How To Stop Binge Eating For Good (+Causes & Side Effects)
Written by: Shelby Torrese - Jul. 6, 2020
When people hear the term eating disorder, they often automatically think about anorexia (food and caloric restriction) and bulimia nervosa (post-meal purging). While those are two daunting disorders, there is another one. One that men and women are 3x more likely to suffer from. Statistics show that this eating disorder is even more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia.  It’s called binge eating disorder, or B.E.D.
Due to the nature of binge eating disorder, it is commonly misdiagnosed, and affects 1.3% of children, and about 2.5-5.5% of adults.  Being such an under-the-radar disorder, people don’t often know how to navigate the issue, or even where to start with how to stop binge eating. This blog post is not a replacement for professional guidance or a doctor’s diagnosis, but if you do believe you may have binge eating disorder, know that you are not alone and you are encouraged to seek professional help.
What Is Binge Eating?
Binge eating disorder is not simply overeating. It’s a number of things that all boil down to one common theme—shame and/or depression. Binge eating disorder is eating to the point of being uncomfortably full, eating when you’re not hungry to begin with, and experiencing feelings of depression or shame due to your eating habits.  People who suffer from B.E.D. may also eat in secrecy to avoid embarrassment and often feel like “I can’t stop eating.” It’s not easy to tell someone with binge eating disorder how to stop overeating. They aren’t having a few extra fries with dinner or having one extra scoop of ice cream on their birthday. People who suffer from B.E.D. may be eating a family-sized serving of fries, or multiple pints of ice cream in one sitting. It’s not about cutting back on portion size, as is the case with overeating, but about helping someone regain control of their mind and body.
Why Do I Overeat? Causes Of Binge Eating
If you repeatedly think, “I can’t stop eating,” during and after excessively large meals, you may suffer from binge eating disorder. But how to stop overeating is not a linear road. It may take a doctor’s guidance, therapy, and a lot of self awareness and reflection. Binge eating disorder has absolutely nothing to do with hunger. In fact, oftentimes a binge occurs when someone isn’t even hungry. It’s more of an emotional eating episode, whether to repress or avoid certain feelings. 
Signs of binge eating disorder
These are the most common signs of binge eating:
- Consuming excessively large amounts of food in one sitting
- Eating in a fast, and anxious manner
- Feeling guilt and/or shame after eating large quantities of food
- Consistently eating large amounts of food until feeling sick or unwell
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating alone to avoid embarrassment of the manner, content and speed in which eating
Common causes of binge eating
These are the some common causes of binge eating:
- Social pressure to look or eat a certain way
- Body dissatisfaction and other self-image issues
- Biological risk factors including history of mental illnesses and diseases
Side Effects Of Overeating
The immediate side effect of overeating may seem straightforward—weight gain. However, because B.E.D. affects people of all sizes, including skinny and athletic built people, it’s not always easy to spot someone that suffers from B.E.D. There are a wide range of side effects of B.E.D., varying from emotional and behavioral side effects to physical side effects.
Side effects may be short-term or long-term, and may even continue after binge eating comes to a stop. Mental health disorders such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, self-doubt, and others may begin to creep in as people continue to binge and feel less and less in control of their life. Long-term health effects may be diabetes, increased heart rate, joint pain, digestive issues, and more. Binge eating doesn’t always mean someone is overindulging in “bad” foods. Even if someone is overeating kale salads and chickpea pasta, it is still overeating. As they say, too much of a good thing can be bad. Figuring out how to stop binge eating is important for one’s health, regardless of their natural size or what foods they are bingeing on.
Side effects are, but are not limited to:
- Trying out many different restrictive diets
- Withdraws from social activities
- Extreme concern with physical appearance
- Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt
- Drastic fluctuations in weight
- Low self-esteem
- Stomach cramps, or aches and pains
- Difficulty concentrating
How To Stop Binge Eating
If you or a loved one are seriously suffering from B.E.D, it’s best to consult a doctor or healthcare professional for guided support on how to stop binge eating. Below are some tips, though they are not meant to replace a professional diagnosis or therapeutic services.
1. Avoid dieting
Binge eating is often a result of deprivation. People often feel their mind echo, “I can’t stop eating,” when really, they’ve had such a long period of restriction that they finally gave in and binged. It’s a vicious cycle. If you are constantly trying new diets or fad eating styles, and it’s leading to impulsive, excessive eating, it may be time to avoid dieting. Instead, focus on eating real, whole foods. If you do that, you won’t have to diet! Fast food, sugar, and processed foods are not real, whole foods. Fresh produce, grass-fed meats and fish, and whole grains are all examples of real, whole foods. When your brain can focus on what you should and can eat, rather than what you shouldn’t or can’t, it will create a stronger, more positive pathway between your food choices and your feelings.
