6 Powerful Steps to Stop Binge Eating for Good

“As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter how ill or how despairing you may be feeling in a given moment.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

1. Realize there’s nothing wrong with you.

Binge eating isn’t about food; it’s about emotions. People deal with their emotions in all kinds of ways. If you’re at the end of your tether, you might do drugs, you might drink, you might get really angry with the people you love, you might have anxiety attacks, and/or you might binge eat.

This isn’t a judgment call. Binge eating is just what you’re doing to try to deal with difficult emotions in the best way you know how right now. That doesn’t mean you’re broken, that doesn’t mean you’re going to “be like this forever,” and it doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to cope in different and more productive ways.

It’s completely natural and normal to want to feel better. So although it’s not ideal to binge, know that it is human, and it is okay.

2. Reattach your head to your body.

Learn about mindfulness, for example what is known as a body scan (where you “scan” each part of your body with your mind, and notice whatever is present, without judgment).

As well as allowing you to get back in touch with physical sensations in your body (like temperature, and gentle, non-scary sensations of hunger), mindfulness increases your control over your emotions (more precisely, it increases activation of the medial prefrontal cortex, and decreases activation of structures like the amygdala that trigger our emotional responses.

That’s good news if you’re binge eating. Maybe right now there’s a disconnect between your mind and your body, but by using mindfulness to gain more control over your emotional responses, you’ll start to learn to decide whether to listen to those calls to eat emotionally, or not.

Action step: Start doing the body scan once a day. If you can’t manage thirty minutes, start with two minutes every day. Then build it up to five minutes, then ten. Start slowly and build it up over time. This is about practice, not perfection.

3. Shift your self-worth.

Decide you needed to be stronger, both mentally and physically,  join a gym and begin to train for strength, showing up to train no matter how you feel. Exercise can be unhelpful for many people, especially if you aren’t listening to your body when it needs to rest and recover.

We are all so much more than how we look, how much we weigh, and how well we perform, so I recommend a diversified approach to building your self-worth. Instead of tying it to your body, focus on a variety of things, like being a good friend and relative, acting with integrity and honesty, and taking care of yourself enough so you can give back to others.

So many people who binge eat are overachievers and perfectionists, but when you’re in this deep, it’s a sign that you need to diversify your identity away from perfection, dieting, exercising to extremes, and working too much.  Figure out what you truly value in your life, then focusing on the process of becoming the person you ideally want to be. 

Action step: Take a few moments to ask yourself: What do you value in your life? I don’t know about you, but when I’m lying on my deathbed, I don’t want the only thing people can say about me to be:

“Well, at least she had a six pack.”

Do you value being a good friend, parent, sibling, artist? Do you value your well-being? Could you start practicing gratitude for the things you have in your life, including your body? Could you practice just sitting, breathing, and being human?

4. Find the diamonds in the turd. 

Right now you’re focused on all the times you binge, all the times you have these strong urges to eat, and all the other things that you are doing “wrong.” For example:

Maybe there are only actually two to three hours each evening where there’s a strong urge to binge. Right now you’re focused on that time, but think about it: for twenty-one hours of the day, you don’t want to binge. That’s great! It’s also powerful information, because recognizing when you’re most prone to a binge is going to help you stop.

Maybe you notice that you feel more prone to binge after you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, or when you’re stressed, anxious, or worried. Is it possible to get more sleep? Can you plan to get more time in for your wellbeing in general?

Maybe you notice the urge to binge is stronger after you’ve looked in the mirror and insulted how you look, or when you scroll through Instagram and see athletes, models, and random happy people that you want to look like. Can you limit your time on social media, or only follow people that actually help you? Can you be kinder to yourself in the mirror?

Action step: Find your diamonds in the turd:

  • What’s different about the times where I’m not binge eating / don’t want to binge 
  • Where am I when I do, and don’t, want to binge?
  • What activities am I doing?
  • Is there some way I can do more of the things that help,less things that don’t?

5. Stop restricting.

There are many scientific studies showing a strong correlation between diets and binge eating.  If you’re finding it difficult to stop binge eating, one of the best things you can do right now is to stop restricting yourself. That means giving yourself permission to eat any food, at any time. It means not starving yourself the day after a binge, or doing excessive amounts of exercise because you “slipped up.”

A lot of people talk about mindful eating, and this will definitely help, but only as long as it doesn’t feel restrictive. If “eating only when you’re hungry” feels too restrictive right now, then it’s totally fine to eat when you’re not hungry. If “eating mindfully” feels too restrictive, it’s okay to not do that for a while. When you’re ready, you can begin to introduce one mindful bite a day, then one mindful bite per meal.

Action step: Try to stop restricting foods. If you binge, try to do it as mindfully as possible (giving yourself full permission to do so). When you’re ready, you can introduce mindful eating into some of your meals.

6. If you do binge, follow these three steps.

These three steps will help you if you binge eat:

Step 1: Forgive yourself immediately. (That was a tough moment, and you didn’t behave in the ideal way. That’s okay, you’re human, and you’re learning. Think of what you’d say to a friend going through the same thing, then say that to yourself.)

