Reviewed by Tanya Harrell, PhD, LPC, NCC
HOW TO STOP BINGE EATING
Binge eating brings many feelings, from pleasure during the binge to shame and guilt after it’s over. The feeling of being out of control can seem overwhelming. It may even seem like it will go on forever, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Fortunately, there are many helpful answers on how to stop binge eating disorder. Read on for tips on how to help yourself and information on available treatments.
How Do You Know If You Have Binge Eating Disorder?
It’s possible to indulge in an occasional binge without having a diagnosable eating disorder. So, the first thing you need to do is find out if you actually have this condition. You can get started by taking a screening test to check for signs of BED. It’s quick, easy, and you can do it online in a few short minutes.
You can also check the list of symptoms to see if and how many of them apply to you. Some of the symptoms include:
- Rapidly eating more than normal
- Eating until you feel uncomfortable
- Eating when you don’t feel hungry
- Feeling so embarrassed about eating that you eat alone
- Feeling guilty or disgusted with yourself because of the binging or your body shape or size
You eat much more during a binge than most people would typically eat during a limited period. You would only be diagnosed with BED if you binged at least one time per week for at least three months.
One factor that distinguishes binge eating from bulimia is that you don’t take extraordinary measures, like purging, to compensate for your overeating. And, while you may obsess about trying to make up for your binges, you don’t engage in the same level of food restriction as someone with anorexia.
It’s Not All Your Fault…
It’s important to realize that you probably didn’t cause your eating problems. There are several causes that you truly can’t control. For example, you’re more likely to have BED if:
- You’re exceptionally sensitive to dopamine due to your genetic makeup.
- You’re a woman.
- You’re overweight or obese – either before the BED starts or afterward.
- You’ve suffered from severe emotional trauma in the past.
- You have another mental disorder.
…But You Can Overcome It
If you want to know how to overcome binge eating disorder, you first need to understand and accept that you have the power to do it. Sometimes, telling yourself that you can’t control it is an easy way of avoiding BED’s struggle. And denying your own power holds you back from making progress. Know that you are capable of making small, incremental changes that eventually amount to significant lifestyle modifications.
How To Stop Binge Eating On Your Own
You might be able to stop binge eating without help. But even if you get binge eating help, no one else can completely stop this disorder for you. So, you will need to take care of the day-to-day as it happens. Here are some ways to set yourself up for success and tips on how to stop binging.
To get yourself ready to face the struggle of dealing with BED, you can do three critical things. First, take a look at the statistics on binge eating. Second, consider the health risks associated with this disorder. Then, think of the life goals you want to pursue.
The following are statistics about binge eating disorder from the National Institute of Mental Health:
- 8% of U.S. adults had BED during their lifetime.
- 2% of people with BED sought treatment.
BED comes with many risks to your health. Once you understand what you’re facing, you may feel more motivated to make changes. Binge eating can cause health problems like:
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Mental health problems
Ask yourself, “What do I want from life?” Make a list of goals you can achieve more readily if you overcome your eating problems. Some examples include:
- Feeling proud of myself
- Feeling more in control
- Enjoying outings with friends without embarrassment
- Getting physically healthier
- Being happier
- Feeling more confident
- Enjoying food without overdoing it
- Being more socially active
Of course, everyone has their own goals. Think of how dealing with your BED will change your life and write down each of your unique goals. Keep your list handy or post it on your wall to remind yourself that the changes you’re going to make are worth the effort.
Take Some Notes
It also helps to take some notes about how you’re eating before you make any changes. After all, you don’t know what to change until you know how things are right now. So, for just a short time, make a note each time you binge. Include the time and circumstances of your binge, as well as what and how much you ate. Last, write down how you felt during and after the binge.
Recognize Your Triggers
As you write about the circumstances surrounding your binging episodes, you might begin to notice that certain types of events or emotions trigger them. The next step is to recognize these triggers when they happen so that you can take steps to avoid overeating afterward.
Face Fears – Don’t Avoid Them
Many people with BED have food anxiety. They may be afraid to be around food or go to events where food is served. The problem is that avoiding anxiety-producing situations tends to increase anxiety in the long term. Staying away from these situations isn’t helpful. Instead, learn how to make better choices and manage your stress while you’re there.
