Nutrition Articles

10 Ways to Stop Binge Eating in Its Tracks

How to Prevent a Binge and Regain Control

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If you're reading this article, chances are that you've experienced binge eating and may be wondering things like:
 
  • Is it ever OK to binge? Is the occasional binge normal?
  • Is it better to eat "right" Monday through Friday and then to throw caution to the wind on the weekends or plan for one cheat day per week?
  • Will I ever find a happy balance between eating the foods I crave and maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
  • I’ve heard of "intuitive eating," but what exactly does that mean and how do I apply it to my daily eating habits?
 
Let's explore some of these thoughts a little further.
 
Instead of defining "normal" eating here, this article will focus on how to prevent binges and get back on track after them. To read more about whether your eating habits are "normal" check out this three-part series on the topic by SparkPeople's behavioral psychology expert, Coach Dean.
 
What is binge eating?
Bingeing is an uncontrolled ingestion of large quantities of food within a short time period, often accompanied by feeling out of control over the eating taking place. 
 
We have all overeaten at one time or another, most notably around the holidays or on a special occasion. I think we have all gone back for seconds (or thirds) on Thanksgiving, or had an extra slice or two of cake at a birthday party. So when does the occasional overindulgence cross the line into the realm of real binge eating?
 
That isn't always easy to define. But if your days and weeks are becoming more filled with sessions of overeating and guilt; if thoughts of "bad" food and "good" food are constantly on your mind; and the lines between enjoying a small piece of cake on occasion and eating the whole pie are becoming more obscure, it might be time to step back take notice.
 
 
Keeping Binges at Bay
I’ve had many conversations with co-workers and friends about their post-weekend-binge guilt. Most often they say something like, "I was good all week! No sweets, no candy or cookies, and I even passed on mom’s mac & cheese at dinner the other night! But I just couldn’t help myself on Saturday when I opened the pint of ice cream to just take a bite and before I knew it, the whole carton was gone. Now I feel so guilty. I have to be extra good this week and go to the gym every day to work it off."
 
My response usually seems to surprise people: "Instead of eating the whole carton of ice cream on Saturday night, why not enjoy a small serving a few times throughout the week?" A half a cup of ice cream will likely set you back around 150 calories—maybe 200 for a really rich variety. But the whole carton will do much more damage than that! Not to mention the havoc all that sugar intake in one sitting will have on your blood sugar levels! Small amounts of sweets or high starchy foods over time are more likely to keep those cravings at bay and help prevent the cycle of binge eating and guilt.
 
For those of us who struggle with occasional binges that are more annoying and guilt-providing than obsessions or compulsions, there are a few tricks you can implement to keep yourself on track and avoid bingeing.
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About The Author

Lauri Watson Lauri Watson
is a Registered Dietitian with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She eats her way through life's tasty treats and documents her culinary journeys at RedHeadRecipes.com, which provides recipes and ideas for a balanced lifestyle.

Member Comments

  • If you have a true binge eating disorder, chances are there is a genetic component involved as well. My father was bulimic. - 7/15/2014 10:16:45 AM
  • While this article is great for the occasional over-eater and has some great tips, it does not address true binge eating disorder which is a serious mental illness/eating disorder. I have had problems with binge eating for the last 10 years and it is an extremely painful and physically debilitating condition. It will destroy your body and make you sick. It can have permanent consequences on your health. My liver is damaged because of it. While my condition has improved somewhat, I didn't do it through diet or exercise. I did it through the painful journey of learning what the source of my bingeing is. You can only address the symptoms (bingeing) after you understand the root cause. Treating the symptoms before you get to the root of the problem won't cure you. - 7/15/2014 10:05:33 AM
  • I suffered from binge eating for many years and thank goodness for a friend from Europe who showed me how to address the emotional side of binge eating with a very special diet. It worked after the birth of my daughter.

    Copy and paste the link below and you will be freed from binge eating

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    ess.com - 7/14/2014 6:14:18 PM
  • I used to binge and then beat myself up and start again next week. I am working on that and I think that while simple, this is spot on. Nothing is forbidden, so when I have a cupcake or a glass of wine, I try to keep it at that. Somedays are better than others, but these small steps are helpful to me. - 6/21/2014 2:52:30 PM
  • One helpful strategy for me is one I learned while quitting smoking. It was suggested that when you felt the craving, you just start counting; because the craving will go away in a few seconds. I started out needing to count into the hundreds, but gradually the craving would go away in a count of under 30. After a while, just the thought of stopping to count was so annoying that it drove the craving away immediately. This article made me aware that I use my counting strategy to avoid giving in to food cravings most of the time...but I have to realize it is just a "craving" and not a NEED!!! (This is a funny insight for me.) Thanks! - 6/21/2014 9:45:45 AM
  • Very helpful article. I've been on SP for over a year, then was having a bad week, and went on a binge. After reading the article, I can see a relationship between restricting my calories then bingeing. Just by being aware that that can happen makes me feel hopeful that I will find a way.
    8-) - 3/2/2014 1:22:54 AM
  • This article is really help full for me .. great tips and just in the right time to come back from my prolonged honeymoon ( three weeks in before and after my exam). - 11/20/2013 12:38:42 PM
  • MRSPRINCESS2007
    To the author of this Article- Thank you!

