Controlling Binge Eating


Emotions are common triggers for eating binges. Feelings of depression or guilt are common immediately following a binge. If done often enough, binge eating can lead to weight gain.

Prevent Binge Eating

  • As soon as the urge to binge strikes, STOP. Ask yourself, "What am I feeling right now?" Then take steps to deal with the feeling underlying the urge to binge. (Visit Controlling Mood Eating).
  • Learn from past binges. Once you have regained control of your eating, analyze what triggered your binge.
    • What was I doing when I first noticed the urge to eat? Where was I? With whom? What was I feeling?
    • What can I do differently the next time I am in this situation (or with this person, or feel this feeling) so I don't overeat or binge?

Reduce the Damage

The urge to eat strikes and you decide to indulge it. Try putting yourself in the driver's seat. Make it your goal to minimize the amount of food you eat and prevent any overeating from becoming a full fledged binge.

  • Develop a list of non-food activities that you enjoy doing. Note which ones help to:
    • calm or soothe
    • release anger, or tension
    • give you joy
  • When the urge to eat strikes, determine what you are feeling and do an activity on your list that helps you deal with that feeling. You may find you do not need to eat.
  • If you decide to eat, eat one serving of the food you want at that moment. Eat it as slowly as you can. You may find that one serving satisfies your urge.
  • Make it easier to stop eating. Take one serving. Put the rest of the food away. Eat seated at a table. When you are done, make a conscious decision whether you want a second serving or not. If yes, repeat this process. This may help you:
    • control the amount of food you eat
    • feel that you are still in control of your eating

Regain Control Following a Binge

  • Take a few deep breaths to calm and center yourself. (Also see instructions for deep breathing).
  • Become aware of what you are feeling and thinking.
    • Do you feel: Guilty? Sad? Embarrassed? Ashamed? Angry with yourself?
    • What are you saying to yourself: (e.g. I'm awful and terrible for having eaten so much! I'm just a hopeless case.)
  • Remind yourself that:
    • you are not the only person in the world to have an eating binge — many other people have experienced the exact same behavior and feelings.
    • continuing to eat will only make you feel worse than you already do.
  • Forgive yourself. Remember, no one is perfect all of the time.
    • What would you say to a good friend who felt the way you do now? (You'd probably offer words of comfort.)
    • What would you do to a friend who hurt you but was sorry for it afterwards? (You'd probably forgive them.) Be the same friend to yourself.
  • Remind yourself of your reasons for wanting to lose or manage your weight. Decide if you want to continue eating or take some steps to regain control.
  • Take steps to regain control of your eating. Get back on track. Have your next regularly scheduled meal — even if you eat less than usual.
  • Once you've regained control of your eating, appreciate your accomplishment. Regaining control takes strength and courage.

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