Living with binge eating disorder

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Should people with binge eating disorder try to lose weight?

Many people with binge eating disorder are obese and have health problems because of their weight. They should try to lose weight and keep it off; however, research shows that long-term weight loss is more likely when a person has long-term control over his or her binge eating.

People with binge eating disorder who are obese may benefit from a weight-loss program that also offers treatment for eating disorders. However, some people with binge eating disorder may do just as well in a standard weight loss program as people who do not binge eat.

People who are not overweight should avoid trying to lose weight, because it sometimes makes their binge eating worse.

How can people with binge eating disorder be helped?

People with binge eating disorder should get help from a health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. There are several different ways to treat binge eating disorder.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches people how to keep track of their eating and change their unhealthy eating habits. It teaches them how to change the way they act in tough situations. It also helps them feel better about their body shape and weight.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy helps people look at their relationships with friends and family and make changes in problem areas.
  • Drug therapy, such as antidepressants, may be helpful for some people.

The methods mentioned here seem to be equally helpful. Researchers are still trying to find the treatment that is the most helpful in controlling binge eating disorder. Other therapies being tried include dialectical behavior therapy, which helps people regulate their emotions; drug therapy with the anti-seizure medication topiramate; weight loss surgery (gastrointestinal surgery); exercise used alone or in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy; and self-help. Self-help books, videos, and groups have helped some people to control their binge eating.

You are not alone.

If you think you might have binge eating disorder, it is important to know that you are not alone. Most people who have the disorder have tried but failed to control it on their own. You may want to get professional help. Talk to your health care provider about the type of help that may be best for you. The good news is that most people do well in treatment and can overcome binge eating.

For more information

What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is commonly known by compulsive overeating or consuming abnormal amounts of food while feeling unable to stop and a loss of control. Binge eating episodes are typically classified as occurring on average a minimum of twice per week for a duration of six months.

BED was first explained in 1959 by Albert Stunkard, a psychiatrist, and researcher, as Night Eating Syndrome (NES). The term Binge Eating Disorder was created to define similar binge eating behavior without the nocturnal aspect.

Though BED can occur in men and women of normal weight, it often leads to the development of unwanted weight gain or obesity, which can indirectly reinforce further compulsive eating.

Men and women suffering from BED struggle with emotions of disgust and guilt and often have a related co-morbidity, such as depression or anxiety.

The negative feelings that usually accompany binge eating often lead him or her to continue to use food to cope; thus creating a vicious cycle. Managed eating disorder treatments are extremely important.

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

While the exact cause of BED is unknown, there are a variety of factors that are thought to influence the development of this disorder. These factors are:

  • Biological: Biological abnormalities, such as hormonal irregularities or genetic mutations, may be associated with compulsive eating and food addiction.
  • Psychological: A strong correlation has been established between depression and binge eating. Body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and difficulty coping with feelings can also contribute to binge eating disorder.
  • Social and Cultural: Traumatic situations, such as a history of sexual abuse, can increase the risk of binge eating. Social pressures to be thin, which are typically influenced through media, can trigger emotional eating. Persons subject to critical comments about their bodies or weight may be especially vulnerable to binge eating disorder.

Signs & Symptoms of BED

As individuals suffering from binge eating disorder experience embarrassment or shame about their eating habits, symptoms may often be hidden.

The following are some behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of BED:

  • Continually eating even when full
  • Inability to stop eating or control what is eaten
  • Stockpiling food to consume secretly at a later time
  • Eating normally in the presence of others but gorging when isolated
  • Experiencing feelings of stress or anxiety that can only be relieved by eating
  • Feelings of numbness or lack of sensation while bingeing
  • Never experiencing satiation: the state of being satisfied, no matter the amount of food consumed

The consequences of BED involve many physical, social, and emotional difficulties.

Some of these complications are:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Insomnia or sleep apnea
  • Hypertension
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Muscle and/or joint pain
  • Gastrointestinal difficulties
  • Depression and/or anxiety

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

Professional support and treatment from health professionals specializing in the treatment of binge eating disorders, including psychiatrists, nutritionists, and therapists, can be the most effective way to address BED.

Such a treatment program would address the underlying issues associated with destructive eating habits, focusing on the central cause of the problem.

It is necessary to concentrate on healing from the emotional triggers that may be causing binge eating, having proper guidance in establishing healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress, depression, anxiety, etc.

Webinar: Understanding the Facts About Binge Eating Disorder

Presented by: Allan S Kaplan MD MSc FRCP(C) is currently a Senior Clinician/Scientist, Chief of Research at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, and Vice Chair for Research and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto. He is also Director of the Institute of Medical Science, School of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Medicine. He was the inaugural Loretta Anne Rogers Chair in Eating Disorders at Toronto General Hospital and is currently Senior Scientist, Toronto General Research Institute. He received his medical, psychiatric and graduate school training at the University of Toronto. He has worked in the field of eating disorders for 30 years, has lectured widely on various topics in the field, published 150 peer reviewed articles, two books, 50 book chapters and over 200 abstracts. He is the Past President of both the Academy for Eating Disorders, the largest organization of eating disorder professionals in the world, and the International Eating Disorder Research Society. He has been a continuously funded peer reviewed investigator since 1992, and has received grant support from the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in Canada.

There are also three types of therapy that can be especially helpful in the treatment of BED. These therapies are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): A type of therapy aimed at helping individuals understand the thoughts and feelings that influence their behaviors.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT): A form of therapy in which the focus is on an individual’s relationships with family members and peers and the way they see themselves
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): A type of therapy that focuses on teaching individuals skills to cope with stress and regulate emotions

In addition to these methods, group therapy sessions led by a trained eating disorder therapist, as well as eating disorder support groups, may also be effective methods of establishing recovery from BED.

Articles on Binge Eating Disorder

Am I Overeating or Do I Have a Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder that masks itself as basic overeating. It can easily go undetected and it affects more men and women than Anorexia or Bulimia. But, do you have BED or are simply overeating like so many other people?

Renegotiating Binge Foods in BED Recovery

Many individuals who struggle with binge eating also may have particular foods that trigger binge episodes. Foods that are higher in carbohydrates and fats can cause the release of the hormone serotonin in the brain, which can induce pleasurable feelings. For this reason, people who are dealing with binge eating disorder often gravitate towards foods with these components, either for comfort or as a means of escaping from difficult situations.

Losing Your Job to a Binge Eating Disorder? It Can Happen

You spend about half of your life at your job. It is a big part of your social interaction and provides a platform to boost (or deflate) your self-esteem. So what does a binge eating disorder (BED) have to do with your job? Lots of people struggle with BEDs. Studies show as many as 2.6% of our adult population binge eat. Can it really put your job at risk? The answer is yes, and in more ways than you think.

Mindful Eating and BED

When it comes to eating, binge eating disorder may appear to be a food-related problem only. However, mindfulness teaches the practice or state of conscious awareness of oneself, the present moment, thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Integrating mindfulness techniques in binge eating disorder treatment has been shown to reduce binge eating, improve nutritional outcomes, improve weight management, as well as enhance diabetes management.

Medical Nutrition Therapy for BED

Professional treatment for binge eating disorder will involve the collaboration of multiple professionals, including a therapist/counselor, medical doctor, psychiatrist, and registered dietitian. Each of these professionals works in their area of specialty to help address a concern that a person with binge eating disorder is facing.

Learning How to Eat Out in Binge Eating Disorder Recovery

Eating out at restaurants can also be a challenging experience for the person recovering from binge eating disorder. The combination of being in a restaurant environment coupled with the overwhelming food choices and portions can lead to a catastrophe.

Depression and Binge Eating Disorder

Depression is commonly associated with eating disorders, and it is often co-occurring with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Trying to address Binge Eating Disorder can become more difficult if clinical depression is a key component or trigger for binge eating. This begs the question of “Did binge eating begin because of depression or did depression begin because of binge eating?”

The Black and White of Eating Disorders

The perception is that eating disorders normally affect Caucasian women, but eating disorders are color blind and will affect African American women as well. However, there needs to be more research conducted on African American women as most research is directed toward white women.

Binge Eating Disorder: When Comfort Eating Crosses the Line

Eating for comfort or emotional reasons is not necessarily a bad thing. That is as long as the food does not become the main source of comfort or method for dealing with life’s stress and challenges. Using food to consistently soothe emotional upheaval can quickly become Binge Eating Disorder, and this can result in some serious health consequences.

Using the Non-Diet Approach for Treating Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

While not as familiar as Anorexia or Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder is a severe illness that requires equal attention and professional treatment in order to establish recovery. An important approach in addressing BED is the implementation of the˜Non-Diet’ method. This approach essentially teaches sufferers to respond to physical hunger as well as how to regulate feelings associated with food and eating. Use of this method along with other proven therapies can help in healing from BED. Read this article to learn more about the Non-Diet Approach for binge eating disorder.

Children Binge Eating: Different Stories but Similar Storylines

Binge eating is not only a concern for adults. Many children and adolescents have secret memories of having engaged in binge eating. These patterns are occurring ever more frequently in today’s image-focused, diet-obsessed world. Read two stories about young adolescents who engaged in binge eating disorder behavior.

