Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on May 27, 2021 Relax


1/12 Don’t beat yourself up. One over-the-top meal won’t ruin your health. Plus, too much guilt about eating habits can lead you to deny yourself. This can make you feel deprived and then cause you to binge again in an unhealthy cycle. Instead, decide what you’ll do differently in the future, especially in the days that follow. Take a Walk

Take a Walk

2/12 An easy stroll will help stimulate your digestion and even out your blood sugar levels. Or go for a leisurely bike ride instead. But don’t overdo it. A real workout could send the blood to your legs instead of your stomach, which could slow digestion. Drink Water

Drink Water

3/12 Don’t chug it by the liter until you feel sick. Just sip on a cup of water (about 8 ounces) after a big meal. It can help your body get rid of excess salt you likely got from your meal. It can also keep you from getting constipated. Continue to drink water over the rest of the day to keep yourself hydrated. Don’t Lie Down

Don’t Lie Down

4/12 That means no naps (unless you can do it standing up). First, you lose the chance to burn off some of those calories you just ate by, say, doing the dishes or going for a walk. Also, when you lie down with a full stomach, food can work its way back up. This can slow digestion and worsen acid reflux (GERD). The couch will have to wait until your food has time to settle. Skip the Bubbles

Skip the Bubbles

5/12 If you’ve already overdone it, carbonated drinks may not be a great idea. When you drink them, you swallow gas that can fill up your digestive system. This will make you feel even more bloated. You burp some of it away, and the rest moves through your digestive system until you pass it as gas. Give Away Leftovers

Give Away Leftovers

6/12 If you still have food left after a meal, it might make you think you’ve eaten a healthy amount even though you’ve actually eaten too much. Some research suggests that this could make you eat more and exercise less later. If you keep leftovers, it may help to divide them into single servings so you don’t overdo it next time. Don’t keep calorie bombs like grandma’s pecan pie in the kitchen if you know you can’t resist. Work Out

Work Out

7/12 After some time has gone by, work up a real sweat: Run, lift weights, play basketball. It’s best to wait at least 3 to 4 hours after a big meal. It will burn off some of those extra calories. It may also help jump-start your metabolism and prevent constipation. And regular exercise seems to help control mood and hunger so you’re less likely to overeat in the future. Plan Your Next Meal

Plan Your Next Meal

8/12 You can’t “uneat” that third slice of turtle chocolate cheesecake at your brother’s birthday feast. But you can prepare so you don’t overdo it tomorrow and beyond. Choose low-cal recipes and plan out your meals for the week. Set aside time to make as many of your meals in advance as possible. Phone and computer apps can help you plan it all out to the last calorie. Eat Mindfully

Eat Mindfully

9/12 Try to look at eating as a kind of meditation. Pay attention to the flavor, feel, and color of your food. Think about the meal: Where was the food grown or raised? How did the cook make it? Try to take small bites and chew well. Stop from time to time and ask yourself if you feel full yet. This can help you eat less and feel more satisfied. Eat Slowly

Eat Slowly

10/12 It can take around 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full. If you’ve already eaten too much in the first 10 minutes, you haven’t given your brain the chance to figure it out. Half an hour later, you’re sure to feel uncomfortable from too much food. Slow down and you may find that not only do you eat fewer calories, but you also feel more satisfied. The Old Switcheroo

The Old Switcheroo

11/12 You can eat more food with less calories if you switch out foods like fatty meat, white bread, and french fries for healthier choices. Think vegetables like broccoli, yellow squash, asparagus, and salad greens. Whole grains are better than white rice or pasta because they have more protein and fiber. This will help keep you satisfied longer so you’ll eat less. When to Seek Help

When to Seek Help

12/12 If you often eat until you’re too full or even sick, you could have what’s called binge eating disorder. You might hide it from others. You may feel ashamed or disgusted after you eat too much. It may seem like you can’t stop even if you want to. Over time, it can take a serious toll on your body as well as your mental health. Treatment can help, so talk to a doctor if you’re worried.

