How I Stop a Binge


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  336 comments   :  316,504 Views

By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

Binge eating has always been one of my biggest obstacles to overcome in losing weight. For me, once a binge is triggered and I take that first bite, Iím farther from stopping a binge than before I took the first bite. That first bite puts me into a frenzy and I forget all of my good intentions, aiming instead for a blissful food coma. That feeling of everything being better, calm, okay, safe and warm washes over me and I forget the guilt that will ensue for a few minutes. Tomorrow is another day, I reason. I can do better then. Deep down though, I know tomorrow will be full of regret, feelings of failure and doubt that I can ever pull off this weight loss/ fitness goal of mine.

With the help of SparkPeople and therapy, I have learned to have more control over my binge eating. I have lost 144 pounds to date and it hasnít been binge free. Iíve had my setbacks and struggles too. Iíve controlled my binges by using various techniques in this article and by using Spark Streaks. Streaks are consecutive days of doing something. I would like to share some of the things Iíve learned and gathered from SparkPeople and various forms of therapy with you.

How do you prevent a binge? How do you stop one once it starts? Those answers are very individualized, as not one answer will work for everyone. If you have tried different things in the past and given up, donít throw in the towel yet. There are many more things to try.

I went to Over Eaters Anonymous, which offered the advice to ďAvoid that first compulsive bite.Ē When I asked how I would know what bite was compulsive, I was told that it was the one I knew would send me into that frenzy that I was telling you about. Prevent the first compulsive bite and you prevent the binge.

Another technique I learned was called HALT. It reminds you to ask yourself if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired before reaching for food as a comforting tool. These emotions are strong binge triggers, so eating for the sake of eating while feeling them is not a good idea. Figure out what you are really feeling and distract yourself for a little while to address the problem mentally. Once you know why you want to eat and what the root cause is, do something about it or decide to not. Make it your choice, your decision; put things in your hands again. You are now in control.

With emotions and eating as well as anxiety, there is a pattern I learned from my therapist. First you start with an event that causes an emotion. That emotion can be dealt with, stuffed down or raised to panic or anxiety. As binge eaters, we tend to stuff it down with food. Then the binge upsets us and we feel guilt and shame. Those new emotions become a new event. That causes new eating behavior to cover the emotional overload and then we eat more. Once again the shame kicks in and we begin a spiral downward into a binge that leaves us feeling full of shame and remorse by the end. Compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder are finally being recognized as official eating disorders that can be treated just like anorexia and bulimia. Donít be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you need it. These eating disorders are just as serious and as unhealthy as their thinner counterparts. The difference is that there is a stigma attached to them because society as a whole is still unwilling to see people of size as being little more than out of control of their eating or lazy. This stigma keeps people in the dark about the gravity of their compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder. If your doctor is not familiar with these terms, and you know you need help, ask to be referred to a therapist who deals specifically with eating disorders besides anorexia and bulimia. Mention the terms ďcompulsive overeatingĒ and ďbinge eating disorder.Ē

How do you fight it?

I use my mantras to keep me strong. They really help me. My binge busters are:

"One slice of pizza is always going to have less calories than two."

"If you're going to think 'I may as well', then you should think 'I may as well not'."

"If you got a traffic ticket, would you break every traffic law the rest of the day? Then why toss the whole day over a slice of pizza?"

Keep a list of binge busters so that you can try them the minute you feel a binge coming. My favorite binge buster is a warm bubble bath, a magazine to read, and an aromatherapy candle combination. Other times Iíve been worried over finances, so I go plan out my monthly budget on It may not yield good news always, but it helps me do something about the actual problem at hand, rather than eat.

Using distractions to figure out the root of your feelings or to give yourself time to get into a better mood can help. Sometimes Iíll go play a game on the computer and drink a huge glass of ice water. Other times I may go work out to loud music on my arm bike and drink a huge glass of ice water. The water helps in that sometimes we think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty. Both hunger and thirst are controlled by the same part of the brain and the signals can get confused at times. It really doesnít matter how you distract yourself, just keep yourself from eating and your mind on something besides food.

