressed the pause button on the rest of my life.

That well worn phrase, “What you focus on gets bigger”—yep! That was definitely the case for me when it came to food, my body and bingeing.

So I stopped waiting & started building in more of what I enjoyed.

It took a while and again, there were big things and small things in there, like 

  • Arranging to see a friend for coffee instead of waiting for them to contact me
  • Choosing a movie I wanted to watch even if no one else in my family was interested
  • Trying out paddleboarding and sea swimming
  • Going to see my favourite band

And this is a change I’m still working on—still allowing myself to do things just for me. A fantastic friend of mine is 50 very soon and I still had to stop and have that conversation with myself about how it was ok to meet up with her for a few days, to take a day off work and leave family to go it alone (and of course they’ll be absolutely fine & have tonnes of fun without me there!!) And I’m so looking forward to it!

I call those moments of joy, those moments of showing up in your life doing and noticing what you truly love, “Food for the Soul” and again, if you’d like to read more about creating your own Food for the Soul, I’ll put a link in the show notes at yoyofreedom.com/11.

The third change was discovering the foods that I liked and that felt good for me when I ate them. 

This one was another huge change for me because I’d been so used to looking outside of myself for answers as to what and how I should eat.

I was the woman who followed the experts. New diet, I’m in. Next best thing, bring it on. Someone just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.

I was convinced I’d got it so very wrong that I needed someone else to tell me what to do, because I couldn’t trust myself—at all!

So I went to the diet clubs, drank the juice with spirulina, fasted and restricted, counted macros and took supplements, exercised more than I was ready for so it hurt. I went to CBT, counselling, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, nutritionists, psychologists and Drs.

And, although I learned important things along the way, it never lasted.

A major turning point for me was when I turned inside and started to ask, “what really feels good for me?” “do I like this?” “could I keep doing this in the long term?”

Here are a couple of examples:

One slimming club I remember sold recipe books and I used to always make these curries from them. They were food, but they were pretty grim. I just didn’t really like them but ate them because it was what I “should” be doing and supposedly I could eat a lot of them—fair amount of cooking effort for little enjoyment or satisfaction. 

I decided no more eating food I didn’t actually like, even if someone else said it was a good thing to do. And, when I found something I liked, felt good in my body and was easy to make, I had more of that.

Another example (although it’s not about food) is running. I’ve got lots of super-fit friends who are often out running or cycling or training for some big challenge—-and they’re usually smiling as they do it, which I’ve never understood! I’ve tried running and even got up to 10 miles, but I just don’t enjoy it as much as other things, so now I don’t do it. I like walking and I like yoga and I’ve just found this fantastic app which has lots of mini 5-minute strength workouts on it, and those things make me feel so much better 

And that’s what leaves me smiling rather than watching other people smile!

So I started eating and moving in a way I actually enjoyed, and stopped eating doing what I didn’t like.

Looking back, it was by letting go of what I didn’t enjoy and by not letting all the “shoulds” around my choices get to me that I was able to open the time and space in my life to fill it with more of what felt good, and was sustainable.

That really supported me in stopping bingeing because, for me, bingeing was very often a way of running away from or hiding from or ignoring what I didn’t want or like, so by creating more that I did enjoy, much of the bingeing fell away almost in the background.

And the last change I made was to start to see a binge episode as a signpost

Those first 3 changes were all about finding what felt good for me and moving toward it on my own terms.

Taking small steps in the right direction, doing things I wanted to do now (rather than waiting), finding what felt good for me instead of just doing what was dictated by someone else.

This fourth change that made probably the biggest difference for me was starting to think of the binge as a signpost, directing me toward something in my life that I needed to take a closer look at if I was going to resolve it.

So it was really interesting because, instead of being something to suppress or squash out, the bingeing became something to move toward.

Taking a closer look at why the bingeing was happening was also probably the most challenging because, for me, eating like that was a way to numb out. To ignore my feelings, to avoid my situation, to keep pushing through or to not face up to something that I needed to do or change or resolve. 

Food had become the go to when I was demoralised, lonely, sad, frustrated, bored or my self-esteem hit a low. And having little children—oh my gosh, if ever there’s a way to reduce your resilience and bring all the underlying issues to the surface, that’s gotta be it!

Which meant that, bit by bit, I began to see a binge or overeating episode not as something to stuff away along with the empty cake boxes I shoved under the sofa, but instead as something to move closer to. 

Sometimes I found simple solutions.

  • Drink more water
  • Go easy on myself when I was tired
  • Book in a couple of hours childcare so I could get a break.

Sometimes it needed more thought.

  • Why was it so difficult to ask for help when I needed it?
  • What should I do about a friendship that felt consistently draining?
  • Where was I saying “yes” when I really wanted to say “no”?

That was where the bingeing ran so much deeper than just the food I was eating.

And it was through addressing those areas of my life, my choices, my thoughts and my feelings that my things really began to change for the better and the binge eating became less and less.

To wrap up,

As I reflect on those 4 changes, I can see how they all tie back to self-worth.

  • Allowing myself to take it slow, tiny step by tiny step, to find what was right for me
  • Stopping putting my life on hold until I measured up to some standard I’d set myself
  • Tuning into what felt good to me, rather than what someone else told me I should do
  • Seeing a binge as a single episode and a signpost to something in my life I needed to take a closer look at

So as you consider whether any of those 4 changes might be useful for you too, or whether there’s something else that you kinda instinctively know will take you a little closer to dropping the bingeing or over eating and to truly thriving in your life,

I’d just like to take a moment to remind you.

You’re brilliant already, exactly as you are. The food is something completely separate to who you are as a person. The world is a better place because you’re here, in it.

The bingeing or overeating is here right now, but you’ll find your way through it.

After all, you’re listening to this podcast which shows you’re still moving forward, still looking for answers. You haven’t given up and because of that, you’ll keep taking those small steps.

One day you look around and see you’re living the life you always knew you were meant for.

That’s it for today’s episode. Thank you for listening.

I hope you’ve found this episode helpful. Subscribe to The YoYo Freedom Podcast for more insight, tools and support as you pull back from bingeing, overeating or yoyo-dieting and step into your most authentic, vibrant life.

And, if you liked what you heard, it would be wonderful if you’d take a moment to rate this podcast on whichever platform you listen on.

Thank you so much! And Bye-bye for now.

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Disclaimer: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or psychological condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.

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