Show Sources

IMAGES PROVIDED BY: 1) Getty 2) Getty 3) Getty 4) Getty 5) Getty 6) Getty 7) Getty 8) Getty 9) Getty 10) Getty 11) Getty 12) Getty SOURCES: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: «5 Whole Grains to Keep Your Family Healthy.» American Council on Exercise: «7 Ways to Stop Overeating Once and for All.» Brigham Young University: “BYU study says exercise may reduce motivation for food.” CDC: «How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight.» Cleveland Clinic: «Feel Bloated? 5 Odd Reasons for Your Stomach Pain.» Consumer Reports: “Eat Slow to Lose Weight.” Digital Trends: «The Best Meal-Planning Apps for 2019.» Harvard Health Publishing: «Mindful Eating.» “Binge Eating Disorder.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: «Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults.» Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Slower eating speed lowers energy intake in normal-weight but not overweight/obese subjects.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology: “Out of proportion? The role of leftovers in eating-related affect and behavior.” Mayo Clinic: «Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts,» «Binge-eating Disorder.» National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Just Enough for You: About Food Portions.” Piedmont Healthcare: “10 tips for a healthier gut,” “5 things to do after eating a large meal.” University of Michigan Medicine: “4 Ways to Stop Digestive Discomfort After a Supersized Meal.”

Compulsive Overeating and How to Stop It

Think back to the last time you ate so much you felt absolutely stuffed. Were you tearing into a huge cake to celebrate a friend’s birthday? Loading up on turkey and sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving? Or were you at home alone, maybe at the end of a tough day? How did you feel afterward — simply annoyed that you gave yourself a stomachache? Or were you tormented by guilt or shame? Eating too much every once in a while is normal. So is eating for emotional reasons. “From the moment we’re born, we’re nurtured with food, rewarded with food, and so emotional connections to food are normal,” says Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. People who compulsively overeat, though, may use food as their only way of coping with negative emotions. As a result, they often feel that their eating is out of control. They think about food all the time and feel guilty, ashamed, or depressed after eating. “That’s very different from what someone feels after, say, eating a big Thanksgiving meal,” May says. “You might feel full, and you might regret having had that last slice of pie, but you’re not consumed with shame.” Some people who overeat have a clinical disorder called binge eating disorder (BED). People with BED compulsively eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time and feel guilt or shame afterward. And they do so often: at least once a week over a period of at least 3 months. Not everyone who overeats is a binger. You might eat a lot of food throughout the day, rather than all in one sitting. And you might not do it regularly, but only when you’re feeling stressed, lonely, or upset.

How does it start?

In some cases, people simply overeat out of mindless habit, like always sitting down with a bag of chips in front of the TV at night. But oftentimes, it’s the result of underlying emotional problems. Having a negative body image can play a big role. For many people, compulsive overeating is part of a cycle that starts with a restrictive diet. May calls it the “eat, repent, repeat” cycle. You might begin a diet because you feel bad about your weight or size but find that it’s too hard to stick to — especially if you use food as a coping tool. Eventually, you hit a breaking point and binge on “forbidden” foods, and then the guilt and shame set in, and the restrictions begin again. The cycle can be hard to break. “Even people who say they’re not on a diet often have ingrained ideas about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods,” says Marsha Hudnall, president of Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont, a center for women who struggle with overeating. “But when you have a substance that is naturally appealing and soothing and comforting, and you make it off-limits, it just becomes more attractive.”

Can people be “addicted” to food?