Elevated Status for Binge Eating Disorder in the DSM-5

The diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder has been added to the new DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual) as it’s own separate diagnosis. This disease of BED, that troubles so many, is now more likely to be treated with the care and respect that binge eating disorder sufferers deserve. Learn about BED and the DSM-V in this article.

Binge Eating Disorder: How College Can Make It Worse

With anorexia having the highest mortality rate among any other psychiatric illness, the focus and attention given towards prevention and treatment is absolutely essential. However, sometimes overshadowed is the equally devastating Binge Eating Disorder, also classified as a major eating disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in May of 2013. Learn more about the devastating effects of BED while at college here.

BED research: What Do We Know?

Since Binge Eating Disorder (BED) was first mentioned in the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1987, research on BED has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. In fact, in 2013, BED was added to the latest, fifth edition, of the DSM as its own diagnosis.

How to Avoid Falling into Using Food to Replace Tobacco

The evidence suggests that you don’t. You are likely to eat more when you first quit smoking, but that increased eating is healthy. It might feel like you are binge eating at first because you are eating more than you did when you smoked, but this isn’t necessarily binge eating.

Dispelling the Myths of BED

Given that overeating from time to time is normal behavior and binge eating is not, it can be hard to understand the difference. I hope to illustrate the differences and to dispel the myth that people with BED “just need more self-control” or “just does not care about themselves enough”.

BED & Co-morbid Health Concerns of Obesity

A very important development in BED is the fact that it is now listed as an official eating disorder diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which will increase awareness and help make it easier for patients to get treatment.

Binge-Eating Disorder and Compulsive Overeating: Are They the Same Thing?

When I work with someone struggling with compulsive overeating issues, not only will I be attentive to the details they express to me about the nature of these “binge” episodes, but also to the thoughts and feelings that may be at the root of this difficulty with food and emotions.

Breaking 5 Myths of Binge Eating

Binge Eating Disorder is the most common of all the eating disorders but incongruently, with the least treatment options for the sufferers. Until recently, BED was not even recognized as an actual disorder and could not be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) published by The American Psychiatric Association.

Correlation Between BED and Trauma

Studies have shown that patients who have experienced a trauma related event have been more likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. One form of self-harm is binge eating, which has been proven to be linked with traumatic events.

BED and Anxiety

Binge eating disorder (BED) and anxiety are deeply intertwined and often co-occur. In fact, approximately 37% of those who are diagnosed with BED are also diagnosed with a full-fledged anxiety disorder. Rather than a linear relationship model (i.e., that anxiety leads to binge eating behaviors or binge eating behaviors lead to anxiety), BED and anxiety are much more transactional and are comprised of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Binge Eating Disorder and the DSM-5: What the Changes Mean

Perhaps the most significant improvement with the DSM-5 is that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has been moved from the obscurity of an appendix in the DSM-IV to being designated in the DSM-5 as a full-fledged diagnosis that parallels the other main eating disorders of Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN).

BED, Holistic Health and Weight Loss

Overweight binge eaters represent a collision of two traditional treatment worlds: eating disorders and weight control. 30-40% of those seeking weight loss treatment meet the criteria for BED. In a residential weight control treatment setting, this link between overweight/obesity and binge eating is striking. Our mean BMI is 43.3 and data suggest that 43.7 % of our participants have BED. A host of co-morbidities results from this combination of eating pathology and obesity.

Interview with Carolyn Costin

Interview with Carolyn Costin: “I had been recovered from anorexia nervosa for a while and my friends knew this so when a young girl with anorexia needed help people sought me out. When I saw this person it was like I knew the inside of her mind. She felt understood and she got better. Then I got another referral and she got better too. Soon people all around my town and the surrounding cities started referring to me. It was only then, that I knew I had to do this work.”

Adolescent Depression and Binge Eating Often Go Hand-in-Hand

You feel depressed because you have eaten too much or you eat too much because you feel depressed. For binge eaters, this vicious cycle is relentless leaving feelings of guilt and shame in addition to other negative emotions commonly associated with depression.

Reasonable Exercise Plans for Someone Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder

For those struggling with binge eating disorder, their exercise patterns tend to mirror their eating patterns – falling prey to an all-or-nothing tendency. With food, this involves a restriction/binge cycle and for exercise, this all-or-nothing tendency usually shows up as a cycle of no pain/no gain exercise and then being sedentary.

BED and Mindfulness/DBT

A common approach that is often taught in recovery for binge eating disorder is the practice of mindfulness and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). While there may be some initial skepticism towards these psychotherapy methods, many individuals will find these practices helpful in dealing with urges to binge, which can occur at any point of their recovery from binge eating disorder.

BED: Celebrate Your Recovery by Committing to You

Living with BED can also become a way to survive and face life difficulties, and relearning healthy coping skills can feel as though you are unraveling your sense of reality.

BED & Bariatric Surgery or the Sleeve

Countless individuals struggle with Binge Eating Disorder throughout our nation though many suffer in silence due to the fears and stigmas that surround this painful disorder. A common physical effect that can result from BED is obesity, which can result from consuming a greater amount of food than is needed over time.

Kids Binge Eating and the Rise in Obesity in American Children

The response to this epidemic has sent many mixed messages to families, who may feel unsure about how to handle their growing children. Could a country that is hyper-focused on obesity in our youth, in combination with a culture that is saturated with a disillusioned media, be leading to a rise in eating disorders in younger generations?

Binge Eating Disorder and Family Patterns of Self-Soothing

The factors that influence the development of binge eating disorder (BED) are complex and involve genetics (your biological make-up), the environment of both your past and present, the social conditions you are exposed to, and much more. One aspect that that can also be influential in the development of BED is the nature of a family setting and the way in which children are taught to soothe themselves and cope with their emotions.

BED: Impulse Control and a Recovery Coach

Many individuals who suffer from BED would attest to the loss of control they often experience during bingeing episodes, feeling a sense of unconsciousness as they engage in food binges that take them beyond a normal point of satiety. Consideration of a BED recovery coach might be helpful!

Night Eating Syndrome: So Much More Than Just A Bedtime Snack

Night Eating Syndrome (NES) was first recognized in 1955 by American psychiatrist, Dr. Albert Stunkard. NES is an eating disorder in which the affected individual wakes several times in the middle of the night and is unable to fall back asleep without eating, even though he or she is not actually hungry. The food eaten is often unhealthy and calorie-dense.

Research on BED and Medication

Recent research has shown that binge eating disorder (BED) is quite common, affecting about 2% to 3.5% of the population.

Page Last Updated and Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 4, 2019 Published April 20, 2012, on EatingDisorderHope.com, Information for Eating Disorder Help

How to stop binge eating: reduce judgements about food

By Chrissy Stockton Updated September 11, 2018 How to stop binge eating is to identify and resolve the reasons you feel compelled to binge eat in the first place. There are be physiological reasons you binge eat that can be resolved with nutrition and steps you can take to reduce the emotional impulse to binge eat. If you want to stop binge eating, try some strategies like logging your food, journaling, adding nutritional balance to your meals, and learning about cognitive behavioral therapy. By Chrissy Stockton Updated September 11, 2018

I know you’re going to want to see a simple list of easy changes I made that resulted in quick and permanent change in my mind, body, and soul.

I AM SO, SO SORRY TO TELL YOU THIS IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. Truly.

I want this to be the way it works so badly that my eating disorder was made worse for years because I thought I was just dumb or weak for not being able to snap out of it.

This is a long list of paradigm shifts, attitude adjustments, EXPECTATION adjustments, coping skills, knowledge gained from working with a dietician, and things I learned from journaling and noticing patterns in the way I feel and eat. If you want a tl;dr, it boils down to a lot of ways I’ve learned how to be more compassionate with myself, that’s how you to stop binge eating.

I want you to know that I was resistant to pretty much every single one of these at first and thought they were totally bogus and wouldn’t work for me. Thankfully I was wrong!!! I was willing to try, and that willingness went a long way. (Tip #1, if you think something is bullshit, spend 24 hours being willing to see if maybe it’s true. This is also great if you suck at accepting compliments).

I am not a doctor or a therapist. My qualifications for writing this post are simply that these things helped me. This is (unfortunately) not a before and after picture. I’m not living a mythical happily ever after. I still struggle with food and body image and my emotions. But I’m doing a lot better. I have more tools to help myself when I mess up.

A year ago I was binge eating every day, at least once a day. It was so bad that my doctor wanted me to be in a day program. I didn’t end up doing that for practical reasons, but I did listen to her and I started seeing a therapist who specializes in helping people with eating disorders. I also saw a dietician regularly when I started and I’ve gone to various classes and groups to help me as well. Today, on a weekly basis, I usually don’t binge eat. Through my ~*~ eating disorder journey ~*~ I’ve done just about every eating disorder symptom out there, and I don’t do any of those, either. At least not regularly. I mess up, that’s part of recovery.