Step 2: Try to become curious about what happened. Try to pinpoint what caused it. Was it a particularly stressful day? Were thoughts whizzing around in your head? What could you do to increase your self-care the next time that happens?

Step 3: Wait until you’re next hungry, then try to eat a “normal” meal (just some basic veggies, protein, carbs, and fats). Don’t try to overthink it, and don’t try to restrict.

2. Reattach your head to your body.

Learn about mindfulness, for example what is known as a body scan (where you “scan” each part of your body with your mind, and notice whatever is present, without judgment).

As well as allowing you to get back in touch with physical sensations in your body (like temperature, and gentle, non-scary sensations of hunger), mindfulness increases your control over your emotions (more precisely, it increases activation of the medial prefrontal cortex, and decreases activation of structures like the amygdala that trigger our emotional responses.

That’s good news if you’re binge eating. Maybe right now there’s a disconnect between your mind and your body, but by using mindfulness to gain more control over your emotional responses, you’ll start to learn to decide whether to listen to those calls to eat emotionally, or not.

Action step: Start doing the body scan once a day. If you can’t manage thirty minutes, start with two minutes every day. Then build it up to five minutes, then ten. Start slowly and build it up over time. This is about practice, not perfection.

3. Shift your self-worth.

Decide you needed to be stronger, both mentally and physically,  join a gym and begin to train for strength, showing up to train no matter how you feel. Exercise can be unhelpful for many people, especially if you aren’t listening to your body when it needs to rest and recover.

We are all so much more than how we look, how much we weigh, and how well we perform, so I recommend a diversified approach to building your self-worth. Instead of tying it to your body, focus on a variety of things, like being a good friend and relative, acting with integrity and honesty, and taking care of yourself enough so you can give back to others.

So many people who binge eat are overachievers and perfectionists, but when you’re in this deep, it’s a sign that you need to diversify your identity away from perfection, dieting, exercising to extremes, and working too much.  Figure out what you truly value in your life, then focusing on the process of becoming the person you ideally want to be. 

Action step: Take a few moments to ask yourself: What do you value in your life? I don’t know about you, but when I’m lying on my deathbed, I don’t want the only thing people can say about me to be:

“Well, at least she had a six pack.”

Do you value being a good friend, parent, sibling, artist? Do you value your well-being? Could you start practicing gratitude for the things you have in your life, including your body? Could you practice just sitting, breathing, and being human?

4. Find the diamonds in the turd. 

Right now you’re focused on all the times you binge, all the times you have these strong urges to eat, and all the other things that you are doing “wrong.” For example:

Maybe there are only actually two to three hours each evening where there’s a strong urge to binge. Right now you’re focused on that time, but think about it: for twenty-one hours of the day, you don’t want to binge. That’s great! It’s also powerful information, because recognizing when you’re most prone to a binge is going to help you stop.

Maybe you notice that you feel more prone to binge after you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, or when you’re stressed, anxious, or worried. Is it possible to get more sleep? Can you plan to get more time in for your wellbeing in general?

Maybe you notice the urge to binge is stronger after you’ve looked in the mirror and insulted how you look, or when you scroll through Instagram and see athletes, models, and random happy people that you want to look like. Can you limit your time on social media, or only follow people that actually help you? Can you be kinder to yourself in the mirror?

Action step: Find your diamonds in the turd:

  • What’s different about the times where I’m not binge eating / don’t want to binge 
  • Where am I when I do, and don’t, want to binge?
  • What activities am I doing?
  • Is there some way I can do more of the things that help,less things that don’t?

5. Stop restricting.

There are many scientific studies showing a strong correlation between diets and binge eating.  If you’re finding it difficult to stop binge eating, one of the best things you can do right now is to stop restricting yourself. That means giving yourself permission to eat any food, at any time. It means not starving yourself the day after a binge, or doing excessive amounts of exercise because you “slipped up.”

A lot of people talk about mindful eating, and this will definitely help, but only as long as it doesn’t feel restrictive. If “eating only when you’re hungry” feels too restrictive right now, then it’s totally fine to eat when you’re not hungry. If “eating mindfully” feels too restrictive, it’s okay to not do that for a while. When you’re ready, you can begin to introduce one mindful bite a day, then one mindful bite per meal.

Action step: Try to stop restricting foods. If you binge, try to do it as mindfully as possible (giving yourself full permission to do so). When you’re ready, you can introduce mindful eating into some of your meals.

6. If you do binge, follow these three steps.

These three steps will help you if you binge eat:

Step 1: Forgive yourself immediately. (That was a tough moment, and you didn’t behave in the ideal way. That’s okay, you’re human, and you’re learning. Think of what you’d say to a friend going through the same thing, then say that to yourself.)

Step 2: Try to become curious about what happened. Try to pinpoint what caused it. Was it a particularly stressful day? Were thoughts whizzing around in your head? What could you do to increase your self-care the next time that happens?

Step 3: Wait until you’re next hungry, then try to eat a “normal” meal (just some basic veggies, protein, carbs, and fats). Don’t try to overthink it, and don’t try to restrict.