    I had to leave SP a few yrs back because this site helped to facilitate my EDs. Not to say that SP was responsible, I own that. It just made it all too easy to fall deeper into those issues. Everywhere I turned members were encouraged or encouraging others to eat less, exercise more, adhere to a "Good vs Bad" list, repent using the food and fitness logs as your way to "prove" you were being a good person, a good "fatty" as some were called on forums, or to prove to others you were taking this lifestyle change seriously. In fact, I grew to hate the term "lifestyle change" because all too many people blurred the line of it's definition and diet.

    Since rejoining in the past few days I have been nothing but encouraged with the changes I have seen. I have stayed away from teams and forums purposely but am loving the tone of the articles. I love seeing how proactive SP is with helping others help themselves with regards to disordered eating and ideals. It's nice to see that the powers that be here have taken notice of all of the iffy behaviors and diets that have been bantered around. I hope SP keeps up the great work. I went from being a Motivational Member to dropping out of the site so upset by what I was seeing. Now I feel as if though SP is trying to head in a different direction and I can fully support that now! - 10/3/2013 4:22:09 PM
  • Sorry, but if I could eat just one small serving of ice cream, then I would do that instead of binging!!! I think whoever wrote this article doesn't actually understand binge eating or food cravings. I am so angry right now I just don't know what to say. I want to swear, but I can't. :(

    Small amounts of starchy, sugary foods in moderation DO NOT keep my cravings at bay - they CAUSE my cravings!!!!!! I know what normal portion sizes are. I know it's better to have a few small amounts then binge on huge amounts. That doesn't mean I'm able to do it! If you can recognize that some recovered alcoholics can never touch a drink again, then why can't you recognize that some sugarholics (for lack of a better term) can never touch sugary, starchy junk foods again!?? Aarrrgh. - 7/6/2013 3:03:57 PM
  • I like the idea of setting a timer when you eat. Sometimes it is a problem when you just get into the habit of eating too fast or not paying attention to what it is that you are eating at all. Then when the meal is over you are still hungry. This article helped me realize that I don't have to give into binges or deprive myself of foods that I enjoy. It's all about finding that healthy balance. - 7/6/2013 1:08:29 PM
  • Great article. I am glad I read this today because I am going out for my birthday and I know now when I go out what's going to be on my plate. Because I was surely going out on a big binge. But tomorrow will be a different thing. Back on track. - 7/6/2013 11:00:00 AM
  • BINGEEATINGMUM
    I have suffered from Binge Eating Disorder for the last 35 years give or take. I am gradually finding ways to cope with it but I don't think I can ever be cured, it's a part of me. I have set up www.bingeeatingce
    lebrities.com as there are many celebrities who too suffer from this horrible disorder. With all their money and access to expensive therapists you would think they could beat it but this is not the case. - 7/1/2013 12:31:59 PM
  • I couldn't get past the example of the ice cream. if I can control myself enough to have a proper sized serving guess what folks, I'd be thin!
    Maybe (and I hope so) this article gets better but it left me a little hot under the collar. Do you really think I am not smart enough to TRY to limit my portions? what an awesome concept! Oh, BTW what I usually do with my ice cream is buy a cone out side the house so I don't have extra but when I do bring it in I never buy the pint containers because in my mind it is a serving but when I buy an half gallon I can eat 2 spoonful's in a very small bowl of my own and I am satisfied. I know that is my own quirkiness but it works for me. - 5/28/2013 9:42:23 AM
  • Thanks for sharing this info. Now I at least know I'm not a "binge" because I just want a little nosh not to consume large amounts of food. So that makes me a "Binosh" I guess.
    My attacks come on usually in the evening so I'm working on moving past that.
    Night time eating is a big problem for me so I need to push myself away from the pantry!!
    Thanks again for sharing.
    ginny - 4/20/2013 11:34:49 AM
  • These suggestions are good when you take them at face value but we all have different issues and for some of us-we simply can't eat just a little of the wrong foods. For example, I bought a box of cookies that were individually wrapped. I thought- great, they are already portion controlled I can have just one pack. Next thing I know, I ate another pack, then another until 15 minutes later I had eaten the entire box. I felt so bad because I knew I didn't need to eat them and worse-they were supposed to be my son's snack but I literally couldn't stop myself. The only way I avoid binge eating is to NOT start eating processed sweets. I can't bring them in the house and if I buy something I only buy one. If I see it I will eat it and eat all of it. I have realized that the cleaner I eat and the longer I go without eating processed sweets I have less desire to binge but the MINUTE I buy a piece of candy-I have to fight with my mind not to buy everything sweet. It literally turns something on in my mind that makes me turn into the cookie monster. - 4/19/2013 10:28:49 AM

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