I’ve done as well as not having any symptom use for 60 consecutive days, and the more magical part about those 60 days is that when I did have symptom use on the 61st, I didn’t on the 62nd. I didn’t get totally derailed and thrown off by making a mistake. The instances are rare, and singular. I’m a lot better and I’m becoming okay with not being perfect.

Hi and welcome to my emotional food journey. Here is a very long list of things that have helped me in the last year:

1. Through this process I strive to be curious rather than judgmental. I remind myself that I am on a fact-finding mission to uncover patterns in feelings and behavior so that I can work to change them and be healthier.

2. I work on being more intentional. My mantra is “Admit it, name it, and take action in the face of it.” If I struggle, instead of feeling like I have failed (and especially, “now it’s hopeless, I should give up completely until I can start over from scratch”) I try to learn from what happened so that the results might be different next time.

3. A weird way I envision this is that I am on my own “team”. It seems obvious, but it shifts my questioning from “Why are you such a fuck up” to “How can we be better next time?” I try to be a cheerleader for myself. Instead of fighting against my subconscious, my emotions, or something like physical hunger, I want to know how we can all achieve a goal that satisfies all competing interests involved.

4. Another good way to help yourself be more curious than judgemental is to redirect your thoughts with the question “is this helpful?” I’m a worrier and I truly can spend hours debating with myself about whether a guy didn’t want to spend time with me today because he doesn’t like my body, or whether engaging in bingeing or overeating last weekend means I will never, ever recover. For some questions, it’s helpful for me to realize that true or false isn’t as relevant to me as to whether the conversation itself is helpful.

How to stop binge eating: keep a journal

5. These conversations take place in a journal. I cannot tell you how many epiphanies I have had while journaling about food. When I’m agitated and I don’t want to sit and write out a lengthy entry, I’ll just make a list of what I’m feeling and thinking, not worrying about how it sounds. I surprise myself by the things that come out, even if I’ve been thinking it over in my head for a long time prior to journaling.

6. The prompt I use to journal whenever I am tempted to use symptoms of my eating disorder (or freak out in general) is “what is the feeling I am trying not to feel?”

7. I don’t know if I would have told you a year ago that my eating disorder was about trying not to feel things, it doesn’t sound like a practical enough reason to me. But the more I allow myself to be vulnerable and peel back the layers, the more I understand how my disordered eating has insulated me from painful experiences. It’s been a hobby I can immerse myself in spiritually, physically, and emotionally. When you’re spending hours blaming yourself and obsessing over how much you ate, there isn’t a lot of time leftover for worrying about other stuff.

How to stop binge eating: plan nutritionally balanced meals

8. At the very beginning, I went to a dietician and followed a meal plan. The meal plan made me eat 6 times a day, a lot of food, and a lot more variety than I was used to. In truth, it wasn’t “a lot” of food, it was around maintenance level and it really helped me cut down on overeating and binging and relearn portioning and hunger and fullness cues.

9. One thing that was very helpful about meal planning was the “safety” of knowing that if I was eating a food I liked and was worried I wasn’t going to eat enough to be satisfied, I knew I could eat the food again tomorrow as part of my plan.

10. There’s a book for children with anxiety that I really love called Sleeping with Bread that tells the story of how children rescued during World War II had trouble sleeping because they thought they would wake up somewhere unsafe again. The solution was to give the children bread to hold while they slept, so they had security that when they woke up, they would have food to eat. This is kind of the same concept and I way I delay using eating disorder symptoms which, as insane as it sounds, make me feel safe. When I wrote in my notebook what I was going to eat tomorrow, I felt more relaxed. When I felt like I wanted to binge or purge or weigh myself or something, I could write down that I was allowed to do it tomorrow. Knowing that I didn’t have to do it right now, but I could still do it another time made me feel like I had a safety net.

11. I logged what I ate along with what I felt like (if I was struggling with the urge to restrict, overeat or binge). I began to notice really helpful patterns. For instance, I noticed that every single day after I finished dinner I was “really hungry” and wanted to keep eating. However, 20 minutes later I’d completely forgotten that I was “really hungry” and felt satisfied. Knowing that this is a feeling I usually get helped me not overeat because I knew I wouldn’t feel the same way in 20 minutes.

12. Another reason meal planning was helpful is that I planned what I was going to eat based on what my body’s needs were instead of my usual cycle of getting hungry and then thinking “what should I eat?” and making an emotional, spur-of-the-moment decision based on what my appetite was telling me.

13. THIS IS A BIG ONE. I adopted the idea that there are no good and bad foods. THIS WAS SO HARD. I really believed there were good and bad foods. Kale and juices were good, junk food, sugar and carbs were bad. I still think some foods are probably better for me than others but allowing myself to make space for any food I want in my meal plan has helped me remove emotional feelings from food. If I want pizza, I eat pizza. The difference is, I plan for an appropriate portion in my meal plan, and balance it with other food. Instead of eating as much pizza as I need to make me full, I will eat a slice along with veggies and know that I can eat pizza again tomorrow if I want. I didn’t feel like this would work for me, but it did.

14. For some reason, a year later, I’m still resistant to eating variety in meals — but I know it’s very helpful. When I want to eat something like pizza, I think it would be better if I just ate pizza and not anything “extra” since I’m already indulging in something so unhealthy/caloric. But eating some vegetables isn’t going to put me over the edge, and as much as I don’t think it will work this way, I won’t want as much pizza if I also eat vegetables. Here’s where journaling and tracking is helpful: as resistant to it as I am, I can always make myself do it because I know through tracking my progress that it works.

15. A really insane moment in my recovery process was starting to keep junk foods in my house and not eat them. Before, I would never trust myself to keep foods I liked and might binge on in my house, but when I started telling myself that no foods were good or bad and working foods I liked into my meal plan, I started being able to keep them in my house. I introduced them one by one and gradually I got to the point where I have junk foods in my house I don’t even care to eat. They’ve lost their appeal to me completely, which seemed unimaginable a year ago.

How to stop binge eating: don’t count calories

16. ANOTHER HARD ONE. I stopped counting calories. THIS WAS ALSO SO HARD. I stopped gradually. One week I just deleted MyFitnessPal from my phone. I learned to trust my dietician and her meal plan, which was based on exchanges, not calories.

Meal tracking helped me stop binge eating.

17. The thing about calories is that there is no “good” amount of calories to eat if you suffer from disordered eating. If you are okay with eating 1600 calories one day and meet your goal, you won’t be happy. You will aim for 1500 calories the next day. Realizing that I can’t win this game and that it sidetracks my progress instead of contributing to it helps me avoid counting calories. I struggle with it because calories are printed on a lot of packing and I can’t help checking, but I try not to give myself a daily number and track it obsessively like I was doing before.

18. I also stopped weighing myself. WHICH SUCKED. But like calories, there was no number on the scale that would make me happy. If I lost a pound, I’d be happy for a few minutes and then I’d start obsessing about how I could lose 2 pounds the next time. Historically for me, this obsession lead to restricting, which would inevitably lead to overeating or binging.

How to stop binge eating: opt out of other people’s insane diet culture

19. I started shutting out other people’s ideas about diet and weight loss. This was so, so big for me because I am a really hardcore comparison person. If something works for someone else, I’m extremely judgemental when it doesn’t work for me. It was hard to let go of this, and it’s something I work on every time I read an article or a comments section. I remind myself 1) there are things that are easy for me that are difficult for other people 2) people generally share successes and highlights, but not the effort or failed attempts that lead up to them, I’m not seeing the whole picture and 3) I am making progress doing what works for me.

20. Here’s the biggest thing about other people’s ideas about diet and weight loss: the idea is simple and something we can all agree on (eat less, move more), but most people are unwilling to question why it’s difficult for people to achieve weight loss beyond the fuzzy idea of “willpower”. This is not how we approach almost anything else. If there is a problem with a simple solution, but people don’t actually utilize the solution, we keep investigating with curious minds, instead of digging our feet in and being judgemental. In other areas, we listen to de facto human behavior and lean into practical ideas about how to problem solve. I have a few more things to say about this one because I dealt with a lot of shame over not being able to do something I perceived as simple:

21. Something I think about a lot is how Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of god is formally valid (a distinction in the study of logic which means it is objectively a good argument) and yet it’s famous for not being an argument that converts anyone. We aren’t robots. We don’t make decisions and change behavior based on facts, as much as we like to believe this is true.

22. Anyone who works in sales knows this is true. We make decisions based on our intuition and emotional experience. We think we use information to make the decision, but we actually use information to justify our gut feeling.

How to stop binge eating: be gentle with yourself!

23. If you still want to blame yourself, here is a helpful thing to remember: “Recovery from disordered eating begins with the understanding that the disordered eating behavior served you when your goal was survival.”

24. This is all to say humans are complicated! This is normal and expected. You didn’t just start binge eating because you’re a dumbass or you don’t have willpower. You started because you needed a coping mechanism and in order to let go of it you need to learn how to replace the role it filled in your life with something healthy. It’s okay for your relationship with food to be hard, even though it’s “easy” to know what it should be like.