2. Move your body
Studies show that exercising more leads to a heightened awareness and concern for what we consume. (7) In other words, people who work out regularly are less likely to sabotage their workout efforts with food, and therefore, tend to make healthier eating choices. Making movement a daily commitment is a great way to direct your focus toward caring for your body through a modality other than food.
3. Sleep well
Under the same theory, getting proper sleep will do more for your health than you realize. A healthy circadian rhythm is so important to our hormones, immunity, digestive system, and more. Think of when you’re fatigued during the work day. You crave salty chips, fast food, possibly dessert, and other comfort foods. When you have energy and are well-rested, you’re more likely to pack healthy options (by waking up early enough to do so!). Think of proper circadian rhythms as one more stepping stone in the foundation for your health.
4. Know the difference between hunger and dehydration
We often confuse triggers for water for triggers for food. Just like people, our bodies take some getting to know before we can communicate well. Start to pay attention to your hunger cues. Are they really for food, or are you thirsty? Even in the midst of a binge, when your mind is screaming “I can’t stop eating!” try to step back, and have a moment with yourself. Start with a large glass of water, maybe a self-care practice to calm your nervous system, and then truly assess the situation on whether you’re hungry or not. Aim for 100 oz. of water per day, or at least half of your body weight in ounces of water. Don’t look at drinking water as a way of managing your binges. If you’re still hungry after a few glasses of water, then you may be hungry after all.
5. Reduce stress
A major cause of binge eating is uncertainty, depression, anxiety, and other mental health and mood disorders. By easing the mind, you can ease the body. In this process, you will find it much easier to make rational decisions, rather than emotional decisions, such as overeating. Destressing can look different for everyone. Some people enjoy meditation, long walks, or reading, and others may turn to dancing, journaling, or prayer to reduce stress. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to relaxing, so find what works for you and make a point to do it at least once per day!
6. Get rid of triggers
How to stop overeating will look different for everyone, because everyone has different triggers. If having a box of chocolate in the house means that you’re going to avoid it at all costs until you end up eating the whole box in one sitting, GET. RID. OF. THE. BOX. It’s one thing to test ourselves, and it’s an entirely other thing to set ourselves up for failure. Do a clean sweep of the kitchen. Toss the ice cream, pour out the artificially sweetened juices, even the celery sticks if you have found yourself binging on them covered in peanut butter! Out of sight, out of mind can be your best support system.
7. Include helpful supplements
Because binge eaters will often binge on anything, it’s not so helpful to replace unhealthy treats with healthy treats. Overeating is overeating, regardless of the nutritive value of what’s being eaten. When first embarking on the road to recovery from B.E.D. it may be helpful to incorporate a natural appetite suppressant, like Snack Attack. The benefits of including an anti-snacking suppressant into your daily routine are decreased feelings of hunger, less mindless snacking, and overall prolonged satisfaction after meals. This isn’t meant to replace guidance on how to stop binge eating, but it will help your brain understand that enough is enough with proper meal sizes.
8. Know your triggers
If going to your mom’s house or talking to a certain ex causes you to spiral, put you and your health first and do what you can to cut that time to a minimum. Maybe you have a family dinner every Sunday that your mom attends, or your ex happens to still be in your life in one way or another. Notice that this section is called know your triggers, not avoid your triggers. How to stop overeating may be heavily dependent on the company you keep. If you know you’re going to get overwhelmed or upset around certain people or environments, step into the situation with that knowledge. Tell yourself that you are strong, and capable of coming away from the situation just as grounded as you were beforehand. Positive self-talk, some extra self-care and healthy movement can all play a positive role in not getting triggered, so long as you can pinpoint what your triggers are.
9. Do not endure it alone
B.E.D, along with most eating disorders, is not always easy to talk about. But guess what? Not talking about them only furthers our feelings of shame, guilt, and disappointment in ourselves. One of the most important factors in healing is shedding. Shedding beliefs, bad habits, and negativity. Whether it’s a healthcare professional or a trusted friend or family member, find someone that you feel comfortable sharing your journey with. This will not only help you come to accept your disorder, but will also give you a point of contact for any bumps along the road, and someone to hold you accountable for your process.
The Bottom Line
Binge eating disorder is not something to overlook. It’s a serious disorder that can lead to severe mental and physical health conditions. If you or someone you love suffers from B.E.D. do not be ashamed to reach out for help. If conquering binge eating on your own is not possible, receiving professional help may be necessary to healing and navigating how to stop binge eating. Throughout the process, remind yourself of your worth, that you are loved, and how strong you really are. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people, and take moments throughout the day to reflect and be grateful for your life—highs and lows included. The journey to better is not always easy, but it is worth it.