Be more self aware and live in the moment. Iíve discovered that in my perfectionism, I can undo things ahead of time. If itís Monday and I have an event Friday that Iím not sure how to handle, a typical thought that would cross my mind, is to binge because Iím just going to blow it Friday. So then I blow a whole week, banking that I will screw up my eating plan on Friday. Instead I should live in the moment and concentrate on what I am doing today. Living in the day and being more self aware can also prevent mindless eating, which can turn into a binge.

Staying full of healthy foods helps me to avoid being so hungry that I lose control of myself as often. My binges are now maybe once or twice a month compared to a few times a week or even daily prior to SparkPeople. I stay full of good foods that promote fullness and serotonin release such as milk, whole grain pasta, reduced fat cheddar cheese, fruit, nuts and eggs. I find that mixing protein and fiber rich foods are both filling and energizing. Keeping my mini mealtimes regular, around every 3-4 hours keeps me satisfied and in control.

I also use other physical soothers. I personally believe that eating is physically soothing, so it takes something physically soothing to replace it. Nice long bubble baths work for me, as does curling up in bed under the blankets with a good movie. What ever you choose needs to elicit the same emotion you are looking to get from overeating, or at least come close. Try different things and see what you come up with for yourself. Not everyone will find the same things soothing or appealing. It may seem that nothing is soothing in the same way, but keep looking and trying new things, no matter how out of the ordinary they may seem. The key is to find several things to turn to when your binge mood hits so that if one thing doesnít work, another will.

My house is a ďclean zone.Ē In other words, binge food isnít allowed in anymore. I have to leave the house to go get it. I purposely make it difficult for myself to get binge food. That way it canít be a mild decision on my part at night, when my binges usually hit. I would have to leave the house and go on an actual binge food run, and usually that is more trouble than the binge is worth to me. I end up eating healthier fare from around the house, and yes, sometimes too much of it. It still beats the damage I could do if given over to my chosen favorites of fast foods and grocery items. Shopping every few days or once a week instead of stocking up also helps keep the damage to a minimum.

Stock your house with foods that are healthy so that when you do binge, you reach for pre cut vegetables, lean protein, fiber rich items, fruits, salads. Some Sparkers suggested that olive oil on salad and pepperonis with veggies were their go to snacks.

How do I stop if I start binge eating?

It definitely gets tougher once you start to stop. At this point, you have to take more desperate measures. If I can gather any reserve at all, I throw the food in the garbage. I donít throw it on the top either, I make sure it is crushed and inedible. If I canít throw the food away, I have asked my husband to either eat something or throw it away for me. I am lucky he is supportive enough to help me with such things. Donít let that voice tell you that you are wasting food. Itís a trick. You either waste it in the trash or on your body, where you have to work it off in health problems and exercise and dieting later. So either way, it is a waste. When in doubt, toss it out!

Change what you are doing after you remove the food from your immediate area. Go see a friend, call someone, log on to SparkPeople and talk it out, go to the gym, put on music and dance it out, just donít do whatever it was that you were doing when the binge was triggered. In fact, if you couldnít muster the strength the remove the food from your vicinity, removing yourself from its vicinity is a good option.

Changing what you are eating mid binge may help. For instance, if you started by eating cookies, maybe you can muster the strength to add an apple and nut butter in between cookies. That leaves less room for more cookies. It also changes the taste in your mouth, so it switches things up and takes you out of the frenzy mode a bit. The combination of fiber and protein will also help satisfy true hunger, so that will be one less thing to combat.

Keep thinking while you are eating. Even though you caved in, that doesnít mean the fight is over. You can still stop. One slice of pizza is always going to have less calories than two. Keep trying to figure out why you are eating and what might resolve the problem or provide the same emotional comfort. If you do manage to figure it out, write it down and keep it with your list of binge busters. Donít forget to immediately act on it.

The moral of the story is PLAN. Binge eating is a sudden urge and itís a strong one. You need a strong plan to fight it. Donít wait until youíre about to dive into a plate of goodies before you have your plan in place. Once a binge is started, it is ten times harder to stop, so avoid the triggers, avoid the first compulsive bite, and avoid the binge.

Here are some groups here on SparkPeople that may help.

Living Binge Free

Compulsive Overeaters

Sugar & Food Addiction

Eating Disorder Support

What helps you stop a binge?