25. I started prioritizing sleep. Getting enough sleep makes me feel sane.

26. Also, when I have been really struggling with my eating disorder and it seemed impossible to not have any symptom use for the day, I knew another big health category (sleep) was already in place. I felt like I was starting every day already having done some work on being healthier, which made me feel calmer and more confident in my efficacy.

27. Getting enough sleep can be as important as diet and exercise in weight loss (not because it overpowers your diet, but because people who get enough sleep have the wherewithal to make better choices).

28. If you’re like me, you rolled your eyes at the above statement because you’re not like a regular person, you’re stronger than most and you can “power through”. I started noticing these tendencies to rewrite information I was given to make something my fault and place blame on myself. Instead of thinking that sometimes, part of my binging or overeating may be because of a lack of sleep (which is backed up by people who study this stuff), I clung to the narrative that willpower is the and all be all and I “should” be able to resist no matter how little sleep I had. This is called perfectionism, and you probably have it.

How to stop binge eating: pay attention to your perfectionism

29. When I first started reducing binge eating, I (begrudgingly) worked on reducing binge eating instead of stopping binge eating. I’m a perfectionist and my whole life I focused on stopping cold turkey. I would fail, freak out, and binge again to comfort myself. Then I would restrict my calorie intake for as long as possible to “make up” for it and the cycle would start over. It was EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for me to let go of the concept of stopping all at once and allow myself to make gradual change.

30. Making an extreme change (when I started I was binging at least once a day, every day) is overwhelming. Binge eating was a big part of my life. It was a lot easier to feel okay saying “If I want to, I can binge eat tomorrow” than it was to think about never binge eating again.

31. I embraced the 51% rule. When you want to change something in your life but it feels impossible, aim to do 51% better than you did yesterday. (Don’t freak out like I did about not being productive enough, some days you may stick to just doing 51% but many days you will end up doing a lot more than this).

32. I remind myself as many times as I need to that gradual change is more likely to be permanent than dramatic change.

33. I learned about the binge restrict cycle. It took me a long time to identify my binge eating for what it was because it was part of a cycle of restricting and binging. I didn’t know that cycle was textbook. I thought it was just me.

34. This means that when I do binge or overeat, I focus on moving forward. One of the single biggest things that has helped me is not responding to a binge by restricting the next day. I go ahead with my normal eating the way I planned it. It used to take me weeks to get back on track after a setback, now a setback is typically an isolated incident where the next day has no symptom use at all.

How to stop binge eating: talk to a therapist

35. I have a lot of very difficult conversations with my therapist. When it comes to conflict, I’m an avoider. I hate talking about difficult topics and I cry and feel upset and anxious when I do. But the way to get rid of a monster’s power is to shine the flashlight in the closet and see it for what it is. Talking about a bad thing gets rid of any power that bad thing has.

36. A surprising thing about therapy (that I shouldn’t be surprised by, but am) is that every time I tell my therapist an insane thing that I’ve been too embarrassed to tell anyone before, she tells me how normal it is and how it’s in a cause and effect relationship with other things in my life (vs. a personal failing of mine or a lack of willpower). WHAT A FUCKIN RELIEF.

37. I started keeping a compliment journal. I screenshot texts or emails that are nice and I save them privately to my Tumblr. I scroll through them when I’m having a difficult day.

38. One day I dumped out all the old letters and cards I have in a memory box in my closet and got some colorful markers and wrote a list of nice things people have said about me. I felt a like a little bit of a baby for having to do it, but it did make a really dramatic change to my self-esteem to spend some time seeing myself through the eyes of people who love me.

39. I went to group therapy and listened to a lot of people name all the same fears and experiences that were swimming through my head. There was such a surprising amount of power in just realizing I wasn’t alone.

40. I continue to read a lot of eating disorder and weight loss memoirs, but I take them with a grain of salt. A way to sell a book is to tell someone you have a quick/easy/permanent answer instead of talking about how recovery isn’t easy or linear or something that you can stop working at once you get to a certain point. I read them to relate to someone else, but I don’t hold my own life up in comparison to their edited story. At least I try not to.

How to stop binge eating: cognitive behavioral therapy

41. I did a 12-week group where we learned the tools of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which I liked because it was more like taking a class, which I’m very comfortable doing. The purpose of CBT is to help you separate feelings from behaviors. I learned a lot of tools that I continue to use that help me tolerate bad feelings and have space between those bad feelings and the way that I think and act.

42. I am compassionate with myself when I’m not perfect. Recovery is not linear. When realize I am using symptoms of my eating disorder I try to identify the reasons this might be taking place, and take action to deal with the issues that are surfacing instead of punishing myself for reacting to them.

43. At this point I am practicing intuitive eating which I can only do because I took the time to crawl before I could walk and use meal planning to learn a lot about hunger, satiety, and choosing foods in balance.

44. I grocery shop knowing what I will eat every day of the following week. I might have a few options for my meals, but I generally avoid the question of “what am I going to eat today?” I buy enough food so that that question can be easily answered, and I buy with portions in mind so that when I cook I’m making one or two meals, not an unquantifiable amount that I have to work on portioning in the moment when I’m hungry.

45. I go with the flow. I eat a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast every day. This isn’t the healthiest breakfast I could eat but I learned through a lot of trial and error that it’s very important for me to have a breakfast that’s easy to make and I don’t have to think about much, or else I will either not eat breakfast or procrastinate it endlessly, which leads to overeating or binging. I eat convenience foods (which I have judgements about not being the healthiest thing I could eat) but having them in my freezer and being able to basically just heat them up saves me from either not eating or ordering food and overeating. I pick the fights that are most important (not overeating or binging) instead of aiming for perfection.

46. If I am hungry, I eat something. Even though most days are planned out so I know I’m getting enough food, occasionally I feel hungry for more. After working for months on journaling and paying attention to what hunger feels like, I trust myself enough that if I’m hungry, I eat a snack and I don’t judge myself for it. Having done meal planning, I know what an appropriate snack is (a string cheese and an applesauce or a cucumber and an oz of goat cheese). Before, I’d be worried it was “too small” and I’d still be hungry. Because of my deliberate experience, I know if I eat that I won’t be hungry again for a few hours. It took me a long time to trust myself to eat when I was hungry!!! I wouldn’t have been able to jump right into this because when I started I was afraid that if I ate when I was hungry, I would be eating all the time. Now I know what hunger feels like, and when I’m just looking for an activity to numb out because I’m feeling anxious or lonely or stressed.

47. If I want to eat something and I recognize that I am not feeling hunger, I journal.

48. I let myself feel bad. This seems so weird to say, but I spent a lot of time worrying I would feel bad and trying to avoid feeling bad that I intentionally try to be present with feeling bad when I feel bad now. It’s weird. It doesn’t actually feel that bad. It’s not such a big deal.

49. I’m watching a lot of This is Us right now. I’m searching out sad books and watching sad movies and crying over fictional characters. It feels like working out. It feels like something I need to do — to find a vehicle for all the stuff I’ve kept inside to get out. I would never have believed this is related to my eating disorder a year ago, but I listen to myself a lot more now. I’m in a phase where I’m learning how to feel my feelings like a healthy person instead of stuffing them back down inside. I can feel that it’s something I need to do, so I do it.

How to Stop Binge-Eating: Understanding Why You Binge-Eat 

On the diet-binge roller coaster from hell? I get it, gurl.

Binge-eating was my nemesis for YEARS.

I used to literally dig out food from the trash after throwing it out because I didn’t “trust myself” not to eat whatever-the-hell-forbidden-fruit happened to be in my cabinets that day.

Until I finally understood the root causes of my binge-eating (which I’ll get to in a moment),

I spent most of my time alternating between periods of “being good” or successfully “controlling myself” around food

…and then inevitably “losing control” in the bulk bin section of the grocery store—knee-deep in chocolate covered whatever-the-hell-it-was—swearing I’d get back on the horse for good starting tomorrow.

Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for me to make myself so full and sick from eating that I could barely get up from my couch…let alone go out with my friends, be productive at work, put on real pants, etc.

I was a “low-bottom” binge-eater, trying everything to stop—including 12-step groups and “food addiction” programs, to a couple stints in rehab for Binge-Eating Disorder and everything in between.

For the most part, all of the various “programs” I tried to stop binge-eating suggested that binge-eating was a self-contained psychological defect—the result of a “spiritual malady,” or bad habit, or perhaps some childhood trauma.

In other words, they all suggested that if I could just fix the underlying emotional problems that “triggered” binges, I would be healed.

Doing everything in my power to get this problem “under control,” I went to therapy, I went to church, I journaled, I made up with my mother…and for years, I just couldn’t stop bingeing.

It wasn’t until years into my healing journey, that someone finally suggested that perhaps my bingeing wasn’t just a response to difficult emotions or “neurological junk” in my brain…

perhaps my binges were a natural response to countless years of dieting and feeling deprived around food, as a result of innumerable attempts at weight “control” throughout my life.

The Root Cause of Binge-Eating

Despite an enormous amount of effort by “the diet industry” (meaning, anyone and everyone who may profit from our society’s obsession with thinness) to suppress research that suggests “diets don’t work,”

it is widely evidenced in the scientific literature that binge-eating is primarily a symptom of dieting or attempts at food and weight “control.”

