How Thoughts Can Trigger Binges: Understanding the Mental Side of Binge Eating

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Written By:


Ryann Nicole

If you struggle with binge eating, you may have wondered if it’s your thoughts that trigger these episodes. According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), our behaviors often stem from our thoughts. So, if you want to break free from binge eating, it’s essential to take a closer look at your thought patterns.

How Thoughts Can Trigger Binges

Below we’ll explore six common thoughts that can trigger binge eating and provide helpful reframes to promote a healthier relationship with food and yourself.

“I’ll be better tomorrow.”

Why this can trigger a binge: When you believe you’ve been ‘bad’ with your food choices today, the idea of being ‘better’ tomorrow can trigger a harmful cycle. This is known as the ‘what-the-hell’ effect, where you give in to excess today because you plan to be restrictive tomorrow.

Helpful reframe: I didn’t do anything wrong today. Remind yourself that you didn’t do anything wrong today. Every day is a new opportunity to make positive choices.

“I blew it.”

Why this can trigger binge eating: Similar to the first thought, when you feel like you’ve made a mistake with your eating, it can lead to feelings of shame and a sense that you’ve already “blown it.” This mindset can lead to overeating or bingeing.

Helpful reframe: I am learning. Shift your perspective from making mistakes to learning from your experiences. Every moment is a chance to improve and grow.

“I won’t do this again tomorrow.”

Why this can trigger a binge: This thought implies that you did something wrong today, creating a scarcity mindset. When you connect certain foods with the idea that you “won’t do this again tomorrow,” it can make those foods even more tempting, potentially leading to binge eating.

Helpful reframe: What can I learn from this? Replace the idea of restriction with curiosity. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” This approach encourages self-compassion and growth.

“I’ll just eat less tomorrow.”

Why this can trigger binge eating: Planning to eat less tomorrow as a punishment for today’s choices can lead to a vicious cycle. The fear of breaking this self-imposed rule can trigger binge eating.

Helpful reframe: My food choices today do not determine my future choices. Acknowledge that your food choices today don’t determine your worth or your future choices. Allow yourself to make balanced choices every day.

“Eating this means I can’t have that later.”

Why this can trigger a binge: Bargaining with yourself and imposing food restrictions can lead to feelings of deprivation. This deprivation often results in cravings and, eventually, giving in to those cravings.

Helpful reframe: There is no ‘can’t.’ I can decide whether or not I want that later. Eliminate the “can’t” mindset. Understand that you have the power to make choices about what you eat and when. There are no strict rules you must follow.

“This will be the last time I binge.”

Why this can trigger binge eating: Thinking you can control binge eating can be misleading. Binge eating is often a biological response to restriction, and the belief that you can stop it anytime can lead to shame and continued restriction, fueling more binges.

Helpful reframe: I am going to learn from this binge. Shift your focus from control to learning. Embrace each binge as an opportunity to understand your triggers and develop strategies for managing them.

Your thoughts strongly affect how you act. They’re like the starting point for everything you do, guiding your choices and how you see the world. If you have happy thoughts, you’re more likely to do good things. But if you have negative or self-doubting thoughts, you might hold back or mess things up. Understanding this can help you control your actions and make your life better. So, it’s important to have good and mindful thoughts to grow and feel better about yourself.

Binge eating is a complex issue that often goes beyond mere food choices. Understanding the role of your thoughts and mental patterns is a crucial step in addressing this challenge. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this journey. By getting curious about the underlying causes of your binge eating, you can begin to break free from the cycle and work towards a healthier relationship with food and yourself. Remember, real change starts in the mind.

The Best Guided Journals To Start A Journaling Practice 

Just so you know, I do review everything I recommend. When you buy through links on this page, we may earn a commission.

“The Five-Minute Journal”

A widely acclaimed guided journal designed for daily gratitude and self-reflection. This journal prompts users to express gratitude, set positive intentions, and reflect on daily achievements, fostering a positive mindset.

“Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration” by Meera Lee Patel

This beautifully illustrated guided journal encourages self-exploration through a series of thought-provoking prompts, creative exercises, and inspirational quotes. It’s a visually engaging journey of self-discovery.

“365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Precepts” by R.J. Palacio

Inspired by the best-selling novel “Wonder,” this guided journal offers daily precepts, quotes, and prompts to encourage kindness, empathy, and reflection. It’s a heartwarming and insightful companion for personal growth.

“The Mindfulness Journal”

Geared towards promoting mindfulness and reducing stress, this journal includes daily prompts for meditation, gratitude, and reflections on the present moment. It’s an ideal tool for those seeking a more centered and mindful lifestyle.

“Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll

While not a traditional guided journal, Ryder Carroll’s method has gained immense popularity. The Bullet Journal is a customizable organizational system that combines to-do lists, calendars, and reflections, offering a flexible and personalized approach to journaling. Click here for a bullet journal. 

“The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal” by Julia Cameron

Based on Julia Cameron’s transformative book, “The Artist’s Way,” this journal encourages the practice of “morning pages” – three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing every morning. It’s a tool for unlocking creativity and overcoming creative blocks.

“52 Lists Project” by Moorea Seal

This guided journal provides a year’s worth of weekly list prompts designed to inspire self-reflection, gratitude, and personal growth. Each list is thoughtfully curated to explore different aspects of your life and goals.

“Calm the Chaos Journal”

Targeted at those seeking stress relief and emotional balance, this guided journal combines mindfulness exercises, prompts for self-reflection, and spaces for creative expression. It’s a holistic approach to calming the chaos in daily life.

“Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal”

Perfect for those who prefer a long-term commitment, this journal offers a daily question for five years, allowing users to track their thoughts and experiences over time. It’s a unique way to witness personal growth and changing perspectives.

My other favorite guided journals

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.