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  • 286
    You have given some very good ideas. Thanks. - 3/5/2013   7:33:10 PM
  • JULIA1154
    This is such a great blog - I'm glad to see it again. - 2/26/2013   6:27:39 PM
  • 284
    Stop the first bite, stop the binge. My new mantra. Thanks!!! - 2/24/2013   10:36:52 AM
  • 283
    thank you beth for this blog.. Im a binge eater. I can go on a binge 5-6 days stright.
    then go 10 days and do great....i took notes.....thank you - 2/24/2013   8:39:34 AM
  • 282
    You gave me some great tools to side step the binge hole that we struggle with. I like you need to not start the binge. Thank you for sharing. - 2/19/2013   12:53:17 PM
    Great blog!!!! Good tips!!!!! keep up the super work...You are an inspiration. With your insight... - 2/18/2013   3:10:41 PM
    Hey IndyGirl,
    Thanks for the fab tips. I have also been to Overeaters Anonymous and think perhaps I need to bring out those old books and remind myself of HALT and one is too many and a thousand is not enough etc etc. All very true. I think one does know when a bite is going to be a compulsive one and lead to a binge. I have cleared a lot of stuff out of the cupboards which is hard as you feel like you are denying the rest of the family but they too benefit from a healthier larder. I have started a blog to help me get some of my feelings on the the subject out of my head , it's
    - 6/27/2012   12:09:35 PM
  • 279
    Absolutely awesome. It made my heart sing because I have been feeling so alone in working so hard against binges. It feels good to know that there is someone else out there making every day count for something good. I especially liked the comment about throwing out food. I have done the same thing, and I always feel so good being able to stop the binge and throw the food out. It is as if I have conquered an evil monster and put it in its place. Now to just to ensure that the monster doesn't even get a moment's notice.
    Thank you for sharing your life with us. - 4/1/2012   8:31:23 AM
  • 278
    This was saved to my favorites a long time ago . . . for obvious reasons!!! After quite a bit of holiday binging, thanks for helping me the second time over. Congratulatons, too, on your great success and example! - 1/21/2012   3:40:21 PM
  • 277
    Thank you so much for all of your suggestions! You have conquered so much, and are an inspiration for me as I struggle to achieve the goals I have set. I can't wait to put some of your hints into practice! Thanks again, and keep up the great work!!! - 1/4/2012   1:22:07 PM
  • 276
    I brush my teeth. That gets the taste out of my mouth and stops the binge. If I can't brush my teeth, I chew sugarless gum. - 1/2/2012   12:57:11 PM
  • 275
    Wow! Lots of great information! Thank you! - 12/17/2011   7:36:52 AM
  • 274
    What a great support blog! Thanks for making me feel human again and refocusing my sights on the BIG picture! - 12/15/2011   2:48:50 PM
  • 273
    I distract myself by coming to SP and reading great articles like this one! - 12/15/2011   1:09:23 PM
    WOW what a great post. glad i'm on board with Sparks. - 12/15/2011   11:35:11 AM
  • 271
    This is the best article I've ever read on the topic, packed full of insight, compassion and helpful strategy. I especially loved the "Wait, there's more! Don't give up!" attitude.