If you’d like to read the pages and pages of research supporting this claim—it will take you a while—but I would start by referencing the literature collected by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who are the nutritionists behind the book, Intuitive Eating, (which I’ll discuss later in this post),

as well as the book Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon, which reviews decades worth of research on the most common symptoms and outcomes of dieting and weight suppression. More to come on “Health At Every Size” as well.

Binge-Eating vs. Emotional Eating vs. “Getting Really Full”

The terms “binge-eating” and “emotional eating” are often used interchangeably, even though they are actually very different behaviors and need to be treated in different ways.

Since you can’t heal a problem you don’t fully understand, let’s start by defining these terms so we can all make sure we’re talking about the same thing.

What is “Binge-Eating?”

I now understand that Binge-Eating is—plain and simple—a reaction to deprivation around food.

In other words,

  1. it’s eating because you haven’t had a piece of bread in 3 weeks and you can’t hold yourself back one-second longer (that is, a biological instinct to relieve oneself from food restriction—aka “falling-off-the-wagon eating”)
  2. or it’s eating because you already screwed up, so you “might as well” finish the bag and start over tomorrow (aka “last supper eating”).

This type of eating can also be triggered by unhealthy attitudes about food and weight—aka “Diet Mentality.”

For instance, people who feel guilty or fearful about eating certain foods are much more likely to binge-eat or feel “out of control” as they judge, analyze or criticize their choices with food.

This all to say that binge-eating is not a stand-alone or self-contained behavior—it is simply one part—the second part—of the diet-binge cycle.

As such, attempts at “self-control” around food are not only unproductive in managing binge-eating, but may actually be the primary risk factor for binge-eating and binge-eating disorder (BED). More on this here.

What is “emotional eating?”

“Emotional Eating,” on the other hand, is eating for emotional pleasure or to soothe uncomfortable feelings.

A “normal” eater may eat emotionally from time to time, but will likely do so far less often than dieters and restrictors, for reasons that I explain here.

That being said,

the reality is…most people eat emotionally sometimes…

As my friend Wendy Shankar says,

“there are only 6 people who eat food righteously as fuel and nothing else…and all six of them are Kenyan marathon runners.”

The difference between a person who has a bowl of ice cream after a hard day, and the person who flies off the handle into a week-long binge…

is whether or not they were trying to “control” their food and weight to begin with—is whether or not they struggle with diet-mentality around that experience.

Binge Eating is NOT the same thing as “getting really full”

Despite conventional wisdom—it is completely unuseful (and actually quite problematic) to define binges by volume or amounts of food.

What is much more useful is to define binges by their motivation…by what actually *causes* the behavior, rather than by some arbitrary amount of “this-is-not-okay,”

Ultimately, there’s a big difference between reacting to deprivation (aka bingeing) and eating a bunch on Thanksgiving because your mom’s mashed potatoes are AWESOME.

This sounds like semantics, but it’s really important to remember—

Like “emotional eating,” getting really full sometimes is a normal part of life.

Restricting your food choices and then shame-eating when no one’s looking doesn’t have to be.

“I don’t think I’m a dieter, but I know that I binge-eat…”

Because “diet” has become a 4-letter word in the Wellness Industry, many of my clients don’t realize they’re dieting unless they’re on Weight Watchers or Atkins or some old school weight loss “program” of some kind.

The reality, however, is that anyone who defines themselves as a “binge-eater” is almost certainly dieting or struggling with diet-mentality.

If you’re struggling with binges or extreme “loss of control” around food—you are, by definition, trying to control your food in the first place.

After all—you can’t fall off a wagon that you’re not on.

More on this here.

What exactly do I mean by dieting or “restriction?”

There are a couple definitions of dieting that most often lead to binge-eating behaviors:

  • A diet may include any attempt to restrict or limit food intake for the purpose of weight loss (or weight “control”)

In other words, a diet may include anything from:

  1. limiting certain types of food,
  2. or certain amounts of food,
  3. or limiting certain eating behaviors

…for the purpose of weight loss or weight control.

If weight loss, weight control, or weight-management is your goal, you are most certainly “on a diet.”

  • A “diet” may also mean ANY kind of food restriction to which you feel emotionally attached (whether it be for weight loss, or “health,” or any other possible reason).

For instance, restricting dairy or gluten because you have allergies will not necessarily lead to binge-eating in and of itself

…but if you feel emotionally attached to “following” that instruction “correctly,”

if your self-esteem or feelings of emotional security depend upon you “sticking to” your particular definition of “health,”

you will likely find yourself “falling off the wagon,” just like you would any weight-controlling diet.

“Diet Mentality” can also lead to binge-eating.

Although physical diets or restrictions around food are the primary cause of binge-eating, it takes more than canceling your Weight Watchers subscription to rid your mind of years (and possibly decades) worth of toxic diet-culture beliefs around food—which can also trigger binge-eating.

When you start paying attention, you may be surprised by how judgmental you are of your food choices, or how fearful you are of eating certain foods. You may walk around feeling terrified of gaining weight or eating “too much,” all of which can be just as triggering as the diets themselves.

In other words—fear, shame, and judgment of your food choices can themselves trigger binge-eating.

When we judge a particular eating behavior as “not okay,” we subconsciously send ourselves the message that food should be restricted in the future, thus sending us back into “last supper mode” around food (i.e. binge-eating behaviors).

How to stop dieting…so you can stop binge-eating.

Ultimately, the only way to stop binge-eating is to *truly* let go of dieting…which is not always easy in a culture that constantly tells you your life’s happiness depends upon you eating (and looking) a certain way.

Fear usually comes up.

Most of my clients ask,

“But if I stop dieting, I’ll just eat and eat and eat FOREVER!” “I’ll never stop gaining weight and Oompa Loompas will pop out of my closet and kill me!”

Putting aside that this fear—Fatphobia—is likely the real root of your food obsession, and is certainly not helping you recover from binge-eating,

let’s briefly review the reality of the situation:

Dieting makes us feel like there’s no amount of food in the world that could possibly satisfy us—

but the reality is, when we’re not constantly depriving ourselves around food—we discover that we are, in fact, satiable.

Satiation is influenced by several factors— including your history of dieting, your current diet-mentality, as well as where your weight currently rests relative to your natural set point weight.

Your set point weight is the weight you naturally arrive after you let go of dieting and eat in accordance with your bodies natural hunger signals.

This weight will be different for everyone—depending on genetics, environment, hormones and other factors.

Whatever your set point weight is—where ever you happen to ‘land’ when you have a healthful relationship with food —is, by definition, the perfect “healthy” weight for YOU.

On that note, below are some basic tips to help you make the transition from diet-binge cycling into “normal,” biologically-attuned eating.

#1 Practice “Intuitive Eating”

Diet Recovery typically starts with a practice of “Intuitive Eating,” or listening to your own biological hunger signals for information about what to eat, instead of external diet plans, etc.

When you tune in and listen, your body knows exactly what it needs to eat at any given time—you just need to start honoring and trusting those signals, which is what a good Intuitive Eating coach should be helping you accomplish.

More on Intuitive Eating here.

#2 Challenge your diet mentality.

While listening to your body’s hunger signals for information about what to eat is super helpful in making sure you get enough food,

be careful not to fall into the trap of the “hunger & fullness diet,” which will backfire just like every other diet on the planet.

At the end of the day, rules and restrictions around food are the real enemies when it comes to binge-eating recovery—and practicing “Intuitive Eating” can only go so far if you’re still struggling with diet-mentality around it.

#3 Practice “Health At Every Size”

People who pursue healthy behaviors (like exercising, eating vegetables, etc.)—without worrying or focusing on weight outcomes—are significantly more likely to maintain those health behaviors over time.

Additionally, people who pursue health behaviors in a weight-neutral way enjoy better health outcomes (e.g. blood pressure, blood sugar, cardiovascular health)

…as well as significantly better mental health outcomes, especially around food and body image.

Since there is little-to-no evidence to support forced “weight loss” or diet interventions—because they are rarely sustainable, and often lead to weight gain over time,

there is increasing support for a “weight-neutral” approach to health—citing sustainability and long-term health outcomes as a reason to ditch the scale and focus on taking care of the body you actually have.

I would argue that pursuing health and nutrition in a weight-neutral way is critical for the safety of anyone in recovery from eating disorders, or binge-eating of any kind.

#4 Pursue Body Positivity (heal your Body Image NOW)

Letting go of the “goal” of weight loss, and committing to pursue actual health, can be challenging in a culture that regularly stigmatizes people on the basis of size.

We are constantly being fed messages that we are only worthy or lovable in thin bodies, and this can trigger a cascade effect onto our food:

Body Shame → Dieting (and/or Diet Mentality) → Binge-Eating

Of course, binge-eating often leads to more body shame…and the cycle continues on and on indefinitely.

While many hesitate to work on body-image believing that self-hatred is somehow “motivating” them into thinness,

the truth is, it is VERY difficult to overcome diet-binge cycling (and binge-eating in general) without doing significant body acceptance work right off the bat.

