December 13, 2021
How to Overcome Binge Eating: Start with These Strategies
Written by Rachel Eddins
Looking for strategies to overcome binge eating is difficult.
You’ve been hiding the food wrappers, the take-out boxes, and the truth for too long. Food has become such an obstacle that you constantly wonder what is wrong with you.
It’s time to work past this thing, and we know that you can do it. Feel good for making it here.
That alone is a sign that you are doing a good job and that you are on your way to healing. But we can also say that you need help with binge eating now.
It’s ruled your life for long enough.
14 Strategies for Overcoming Binge Eating
We will discuss these nasty things called limiting beliefs and how they keep you in this cycle. We will explain binge eating cycles and will give you our top 14 strategies for overcoming binge eating because it is possible to make peace with food.
The topics we cover include:
- Limiting Beliefs
- What they do to us
- How to fight Limiting Beliefs
- Binge Eating Cycles
- Strategies for Overcoming Binge Eating
- Getting Help
- Making Peace with Food
- How to Get Help
Limiting Beliefs and Binge Eating
The causes of binge eating disorders are not well understood. Some see it as addiction, while some think it’s rooted in psychological disorders like depression.
Others suggest that binge eating is related to PTSD and a history of trauma. Whatever the individual cause, binge eating is a way of coping with emotions and experiences that hurt.
When we try to overcome it, we may find ourselves running back to old habits and negative thoughts—to binging again. Why do we act so self-destructively?
More often than not, it’s our limiting beliefs that keep us from recovery. To treat binge eating successfully, we must examine the cause and fight the limiting beliefs that get in the way.
What Limiting Beliefs Do to Us
Limiting beliefs hold us back. They affect our self-identity and color what we believe about ourselves. We learned them long ago, as children, and we may not even recognize them for the lies they are.
Some label this the little voice narrating all their worst thoughts. They are sharp words, pointed right at the heart of you.
Limiting beliefs judge the crap out of us. If they were a person, they’d be your worst nightmare.
They say we are not good enough, smart enough, or worthy of anything. We don’t deserve to be healthy, happy, or have a good, productive life.
They tell us we can’t. Or, at least, that we shouldn’t even bother. How does this translate into your life?
We all have things we wish we did or didn’t do. In those critical moments, you had a choice.
You sat back and weighed all the options in your mind. And then that voice rang through.
- You aren’t good enough to do that.
- I can’t have that. I’m too (fill in the blank).
- You’re pathetic.
All of these statements label, judge, and end the conversation. You walk away, even when you wish you didn’t.
Fighting Your Limiting Beliefs to Overcome Binge Eating
You are a lot more capable than your mind is letting you believe. It’s essential to recognize your limiting beliefs and how you learned them.
1. First, we must identify our particular limiting beliefs. Pull them out and look at them.
- You are not enough.
- You aren’t capable.
Perhaps you are convinced that your negative body image is the truth about you. Your limiting belief is that you don’t deserve to be healthy and attractive. Where did this thinking come from?
When you find yourself thinking, “I can’t wait, I have to eat now,” ask yourself, “Why do I think that? Did I learn it in school? Did my parents tell me I couldn’t do this? Have I tried it before and failed?”
Was my voice the first to say those words, or did I learn them?
2. Call out the lie.
Once you’ve isolated your limiting belief, give it a good hard look. If you hold onto it because it worked once or because you were told to, recognize how false it is. How has it stood in your way? Get mad.
Your belief that you must do everything perfectly may have kept you from even trying to do the things you want to do. Unhealthy thought patterns may have prevented your developing good relationships.
Let your anger about these frustrating habits build your determination to change them.
3. Replace your limiting belief with one that gives you power.
Perhaps your limiting belief is that you have no control over your eating. You have no “willpower.”
Believing you have no control is unrealistic. You have some power over your actions.
Replace the “no power” belief with a more realistic one: “I can learn some techniques to help me control my eating.”