    And thanks, Sparkers who commented. The idea of a trigger food special cabinet for those who share a household with those who enjoy our "crack" foods is great. My husband is a total sweetie and he takes his cookies, chips and sweets down to his basement den. I've never been desparate enough to travel down there and rummage through the chaos. - 12/14/2011   2:56:55 PM
  • 270
    You just wrote my story. It all makes more sense reading it in black and white. Thanks for sharing! - 12/14/2011   12:53:25 PM
  • 269
    Thank you for many helpful suggestions. The "brush your teeth" one was a great way to put the period at the end of the sentence if bingeing does happen. Really appreciated the support. - 10/5/2011   3:42:06 PM
  • 268
    Thank for for this blog. It helps to know there are so many others who are wrestling with binge eating. I appreciate knowing that, when you feel so out of control and helpless, there are still very specific and practical things you can do to cope with this disorder. I'm one of those people who doesn't like to waste anything, and it really helped to read that putting extra food into my body is "wasting" it, just as much as dumping the excess in the trash. My body is not a trash can! What a vivid reminder! - 9/12/2011   10:35:17 AM
    Desperation brought me to SP today and then I found your blog.... Amazing. I wrote a few things that struck me in my daily planner so I can glance at it. I cant believe so many others are out there like me. We are all good people. Fighting the fight. I hope people will continue to blog with each other about this topic.
    What a great find SP. I can just begin to be aware and to think before I act and to use HALT. What a great tool. Now meeting people here I hope to fill the empty hole that I keep filling with food.....God Bless.. - 8/21/2011   1:14:44 PM
  • HS1056
    This is definitely something I need to conquer as well. Your blog is full of many great tips and info. I will be using many of them. Thank you so much, Beth! - 8/20/2011   7:31:49 PM
    Your article is wonderful and so hits home. Thank you for sharing your story and your insights. My whole life I have been a secret binger and it is comforting to realize that I am not alone. - 8/12/2011   8:52:46 PM
    Great article! - 8/11/2011   8:22:40 AM
  • 263
    This is a very well written article!!! I learned a lot from it. - 8/10/2011   6:50:53 PM
  • 262
    I appreciate the additional help. It's better not to have the first bite, but I have figured out a way to stop the binge. Because sweets are my trigger, I tell myself out loud I can have more but I have to put vinegar on it. Who wants a vinegar soaked brownie? It is my way of making me think about why I'm eating. - 8/2/2011   8:03:04 AM
    I'm going to use the HALT method the next time I feel like eating something that will surely push me over the edge.
    Thanks for this great blog! - 7/26/2011   7:20:23 AM
  • 260
    Thank you. - 7/24/2011   2:02:55 AM
    It was good reading your article and I appreciate the tools that you have in place and have shared for handling binges. I have had issues with binge eating too. And sweets are it for me as well. But I am trying to conquer my demons on this. On July 4th, I gave myself permission to have a homemade brownie and homemade chocolate ice cream. Normally, after eating something like this, it would set me off into a binge that would just continue on....but this time something was different....after eating this...the next day I went to the gym and went right back to my healthy eating plan and was alright...I even lost 4 pounds during that week....I am proud of maybe there is hope.... - 7/23/2011   1:38:30 PM
  • DEBBIE19580
    i totally agree. i have to avoidthe first compulsive bite. awesome blog beth. - 7/23/2011   12:21:40 PM
  • 257
    So timely for me to see this blog. - 7/12/2011   6:34:07 PM
    I started cutting back on salad dressings full of fat and calories, by using 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. I didn't care for the greasy taste of the olive oil,so now I use only lemon juice. It gives a salad a nice tangy flavor and minimal calories and no fat! I eat a healthy breakfast. Then around 10:30 or 11:00 I make a plate of fruit and veggies to sit on the counter and pick at them through the day. I usually add some cheese or peanut butter too. Then I eat a healthy supper and have an ice cream cone(a bowl is too easy to overfill) in the evening. This seems to work for me, because I have something to eat whenever I am hungry or feel like I need a snack. I drink 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day. I tried eating 3-4 meals/day, but wanted to snack in between and kept going over in calories. That plate of fruit and veggies...sometimes I even add crackers... seems to keep me satisfied. - 7/6/2011   8:42:51 AM
  • 255
    Great Blog, and very helpful information. Let me share two of my mantras with you: "I'm stronger than the food," and "I'm not that person anymore". I think your comments about planning are what I needed most. I need to *plan* for those "HALT" moments (or days, or weeks). I do the ice water or tea thing a lot, and I really have discovered that sometimes it's really Thirst! - 7/4/2011   11:46:52 AM
  • 254
    Binge eating has been a big problem for me my whole adult life. I'm starting to figure out how to deal with it, but it's been sooooo hard. Here are some things that I've learned.
    I'm learning to have a long list of replacements, things to do instead of impulse eating. Some of the items on it are just for pleasure, because that's what food is to me: the bubble bath, scented candles, looking at pictures of grandchildren, call a friend, write emails, write in a journal, give myself a manicure, work in the garden, do a puzzle. Some are stress reducers, because I eat when I'm stressed: relaxation exercises, go for a walk, workout, do my hair, listen to music, prayer, meditation. Some are jobs that need to be done, because I eat when I feel out of control and accomplishing something that needs to be done makes me feel more in control: do a little house work, pay some bills, work on a project (I'm learning Italian!), rearrange some furniture, clean out a closet or a cabinet, run some errands. I find if I have a long list of many options, one of them is going to address whatever is making me want to binge. I make myself read that list before that crucial first bite.
    Then there are some things that I must absolutely forbid for myself. Eating between meals with a book is a killer for me. Sometimes I know that just starting to read (which I love more than anything) will be a big mistake and I have to choose to do something else. The list of things, for me, must be things that it is impossible to do and eat at the same time. It's just impossible to crochet and eat at once, therefore crocheting is an excellent choice. I love to do it and I can't eat at the same time.
    Hope this helps someone else! - 6/27/2011   8:39:30 AM
    In every diet it recommended that you keep a journal of what you eat everyday but it doesn't give the wonderful suggestions you made about stopping binges. Thank you for a very enlightening blog. Now I know how to proceed with this journey as binge eating is a problem for me right now. - 6/19/2011   4:51:24 PM
  • 252
    For those who can't clean out their entire house of binge foods because of other family members who do eat those foods, try this: I have one cabinet in the kitchen that is designated for foods I don't eat. Everything that is a no-no for me goes in that cabinet. And I do not open that cabinet. I tend to be a "see food and eat it" type person, so if I do not open the cabinet, I do not see any binge foods. It's not a perfect solution in that it does require some force of will to implement, but it sure beats coming across a package of cookies when my will power is low. Hope this helps. - 6/15/2011   1:22:40 PM
    If I had a dollar for every binge I've had I could afford something really nice. I've learned over the years to use the HALT technique and most of the time that works. But there are those times when it is like a shark feeding frenzy and once I get that first bite of that trigger food I almost feel powerless to stop. I have found that flossing and brushing my teeth will stop a binge before it starts. Just leaving the kitchen and going to another room and getting busy in that room will help as well because I will forget about the food.

