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How to Recover from Habitual Binge Eating
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This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.
There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has garnered more attention recently, with its inclusion of the DSM-5. BED is often associated with obesity but can also affect people of normal weights, or those who are overweight but do not meet the threshold of obesity. Frequent episodes of binge eating may be detrimental to physical health and may cause significant emotional distress. Many successfully manage BED, with treatment.
1Get rid of unhealthy food around the house. Do not stock your pantry with junk and ready-to-eat foods. These foods are usually unbalanced and very high in calories, carbohydrates and sugars. Make a conscious effort fill your kitchen with healthy eating options.
- Prepare your own food and eat fresh. If you have to prepare your food, it will require a conscious decision to make a meal instead of just grabbing a bag of cookies or pint of ice cream and eating without thinking.
- Be sure to throw out junk foods from secret stashes.
2Stay active and avoid boredom. Binge eating is sometimes used to fill the vacuum in your time, even if you are not hungry. When you find yourself idle, get out of the house, walk your dog, take a stroll to the nearby park, or go biking around the neighborhood. Boredom can breed unhealthy cravings for food.
- Regular exercise will also improve resilience and help you more effectively manage stress.
3Eat a healthy diet. Avoid skipping meals and choose foods that have lots of nutritional value. Eat a healthy breakfast and follow it with a balanced lunch and dinner. Top it off with a nutritious snack. Eating right throughout the day can control unhealthy cravings for food.
- Keep a food journal to help you identify when you are eating for emotional reasons and make healthy food choices.
4Keep a food diary. Keeping track of what you eat and behaviors that accompany eating will help you become more mindful of your eating habits. This will further help you to make healthy changes to your eating behavior.
- In addition to tracking what and how much you eat, also include information about your mood, whether you eat alone or with others, what other activities you engage in while you eat, time and location. This will give you insight into complex eating behaviors.
- Create a grid with column labels to make sure you include as much behavioral information as possible.
5Practice deep breathing to relax and manage stress. A large percentage of people who suffer from eating disorders also suffer from anxiety disorders. This suggest anxiety may be a major contributing factor to disordered eating.. You may find stress is a trigger for your binging behavior. Effective stress management will help to reduce the incidence of stress induced binges.
- Try joining a local yoga class. Most yoga classes incorporate mindfulness and a variety of breathing techniques.
6Get quality sleep. Sleep disturbances may be related to eating disorders, particularly those involving binge behavior. Some chemicals that affect appetite also play a significant role in regulating sleep. Developing a regular sleep pattern may help to regulate hormones and other chemicals that affect appetite.
- Create sleep rituals to condition yourself to develop a healthy sleep pattern. Set a bedtime and prepare for bed the same way every night. Over time, this may help you to feel sleepy when you begin your bedtime routine.
- Avoid daytime napping. Napping will likely make falling asleep at night more difficult. If you feel tired during the day, try to push through your sleepiness until a reasonable bedtime.
2Treating the Disorder
1Seek out psychotherapy. For many, psychotherapy is the most effective means to treat BED. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which addresses thought processes that trigger binge eating episodes. Self-awareness is the ultimate goal of this type of therapy, helping people with BED identify their triggers and devise strategies for how to steer clear of triggers or what to do when they encounter them. CBT also often includes psychoeducation about healthy habits.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy may help sufferers of BED to communicate better with friends, associates, and family. This can help people with BED establish healthy relationships to ensure needed emotional support and treat any underlying social issues.
2Join a support group for people with BED. This may help you to learn to manage urges and feel less isolated. Support groups allow people to connect with others with similar problems, providing education and emotional support.
- Overeaters Anonymous has groups in many cities across the U.S.
3Consider supplementing psychotherapy and behavioral interventions with appropriate medication. Topamax and various antidepressant drugs can help control BED episodes; however, these drugs are should be used in conjunction with therapy and participation in support groups. Discuss the possible benefits and side effects with your doctor when deciding if medication is right for you.
- In order to be on medication, you'll need to have a prescription from your doctor or psychiatrist.
4Read as much as you can. Reading is a good way to better understand BED and gain insight into your experiences. Reading success stories may also provide hope and keep you motivated.
- While reading, keep in mind your experience is unique. Pay attention to similarities, but avoid comparing yourself and your progress to others.
5Understand the process of recovery is lifelong and expect setbacks. Challenges are bound to crop up now and then. It is very important to continue to stick to the treatment plan, regardless of periodic relapses.
- Don't beat yourself up if you have a setback. Focus on overall progress rather than small failures. In the event of large setbacks, focus on future progress.
3Understanding the Disorder
1Know the symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder. Any person can be guilty of eating too much food for the day, or overdoing it at holidays or special events, but BED is chronic and causes significant distress. BED is characterized by:
- Rapid eating (finishing a lot of food in just two hours or less).
- The urge to keep on eating until feeling uncomfortable or sick.
- The urge to eat even if the feeling of hunger is not there.
- The preference to eat alone because of embarrassment from eating abnormally large amounts of food.
- Feeling of shame, guilt, or disgust after the binge eating episode.
2Understand the emotional experiences of BED. Binge eating is often done in secret and will cause shame and guilt. To cope with these negative emotions, the sufferer may engage in further binging. This starts a vicious cycle that will continue until healthier coping strategies are developed.
- Eating may distract from or reduce negative emotions, but these benefits are temporary.
3Understand the causes of BED. Many people believe BED is a simple behavioral problem, but the causes are complex. Biology, culture and psychology all contribute to the development of BED.
- Critical comments about one's body and eating habits while young can set the stage for the onset of BED. 
- People who struggle with bouts of depression may be more prone to developing BED. Self-esteem issues and loneliness can also be contributing factors.
- Restrictive dieting may trigger binge eating episodes. Focus on eating healthy, rather than losing weight.
- BED may cause other serious medical conditions. Consult a physician, if you there's a possibility you have developed BED.
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