In recent years, food addiction has become a popular idea among some scientists. Those researchers say that certain foods high in fat, sugar, and salt are addictive, causing changes in the brain similar to those made by drugs. Studies in animals have shown that rats that binge on sugar, for example, can develop signs of dependency. But the idea of food addiction is controversial. For one thing, the standard treatment for addiction is abstinence, and that’s not possible with food. Also, “dieting is a very strong component of the binge eating cycle,” May says. “From that standpoint, it’s counterproductive to label certain foods as negative.” There’s no doubt that eating can stimulate the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain, Hudnall says. “But that doesn’t make food an addictive substance. There’s evidence that it’s actually the behavior — the restrict/binge cycle — that causes the signs of dependency, not the food itself,” she says. Some researchers have even stated that the term “eating addiction” is a more accurate term than “food addiction.” Seek help. It can be hard to stop overeating on your own, particularly if there are deep-rooted emotional problems involved, says Robin B. Kanarek, PhD, professor of psychology at Tufts University. Working with a counselor can help you uncover the psychological triggers — like a negative body image — that may be driving your behavior. Avoid labels. “Understand that you’re not a bad person doing bad things,” May says. “Labeling yourself can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of continuing the cycle.” The same goes for labeling foods. “Food is food — it’s not ‘good’ or ‘bad,’” Kanarek says. “It can be hard to get over those deeply held beliefs, but research shows that if you eat what you deem a ‘bad’ food, you’re more likely to overeat afterward.” Take a pause. When you feel like eating, pause for a moment and ask yourself: Am I hungry? “Sometimes people get so focused on what they want to eat that they don’t stop and ask themselves why they want to eat,” May says. If you use food as a coping tool, you may be out of touch with the cues that signal hunger or fullness, and it’s important to bring your awareness back to your body. Change your environment. “A habit is very often simply a behavior that’s on autopilot,” Hudnall says. Making a tweak to your environment can return your focus to your behavior and give you a chance to make a more purposeful decision. For example, Hudnall says, “if you always sit in a certain chair to eat, move it to a different place in the room — or sit somewhere else entirely.” Give into cravings — in moderation. Banning foods can cause you to overeat them later on. If you’re really craving something — even if you’re not hungry — give yourself permission to have a small amount. End restrictive diets . “Overeating and restrictive eating are often two sides of the same coin,” May says. “Deprivation can be a trigger for overeating just like stress, anger, or anxiety.” Simple strategies can help you overcome overeating By John Casey WebMD Weight Loss Clinic — Feature Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD You may not be aware of it, but you have a relationship with food. We all do, food experts say, and as with all relationships, there are good things about it and bad things, too. Eating when we’re not hungry is one of those bad things that come with living in an environment that is superabundant in food. One of the main reasons we eat when we’re not hungry is because we sometimes use food to shield ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, says David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. «People eat sometimes to get relief from boredom, depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, and other moods,» he says. Often, the foods we reach for first in times of stress are «comfort foods that our mothers used to soothe the scraped knee or tender ego,» says WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Dietitian Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD. «If we don’t reach for comfort foods, we tend to reach for alcohol, sweets, and savory foods that tend to be high in fats, sugar, and calories.» Track Your Triggers A big part of weight management «is recognizing these mechanisms and applying skills and strategies to address the difference between the need to eat and the desire to eat,» says Katz, author of The Way to Eat, which was co-published with the American Dietetic Association. How do you begin to recognize these mechanisms? Tracking your eating triggers is the first step, says Lauren Solotar, PhD, chief psychologist at the May Institute, a nonprofit behavioral health organization in Walpole, Mass. Solotar, who studies obesity and eating disorders, has her clients fill out diaries detailing what they ate and their feelings at the time. Over time, the diary entries make it clear when the client is vulnerable to eating for reasons other than hunger. This approach «gradually allows people to recognize how their feelings are triggering eating behaviors,» Solotar says. That self-recognition, she says, is an important skill: «Once a client learns to recognize the feelings that trigger eating, that skill can be used to rein in unnecessary eating.» When you feel the urge to eat, ask yourself a few questions, says Solotar:

  • Am I actually, physically hungry?
  • How will I feel after eating?
  • Is the food I plan to eat something my body needs?

«Identifying feelings and asking questions initiates a [thought] process that brings behavior under better control,» she says. What you eat is important, too, says Katz. A diet rich in non-processed foods and high in fiber «can help maintain levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that strongly influences mood. Eating well tends to promote mental as well as physical health.» Watching television for hours in the evening or sitting at a computer monitor at your desk all day can also make you vulnerable to unnecessary eating.

«Research shows that people who eat in front of the TV report feeling like they haven’t eaten at all.»
Watching TV can become a behavioral pattern — one that competes with your other patterns of general activity, including physical exercise, says Gerard Musante, PhD. Musante is a clinical psychologist and consulting professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center and founder of Structure House, a residential weight-management facility in Durham, N.C. «Data shows that watching four hours of television a day, for example, tends to be a consistent behavioral pattern of an obese individual,» he says. «Studies have shown the typical American family may spend as much as 25 hours a week in front of the television.» And while we’re watching TV or surfing away on our computers, we tend to not pay attention to what or how much we are eating. Researchers who study eating behavior call this «food inattentiveness.» «Television is a big problem,» says Solotar. «When we eat in front of the television, we aren’t paying attention to what we are eating. Research shows that people who eat in front of the TV report feeling like they haven’t eaten at all. It appears that the food eaten doesn’t register all that well when we are distracted.» Solotar calls eating while watching TV a «high-risk eating situation.» Other such situations include parties, celebrations, and other potentially stressful social and work situations. Tips and Strategies Here are some simple strategies to overcome food cravings when you know you’re not hungry or are in high-risk eating situations:

  • Before you eat, drink a glass of water, wait 10 minutes, and see if you can get past the urge to eat.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV.
  • Eat every few hours instead of letting a snack attack drive you to the vending machine.
  • Create a safe nutritional environment at home — have plenty of healthy food on hand and don’t keep junk food in the house.
  • Plan healthy snacks for those times when you are vulnerable to eating, especially late afternoon and after dinner.
  • Find alternative behaviors to eating: take a bubble bath, go to the movies, walk the dog, wash the car. Chances are, if you can distract yourself, the urge to eat will pass.
  • Do something physical before dinner — talk a walk, ride a bike around the block — to help yourself calm down from the day and sort through feelings before you start to eat.

We live in a food-rich environment with seemingly unending choices of healthy and less-than-healthy foods. That’s why, says Musante, we «must learn to live with food, to use food in an appropriate and healthy way and at the same time begin to understand your unique relationship with food.» Originally published Aug. 22, 2003. Medically updated Jan. 13, 2006. SOURCES: David Katz, MD, director, Prevention Research Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn. Lauren Solotar, chief psychologist, the May Institute, Walpole, Mass. Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, WebMD Weight Loss Clinic dietitian. Gerard Musante, PhD, consulting professor, department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Duke University Medical Center; founder, Structure House, Durham, N.C. eating disorders

Do you struggle with binge eating? Learn about the symptoms of compulsive overeating and what you can do to stop it.

Man sitting on sofa and eating burger

What is binge eating disorder?

All of us eat too much from time to time. But if you regularly overeat while feeling out of control and powerless to stop, you may be suffering from binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder is a common eating disorder where you frequently eat large amounts of food while feeling powerless to stop and extremely distressed during or after eating. You may eat to the point of discomfort, then be plagued by feelings of guilt, shame, or depression afterwards, beat yourself up for your lack of self-control, or worry about what compulsive eating will do to your body. Binge eating disorder typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood, often after a major diet. During a binge, you may eat even when you’re not hungry and continue eating long after you’re full. You may also binge so fast you barely register what you’re eating or tasting. Unlike bulimia, however, there are no regular attempts to “make up” for the binges through vomiting, fasting, or over-exercising. You may find that binge eating is comforting for a brief moment, helping to ease unpleasant emotions or feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. But then reality sets back in and you’re flooded with feelings of regret and self-loathing. Binge eating often leads to weight gain and obesity, which only reinforces compulsive eating. The worse you feel about yourself and your appearance, the more you use food to cope. It becomes a vicious cycle: eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food for relief. As powerless as you may feel about your eating disorder, it’s important to know that binge eating disorder is treatable. You can learn to break the binge eating cycle, better manage your emotions, develop a healthier relationship with food, and regain control over your eating and your health. Affordable private online therapy. Get instant help, on any device, wherever you are in the world. Start feeling better today! With over 25,000 licensed counselors, BetterHelp has a therapist that fits your needs. Sign up today and get matched. Get professional online counseling for relationship or marital issues. It’s confidential and convenient to get started.

Signs and symptoms

If you have binge eating disorder, you may feel embarrassed and ashamed about your eating habits, and try to hide your symptoms by eating in secret.

Behavioral symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating

  • Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating.
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food.
  • Eating even when you’re full.
  • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret.
  • Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone.
  • Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes.

Emotional symptoms

  • Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating.
  • Embarrassment over how much you’re eating.
  • Feeling numb while bingeing—like you’re not really there or you’re on auto-pilot.
  • Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat.
  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating.
  • Desperation to control weight and eating habits.

Do you have binge eating disorder?

  • Do you feel out of control when you’re eating?
  • Do you think about food all the time?
  • Do you eat in secret?
  • Do you eat until you feel sick?
  • Do you eat to escape from worries, relieve stress, or to comfort yourself?
  • Do you feel disgusted or ashamed after eating?
  • Do you feel powerless to stop eating, even though you want to?

The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you have binge eating disorder.