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment with pie-in-the-sky substitutes for your limiting belief. Consider what your empowering belief will let you do.
Will it give you evidence of your readiness for the next step?
4. Act as if your new belief is true.
Twelve-step groups use the mantra, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” You can begin to make your new, empowering belief work for you by pretending you already have it.
When you act as though you believe that you can cope with the situations that trigger your binge eating, you brainwash yourself into believing it.
5. Gather evidence of success.
Start small. When you succeed in taking a small step, give yourself credit. You did it!
Recognize that you have succeeded in changing. Keep building more and more evidence until you see your former, limiting belief for the lie that it was.
Recognize that your new, empowering belief is the truth about you.
Overcome Binge Eating and Restriction Cycles
Every mental health issue or disorder has seasons and cycles; even while trying to overcome binge eating, you might experience these. You probably already have.
What does this kind of cycle look like?
You might be really kind or aggressive with yourself, but you have not binged for a while which will make you feel really good and powerful or worried because you have been very restrictive.
But then, something happens at work or at home that triggers one of those old, limiting beliefs. Maybe you are home alone and you feel useless, sad, alone, you name it.
One step at a time, you head to the fridge feeling worse the closer you get. By the time you actually open the door, you are losing the battle against all those thoughts, and you binge.
During it, you might go numb, but after those feelings of guilt, self-disgust, and pure shame overcome you. This might happen a few more times before you notice that it has been days, weeks, or months since your last “episode”.
At that moment, you might start the cycle over.
How to Overcome Binge Eating Cycles, 14 Ways
There is no right way to overcome binge eating. You only need the way(s) that work for you.
Remember to start small and focus on starting one step at a time; that is all anyone can do. Go easy on yourself.
1. Brainstorm ways to manage your stress.
Binge eating almost always occurs when you’re feeling bad. Recognizing patterns in what makes you feel stressed and trying out different ways of coping with that stress can reduce the urge to turn to food.
2. Try to stick to a regular eating schedule.
Binge eating is partially rooted in biological causes—eating three meals a day can help regulate the signals your brain sends out to let you know if you’re hungry or full. Skipping meals during the day makes you more susceptible to binge eating later on.
Additionally, eating a good breakfast helps get your metabolism going.
3. Stop dieting.
If you’re feeling bad about how you see yourself or how you’re perceived by others, it can be all too tempting to try another diet. The truth is that depriving yourself of food for a little while usually perpetuates the cycle of overeating and regret.
Instead of going hungry, focusing on eating more manageable and nutritious meals can help you get to a happier place. Try to stop counting calories and stop forbidding any foods.
Binging is caused by psychological and biological forces. Psychologically, you want the things you forbid more.
Biologically, your body gets so hungry that your “animalistic” mode takes over and causes you to eat out of control.
4. Keep a food diary.
Write down what you eat. This is not to count calories ─ this is to become more aware of why you’re eating.
On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being absolutely famished and 10 being stuffed to the point of nausea, write down where you were at when you started vs. where you were at when you finished. Be honest and nonjudgmental with yourself.
Data is your friend. If you know what days you were binging the most, you might be able to line those days up with triggers you encountered.
5. Exercise regularly.
If you’re stuck in a loop of overeating and wishing you hadn’t, chances are you’re also feeling pretty low. When you’re depressed, exercise can seem like the last thing you want or even can do; however, walking just fifteen or twenty minutes a day can have positive physical and psychological benefits.
If you’re feeling up to it, a little bit of physical activity can be a good way to reduce stress. We aren’t talking about moving your body to reduce weight or the impact of food.
Moving your body feels good and will help you to feel good. Dance around your room, play with your pet or take a walk with a friend. Try moving for joy.
6. Eat mindfully.
Eat slowly and savor your food. notice the taste, texture, and smell. Notice how your body reacts to the food.
- Watch as you go from hungry to full.
- Notice any anxiety you might be feeling while eating.