Boost Your Body Image
Do you see your body as fat and disgusting? Views like this make it harder for you to control your eating. You may restrict yourself severely to try to look better one minute and binge to make it up to yourself later. To boost your body image, choose to think positive thoughts about yourself. Spend time with people who value you for who you are. Take care of your body by eating healthy foods or even treating yourself to a massage.
Avoid Making Too Many Eating Rules
If you’re concerned about your binging, you may be tempted to make a long list of complicated rules. You might make rules about what, when, how much, and where to eat. But trying to follow too many rules can increase your feeling of being overwhelmed. It also puts a lot of pressure on you to practice extreme control every moment. Instead, make just a few simple rules. Then, live by them.
Stay In The Moment
Staying grounded in the present moment is essential. If you spend too much time feeling bad about past binging episodes, you deny yourself the emotional strength to move on. And, if you’re always focused on the future, BED can seem like an endless struggle. But when you practice mindfulness, the long process of overcoming binge eating disorder becomes a simple matter of making the right choice in one given moment.
Get Or Stay Active
Getting a reasonable amount of healthy exercise can help you in many ways. It affects your brain chemistry, causing you to feel more positive and happier. It puts you more in charge of your physical health. Instead of switching between excessive exercise and a sedentary lifestyle, stick with a steady routine of moderate exercise.
Learn More About Nutrition
You can’t make healthy eating choices if you don’t know what healthy food is. So, read up on nutrition subjects. Find out what a healthy diet would look like. Make time to look at the nutrition labels of the food you eat. You can often find nutritional information for restaurant foods and fast foods online as well.
Change The Way You Think About Food
One of the issues that come up with binge eating is the relationship you have with food. What does food mean in your life? What is its purpose? How do you want to feel when you eat? How do you know if you need to eat? Answer these questions for yourself. Then, consider how thinking differently might reduce your BED symptoms.
Eat Regular Meals
Sometimes people with binge eating disorder skip meals or eat all day. Instead, try giving yourself specific mealtimes and sticking to them. It’s okay to have a light snack, such as a piece of fruit or a small cup of yogurt, between meals. However, try to eat at approximately the same time each day.
Get Engaged With Life
When you have BED, it’s common to get so focused on food that you don’t enjoy other parts of your life. Getting engaged in pleasurable activities and spending time with friends can shift that focus. This change gives you a healthier outlook and may reduce your desire to binge.
Exploring Available Treatments
Several treatment options are available for people with BED. Some of them include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is a psychological technique that teaches you to discover the thoughts behind your binging and decide whether those beliefs are accurate and helpful. Then, your therapist can help you as you change from destructive thoughts to positive ones. CBT has been called the gold standard of treatment for BED.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
In DBT, you learn coping skills so you can deal with distressing situations without binging. This therapy is usually done using a combination of individual sessions and group activities.
- Interpersonal Therapy
Interpersonal therapy is designed to help you deal with personal problems that may be behind your eating disorder. In group or individual therapy, you work on resolving your emotional, social, and mental problems.
- Family Therapy
Family therapy is helpful for people with BED if their family dynamics influence the way they experience food.
Medications are typically not as effective for binge eating as behavioral therapies are. However, antidepressants and other medications can sometimes reduce binging and appetite, curb obsessions and compulsions, and reduce depression related to the eating disorder.
- Weight Loss Therapy
Weight loss therapy may seem to be about practical matters of how to eat and exercise. However, behavioral weight loss therapy does more than help you lose excess pounds. It improves your body image and increases your self-esteem. It is not considered effective as other therapies like CBT, but many people benefit from it.
Know Where To Get Help
Maybe you’ve tried to stop binging on your own but made no progress. Or perhaps you would like to have help getting started. There are several places to go for help.
- Talk to a counselor in your area for CBT or another type of psychotherapy.
- Use an online counseling platform to talk to a therapist from wherever you are.
- Go to an eating recovery center for comprehensive inpatient or outpatient eating disorder treatment.
- Get more information on your condition from the National Eating Disorder Association.
Binge eating can take over your life if you don’t know how to deal with it or where to turn. Yet, there are many things you can do to make changes on your own. And, if you choose to get help, you can find it in a range of therapies. Then, you can overcome this disorder and learn to care for yourself in the best ways possible. If you believe that binge eating is negatively impacting your life and are interesting in resolving it, you can take your first step by taking our quick online test.