15 Tips for Breaking Free from Binge Eating
These tips are not listed in any specific order.
1) Another diet is NOT the answer
strict diets, especially those that revolve around limiting or completely eliminating foods, food groups, or macronutrients only add fuel to the binge eating fire.
The solution is not found in a diet, so don’t search for one.
2) Think ADDITION instead of RESTRICTION
When you add something, something else naturally has to fall away. Plus you’re focusing on an action you CAN do versus trying NOT to do something you’re already in a strong habit of doing.”
Don’t think about foods you should limit. For example, I love ice cream and I know it’s not something I should eat every day. But, instead of thinking, “Oh, I better not eat ice cream every day” I instead choose to focus on the foods I get to eat every day, and I make an effort to include a wide variety of foods into my eating regimen.
Restriction –> Binge Eating –> Guilt –> Restriction –> Binge Eating –> Guilt
As you can, a focus on restriction just leads to a vicious cycle of binge eating and guilt. Don’t think about restriction because it only makes things worse.
So ask yourself, what are you some foods you can ADD to your meals? You can even make an effort to choose a food from multiple food groups such as veggies, fruits, meats, dairy, nuts, etc.
Make sure you choose foods you like or new foods you want to try.
3) Stop trying to be perfect
I was once told that people who are self-proclaimed perfectionists are more likely to develop disordered eating behaviors, and I think they were right.
I’ve been a perfectionist most of my life. I even managed to get straight A’s in college, and I refused to settle for anything less. As a result I applied this same attitude towards my nutrition, which I believe also led me to develop disordered eating habits.
Before I became a compulsive binge eater, I demanded perfection and only ate “the best” foods. My diet was “squeaky clean”, whatever that means.
If I messed up, I gave myself hell and demanded better.
All this ended up doing was making me miserable. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy meals, my favorite foods, or even family get-togethers filled with my favorite homemade meals because they weren’t “clean” enough for me.
After a while, all of this got to me. That’s when I really started binge eating.
I couldn’t take it anymore. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t be perfect all the time.
So I started to say, “Screw it!” and cut loose. That’s when I’d binge eat anything in site.
I still remember the first time I lost control and experienced my first binge.
It was scary.
Little did I know it was the first of many.
“Perfect is the enemy of good” is a quote by Voltaire that basically claims that striving for perfection often results in no progress at all.
I also believe that to be true.
Once I finally stopped trying to be “perfect” I was able to relax.
Don’t look at things as if they’re black or white.
You don’t have to be “perfectly on plan” or “completely off”.
There can be a balance. Learn to find, and live in, that balance.
Ditch the thought of perfection. You’ll be happier and much less stressed.
4) Stay off the scale
Many people who battle binge eating also weigh themselves frequently.
Get off the scale.
That number does NOT indicate your self-worth. That number does not tell you what’s really going on with your body. It does not indicate your success because that number does not define you.
5) Ditch the rigid rules
Ditch rules about what foods to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, and any other rigid rules.
Instead, learn to listen to your body.
You don’t need a book to tell you what foods to eat or even when to eat.
I encourage you instead to eat real, whole, natural foods most of the time. Eat when you’re physically hungry and learn to do something other than turn to food when you’re gripped by emotion and want to eat.
It may take some time, but relearn your natural innate cues of physical hunger.
If you’re not hungry but want to turn to food, make an effort to do something else. An idle mind is often hard to combat, so try doing something physically active, get out of the house, go for a hike, or have a good conversation with a friend.
We’ll talk more about listening to your body in a moment . . .
6) Food may be fuel, but it should also be enjoyed
“Food is just fuel for the body,” some people exclaim. As a result, some people don’t care how their food tastes because they’re eating exclusively for the fuel aspect.
I’m not one of those people.
I love food.
And I tried the whole “food is just fuel” approach in the past, and as a result I ate “healthy” foods I strongly disliked. I forced myself to eat them because they were good for me.
Likewise, many of my binge episodes consisted of foods I didn’t particularly like.
I’d eat any junk food that was around because I thought it was “forbidden” or “unclean”, and so I’d binge on it. I ate so many cookies, cakes, candy bars, and other processed foods I didn’t even think tasted good.
So the solution is simple — only eat foods you enjoy, whether it’s real, whole foods or some of your favorite not-so-healthy-but-delicious foods.
Food should be enjoyed.
No matter what you’re eating, make sure it’s something you like.
7) Put the focus on what your body can DO
In the midst of my binge eating habits, working out was a chore. It was something I did to punish myself for eating so many calories.
And I began to dread every single workout.
But, when I was applying some of the tips on this list to my eating habits, I decided to overhaul my approach to strength training.
I put the focus on what my body could DO, and nothing else.
My sole purpose and focus at the gym was getting stronger and becoming more awesome. Adding more weight to the bar. Performing more challenging bodyweight exercises.
And this was a tremendous help to me. It allowed me to be proud of my physical abilities. To be proud of what my body could accomplish instead of obsessing over how it looked.
I appreciated my body for what it could do and what it was capable of.
I now focus on, and am proud of, what my body can do.
8) Focus on ACTIONS, not outcomes
Proclaiming, “I want to stop binge eating” isn’t enough.