The sooner you work to accept the body you have, the sooner you’ll be able to truly let go of dieting and eat “normally” in accordance with your biological hunger signals.

Work with a coach, find a body-positive or body-acceptance support group, do what you need to do to remember:

Getting Help for Binge-Eating

At the end of the day, binge-eating is a reaction to dieting or other attempts to “control” food and weight.

You can think of it like a Bow & Arrow:

The farther back you pull a bow and arrow (aka dieting), the farther that bow’s gonna fly in the other direction as soon as you let it go.

If you want to heal your binge-eating for real, you’re gonna have to stop straining your body through dieting and other attempts at food or weight “control,” and re-learn to respect and honor your bodies natural instincts around food.

This will also mean learning to respect and honor your bodies natural size, which is different for everyone.

Binge-Eating Recovery Resources

To learn more about the non-diet approach on how to stop binge-eating, make sure to check out my free video training series at StopFightingFood.com.

You can also check out my free guide, “How To Not Eat Cake…really fast, standing up, when nobody’s looking” by filling out the form at the top of this page.

“People want to know, ‘How do I stop binge eating at night?’” observes Dr. Arvon, who’s been counseling guests at Pritikin on issues related to emotional eating since 2008. “There’s a lot of head-scratching and guilt over what happens in the evening hours, a lot of ‘Where did my will power go?’”

Scientists have found that night eaters consume more than 50% of their daily calories after 8 p.m. For many nighttime eaters, weight challenges would be solved if they could simply stop eating at night.

There’s a lot of science on the subject, too. As early as 1955, a University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist named Albert Stunkard first described a behavior called nighttime eating syndrome.1 In more recent years, notably a 1999 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association,2 scientists found that night eaters consumed more than 50% of their daily calories between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m, while a control group ate only 15% of their daily calories during those hours.

But as yet, unfortunately, there are no solid solutions.

Causes are also tough to pin down. Some studies point to stress; others, depression; still others, hormonal imbalances.

Nighttime eating syndrome is often linked with being overweight or obese, but some normal-weight people also struggle to curb nighttime eating.

Do you have nighttime eating syndrome?

If you answer “yes” to all or most of the following questions, you may, and it’s important to talk to your Pritikin or home doctor for support.

  • Do you overeat in the evening, especially after dinner?
  • Do you eat at night even though you’re not hungry?
  • Do you wake up during the night and eat, usually after a trip to the bathroom?
  • Do you have no appetite in the morning?
  • Do you often have feelings of sadness, stress, anxiety, or depression, and do these feelings tend to increase at night?

Scientists often distinguish between nighttime eating syndrome and binge eating. While both may be triggered by similar issues, night eaters tend to nosh, eating no more than 400 calories at a time. Binge eaters may consume an unusually large amount of food, between 2,000 and 3,000 calories, in one sitting, and usually quit after that.

What to do

To stop binge eating at night or nighttime noshing, researchers have begun to study psychological-based treatments and have found that cognitive behavioral therapy has benefits.

Dr. Coral Arvon helps guests stop binge eating at night using cognitive behavioral therapy. Guests learn to restructure their thoughts so that negative thinking is no longer in charge.

Taught at the Pritikin Longevity Center, cognitive behavioral therapy involves restructuring our thoughts, that is, changing the stories we tell ourselves so that negative thinking (such as “I’m stuck with this behavior and I’ll be fat the rest of my life”) is no longer in charge. Instead, attitudes are set in place that are positive and productive, and propel us forward.

In one pilot study,3 major improvements occurred among men and women involved in a 10-session cognitive behavior therapy program, including significant decreases in calorie intake after dinner, number of late-night ingestions (from 9 to 3 per week), and body weight. Within the 10-week period, average weight loss was 7 pounds. “Depressed mood and quality of life also improved significantly,” the authors wrote.

How Do I Stop Binge Eating at Night?

Below are 5 key skills, both behavioral and physiological, taught by Dr. Coral Arvon and the physicians and dietitians at Pritikin. They’ve helped our guests at Pritikin break their nighttime eating habits, shed weight, and live lives that are not only healthier, they’re happier.

  1. Don’t starve yourself during the day.

    Let’s revisit the words that began this article, the webinar attendee who said she’d been “really good” all day long. What exactly does that mean? Unfortunately for many people, “really good” means they skimped on food or skipped meals during the day. They’re often trying to “save up” their calories knowing they tend to go overboard at night.

    Not eating during the day almost always leads to hunger, which can lead to binge eating at night. The Pritikin Program, by contrast, is all about eating satisfying meals throughout the day.

    “But it’s one of the worse things we can do,” points out Dr. Arvon. “Depriving ourselves of food leaves us with nagging feelings of hunger, especially in the late afternoon on. We aren’t getting enough food, so we never get food out of our minds. Is it any surprise, then, that we go whole hog at night? We’re tired, we’re hungry, and finally… FINALLY… we’re going to reward ourselves!”

    That’s why it’s so important to listen to our hunger cues, as the recent Pritikin newsletter article The Hunger Scale discussed. When we’re hungry, we need to eat, and eat till we’re satisfied. Only then can we get past obsessions over food, and get back to our lives.

    Come evening, “you’ll still enjoy your food,” says Dr. Arvon, “but you won’t feel you’ve been pining away for it all day long, when means that when you do eat, it will have less power over you.”

    And sure, it’s no easy task to change eating habits. The fact is, “our bodies become accustomed to overeating at night and having no appetite in the morning,” notes Pritikin’s Director of Nutrition Kimberly Gomer. “Sometimes it takes a major intervention, like coming to the Pritikin Longevity Center, to break these habits so that our bodies can break through to new lives.”

    Better lives.

    “Mornings at Pritikin are something to see,” smiles Dr. Arvon. “People who used to wake up fatigued and bloated from last night’s binges are now sailing into our breakfast buffet charged with energy, ready to exercise, hungry, and filling their plates with our delicious hot cereals and fresh fruit. They’re amazed at how good they feel, that they could in fact feel this good again.”

  2. Don’t starve yourself at night.

    You’ve likely heard people say (or you’ve told yourself): “I’m not going to eat anything after 6 p.m. because everything I eat after that turns to fat.”

    But the notion that nighttime eating is more fattening than daytime eating, or that our metabolism slows down at night, is not based on good science.

    If you’re hungry, enjoy a healthy snack in the evening to help you avoid binge eating.

    What science does suggest is that night eaters simply eat more calories overall for the day, and that’s what contributes to weight gain.

    In one study,4 for example, scientists at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Phoenix placed 160 people in a research lab for three days and gave them unlimited access to food after dinner.

    About one-third of the subjects were late-night eaters. The scientists found that these night eaters burned the same number of calories as those not eating late at night, but the night eaters had eaten more food, about 300 more calories more, each day.

    And sure enough, those extra 300 calories daily took their toll. In follow-up studies three years later, the night eaters had gained an average of 14 pounds. Those who did not eat late at night had gained only 4 pounds.

    Bottom line:”If you are hungry at night, eat. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t think food eaten at night puts on more weight than the same food eaten earlier in the day,” encourages Pritikin’s Director of Nutrition Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD. “Enjoy a healthy, filling snack like a cup of fat-free Greek nonfat yogurt topped with fresh strawberries.”

    As discussed in our Hunger Scale article, focus not on the time of day but on how you feel. Stay in tune with your hunger and satiety cues. “Just make sure to stop eating when you’re lightly satisfied. Don’t keep eating till you’re stuffed,” says Kimberly.

  3. Break associations.

    A lot of us have gotten into the habit of eating while watching TV or playing on iPads or laptops at night. If you can’t imagine screen time without snacks, try cutting down on your screen activity, or cutting it out altogether. Or limit your screen eating to fruits, vegetables, and no-calorie drinks.

    Another tip: Occupy your hands in other ways. While watching TV, shoot nerf ball hoops, floss your teeth, take up knitting, or write notes to friends. Better yet, stretch on the floor, walk on a treadmill, or ride a stationary bike.

    Maybe most importantly, don’t have anything in the fridge or pantry that can get you into trouble. If your favorite calorie-dense snacks are nearby, they’ll be calling out to you, you just know it. Remove the junk, and you’ll remove the incessant, will-power-sapping temptation.

  4. Ask yourself, “Why am I eating?”

    Many of us have a nice satisfying dinner every night, but then, ah geez, we want more. We’re not hungry, but we’re in the kitchen sniffing around, ferreting out goodies.

    Advises Dr. Arvon: “It’s really important to ask yourself, ‘Why?’ What’s eating away at you that’s causing you to eat?”

    As discussed earlier, some research has linked nighttime eating with depression. Do seek counseling if you think you’re struggling with this potentially deadly disorder. Each year, reports the Centers for Disease Control,5 about 10% of Americans are afflicted with depression.

    “But for many of us,” points out Dr. Arvon, “overeating at night is simply a crummy, deeply ingrained habit fueled by less serious but still insidious feelings like frustrations over the day, loneliness, anxiousness, or boredom.”