- Notice your urge to eat quickly. Why is that so?
- Are you afraid you won’t be able to eat again later?
- Do you feel like you’re doing something wrong?
7. Journal your feelings surrounding food.
Write down how you felt before you ate.
How can you deal with them without food? How did the food make you feel during your binge? After?
If you have an urge to eat when you’re not hungry and you’re level-headed enough to journal, write down why you have an urge to eat. Face your emotions.
You might try journaling about your life in general. Record pivotal moments and hash out feelings outside of your mind.
8. Combat boredom.
Binge eating episodes often happen when you’re feeling bored or agitated. You start snacking and can’t stop.
If you’re able to spend your free time doing something you enjoy and that you’re actively engaged in, turning to food can be less of a temptation.
Try activities like painting, drawing, crafts, or reading.
9. Stop weighing yourself.
At least for now. As tempting as it may be, it will greatly hinder your progress and make your relationship with food even worse.
10. Read self-help books on binge eating.
Books like Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth, and Mindful Eating by Jon Kabat-Zinn are some of our best recommendations.
Learning about other people’s experiences with overcoming binge eating will help remind you that you are not alone, in facing this.
11. Practice self-love and let yourself off the hook.
Binge eating comes into your life as a result of biological, social, and psychological factors—it’s not your fault you feel the way you do.
If anyone has ever told you differently, they were wrong. (Wherever you learned that line about yourself, that would be the origin of that limiting belief.)
Feelings of shame and guilt can keep you down, preventing you from making changes in your life. Forgiving yourself for binge eating and for the slip-ups you make on the road to recovery will make getting better a lot easier.
Issues around food are usually caused by a fear of gaining weight. Try to be more unconditionally accepting of yourself at any weight.
Try to be more accepting of your feelings. Be accepting of your hunger. Hunger is probably the most natural thing in the world. Be patient.
If you’ve been binge eating pretty regularly, know that you probably won’t stop binge eating forever overnight.
It will most likely decrease slowly. That’s okay, that’s natural, and it’s normal. You’re only human.
12. Make sure you’re eating enough balanced foods.
Eat when you’re hungry. Make sure you’re eating enough. Make sure you have enough protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and vegetables.
If you’re not eating enough, you’re more likely to binge eat at night. Make sure your pantry is stocked.
Yes, even with “junk” food. Eat your fear foods.
Foods are meant to be enjoyed, not feared. The more you allow yourself to eat ice cream, chips, and cookies, the less likely you are to binge on them.
13. Stop judging yourself.
If you’ve been dieting, it is a natural and unavoidable response to dieting/starving yourself. If you’ve been trying to bury unwanted feelings, just know that you have been unconsciously trying to take care of yourself, but it hasn’t been working.
There is nothing inherently “wrong” with binge eating, it’s just not helpful. Forgive yourself, because guilt only makes you more likely to binge next time.
14. Get help.
There is no shame in getting help. Talking about your struggle with food and eating is understandably difficult.
Sharing what you’re going through with someone you trust can lift an enormous weight off your shoulders.
If you’re able to find a support group, discussing what’s going on in your life with people who understand firsthand can feel really good. Help and understanding really are out there; asking for it can be the hardest part.
Some Ways Therapy Can Help You Overcome Binge Eating
Trying to overcome binge eating alone is scary. You are stuck in a cycle and it feels like there is no way out. But therapy is a proven technique for breaking the cycle.
Here are six solid ways to get help for binge eating and create the peace of mind you need to eat well and feel well.
1. Shoot Down Shame
The shame of binge eating is often twofold:
Part 1.) You may feel ashamed that you have a problem at all
(“I’m so weak! Why can’t I control this?”)
Part 2.) You may feel ashamed about sharing the underlying problems that fuel and trigger your binges.
(“People are going to think I’m a loser with no self-control”)
To make peace with food, you’ll need to divorce it from who you are. Your character is not determined by your struggles with overcoming binge eating.