You’re far better off focusing on ACTIONS you can take, consistently, that will lead you in that direction.
Come up with some actions you can perform on a weekly basis.
Here are some examples:
Stock your house with real, whole foods you enjoy
Perform 3 strength training workouts per week and focus solely on what you can DO
Engage in a fun activity 1-3 times per week
Focus on eating your meals slowly
Say one positive thing to yourself every morning and evening
Eat slowly and savor your food
Write down these action goals and any others you can think of and strive to complete them each week.
9) How to handle binge foods?
Different things work for various people, but what worked for me was keeping the foods I’d most likely binge on out of the house.
Now these foods were not “off limits” by any means. I learned to listen to my body and if I truly wanted a common binge food, such as ice cream, then I’d go out and buy a pint, bring it home, and enjoy it guilt free. This is important — learn to eat your favorite foods with zero guilt.
So my solution was to keep common binge foods out of the house, but go and get them when I truly craved them.
If you live with someone who likes having a ton of snacks or other foods that tempt you around the house, then try talking to them. Hopefully they’ll understand and jump on board with you.
This tip was very helpful for me, and over time, I was able to have previous binge foods in the house at all times without being tempted.
10) Stay away from “rapid fat loss” approaches
As a result of my binge eating problems I gained quite a bit of extra fat. And it devastated me.
On several occasions I turned to “quick fix” approaches because I was freaking out and wanted to lose the excess weight immediately.
All this did was make things significantly worse.
You must lose the “quick fix” mindset and avoid these methods at all costs.
It sounds pathetically cliche, but you must take this journey one day at a time.
Remember to focus on daily ACTIONS you can control such as engaging in positive self talk, cooking homemade meals with new foods, focusing on your performance with your workouts, confiding in a friend, and other actions.
This is not about a quick solution. It’s about taking the time to heal and adopting a sustainable lifestyle approach that’s enhances your life and doesn’t dominate it.
You want to slowly develop eating habits you can sustain long-term.
11) Be patient
This isn’t a fun tip, but it’s important.
Throughout this process you must be patient. Don’t expect overnight results, and don’t give up either.
It’s going to take some time to break the binge cycle in addition to other bad habits such as negative self-talk.
But learn to be patient. That brings us to the next important point…
12) Be kind to yourself
You’re going to slip up.
And when you do, you must be kind to yourself.
Berating yourself when you binge or slip up only makes things worse.
Instead of calling yourself a “failure” or something similar, be kind to yourself. Realize it’s just a tiny mistake. Give yourself a break because you are trying your very best.
You are absolutely wonderful, and you need to know that.
You’re awesome and strong. Be kind to yourself.
Furthermore, this was mentioned in the positive social support tip, but make sure you’re surrounded by people who are kind to you, and people who know you are an amazing person.
Here’s a great quote:
Being around people who are negative or put you can can only make things worse for you.
Make sure you surround yourself with positive, uplifting people. If you’re not, then it’s time to make a change.
13) Learn to listen to your body
We touched on this already, but it’s something that really helped me.
Learn to listen to your body.
Relearn how to identify physical hunger.
In the midst of my disordered eating habits, I couldn’t identify physical hunger. I lost that ability for well over a year, even when I started to recover from binge eating.
But I was patient and became more in-tune to my body’s signals.
Learn to identify physical hunger. And when you eat, eat slowly and savor your food. Listen to your body’s signals and identify when you’re satisfied. Make an effort to stop eating when you’re satisfied, but not overly stuffed.
Know that you don’t have to binge because you can eat again when you’re physically hungry.
Again, this probably will take some time, but be patient and consistent.
Likewise, don’t look to diet books to tell you what foods to eat and what to avoid — listen to your body.
Eat the foods that make you feel best and cut back on those that don’t. You don’t need anyone to tell you what to eat.
Your body is smart, so learn to listen to it.
14) Stop focusing on fat loss
Chances are one of your primary goals is to lose fat. And if that’s the case, I’m willing to bet the way you eat and work out revolves around thoughts of losing body fat.
Well, it’s time to stop thinking about fat loss and adopt a more positive mindset and focus.
This was another important tip that helped me break out of the binge eating cycle, and I highly suggest you give it a shot. Click here for more information on this topic (but please finish the rest of this article as well).
15) Be confident
I know how discouraging it can feel when you’re battling disordered eating habits. I asked myself more times than I can count, “Will this ever get better? Will I ever be able to go a day without obsessing over food and binge eating?”
Admittedly, there were times I thought I’d never break free, but then I changed my perspective.
I knew I could defeat this. I knew some day I could use that horrible experience for something positive.
And that’s why I’m writing this article.
It’s my sincerest hope this helps at least one person. If it does, then I’m grateful for the battle I fought, and won.
And I know that you can win, too.
Be confident. It will get better.
Your Turn to Break Free
How exactly you choose to implement the tips above is up to you. I do suggest, however, beginning with the tips that will be easiest for you to employ.
Don’t try to do everything all at once. Choose a few tips that sound the easiest and apply them. Do your best to apply those tips consistently for a few weeks, and then add another tip or two.
Remember – be patient and be kind to yourself.
Focus on ACTIONS you can take on a daily basis.
Choose the tips that sound easiest and start applying them right now.