    When you feel the urge to splurge, build in a 5- to 10-minute pause. You may even want to slap a big “STOP” sign on your refrigerator. Then ask yourself:

    • What am I really hungry for?
    • What do I need?

    Satisfy yourself with self-knowledge instead of food, and act on it.

    If, for example, you find that you’re anxious, begin a new habit. Right after dinner every night, steal away for a relaxation technique like meditation. Or sign up for evening yoga classes. Sometimes, just walking out the door for a brisk 15-minute walk can save you from a 500-calorie binge.

    If you feel an intense need to reward yourself at night, especially after a frustrating day, do reward yourself, but with non-food pleasures. Make a list of all the activities you enjoy. Maybe it includes shopping, listening to music, taking a nice long bath, getting a manicure or massage, going to the movies, going out dancing, playing a sport like golf or pick-up basketball, rekindling your romantic life, or simply going out for a drink with a best friend. Whenever you can, reserve nighttime for these pleasures.

    And certainly, one more pleasure will be waking up each morning free of the self-loathing and guilt that often accompanies nighttime overeating.

  5. Create a future mind-set.

    Do your best to replace immediate pleasures (like gulping down a bag of M and M’s) with long-term ones. Keep reminding yourself of why you’re avoiding those M and M’s.

    Plant your mind in the future. Daily, hourly, imagine doing all the things you want to do, and for years to come. Do you want to hike in the Sierra? Dance at your grandchildren’s weddings? Play golf till you’re 95?

    Make your own internal short film of best-life moments to come, and play it constantly. Hear your loved ones’ laughter. Sway to your favorite music. Breathe in that mountain air. Dive into the ocean. Nuzzle the new babies in your life.

    These positive imaginings can create a real mood boost, a gratefulness for all the people and events in your life that are truly important to you, and the strength to power through unhealthy temptations. The temptations will fizzle, and you’ll feel even better for short-circuiting them.

    Set up near-future goals, too. Invited to a big bash a month or two from now? Imagine what you’re going to wear, and how well you’re going to look and feel. Every time you’re about to reach for sweets or chips, time-travel to that night.

    “When we replace negative, defeatist thoughts with positive, masterful ones, we really can stop binge eating at night. We can ‘break the back of the beast’ and transform our lives,” encourages Dr. Arvon.

“Do remember that change takes time and awareness. You already have the awareness, so you’re well on the road to solving this very common challenge.”

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Sources

Edited by Kell Wynn, February 2019

The Common Eating Disorder No One Is Talking About

The Canadian (and American) Psychological Association defines BED (binge eating disorder) as, “recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of lack of control.” BED, is a highly common food disorder, and yet no one is talking about it. Not many, at least. Moreover, BED is distinct from overeating in that these instances of overeating create psychological distress and are driven by emotional cues (like sadness), rather than physiological cues (i.e. hunger).

To my knowledge there are many who quietly struggle though BED. I hope this article sparks more stories of truth, healing and the perseverance necessary to outlast and kick having a food disorder in the ass. Over and over again. After all, one of the core action components that I facilitate with my clients is: digging in deep.

Because, when BED tries to take the steering well, we need a formula. An arsenal. In order to do so, we have to define some terms, go for a ride on my own way-back-machine. We gotta “go deep.”

Articles and resources for people struggling with anorexia and bulimia are plentiful, while I’ve found support for those with BED is minimal. I thought I was greedy, or had no self-control. This lack of discussion and awareness had a polarizing effect on me. (Not anymore!)

Food was my first “addiction” and has remained my last. It started when I was very young, I would sneak into the kitchen and grab whatever I could to self-soothe away the various crap my tender, young heart, body and brain endured. Cookies in the closet. Chips in the dark under the covers. Completely zoning out — or what is clinically described as “blacking out” — during meal and snack-times, going for seconds constantly, etc. I remember getting in epic trouble at a particular foster homes and often treated like a glutton. No one ever took the time to realize there was something seriously wrong, or get proper help/care for the kid who was in a world of pain.

So my weight fluctuated as a kid… I don’t remember much about how I managed that (was I seriously dieting as a small child and then bingeing? I don’t know — looking back on pictures it’s clear, I fluctuated.) As a tween, food became a way to rebel, and I didn’t realize (or care) that I was only punishing myself. It wasn’t until I left “home” as a teen — and hit the streets — that other forms of self-medicating became thrusted upon me, constantly available and always a-plenty. So I became skinny. Really skinny. Kicking those habits became the focus as a young adult and the food-beasty started to trickle back in. And it was a sneaky beasty. It (my BED), took its sweet ass time rearing its ugly head around again, although, of course it did, as I had never addressed it.

I never used to think as food as nourishment for my body; it was way to self-medicate and numb the pain; cleverly poised as a frenemy. I didn’t know about BED, nor did I feel strong or confident enough to talk openly about it. Now I’m a straight up advocate, which is why I’m dissecting some of my past here with you.

I want women like me who have similar stories (not necessarily in how we got here, but in having BED), to be able to find me and know they aren’t alone. I want young girls to grow up seeing people who represent and look like them and know that diversity is what makes us strong! The adversity of having mental illness or a food disorder is diversity, too. I trade in stories and in truth. It’s not so much a commodity as it is a responsibility (to me). I have to be really honest with myself in order to put my shit out there and have it affect somebody else.

So what helps me?

1. Setting an intention (in my bullet journal) each and every day to take care of my physical and mental health.

2. Having a food disorder has influenced my work. Helping others in and out of the food disorder realm has been deeply rewarding and fulfilling. Inspiring, grounding and potent.

3. Making art is the best therapy I never paid for.

4. Cognitive perception: a field of Humanistic Psychology known as the Self-Determination Theory provides an interesting model for why individuals engage in binge eating disorders. Having this knowledge helps the brainy part of my brain. The theory suggests that every person on the planet needs to fulfill three core values to be happy. Every person must feel competent, related to others and in control of their actions. BED perpetuates itself in part because of the strong feeling of a lack of control. Impulsive behavior is common (*waving* hiiii!) and it is very easy to feel as if we’ve lost the ability to regulate our own behavior. When we’re depressed, anxious, stressed, insecure and fearful we feel like we have a lack of control, we feel detached from others and we can doubt any attempt for ourselves or others to help; causing the cycle to self-perpetuate. (Please tell me this is happening.) It can lead to people feeling alone (You’re not alone!) and incapable of solving the problem.

5. Competence: I used to feel completely incompetent, because every attempt to make change was stymied. While I still have my off days, I’ve made some sort of dark and twisted peace with my BED and I know I have the power (you do too) to work against the negatives and continue to build-up my sense of self. I deserve it. You deserve it.

6. CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), art therapy, traditional indigenous/anishinaabe ceremonies and gestalt therapy have been game changers for me.

7. Exercise: being outside (running, hiking, camping) are just a necessity. Those endorphins though. Fuck the scale.

To anyone struggling with BED, I say to you with complete confidence and sincerity: You are not broken, and you are worthy.

Also, my personal mantra: You may see me struggle but you will never see me quit.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo via contributor

How to Support a Family Member Who Has Binge Eating Disorder

by Chevese Turner, Founder, President & CEO, Binge Eating Disorder Association

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. Binge eating disorder affects three times the number of those diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia combined. It is more prevalent than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia.

Also called compulsive or emotional overeating, binge eating disorder affects 3.5% of women and 2% of men—more than 9 million people. But the actual number is likely much higher, as binge eating disorder is the least recognized, diagnosed, and treated eating disorder.

Binge Eating Disorder and Obesity

While it is estimated that 70% of those who suffer from binge eating disorder are obese, not everyone who has binge eating disorder is obese. The “cure” is not to lose weight. Prescribing weight loss and blaming the individual further entrenches the disorder, causing shame and resulting in weight gain.

Binge Eating Disorder and Weight Bias

Judgment and discrimination based on body size is everywhere—in our homes, schools, and offices. This is weight bias, and it includes shaming, blaming, and bullying.

Binge Eating Disorder and Bullying

Studies show that bullying of any kind, but particularly weight-based bullying,1 leads to increased occurrence of low self-esteem, poor body image, social isolation, eating disorders, poor academic performance, and even suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Children and teens who are overweight can be victims of many forms of bullying, including physical force, name-calling, derogatory comments, mean-spirited teasing, and being ignored or excluded.

Research2 conducted by Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the UConn Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity, has found:

  • Weight-based teasing predicted binge eating at five years of follow-up among both men and women, even after controlling for age, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
  • Peer victimization can be directly predicted by weight.
  • 64% of students enrolled in weight-loss programs reported experiencing weight-based victimization.
  • One-third of girls and one-fourth of boys report weight-based teasing from peers, but prevalence rates increase to approximately 60% among the heaviest students.
  • 84% of students observed other students perceived as overweight being called names or getting teased during physical activities.

