Life with binge eating disorder is painful and frustrating. You frequently find yourself eating until you feel sick. You feel a huge sense of relief while you’re eating, but when it’s all over, you look around and feel completely ashamed of yourself. “What’s wrong with me?” you might wonder. “Why can’t I get a handle on this?”
You might feel so embarrassed of these binges that you start to hide your habits from the people around you. Each time, you reprimand yourself. “No more,” you decide. Maybe you even start a diet the next day. But soon enough, you find yourself in the middle of yet another binge eating session. You feel like you’re spinning out of control.
If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that this is not your fault. Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health condition, and it can affect anybody. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to recover from this.
Often, binge eating disorder requires medical or mental health treatment. But on top of getting treatment, there are some self-help tips you can try at home to get binge eating under control.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some common underlying causes of binge eating, as well as give you 10 easy-to-use tips on how to stop binge eating.
What Causes Binge Eating?
Binge eating is a complex eating disorder that’s more than just overeating. Many people might eat until they’re overly full because they enjoy the food they’re eating. People with binge eating disorder aren’t eating because they love food 一 sometimes, it’s quite the opposite. One of the key characteristics of binge eating disorders is that a binge usually causes intense feelings of shame, regret, guilt, and disgust for the person suffering.
To get a handle on binge eating, it’s important to understand possible triggers. People binge eat for different reasons, but some of the most common triggers are:
- Changes in mood (like feeling depressed or bored late at night)
- Painful emotions
- Increased stress
- Limiting food intake too much throughout the day, like with extreme dieting
- Negative feelings about your body or weight
- Being heavily influenced by diet culture
Some people may also be genetically more likely to develop binge eating disorder than others.
10 Helpful Tips on How to Stop Binge Eating
Certain cases of binge eating may require professional treatment. But there are some things you can do yourself to stop binge eating and start having a healthier relationship with food. Try following these 10 tips on how to stop binge eating.
Keep in mind, these tips are meant to be used to avoid a binge eating episode. If you’re truly hungry, then you should eat a meal or a snack.
Practice mindful eating
The practice of mindfulness 一 or being aware of the present moment 一 has fully made its way into mainstream Western psychology. Most people think of meditation when they hear “mindfulness,” but a complete mindfulness practice is actually a lot more complex than simply sitting down for meditation. Anything can be done mindfully 一 including eating.
Mindful eating is practiced by paying close attention to the present moment when it’s time to eat 一 including what you’re eating and how you feel. By being attentive to your meal and eating slowly and mindfully, you’re more likely to stop eating when you’re full.
Author and mindfulness master Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “When we take a moment to sit and breathe before we eat, we can get in touch with the real hunger in our body. We can discover if we’re eating because we’re hungry or if we’re eating because it’s the time to eat and the food is there.”
People who binge eat usually feel temporary pleasure while they’re eating 一 but feelings of shame and guilt follow quickly after. Being more mindful will force you to pay attention to what your thoughts and feelings are while you’re binge eating. It’s likely you’ll remember that binge eating doesn’t bring you happiness before you actually start eating.
Avoid extreme diets
One of the most common reasons why people end up binge eating is because they haven’t allowed themselves to eat enough during the day. This might be because you don’t feel confident about your body, and you’re trying to lose weight. This can lead to extreme dieting that deprives you of the food you enjoy, and maybe even the food your body literally needs to sustain itself.
It’s no wonder you’d feel tempted to eat a lot all at once after going through the day feeling deprived. Even if you are getting enough calories during the day, identifying with diet culture can make you more likely to binge eat, even if you’re not hungry.
It’s important for your overall well-being to eat a healthy diet, but don’t take it too far. Some experts recommend an 80-20 approach: eating healthy food 80% of the time, and allowing yourself to indulge in treats for the other 20%.  This can help you avoid feeling like some foods are “bad” and should be restricted, making it less likely you will binge eat them.