Causes and effects

Generally, it takes a combination of things to develop binge eating disorder—including your genes, emotions, and experience. Social and cultural risk factors. Social pressure to be thin can add to the you feel and fuel your emotional eating. Some parents unwittingly set the stage for binge eating by using food to comfort, dismiss, or reward their children. Children who are exposed to frequent critical comments about their bodies and weight are also vulnerable, as are those who have been sexually abused in childhood. Psychological risk factors. Depression and binge eating are strongly linked. Many binge eaters are either depressed or have been before; others may have trouble with impulse control and managing and expressing their feelings. Low self-esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction may also contribute to binge eating. Biological risk factors. Biological abnormalities can contribute to binge eating. For example, the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls appetite) may not be sending correct messages about hunger and fullness. Researchers have also found a genetic mutation that appears to cause food addiction. Finally, there is evidence that low levels of the brain chemical serotonin play a role in compulsive eating.

Effects of binge eating disorder

Binge eating leads to a wide variety of physical, emotional, and social problems. You’re more likely to suffer health issues, stress, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts than someone without an eating disorder. You may also experience depression, anxiety, and substance abuse as well as substantial weight gain. As bleak as this sounds, though, many people are able to recover from binge eating disorder and reverse the unhealthy effects. You can, too. The first step is to re-evaluate your relationship with food.

Binge eating recovery tip 1: Develop a healthier relationship with food

Recovery from any addiction is challenging, but it can be especially difficult to overcome binge eating and food addiction. Unlike other addictions, your “drug” is necessary for survival, so you don’t have the option of avoiding or replacing it. Instead, you need to develop a healthier relationship with food—a relationship that’s based on meeting your nutritional needs, not your emotional ones. To do this, you have to break the binge eating cycle by: Binge eating cycle infographic Avoiding temptation. You’re much more likely to overeat if you have junk food, desserts, and unhealthy snacks in the house. Remove the temptation by clearing your fridge and cupboards of your favorite binge foods. Listening to your body. Learn to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. If you ate recently and don’t have a rumbling stomach, you’re probably not really hungry. Give the craving time to pass. Eating regularly. Don’t wait until you’re starving. This only leads to overeating! Stick to scheduled mealtimes, as skipping meals often leads to binge eating later in the day. Not avoiding fat. Contrary to what you might think, dietary fat can actually help keep you from overeating and gaining weight. Try to incorporate healthy fat at each meal to keep you feeling satisfied and full. Fighting boredom. Instead of snacking when you’re bored, distract yourself. Take a walk, call a friend, read, or take up a hobby such as painting or gardening. Focusing on what you’re eating. How often have you binged in an almost trance-like state, not even enjoying what you’re consuming? Instead of eating mindlessly, be a mindful eater. Slow down and savor the textures and flavors. Not only will you eat less, you’ll enjoy it more.

The importance of deciding not to diet

After a binge, it’s only natural to feel the need to diet to compensate for overeating and to get back on track with your health. But dieting usually backfires. The deprivation and hunger that comes with strict dieting triggers food cravings and the urge to overeat. Instead of dieting, focus on eating in moderation. Find nutritious foods that you enjoy and eat only until you feel content, not uncomfortably stuffed. Avoid banning or restricting certain foods, as this can make you crave them even more. Instead of saying “I can never eat ice cream,” say “I will eat ice cream as an occasional treat.”

Tip 2: Find better ways to feed your feelings

One of the most common reasons for binge eating is an attempt to manage unpleasant emotions such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety. When you have a bad day, it can seem like food is your only friend. Binge eating can temporarily make feelings such as stress, sadness, anxiety, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air. But the relief is very fleeting.

Identify your triggers with a food and mood diary

One of the best ways to identify the patterns behind your binge eating is to keep track with a food and mood diary. Every time you overeat or feel compelled to reach for your version of comfort food Kryptonite, take a moment to figure out what triggered the urge. If you backtrack, you’ll usually find an upsetting event that kicked off the binge. Write it all down in your food and mood diary: what you ate (or wanted to eat), what happened to upset you, how you felt before you ate, what you felt as you were eating, and how you felt afterward. Over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge.