    Thanks for a great blog. I'm emailing it to my sister because I know she has issues with binging too. - 6/15/2011   12:44:40 PM
  • LENI11
    Is there a way to format these blogs to print them so I can put this on my fridge? - 6/14/2011   12:52:03 PM
  • 249
    That's a great strategy. I'm going to try HALT next time I have an urge to continue eating after I just had a meal. - 6/14/2011   12:43:47 AM
  • 248
    Being in the midst of a week long binge, this information is apropos. Thanks for the very useful tips and mantras. - 6/13/2011   4:37:00 PM
  • KIRSTEN46038
    I'm on Day 4 of a emotional eating binge that was triggered by something unintentionally thoughtless that Husband 2.0 said. This post hit me right between the eyes. You have unlocked the "rockstar of awesomeness" badge. Thanks! - Kirsten (@RNTgirl, - 6/13/2011   2:47:40 PM
  • 246
    I loved this article. It was so helpful and I appreciate your honesty. Whenever I throw out food, I spray cleaning supplies (windex, 409, etc) on it so that I can't dig my hand in the garbage and still eat it. - 6/13/2011   10:24:27 AM
  • DIGIOV82
    This was GREAT information... thanks! - 6/13/2011   9:28:14 AM
    Good info. Thanks. - 6/11/2011   4:46:47 PM
  • 243
    I still need to clean my zone up. It is pretty good. BUT I still buy stuff for the kids, or some quick fixes when I know they are not the best. NO ONE NEEDS mini corn dogs. I will get it. baby steps. - 6/11/2011   12:53:49 PM
    As I read your first paragraph, I thought, "Gosh, she's writing about ME!" And I was thinking I was trapped in some perverse, self-destructive repetitive trap that NO ONE else on earth had ever done! THANKS for the tips!
    And thanks all who have commented... much to learn here! - 6/11/2011   11:08:24 AM
  • 241
    Great blog. Not only was your blog full of useful information, it also had ways for us to put it into practice. Thank you, thank you, thank you. - 6/11/2011   9:05:26 AM
    I love when I get pratical advise. You gave me a lot of it this blog. I like the HALT and I plan on using it. Also the one piece has less calories than two.

    Thanks - 6/10/2011   11:56:40 PM
  • 239
    This was amazing. Thank you so much! - 6/10/2011   10:50:36 PM
  • 238
    OMG, Thank U sooooo much for these tips!! Just like HMMILLER007 i struggle on the weekends and sometimes once in the week. I will be using these tips. I really appreciate this! - 6/10/2011   7:42:05 PM
  • 237
    You have provided one of the best reports on binge eating with strategies to combat it. Thank you for taking the time to share this. - 6/10/2011   4:20:11 PM

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