Binge Eating: What It Is and How to Stop

how to stop binge eating

Written By:


Ryann Nicole

Binge eating disorder – it’s a topic that often lurks in the shadows, rarely spoken of, yet it affects countless individuals. The statistics are staggering, revealing the widespread prevalence of this condition. Before we delve into how to stop binge eating, let’s take a moment to understand the gravity of the issue. The numbers don’t lie:

  • The lifetime prevalence of binge eating disorder is 2.5-4.5% in females and 1-3% in males.
  • Globally, binge eating disorder affects 1.4% of females and 0.5% of males.
  • This eating disorder knows no boundaries; it affects individuals in both high and low-income countries, with point prevalence rates of 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively.

Now that we’ve established the scale of the problem, let’s explore what binge eating truly is and, more importantly, how to break free from its grip.

What Is Binge Eating?

Binge eating is not merely about consuming a large amount of food; it’s an overwhelming and recurring pattern of consuming significant quantities of food within a short timeframe. During these episodes, individuals often experience rapid, out-of-control eating. Binge eating is typically accompanied by intense feelings of guilt, shame, and stress, often practiced in solitude, away from the judgment of others.

Common Characteristics of Binge Eating Episodes

Binge eating episodes exhibit several common characteristics that distinguish them from merely consuming a large quantity of food:

  1. Speed Eating: Binges involve devouring food at a pace much faster than during a regular meal.
  2. Loss of Control: A pervasive feeling of losing control over the eating behavior accompanies these episodes.
  3. Non-Hungry Eating: Binge eating can involve eating when not physically hungry or continuing to eat after feeling full.
  4. Secrecy: Many sufferers consume their binge foods in private, far away from prying eyes.
  5. Shame: Binge eating is often accompanied by deep feelings of guilt, shame, and regret.

Three Unmet Needs that Trigger Binges

Several different factors can trigger binges, but three unmet needs will commonly trigger this type of disordered eating: 

Functional (Nourishment): Diet Rigidity

First is rigidity in your diet. If you aren’t eating enough and giving your body plenty of energy to function, overwhelming hunger can trigger a binge. In addition, the “broken food rule,” i.e., falling off the diet wagon and eating something viewed as “unhealthy,” can trigger a binge to eat as much as possible before the diet restarts. 

Social: Overvaluation of Shape and Size

Judgments of self-worth based on weight or shape can also trigger binge episodes. People who binge eat might evaluate themselves mostly on their body image and place extreme importance on weight and body shape. This restriction and judgment can trigger binge eating.

Emotional: Mood Dysregulation

Lastly, one’s inability to manage or tolerate certain emotional states (such as sadness, anger, or fear) can trigger binge eating episodes. Bingeing can even become a way for this person to avoid feeling emotions or numb pain.

How to Determine What Your Unmet Needs Are

So, how do you know which unmet needs could trigger your binge eating? This can usually be determined by answering a few questions about yourself:

  • Do you have food “rules,” regularly forcing yourself to ignore your hunger or restricting your intake of certain foods for a reason that isn’t medical? Do you label certain foods as “good” or “bad”? If so, your functional needs may be unmet.
  • Do you have a positive relationship with your body, treating it with the same kindness and grace you would treat someone else’s body? If not, your social needs could be unmet.
  • Do you know how to calm yourself down when experiencing extreme emotions through means other than food? If not, your emotional needs could be unmet.

The most important thing is to start getting curious and reflecting as much as possible.

How to Stop Binge Eating

Putting an end to binge eating isn’t easy and can require the attention of a medical professional and/or therapist to do so safely and effectively. But, to seek help, you have to be willing to do so, making willingness a huge component. In addition, the following things can be done to help alleviate binge eating symptoms:

Address Your Diet Rigidity and End Physical Restriction

To do this, practice eating consistently, eating enough, and allowing yourself to have foods from all food groups (barring any medical restrictions, of course.) This ensures you’re getting the energy and nutrients you need.

Also, work on challenging food fears and food rules by ceasing engagement with diet mentality and slowing down to truly enjoy your food at mealtime. This can help reduce the urge to binge later on.

Learn to Manage and Regulate Emotions

This may involve healing deep emotional wounds, sitting through difficult emotions without food, and calming yourself down through means other than food, such as journaling, meditating, or deep breathing. Explore what works for you!

Make Peace with Your Body

Get on the same team as your body! Take care of it as you would care for someone else’s—not with hatred and disdain, but with love and grace. It’s the vessel that allows you to experience life—and should be treated as such!

Build Resilience to Diet Culture

Lastly, be sure to build up your resilience to diet culture! It’s a real thing popularized by the media and can have detrimental psychological and physical effects. 

The journey to overcome binge eating is not without its challenges, but it’s a journey that promises tremendous rewards. It’s about taking back control of your life, your emotions, and your relationship with food. Remember that you are not defined by past struggles, and there is always hope for a brighter, healthier future. Each step you take toward understanding the root causes of your binge eating, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion brings you closer to a life free from the shackles of this disorder. Your well-being and happiness are worth every effort, and you have the strength within you to overcome binge eating. Embrace this opportunity for positive change and a healthier, more fulfilling life. You’ve got this!

Keywords: binge eating, binge eating disorder, stop binge eating

10 Things To Add To Your Coping Box 

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An emotional coping box, also known as a self-soothe or comfort box, is a personalized collection of items that can help individuals cope with difficult emotions, stress, or challenging situations. It’s a tangible and accessible resource that provides comfort and distraction during moments of distress. Here are 10 things you can consider adding to your emotional coping box:

Comfort Objects

Include items that bring you comfort, such as a soft blanket, stuffed animal, or cozy socks. These tactile objects can provide a sense of security and grounding.

Positive Affirmations

Write down or print out affirmations and positive quotes that resonate with you. Reading these affirmations can help shift your mindset and promote self-compassion.

Sensory Items

Incorporate items that engage your senses, such as scented candles, essential oils, or stress-relief lotion. Pleasant scents can have a calming effect.

Fidget Toys or Stress Balls

Include small items like stress balls, fidget spinners, or textured toys. These can serve as a physical outlet for nervous energy and help redirect focus.

Journal and Pen

Keep a journal or notebook to write down your thoughts, feelings, and reflections. Journaling can be a therapeutic way to express and process emotions.

Photographs or Mementos

Include pictures of loved ones, happy memories, or items that hold sentimental value. Visual reminders of positive experiences can bring comfort and perspective.

Guided Relaxation or Meditation Resources

Include a small audio player or device with pre-loaded guided relaxation or meditation sessions. These can help you practice mindfulness and manage stress.

Playlist of Uplifting Music

Create a playlist of music that brings you joy or relaxation. Music has the power to influence mood, and having a go-to playlist can be a quick mood booster.

List of Coping Strategies

Write down a list of healthy coping strategies that work for you. This could include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or simple activities that bring you a sense of peace.

Remember, the contents of your emotional coping box should be tailored to your preferences and needs. Regularly review and update the items to ensure they remain effective for you over time. The goal is to have a readily available toolkit that supports your emotional well-being during challenging moments.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.