The secrecy around the binges can lead to believing that your behavior is shameful, the feelings that trigger bingeing are shameful, and, unfortunately, even the process of seeking help is shameful.
It’s not true!
You do not deserve to feel ashamed about receiving help for binge eating. This eating disorder is a problem to address not a character defect.
Getting help for binge eating will entail learning to treat yourself with more self-compassion. Working with a therapist will give you tools to shift negative self-talk to a more encouraging, positive tone.
2. Deal with the Scale
Therapy can help you uncover and explore the unsatisfied needs that compel you to live in a frustrating overeat-weight gain-diet cycle.
Getting help to overcome binge eating is not geared toward getting better diet tips for better weight loss. Working with a therapist can, however, help you keep your weight loss goals from triggering binge eating self-sabotage.
Throughout the therapy process, you’ll find new ways to put your weight loss in perspective.
Why? It’s important to push past the negative and positive connotations of how you’re eating to look more closely at why you feel dieting is a necessity.
What is the dietary deprivation trigger in you that subsequently makes you break down into “binge mode” and soon after beat yourself up for your lack of willpower?
Making peace with food will help you find ways to feel good in your own body and your own life, whatever number pops up on the scale.
3. Socialize & Share New Skills
Group therapy sessions prove invaluable for many binge eaters. The opportunity to hear the stories, setbacks, and progress of others is immensely encouraging.
It makes a big difference in your recovery that you have a community of people who understand and will not judge your process.
Overcoming binge eating will become much more possible if you have a structured, focused environment in which to meet with your group and share routinely.
As you begin trusting and sharing with those witnesses and making effective changes, taking charge of your life will feel entirely possible. Join our make peace with food group.
4. Strategize for Nutritional Balance
It is important to protect your mind and body from unhealthy food restrictions or overconsumption. Peace of mind becomes possible when you learn to accept yourself and a more nurturing approach to food.
Help for binge eating will effectively transform and clarify your food obsession as you receive specialized nutrition counseling. In the same way, you receive therapy in an effort to approach your emotions with balance and perspective, you can learn to see food as a tool simply for nourishment, not an escape from reality.
5. Neutralize stress and negative emotions
If you’re managing binge eating, the key, again, is not the overeating, it’s the onslaught of emotions that precede it.
Both individual and group therapy are important when dealing with this aspect of binge eating. Research tells us that the need to overeat stems from the brain’s effort to soothe intense stress or a perceived threat.
Rational thought is interrupted.
Making real peace with food and real mental health headway will come when soothing with food is halted and dealing with stress is consciously and effectively prioritized.
Sharing and working on stress management and anxiety can help mitigate and provide much help for binge eating and interrupt a response that was once automatic.
Get Help Today to Stop Binge Eating
Defeat your limiting beliefs by recognizing them and where you learned them. Call them out for the lies they are and replace them with more realistic, empowering beliefs.
Act as if you truly believe in your power to make good decisions and act in your best interest.
Keep building evidence until you replace your limiting beliefs with the truth about yourself: you are good enough, smart enough, and worthy of a healthy, happy life. Your new beliefs will help keep you from running back to binge again.
Our Services Include:
- Individual Therapy
- Make Peace with Food Program
If you’re tired of struggling with binge eating and would like additional support, our therapists can help. We specialize in helping women and men overcome binge eating and find new freedom in their relationship with food.
Our services include:
- Individual Therapy – binge eating is often a symptom of an imbalance, unmet need, or habit that developed as a coping strategy. Therapy can help you identify your unique relationship with food and ways to heal and overcome binge eating.
- Make Peace with Food Program – this is a 12-week structured program to help you learn strategies to manage root issues triggering binge eating behaviors. The emphasis in this program is healing from within and creating a new relationship with food, your body, and yourself. We also have a Beyond Emotional Eating Virtual program.
Read more about binge eating disorders.