Learn to tolerate the feelings that trigger your binge eating

The next time you feel the urge to binge, instead of giving in, take a moment to stop and investigate what’s going on inside. Identify the emotion you’re feeling. Do your best to name what you’re feeling. Is it anxiety? Shame? Hopelessness? Anger? Loneliness? Fear? Emptiness? Accept the experience you’re having. Avoidance and resistance only make negative emotions stronger. Instead, try to accept what you’re feeling without judging it or yourself. Dig deeper. Explore what’s going on. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? What kinds of thoughts are going through your head? Distance yourself. Realize that you are NOT your feelings. Emotions are passing events, like clouds moving across the sky. They don’t define who you are. Sitting with your feelings may feel extremely uncomfortable at first. Maybe even impossible. But as you resist the urge to binge, you’ll start to realize that you don’t have to give in. There are other ways to cope. Even emotions that feel intolerable are only temporary. They’ll quickly pass if you stop fighting them. You’re still in control. You can choose how to respond. For a step-by-step guide to learning how to manage unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions, check out HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.

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Tip 3: Take back control of cravings

Sometimes it feels like the urge to binge hits without warning. But even when you’re in the grip of a seemingly overpowering and uncontrollable urge, there are things you can do to help yourself stay in control. Accept the urge and ride it out, instead of trying to fight it. This is known as “urge surfing.” Think of the urge to binge as an ocean wave that will soon crest, break, and dissipate. When you ride out the urge, without trying to battle, judge, or ignore it, you’ll see that it passes more quickly than you’d think. Distract yourself. Anything that engages your attention will work: taking a walk, calling a friend, watching something funny online, etc. Once you get interested in something else, the urge to binge may go away. Talk to someone. When you start to notice the urge to binge, turn to a friend or family member you trust. Sharing what you’re going through can help you feel better and discharge the urge to binge. Delay, delay, delay. Even if you’re unsure if you’ll be able to fight the urge to binge, make an effort to delay it. Try to hold off for 1 minute. If you succeed. Try to stretch it out to 5 minutes. If you delay long enough, you may be able to avoid the binge.

Tip 4: Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits

When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. But when you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed, any little hiccup has the potential to send you off the rails and straight toward the refrigerator. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without binge eating. Make time for regular exercise. Physical activity does wonders for your mood and your energy levels, and it’s also a powerful stress reducer. The natural mood-boosting effects of exercise can help put a stop to emotional eating. Get enough sleep every night. When you don’t get the sleep you need, your body craves sugary foods that will give you a quick energy boost. Sleep deprivation may even trigger food addiction. Getting plenty of rest will help with appetite control and reduce food cravings, and support your mood. Connect with others. Don’t underestimate the importance of close relationships and social activities. You’re more likely to succumb to binge eating triggers if you lack a solid support network. Talking helps, even if it’s not with a professional. Manage stress. One of the most important aspects of controlling binge eating is to find alternate ways to handle stress and other overwhelming feelings without using food. These may include meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.

How to help someone with binge eating disorder

Since binge eaters often try to hide their symptoms and eat in secret, it can make it tough for family and friends to spot the warning signs. And you can’t always identify a binge eater by appearance, either. While some are overweight or obese, others manage to maintain a normal weight. The warning signs that you can spot include finding piles of empty food packages and wrappers, cupboards and refrigerators that have been cleaned out, or hidden stashes of high-calorie or junk food. If you suspect that your loved one has binge eating disorder, bring up your concerns. It may seem daunting to start such a delicate conversation, and the person may deny bingeing or become angry and defensive. But there’s a chance that he or she will welcome the opportunity to share the struggle. If the person shuts you out at first, don’t give up; it may take some time before your loved one is willing to admit to having a problem. And remember: as difficult as it is to know that someone you love may be have an eating disorder, you can’t force someone to change. The decision to seek recovery has to come from them. You can help by offering your compassion, encouragement, and support throughout the treatment process.

Tips for helping someone with binge eating disorder

Encourage your loved one to seek help. The longer an eating disorder remains undiagnosed and untreated, the more difficult it will be to overcome, so urge your loved one to get treatment. Be supportive. Try to listen without judgment and make sure the person knows you care. If your loved one slips up on the road to recovery, remind them that it doesn’t mean they can’t quit binge eating for good. Avoid insults, lectures, or guilt trips. Binge eaters feel bad enough about themselves and their behavior already. Lecturing, getting upset, or issuing ultimatums to a binge eater will only increase stress and make the situation worse. Instead, make it clear that you care about the person’s health and happiness and you’ll continue to be there. Set a good example by eating healthily, exercising, and managing stress without food. Don’t make negative comments about your own body or anyone else’s. Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: November 1, 2022

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