Are you struggling with binge eating? If so, you’re not alone.
Binge eating affects 3x more people than bulimia and anorexia combined. It’s also suspected to be highly underdiagnosed. According to one online survey, only 3% of adults who met the criteria for having a binge eating disorder reported receiving a diagnosis from their health practitioner.
Binge eating can feel like an impossible monster to beat. It can be a complex disorder, with a variety of triggers.
Fortunately, if you’re wondering how to stop binge eating, we have some good news. Breaking free from binge eating cycles can be tough, but it is possible.
Continue reading for 11 steps you can take to effectively combat a binge eating disorder.
Table of Contents
What Is Binge Eating?
Before we get into the steps involved in how to stop binge eating, let’s first clarify what is binge eating.
Binge eating is classified as the consumption of a large amount of food (often over 1,000 calories) in one session. However, just because you had a very large meal or accidentally over-ate, does not necessarily mean you have a binge eating disorder.
There are also some other common elements to a binge eating disorder. These include:
- A feeling of loss of control
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Attempts to hide the amount of food consumed
- Eating despite being full or not hungry
Binge eating often occurs in conjunction with restricted eating practices, calorie control, and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
1. Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry
One of the most critical steps to stopping binge eating cycles is to not let yourself get overly hungry.
Like we said above, binge eating sessions often happen in conjunction with calorie restriction and skipped meals. Study results reveal that fasting is strongly associated with a higher risk of binge eating.
Denying yourself food inevitably leads to hunger. The longer you go without food, the stronger the hunger. Strong hunger is a recipe for food cravings, especially unhealthy food cravings.
It’s also a recipe for “loss of control” over food intake. If your body is desperate for food, it will go into a stress state. At some point, the signals that your body needs food will go into overdrive.
If you are very hungry, once you do start eating it can be very difficult to stop.
Additionally, a lot of people who struggle with binge eating report ignoring full signals. One of the reasons for this is that cycles of restrictive eating and binging can erode one’s ability to tune into feelings of hunger and fullness.
The best way to protect yourself from binge eating episodes is to keep yourself nourished and from getting uncontrollably hungry.
2. Steer Away From Restrictive Eating
Another critical step in overcoming a binge eating disorder is to steer away from restrictive eating practices. Rather than keep you healthy and slim, restrictive eating can actually cause you to overeat, particularly on the foods that are “forbidden”
Research shows that restrictive eating and abstaining from particular foods triggered increased cravings in study participants and elevated the risk of binge eating.
What’s more, depending on your emotional relationship with food, restricted eating can become almost addictive.
It can also be scary to contemplate not restricting foods or calories. “What if my weight balloons out of control?”
“If I’m also susceptible to binge eating when restricting my diet, what will I be like if there are no restrictions?”
Pandemic pounds have affected just about all of us, and the last thing you want is to pick up unhealthy amounts of weight.
Each person is different, so it’s hard to predict how you will react to no dietary restrictions. However, you might well find that when nothing is completely off-limits, you naturally fall into a balanced pattern of eating.
The hardest part is to truly give up restrictions. Often giving up restrictive eating can be more difficult than denying oneself certain foods. If you have trained yourself to be scared of certain foods, it can take some time to reverse this programming.
3. Start Reintroducing “Forbidden” Foods In Moderation
Do you have a list of “forbidden” foods? If so, it’s time to scrap that list.
A lot of “forbidden” foods like chocolate or ice cream aren’t that nutritious or beneficial for one’s body. But, eating some ice cream when you really feel like, or have a piece of chocolate sometimes is not going to make you fat.
Just like skipping a meal won’t make you stick thin, neither will eating a “forbidden” food from time to time make you pick up weight.
The aim of the game with reintroducing forbidden foods into your diet is to prove to yourself that you can have these items every so often—without your weight skyrocketing out of control. They don’t have to become a core part of your diet, especially if they are legitimately unhealthy foods, such as highly processed items, or foods containing a lot of chemicals.
The idea is not to start eating junk food all the time but to heal one’s psyche around food.
If you completely ban certain foods and then eat them in a moment of “weakness” this can make you overindulge. You don’t know when you’ll get the chance to eat them again, and psychologically there comes a feeling of “This is my one chance to eat this food, tomorrow I’ll go back to never eating it.”
On the other hand, if you allow yourself to eat all foods in moderation, you’re less likely to feel deprived, experience overwhelming food cravings, and be driven to binge on unhealthy foods that you’ve restricted
4. Observe and Make a Note of Binge Eating Triggers
Another key step to breaking free of a binge eating disorder is to observe and note down your triggers.
Are there certain foods that you typically binge on, or which trigger a binge session? If so, you might want to be cautious about your exposure to them.
For instance, let’s say you notice that having Doritos in the house can spark off a binge eating cycle. It’s probably not a good idea to make Doritos a “forbidden” food, as that can just perpetuate the cycle of restrictive eating and binging.
Instead, maybe try to manage when you bring Doritos into the house. Instead of buying them at random and allowing them to tempt you at the worst times—plan when to buy them.
Stress is another common trigger for many people. Stress can make us seek out comfort foods. It can also slow down your metabolism and increase hunger hormone levels.
Boredom is another common binge eating trigger, as well as feelings of anxiety.