Clear away temptations
This is a simple tip, but it can be effective. Keep your kitchen clear of binge-eating temptations. In essence, you can’t eat what you don’t have. What are the things that trigger you to binge eat? Perhaps it’s snacks or sweets. Whatever it is, stop buying it.
This is a tip that’s often suggested to people struggling with alcohol addiction. Of course, you’re an adult, and you have free will. Technically, nothing is stopping you from going to the store when you get the urge to binge eat and buy whatever you’re craving. But having to do that 一 to drive to the store, buy what you want, and go home to eat it 一 provides a little space and time for you to choose another path.
This doesn’t mean you can no longer treat yourself to any of the foods you love. But while you’re recovering from binge eating disorder, plan your treats in advance. For example, maybe you can go to the movies once a week and order some popcorn, or treat yourself to an ice cream cone when out with friends. These are healthy ways to enjoy the tasty treats you love without putting yourself at risk of a binge eating episode.
Learn about binge eating disorder
Reading and learning about binge eating as a mental health disorder can you help understand that your behaviors probably go a lot deeper than simply craving some chocolate. Binge eating disorder, like all eating disorders, is a complex mental illness. There is probably a large web of different experiences that’s led you to have this disorder.
Understanding why you binge eat, and how binge eating is harming your physical and mental health, can help make binge eating less of an automatic behavior for you. In other words, you’ll understand why you’re doing it instead of just doing it mindlessly.
Part of learning about binge eating disorder is also learning it’s a medical condition 一 and it isn’t your fault. Eating disorders resemble drug and alcohol addiction in many ways. Both conditions lead people to blame and feel terrible about themselves, but these illnesses can affect anyone. It isn’t your fault, and you are worthy of treatment.
Of course, it often takes more than educating yourself to fully recover from binge eating disorder, but education is the first step.
Identify your triggers
On top of educating yourself about binge eating disorder in general, it’s important to gain some wisdom into your experience with this disorder.
People binge eat for different reasons. What are your reasons? What things tend to set you off on a binge eating episode? Maybe you usually binge eat on days you’ve tried to “be good” about your food choices, depriving yourself of treats. Maybe looking at unrealistic body standards on social media sets you off. Maybe you tend to binge eat when you’re feeling upset about something that’s going on in your life.
Knowing your triggers, and avoiding them (or being prepared to cope with them if they’re unavoidable) can help you to get ahead of a binge eating episode. If you don’t know what your triggers are, try keeping a food diary.
Call an accountability partner
A strong support system is key to recovering from any mental illness, including binge eating disorder. Who are the people you can trust in your life? Who can you talk to about how binge eating disorder has affected you? Who can you count on to be there for you when an urge hits?
If you don’t have anyone like this in your life, that’s okay. Building a reliable support system often takes time. For now, you might find it helpful to join a support group. There are several ways to connect to a support group of others going through similar experiences, from going to treatment to joining an online community.
Once you’ve identified who your key support people are, make sure you gratefully accept their support. When you’re hit with a binge eating urge, call someone and ask them to keep you accountable. They can help you come up with a plan of how you’ll get through this urge, or simply help distract you from the urge.
Get some exercise
Exercise is good for both your physical and mental health. Some research studies have suggested that physical activity (aerobic exercise) may be helpful in reducing binge eating episodes for people who suffer from this disorder. 
Physical activity can raise your mood by releasing certain chemicals (like endorphins) in your brain. If you’re happier overall, you may be less likely to binge eat, especially if depression, anxiety, or chronic stress are triggers for you. Physical activity can also help manage your appetite so that you’re less likely to binge eat because you’re hungry.
Just be careful about over exercising if you suffer from body image issues or disordered eating. Don’t get caught in a cycle of binge eating and then overexercising to try to rid your body of the calories. This is a sign of non-purging bulimia, another type of eating disorder.
Find healthy distractions
People often start binge eating as a way to try to manage the uncomfortable emotions they’re facing. These might include sadness or anxiety, but also things like boredom or emptiness. Although distraction may not work as a long-term solution to recover from binge eating disorder, finding healthy distractions can certainly be helpful for riding out an urge.