Puhl’s research on obesity and weight stigma3 has also found that adults who live in larger bodies are often excluded and discriminated against and are often victims of vicious public fat shaming:

  • The prevalence of weight discrimination in the United States has increased by 66% over the past decade and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination.
  • Weight bias translates into inequities in employment settings (such as lower wages), health care facilities (such as lower quality of care), and educational institutions, often owing to widespread negative stereotypes that overweight and obese people are lazy, unmotivated, lacking in self-discipline, less competent, noncompliant, and sloppy.
  • These stereotypes are prevalent and are rarely challenged in Western society, leaving overweight and obese people vulnerable to social injustice, unfair treatment, and impaired quality of life as a result of substantial disadvantages and stigma.

Binge Eating Disorder and Weight Stigma

Weight stigma is what people feel when they are the objects of weight bias—when they are shamed, blamed, bullied, excluded, or discriminated against. Weight stigma causes increased disordered eating and weight gain, decreased psychological functioning, and lower self-esteem. It is a form of trauma.

Bullying Is Trauma

Bullying because of body size can have a major negative impact on this vulnerable population. We know binge eating disorder has the highest rate of trauma of all eating disorders—that is, individuals who have binge eating disorder have experienced trauma at some point during their lives.

Types of trauma include emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; a divorce or death; and, yes, bullying. Trauma doesn’t have to be catastrophic to have lasting catastrophic effects on a person’s psychological, social, and physical health.

People living in larger bodies experience trauma every day by being assaulted by negative attitudes and messages about weight from all angles: in the media; at home, school, and work; even in doctors’ offices. This type of trauma increases stress and leads to internalized weight stigma, which further entrenches disordered eating patterns.

What to Say and Do

Like with other mental disorders, people who have eating disorders often lack the self-awareness to recognize they are in distress. Because shame and secrecy characterize binge eating disorder, people who struggle may not acknowledge that they have a problem.

There are many things you can do to support a family member who has binge eating disorder. Above all, be kind and compassionate, because your loved one is suffering much more than you can know.

DO:

  • Learn about binge eating disorder so you know the signs.
  • Talk about things other than food, weight, body size, calories, and exercise.
  • Discuss feelings instead.
  • Listen with respect and sensitivity.
  • Express your concern and desire to help.
  • Be available when you are needed.
  • Share your own struggles.
  • Suggest seeking help.
  • Stay calm and be persistent; you will encounter resistance.

DO NOT:

  • Try to solve the problem for your family member; he or she needs a qualified professional.
  • Comment on appearance—concern about weight loss may be taken as a compliment, and comments about weight gain may be experienced as criticism.
  • Get involved in a power struggle around eating.
  • Threaten or use scare tactics to get your loved one to change or seek treatment.
  • Focus on weight, body size, calories, eating habits, or exercise.
  • Blame your family member for doing something wrong.
  • Use food as a reward or punishment.
  • Be afraid to upset or talk to your loved one.
  • Reject or ignore your family member; he or she needs you.

There are also many things you can do to help stop weight-based bullying:

  • Talk to your child about bullying and what to do if it happens.
  • Learn to recognize signs of being bullied.
  • Learn to recognize signs of binge eating disorder.
  • Learn to recognize signs of emotional distress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Don’t ignore any signs.
  • Educate yourself on what to say and do if you think someone is being bullied, is being a bully, or may have binge eating disorder.
  • Talk to your child about the incident.
  • Seek help from school administrators and counselors.
  • Seek help from a qualified mental health professional if you see signs of binge eating disorder.
  • Become an advocate.

How to Get Help

Eating disorders are not fads, phases, or choices. They are complex, serious mental illnesses. Binge eating disorder requires professional evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.

Encourage your family member to seek help from a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional, and offer to accompany him or her for emotional support.

Recovery from binge eating disorder is a journey that is different for everyone, but it is possible!

About the author –

Chevese Turner
Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer

Recognizing the need for an organization to advocate on behalf of affected individuals and the providers who treat them, Chevese Turner founded the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) in June 2008. A well-rounded career in the non-profit healthcare sector, pharmaceutical industry, and on political campaigns performing a variety of leadership roles including advocacy, education development, marketing, and government affairs prepared Turner to serve this under recognized population through social action, education, and outreach.

Turner has in-depth knowledge of health care policy development and organizational advocacy which she utilizes in BEDA’s efforts to increase access to quality-care for those with BED. Over the past 5 years she monumentally increased the recognition of binge eating disorder as a distinct condition and insisted that it no longer be relegated to a footnote in the eating disorders field. She is recognized as a leading voice on the continuing need for increased BED recognition, research and advocacy across many stakeholder communities and was instrumental in bringing the topic of weight stigma to the forefront through BEDA’s annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week to draw attention to the stigmatization of individuals living at higher weights and the important role this can play in the development and/or maintenance of eating disorders.

Turner is passionate about and dedicated to the BED community, having struggled with the disorder for many years prior to finding treatment and recovery. She is steadfast in her journey to bring the disorder and the need for specialized treatment in to the light for those who suffer in silence. She is a regular speaker about her own journey and issues related to advocacy work around binge eating disorder and weight concerns, bias, discrimination, and bullying.

Turner attended Temple University in Philadelphia where she received a BA in Political Science. She is a past Committee Woman to the City of Philadelphia’s 21st Ward and cannot imagine engaging in a profession that is not related to working to better the human condition. Turner lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband and two sons, and is an avid Yankees fan.

References –

Binge Eating Disorder Statistics: Know the Facts

Binge eating disorder (BED) is actually the most common eating disorder in the United States. BED affects an estimated 2.8 million people in the United States, according to a national survey.

People with BED consume excessive amounts of food in a single sitting. During periods of bingeing, they experience a sense of loss of control over their eating. They often experience feelings of guilt or shame following these binge eating episodes.

3 Surprising Facts About Binge Eating Disorder

  • Binge eating disorder affects three times the number of people diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia combined.
  • Binge eating disorder is more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia.
  • Research shows that binge eating is associated with being overweight and obese. You can be obese and not have binge eating disorder, however.

Demographics

People with eating disorders often suffer in silence. This makes it difficult for researchers to identify the number of people affected by these disorders. In one online survey, only 3 percent of adults in the United States who met criteria for binge eating disorder reported getting a BED diagnosis from their doctor. This suggests that many people with BED are not receiving medical treatment.

BED is seen among all age groups, races, and income levels, though it is most prevalent among women. It is, however, the most common eating disorder among men.

Symptoms

People with binge eating disorder display a combination of symptoms. These include:

  • regularly eating more food than most people would in a single sitting, while feeling out of control about the eating episode
  • having binge eating episodes at least once a week for three months or longer
  • feeling out of control while you’re eating

In addition to the above, people with binge eating disorder must have at least three of the following symptoms:

  • eating really fast or past the point of feeling full
  • experiencing negative feelings of shame, guilt, or remorse about binge eating
  • eating a lot even when you’re not hungry
  • eating alone, particularly because you’re embarrassed about how much you’re eating

People with BED don’t attempt to compensate for their binges with unhealthy actions, such as:

  • dietary restriction or fasting
  • excessive exercising
  • purging via self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse

Risk Factors

Researchers do not yet know the exact cause of binge eating disorder. According to a study published in Obesity, dopamine levels in the brain could be a factor. Dopamine can affect a person’s food intake by:

  • interfering with a person’s ability to regulate food cravings
  • creating cravings or a desire for certain foods
  • increasing how much someone enjoys eating certain foods

Weight is not a risk factor for BED in and of itself. People with binge eating disorder can be overweight, obese, or a healthy weight.

Long-Term Effects

If you have binge eating disorder, seek help now to avoid any potential health complications in the future. These could include both physical and emotional consequences.

Binge eating disorder may result in many of the same health risks commonly associated with obesity. These include:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • osteoarthritis
  • sleep apnea

People with binge eating disorder can also suffer from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or other issues that can greatly affect quality of life.

Treatment

The good news is that treatment is available and recovery is possible. In 2013, binge eating disorder was officially adopted as a formal diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Not only is there more awareness around the disorder, but there are also more doctors trained in the treatment of binge eating disorder. This has made it easier for people to receive treatment.

Binge eating disorders can become debilitating and, in some instances, life-threatening. You should seek professional help if your eating habits are negatively impacting your quality of life or your overall happiness. The most effective treatments typically involve a combination of psychotherapy. Treatment may be done in a group setting, individually, or with a combination of the two. Particular attention will be paid to your medical and nutritional needs. You may be prescribed medication for depression in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy, for example.

It’s important to work with a doctor who is experienced in treating eating disorders. You will likely work with a team of healthcare professionals. This team may include:

  • a psychotherapist
  • a psychiatrist
  • a nutritionist
  • primary care doctor

Treatment will aim to:

  1. help you cease the binge eating
  2. discuss the physical and emotional factors of your binge eating
  3. discuss steps toward long term recovery

For some people, treatment can be done on a completely outpatient basis. For others, more intensive inpatient therapy at an eating disorders treatment facility might be recommended. Family-based treatment, which involves a person’s entire family in the treatment process, has shown some promise for children with binge eating disorder.

No one should have to suffer alone. Reach out today if you or someone you know might be suffering from binge eating disorder. Treatment is available, and recovery can be just around the corner.

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