Skip to Content

Behavioral techniques to stop binge eating


The point at which most people put down their forks and stop is usually not a familiar place for people with binge eating disorder.

Seemingly uncontrollable urges to consume large amounts of food - even to the point of feeling uncomfortable or in pain - characterize this condition. The good news, however, is that binges can be stopped. As part of a complete recovery program, simple behavioral techniques can help you learn to stop eating when you're full - and to avoid using food as an emotional coping mechanism.

Food journal

Keeping a food journal can be one of the most powerful ways to understand your relationship with eating. Start making a daily record of everything you eat, when you eat it and how much of it you consume. Also take note of what feelings you were having before you ate and what you feel after a meal. The process may feel tedious at first, but with practice, you will start to notice certain patterns that develop. For example, you might realize that you tend to binge when you're nervous, or that late-night hours are your danger zone for overeating. Once you can identify what these "triggers" are, you can start working to minimize their power over you.

Creating new habits

Noticing your habits by keeping a food journal is the first step, and the next step involves changing your habits. If you tend to binge after dinner, for instance, it's time to create a new behavioral habit to replace eating. This can be anything from taking a walk, working on a project, checking in with a friend or reading a chapter of a book. Addiction experts say that it takes 21 days to create a new habit - after several weeks of deliberately switching gears to do something new during times you are triggered, your brain and body will eventually catch up. Be patient with the process, and try to find things that feel good when you are doing them. This will create a new positive association in your brain.

Eat regularly

One habit that is often overlooked by people with binge eating disorder is the importance of regular meal times. It's a simple but basic premise: your hunger cues are better controlled when you fuel your body regularly. Aim for three square meals a day with light snacks mid-morning and late afternoon, if you need them. Sometimes just developing a regular eating schedule can help curb binge eating immensely.

The sugar factor

Ruling out emotional factors, binge eating is often driven by simple blood sugar imbalances in the body. Consulting your food journal, take a look at how much sugar and carbohydrates you consume on a daily basis (fruit, sugary snacks, soda, white bread, etc.). Start your day with a protein-rich breakfast to avoid setting yourself up for a sugar crash later in the day. When the body's blood sugar levels drop after rising drastically, this signals your body to eat - and it's often responsible for that ravenous feeling associated with binge eating. Try eliminating or reducing the amount of gluten you eat, too, as this often helps balance out blood sugar levels.

Source: National Eating Disorders Association