What are some healthy activities that can help you get your mind off things when you’re having an urge to binge eat?
A good distraction is something that is mentally consuming, but not too difficult. Some examples of healthy distractions from binge eating are:
- Watch a funny and engaging TV show
- Call a friend
- Go for a walk
- Drink water instead
- Play sudoku or another game
- Read a mystery or adventure book
- Have a solo dance party to your favorite music
Surf the urge
Urge surfing is a method that can be used for any strong urge or emotion. It’s often used for people who have strong suicidal feelings or an addiction 一 but it’s also successfully been used by many people with an eating disorder.
Basically, urge surfing is about using mindfulness in the middle of a strong urge. Mindful eating, which we discussed above, is about slowing down and staying in the present moment every time you eat so you’re more likely to be conscious, and not on auto-pilot, when you’re binge eating.
Surfing the urge is about noticing when you’re actually having an urge to binge eat. But instead of giving in to the urge, surfing the urge invites you to take a step back and examine your feelings with mindfulness and curiosity.
Notice, without judgment, as the urge grows and reaches its peak. Surfing the urge isn’t about becoming hyper-focused on how it feels to want to binge eat and getting yourself worked up.
Instead, try to remember that this urge is like a wave. You can follow or “surf” the wave until it comes to its natural and inevitable end. All urges eventually go away if you give them enough time. You don’t need to drown in it or let it control you, even if they feel overwhelming at their peak.
Be compassionate with yourself
Lastly, show yourself some kindness. One of the key components of binge eating disorder is the feeling of regret and shame that comes after a binge. Although these feelings are natural, they can also keep you locked in the binge eating cycle. You feel bad about yourself or your body, which leads you to binge eat. Binge eating makes you feel even worse about yourself, so you try to restrict yourself from all the foods you enjoy. This leads you to binge eat 一 and on it continues.
Instead, try practicing some self-compassion. Beating yourself up after a binge doesn’t help matters, and could make things worse.
Catch yourself when you’re repeating self-loathing thoughts. Challenge these thoughts. Are they rational? Are they true? Is there a more helpful or accurate thought you can replace it with?
For example, you might think to yourself after a binge, “I’m so disgusting and worthless. I can’t believe I did that again. That’s it 一 absolutely no sweets for me ever again.”
This is largely untrue, and it’s certainly not self-loving. You can replace this thought with something more helpful, like “I slipped up, but I’m still a worthy and beautiful person. I’ll keep monitoring my urges and will try my best to get through the next one.”
How to Treat Binge Eating Disorder
When binge eating disorder is severe or long-lasting, it may require professional treatment. No matter what you may have heard, binge eating disorder is a treatable condition. Working with an experienced treatment team, you can recover from this.
Inpatient treatment programs and outpatient therapy can help people get to the root of their binge eating. What experiences have led to this behavior? What has made you feel the way you do about your body?
Treatment for binge eating disorder shouldn’t be about simply getting you to stop binge eating behaviors. Treatment needs to be holistic and treat the underlying causes of your binge eating disorder as well.
At The Center • A Place of HOPE, we offer holistic residential treatment for eating disorders, including binge eating disorders. We have over 35 years of experience successfully treating eating disorders, and we want you to help you heal as well.
Your Eating Disorder Treatment Program begins with a compassionate and comprehensive personal assessment. During this assessment, we will talk with you to understand the underlying causes to your eating disorder and what other areas of your life may have contributed.
Once your assessment is complete, your individualized program offers you:
- A complete health and fitness assessment
- A comprehensive psychological evaluation
- Complete medical and nutritional assessments
- To become comfortable with healthy, delicious, nutritious meals
We also have tailored programs for adolescents, men, and women.
Are you ready to start healing from binge eating disorder and create a healthy relationship with food and your body? Get in touch with us to learn more about how you can start your journey.