Everyone has different triggers, however, so take some time to write down what your particular triggers are. Once you have this list, you can take steps to avoid these triggers.
Some triggers might be hard to avoid. But, you can often set yourself up for success by laying the right groundwork in advance. For instance, if you know that month-end at work is always very stressful, and can trigger a binge session, try to stock up on healthy food and meal prep ahead of time.
5. Create an Eating Schedule
Another effective step in any binge eating treatment is to create an eating schedule. Like we said above, binge eating spirals usually occur after a period of fasting and skipping meals.
If you’ve been trying to skip meals and only eat when you absolutely have to, this is only going to exacerbate food cravings and feed a vicious circle of restriction and guilt.
One of the best ways to begin to heal from a binge eating disorder is to work out a balanced eating schedule and be strict about sticking to it. If you do, you’ll feel fueled, satisfied, and less likely to overindulge chronic food cravings.
6. Plan Meals and Snacks Ahead
Creating an eating schedule is a great start, but it’s also important to think about what you are going to eat.
If you’ve been practicing restrictive eating, this can be a tricky line to tread. Ideally, you want to fill your diet with healthy, nourishing food that’s full of fiber and nutrients, while not making any foods “forbidden.”
Healthy meals tend to take a little more time and planning than instant options and snacks. To set yourself up for success it might be a good idea to devote some time each weekend to plan out healthy breakfast, lunch, and supper options. Doing some meal prepping can also be a good idea.
If you leave meals to the last minute, when you’re already hungry, it can be easy to grab whatever is the quickest and easiest. Unfortunately, quick and easy options are usually less healthy, and might even trigger a binge eating session.
Instead, try to preempt these situations and prep your meals before so that the easiest option is to eat what you have pre-prepped.
7. Crowd Out “Bad” Foods With Healthy Options You Like
If you’re trying to heal from a binge eating disorder, it’s imperative that you don’t restrict too many foods. Restrictions can reel you back into a cycle of deprivation and binge eating.
Like we just said, not eating restrictively isn’t just a matter of flipping a switch and saying “Okay, now I just eating what I want.”
It’s a fine balance of allowing yourself to eat anything, while still making sure you create a balanced diet for yourself that will nourish and sustain your body. The very idea of creating a “healthy diet” for oneself is so tied to diet culture that it can be hard to do this without falling into restrictive patterns again.
One of the most effective ways to eat healthily on a non-restrictive diet is to crowd out “bad” foods with healthy options.
Instead of focusing all your energy and thought on the foods you can’t eat too much of—think about what healthy foods you do like. What fruits and vegetables do you enjoy?
Do you love watermelon? Cucumber? Asparagus? Mangos?
Do you like any legume-based recipes, like hummus or lentil curry?
Once you start listing your favorites, make a shopping list and go and stock up on these foods.
8. Remove Temptations From Your Pantry
Besides stocking up on your favorite fresh foods, you should also be intentional about how many tempting trigger items you bring into your pantry.
If you know that certain foods can send you on a binge cycle, try to keep them out of your house. This doesn’t mean you can never have them. It just means that they aren’t in easy reach, tempting you night and day and putting your healing process at risk.
9. Increase Your Water Intake
Staying well-hydrated is one of the cheapest and simplest healthy habits you can start today. It’s also a way to ward off false hunger signals.
This is because hunger and thirst signals take place in the same area of the brain. Often, what you might think is hunger, is actually your body telling you that you need water. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between hunger and being thirsty.
Staying well hydrated will benefit your body as a whole and help you tune into your body’s true hunger signals.
10. Practice Mindfulness and Self-Love
One of the most critical steps for healing a binge eating disorder is to work on the mental and emotional causes.
According to research, 80% of people who struggle with a binge eating disorder also battle at least one other psychological disorder. Such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
For many people, restrictive eating is a way to gain control over an area of their life. For others, severe calorie cutting offers a false promise of increased happiness.
Often, the key to solving a binge eating disorder is to address the underlying mental/emotional causes. Do you feel like you don’t have control over your life? Are you unhappy, or suffer from feelings of unworthiness?
Addressing and getting to the root of feelings can take time, but it can also be very rewarding and transformative.
By fostering mindfulness and self-love, you can not only make progress with a disorder like binge eating, you can also start to heal other areas of your life.
11. Get Active
Getting active can also be a helpful step to take when battling a binge eating disorder. Physical activity can help to build confidence, and stimulate serotonin production.
If you struggle to get motivated to exercise, health and fitness apps can help you set goals and track your progress.
Knowing How to Stop Binge Eating Isn’t Always Enough
If you’re battling a binge eating disorder, it can feel like you’ll never break free of the cycle. Fortunately, there are a lot of effective steps you can take to halt it.
At the same time, knowing how to stop binge eating isn’t always enough. If a binge eating disorder is taking control of your life, you might need to enroll in binge eating treatment.
UncraveX is a medically assisted weight loss program provider. Our programs include on-demand include coaching and support to help you through rough patches and achieve success.
Disordered eating can be a tough area to fix on your own.
UnCraveRx is a complete medical weight loss program designed to foster a healthy lifestyle
Find an UnCraveRx provider and get started toward better health https://uncraverx.com/find-provider/ .