Being stuck in binge eating can feel like torture. The physical discomfort and pain, the guilt, shame, and frustration, and the dread of the aftermath of a binge can feel awful. The good news is it’s possible to stop binge eating and start feeling more at peace with food. If you’re struggling with binge eating, this blog post is for you.
First, a little bit of transparency. Our integration team at Balance Health and Healing does a lot of research to help the information we share get to the people who could benefit from it. As part of that research, they found that one of the most searched-for phrases from our audience is “How to stop binge eating at night.” I share that so that if you’re reading this post looking for support on how to stop binge eating, you’ll know that you’re not alone. Binge eating is a struggle that many, many people are trying to overcome. Even though binge eating is a common struggle, it still carries a lot of stigma. Many who are dealing with binge eating feel shame talking about their behaviors, even within the eating disorder recovery community. I hope we can change that by shedding light on some of the reasons why binge eating happens and how to find healing.
Let’s dive right in. My primary recommendation if you are struggling with binge eating:
Eat more food.
That seems VERY counterintuitive, right? I know. But hear me out. If you are struggling with binge eating, there is a high likelihood that you actually need to eat more regularly and consistently in order to stop binge eating. One of the most common cycles of binge eating I hear about as a therapist is the binge-restrict cycle. If you binge, you might feel guilty or panicked and start trying to eat less to “make up” for the binge. In reality, that restriction primes your body for more bingeing. Your body is wired to protect you from starvation. If you restrict your eating, your body will sense that it needs to eat more food more quickly than usual the next time food is accessible. Even though it can feel very difficult to eat consistently after a binge, one of the most helpful things you can do is continue eating meals and snacks and include a variety of foods. Eating enough and eating consistently might feel overwhelming when you are already feeling guilty about bingeing, but feeding your body adequately throughout the day is key if you want to break out of the binge-restrict cycle.
Another recommendation for stopping binges:
Actively manage your stress.
Even though binge eating ends up feeling awful, it often starts off as a way to try to feel better. Eating is soothing, and it’s supposed to be. From the time we are infants, eating is a source of physiological soothing and comfort. If binge eating is serving as a coping mechanism for stress, it makes sense why! Bingeing is not about lacking self-control. It’s more likely about not having adequate ways to cope with distress. Finding other ways to help your body manage stress can help you stop bingeing. Make a list of three to four simple, easy-to-do coping strategies that you can use when you notice yourself feeling stressed. Having this list ready to go before you need it can help you choose a different way to manage your stress when you’re feeling the urge to binge. Here’s an example of the kind of coping skills list I mean:
- Dance in my room to a high-energy song
- Step outside my apartment and spend 5 minutes looking at the sky and breathing
- Lay on the floor in my room and stretch
Binge eating, whether on its own or in combination with other symptoms of disordered eating or body image distress, is complex. The suggestions in this post represent just a small piece of things that might help you find healing from binge eating. Working with a therapist and a dietitian to explore other factors in your binge eating (like nutrition, metabolic factors, trauma, mood disorders, relationship struggles, and other factors) can also be helpful. Wherever you are on your path to healing, I hope you’ll know that it is possible to stop binge eating, and there is hope for things to feel better!