If you struggle with binge eating you feel like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of having no control around food. Once you start a binge it’s extremely difficult to stop in the middle of it. The key is to prevent the binge episode from starting in the first place. These 10 tips can help you to change your habits and mindset so that you can learn how to stop binge eating.
1. Stop Dieting
Diets come with rules about what you’re allowed to eat and what foods are considered “good” or “bad”. Any restrictive eating plan will increase your chance of bingeing. The diet that you’re following likely requires that you cut out some of your favorite foods. The sense of deprivation that comes with restriction will eventually drive you to binge on the food you’ve eliminated. To stop binge eating you need to stop dieting. Instead, focus on eating whole foods and don’t make any food forbidden.
2. Allow Yourself to Have Treats
Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite dessert or comfort food once in a while. A lot of overeating and bingeing is the result of feeling deprived. When you know that you can have a favorite food again you’re less likely to eat massive quantities of it. You won’t fall into the trap of eating it until you feel sick because you don’t know when you’ll have it again. Let yourself have a decadent dessert or comfort food meal occasionally. When you stop making a food forbidden, you weaken the urge to go crazy when you do eat it.
With that said, sometimes in the early stages of learning to stop binge eating you may want to enjoy your treats when you’re eating out. Eating out creates some portion control. You can only eat as much as the restaurant or ice cream shop serves you. If that food is sitting in your house you’ll be more inclined to overeat or binge on it.
3. Clean Out Your Kitchen
Throwing out the foods that you know trigger a binge will help you to stop binge eating. If it’s not there you can’t compulsively eat it. The extra work of driving to a store or fast food place to buy the foods that you would normally binge on helps deter you from starting a binge in the first place. Keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with non-processed whole foods will greatly deter you from bingeing on food in your kitchen. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll start bingeing on vegetables, so make an effort to keep the healthiest food possible in your kitchen.
This is not to say you aren’t allowed to eat your favorite foods. However, when you enjoy a treat you want it to be more planned and deliberate. If you love ice cream for example but have not reached the point where you can have it in your house without mindlessly eating it, then you’ll want to have your ice cream fix by pre-planning a trip to an ice cream shop to get a few scoops.
4. Eat Enough During the Day to Stop a Binge
Some binge eating is the result of being extremely hungry at the end of the day because you didn’t eat enough. To stop binge eating, try to eat three real meals during the day. That way you don’t have to deal with excessive hunger at night. Don’t try to save up all your food for the evening because you will be too hungry to eat reasonable portions or make the decision to eat healthy foods. Waiting to eat until you are starving is one of the ways that restrictive dieting can lead to bingeing.
5. Understand Your Triggers
You need to understand what triggers you to binge. Is it feeling lonely, bored, or stressed? Are you triggered by a certain time of day, such as after dinner or late at night after everyone else is asleep? Do you start bingeing because you’re starving at the end of the day? If you can identify your triggers then you can plan ahead for how to cope with your trigger. Otherwise, you will be too tired and not have enough willpower to make a rational decision when you are faced with that trigger. Decide ahead of time what you will do in those circumstances so that the decision is already made.
6. Do Some Easy Physical Activity
Engaging in regular physical activity can help to relieve some of the negative emotions that drive you to start bingeing. However, you don’t need to do intense exercise at a gym to benefit from this. If the urge to numb out with food starts to come up, take a walk and get some fresh air (assuming it’s not late at night). At night, when I start getting urges to eat to relieve stress, boredom, or loneliness I do gentle stretching and yoga. A quick search on Youtube will give you tons of free yoga videos to follow. Doing some physical activity will help turn your mind away from the thoughts that are causing you to feel anxious or stressed. You may even start to feel a little endorphin kick that will, in turn, lift your mood a bit.
7. Keep a Food Journal for a Week
When you write down everything that you eat you’re less likely to eat a massive amount of food in one sitting. Seeing everything that you eat written down on paper is a pretty effective form of accountability. It makes it harder to minimize how much you’re truly eating. I’m not suggesting that you always need to write down everything that you eat every day indefinitely, however, decide you’re going to do it for one week. I have personally found that it’s a very effective strategy to prevent overeating. If I start falling into unhealthy eating habits or gain a few pounds, I start keeping a food journal for a while.I almost always find that it’s an effective way to help prevent me from starting the overeating that will turn into a binge.
8. Meal Prep
Meal prepping is an effective strategy if your binges occur because you’re starving at the end of the day. Take some time over the weekend to plan some of your meals and prep some food ahead of time. As a result, it will be so much easier to eat healthy meals during the week. You’re more likely to eat lunch if you already have a meal made and you just need to pop it in the microwave. Meal prepping is also tremendously helpful at dinner time. When you’re getting home from work you’re hungry and may not have the energy to deal with cooking. Having healthy meals already prepared will lessen the chance of you mindlessly eating junk food, which may evolve into a full binge. You can find the steps to start meal prepping here.
9. Reducing Your Sugar Intake Stops Binges
Sweets were my binge food of choice. My binges mostly consisted of ice cream, brownies, cookies, and candy. I think that many of my bins started because I was in this endless cycle of craving sugar. Looking back I can see that changing my diet from eating lots of processed foods high in sugar to eating real whole foods was when I started bingeing less frequently. Once I started eating more real food I naturally started eating less added sugar, and my desire for massive amounts of sugar started going away.
10. Move on After a Binge
It’s normal to want to beat yourself up after a binge episode. However, it’s a waste of time. It’s done. The best thing that you can do is to get back on track with healthier eating habits. Feeling guilty from having binged can actually lead to another binge if you’re trying to escape the feeling of guilt. Rather than focus on guilt, take action to develop healthier habits around food. Start keeping a food journal, plan and prep what you’re going to eat next week, or take a walk when you’re stressed rather than mindlessly snacking. Over time, focusing on taking actions that lead to healthier habits will decrease the number of binge episodes.