What is Professional Help for an Eating Disorder
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  • Writer's pictureKate Ringwood LPC

How to Stop Binge Eating

Do you find yourself eating large amounts of food in a small amount of time? Do you feel out of control around food? Check out our blog post on Binge Eating Disorder and see if it resonates with you. If so, here are some helpful tips for navigating the binge episodes.

As you can see below, Binge Eating Disorder is actually the most common eating disorder. Know that you are not alone in this struggle.

So let's start with contributing factors to binge eating. The top four contributing factors consist of physical restriction, mental restriction, food rules, and lack of coping skills.

Physical Restriction is when you are not taking in enough energy to support your day to day functioning and activity. Yes this is calories, because calories are energy. Mental Restriction is a bit different. You may be taking in enough energy, however, you are not letting yourself eat something that will satisfy your body and mind. For example, you really want the cookie for a snack but instead you have a protein bar. Food Rules tends to come from diet culture. These are arbitrary rules that we see in society (or make up ourselves) that we feel we need to follow in order to be “good” or “healthy”. Some examples of these rules may be, not eating past a certain time of night or not eating a certain amount of carbohydrate.

Lack of coping skills occurs when you see folks reaching for food to cope in every situation. Many cultures and families have an emotional connection with certain foods. Whether it is grandma’s amazing stuffing at Thanksgiving or Aunt Susie’s Christmas cookies, we are wired to feel certain emotions around certain foods. This is not a bad thing. If you are upset after a breakup and really want your best friend and a pint of ice cream, go for it! This is an amazing way to allow yourself to feel your emotions and eat something that has been comforting to you in the past. The key here is, food cannot be the only tool in your toolbox. We need to make sure that yes we eat the ice cream and feel our emotions, while also having a positive support network to reach out to or grounding skills when we find ourselves getting overwhelmed. Without having multiple coping skills in our toolbox, we may find ourselves relying on food to help us in every situation. Which, let's be real, nothing helps in every situation.

So now that we know some of the reasons that binging occurs, how do we stop binge eating?

Well we need to address each of these factors. In order to appropriately address these factors, I highly recommend getting support from an eating disorder therapist and/or registered dietitian. Check out our blog How to Start Recovery from an Eating Disorder for more information on finding an eating disorder treatment team. With the help of your team these are the steps that are typically taken.

Stop the Restriction

Focus on eating consistently and frequently. A registered dietitian that specializes in eating disorders can be extremely helpful with this. Typically, consistency looks like three meals and two-three snacks per day. However, this can vary depending on the person. This is much easier said than done, of course. If you are looking to jump start your recovery, try focusing on one meal at a time, ask for support, and practice those coping skills! (Don’t worry, we will get to what those coping skills are later)

Stop the Mental Restriction

This is one of the scariest things for most folks because the fear is if they allow themselves the food they most love, they will binge on it. The truth is, they might. However, by allowing yourself to have the food, it allows the mind to not fear that it will never get to eat this food again, ultimately leading us to feel we need to eat it all. When giving ourselves unconditional permission to have the food, we built trust with our mind and body. Mental restriction usually stems from food rules that we have created so try writing out all your food rules and see what you can come up with!

Lack of Coping Skills

When a binge happens, there are usually underlying emotions that were going on before the binge occurred, such as overwhelm, sadness, loneliness, or depression. A often suggest trying out a new coping skill when you get the urge to binge. If the coping skill doesn’t work and you still feel the urge, it is okay to fall back on the binge. It is all about trial and error as you navigate new coping skills. Some of these coping skills may include deep breathing, journaling, calling a friend, listening to music, or engaging in your 5 senses.


The last piece I will leave you with here is forgiveness after a binge. After a binge, folks are often left with immense feelings of shame and guilt. When left unaddressed, those feelings can often lead to another binge down the road. So the first thing to do after a binge is forgive yourself. Offer compassion and empathy as you try to navigate your actions with curiosity. Falling down the shame spiral is the beginning of a vicious cycle of binge/restrict behaviors.

As you navigate your journey to stop binge eating, you will start to identify what works for you and what doesn’t.

I can tell you that it is possible if you seek professional help and start to focus on these factors. You deserve help and recovery! Reach out to us here for a free 15 minute consultation to see if we would be a good fit.

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