Do you want to learn how to stop binge eating? Engaging in binge eating can feel extremely shameful and it often feels very much out of our control. Is it possible though to stop binge eating—for good? The answer is yes, with a few guidelines.
How to Stop Binge Eating
When you are impacted by an eating disorder, your mental state is not in a place where you are able to trust your own mind when it comes to food choices and body image. This is because eating disorders do a very good job of disconnecting us from our hunger and fullness cues, warping our perception of our bodies, and breaking foods into two binary categories of good and bad. Considering these factors, it’s important to remember that using an intuitive eating, Health at Every Size® approach to eating disorder recovery is a complex process that requires the support of a trained and competent clinical team. All of that being said, intuitive eating and Health at Every Size have been considered the best and most effective approach to eating disorder recovery. For those of us struggling with binge eating, especially those of us in larger bodies, we may have an even more difficult time embracing an intuitive approach to food and the reality of body diversity. But if you want to stop binge eating, unlearning the diet mentality and making peace with food (principles 1 and 3 of intuitive eating, respectively) come first.
Why is this the case? Because bingeing is almost always a response to restriction, and restriction is most often in service of weight loss or “health.” Except in cases of self-soothing that is not preempted restriction (this most often happens for young children who have not yet internalized diet mentality), bingeing is your body’s way of catching up when you prevent it from gaining its sustenance. And that restriction, that physical deprivation you are inflicting on yourself, it accumulates over time. So one week of restricting, one month, one year…when you finally allow yourself to eat enough again, it’s gonna come back to bite you (no pun intended) full force.
What does this all mean for bingeing behavior? It means that the longer and more intensely that you restrict, the longer and more intensely you will binge. This is why ending restriction through making peace with food is such a key piece of ending binge eating behaviors.
It’s also important to note that restriction is both physical and mental in nature. When we restrict food physically, there are repercussions. When we restrict mentally—as in, we allow ourselves to eat something, but we continue to believe that it is a “bad” choice and engage in negative self-talk focused on the swirling guilt and shame of eating whatever it is we’ve chosen—there are the same repercussions. It is only when we are able to make any food choice without mental turmoil that we are truly free from food. This opens the door to ending bingeing because it ensures that our body gets what it needs and wants, resulting in a reduction of rebellion eating or eating driven by self-disgust.
Here are some questions to consider if you are still struggling with mental restriction:
- How do you feel emotionally when you eat certain fear foods?
- Is there guilt associated with eating certain fear foods?
- What would it have been like if you’d eaten a larger amount of the fear food?
- Are there still good and bad labels attached to these foods?
- Are you giving yourself full, unconditional permission to eat?
These questions represent just a few of the variables you need to consider when investigating your own bingeing behavior. Intuitive eating can heal your relationship with food, but it takes a lot of work in terms of unlearning diet mentality, making peace with all foods, engaging in self-examination about your body-image beliefs, and much more. You have to unlearn diet culture in all its forms and see the subtle ways in which you are holding onto diet mentality and restriction. If you want to stop bingeing for good, you have to let go of the deprivation mindset, both physical and mental, and allow it to catch up with all the damage that’s been done in the past.
So if you’re still bingeing, don’t panic. Instead, acknowledge that you are making up for lost time and that there are nutrients your body needs because you’ve been limiting your food choices. This is your body trying to stay alive. As we begin to understand this, we can begin to make peace with the bingeing behavior, giving us more freedom to walk away from it when it doesn’t serve us.
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About the Author
Ashley M. Seruya is a social work student, virtual assistant, and content creator specializing in eating disorder recovery, Health at Every Size, and weight stigma. Learn more about her work at ashleymseruya.com or on her Instagram at @fatpositivetherapy.
Health at Every Size is a registered trademark of the Association for Size Diversity and Health.