Binge eating is a huge psychological problem. In fact, around 2.8 million people in the U.S. have a binge eating disorder. From those who get it, an estimated 3.5% are women, 2% men, and 1.6% are adolescents. It tends to develop in the early 20s or late teens (1).
The problem is, only 28% of those affected receive help. The rest are struggling to get rid of the eating habit on their own. But, finding the right way to stop overindulging in foods, can be very tricky (2).
If you need a foolproof method that will stop your binge eating, you’ve come to the right place. We prepared a simple guideline that will put an end to your problem. So, let’s get right to it.
Step 1: Understand the Causes
Before you can overcome an eating habit, you need to know where it’s coming from. It’s normal to want to overeat from time to time. Particularly on a special occasion or a holiday. However, for the individuals in which eating becomes an uncontrolled and constant habit, it is easy to cross the line.
For these individuals, it can be caused by:
- Exposure to triggers
Exposure to Triggers
Some people can’t help but munch on their favorite treats. Whenever there is a nice meal or a snack on the table, they always reach for it. Even if they aren’t hungry, they will still eat the food.
These are what we call triggers. Foods we just can’t pass on. If you want to get a hold of your binging, this is something you should start with. Minimize your triggers and change your focus to other healthier meals.
All eating disorders are often hereditary, experts explain. If a father or a grandfather was binge eating, you have bigger odds of developing the issue. Any of the changes in dietary intake will impair a person’s psychosocial and physical health (3).
Clinical trials show that plenty of genes responsible for eating habits could be passed down from one person to the other. They are known for affecting the brain circuits and putting the mood and appetite out of sync (4).
Although the genes can boost the likelihood of you getting the disorder, other factors can trigger it. For example, you’ve watched a family member overeat regularly. As a child, you will copy your parents. Their eating habits will influence your dietary patterns.
Working out your past habits can help you create a coping strategy. They will help you understand and control the problem.
Mental unrest can make you binge eat. Stress, depression, and anxiety are common stressors for unhealthy eating patterns. According to research, there is a powerful link between exposure to stress and binge eating disorder (5).
Those who are stressed and binging, often struggle from excessive body weight and regular weight gain. So, if you want to take control of your condition, you first have to balance out the stressors.
Step 2: Get Rid of the Diet
Restrictive diets and binge eating are two sides of the same coin.
Diets, particularly fad diets, can be incredibly restricting. And when you restrict yourself too much, you are at risk of binging whenever you get a chance.
Based on a study, researchers evaluated 496 volunteers and their eating habits. The statistics found that those who had restrictive fasting had a bigger risk of binging. Exactly 8% of the participants had recurrent binge eating. While 5% experienced an onset of bulimia nervosa (6).
A different trial also showed similar results. Scientists studied 103 female participants for 1 week. They were divided into three groups. One was deprived of chocolate, the other one from vanilla, and the third received no deprivation (7).
The reports show that this kind of deprivation results in overeating and cravings. Especially in the chocolate-deprived group.
In other words, there is no need for you to stick to a restrictive diet or drastically slashing your calorie meals. Instead, opt for healthier meal choices and add a hefty amount of veggies, fruits, whole grains, etc.
Of course, you can keep the treats. Just in moderate amounts. That way you boost your health and control the binging.
Step 3: Do Not Skip a Meal
Having a regular meal plan for the entire day can help you overcome the binging. Not only will it establish a routine, but it will also help the system get used to a healthy eating pattern. That way, you are less likely to binge.
But, when you skip a meal, you do the complete opposite. Skipping foods can increase the cravings and make you prone to overeating. Experts believe we are the most vulnerable in the morning (8).
Morning blood sugar concentrations tend to fluctuate. If not regulated throughout the day, it can massively impact the glucose levels. Results show that a 1 meal diet causes poor glucose tolerance. The bodies of volunteers were vulnerable to a constant increase in plasma glucose concentration levels than in people who eat a 3 meal diet.
By consuming one large meal a day, we stimulate ghrelin release (the hormone responsible for making us feel hungry). That’s why it is essential to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A different small-scale trial also proved the same results. When we stick to regular meals, we reduce our frequency of binging. This shows how important it is to create your own eating schedule and follow it to the tee (9).
Step 4: Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is the key to controlling binging. This is a psychological approach to food, which changes the way you perceive your meal. It’s about savoring every bite. This will help you enjoy the moment.
When you don’t practice mindfulness, you tend to focus on the rules (what you can and can’t eat, how much is enough, etc). But, there is more to eating meals than it meets the eye. Sometimes to stop overeating, you need a push in the right direction.
That is where mindfulness can help. To change your binge eating behavior, follow these tips below:
- Cook and eat in a positive mood.
- Feel and enjoy the taste of the food.
- Enjoy soothing music played in the background.
- Do not multitask.
- Take it slow.
- Leave your favorite food for last.
Mindful tactics are a practical food-management option that will help you alter your behavior. They will change your previously outcome-oriented diet, into a process-driven pattern. The goal is to appreciate the meals and not obsess over the amount you are consuming.
According to a systematic review, mindfulness can help you lose weight. In 13 out of 19 researches, volunteers who practiced mindful eating managed to also lose plenty of weight. It helped them get the desired body shape and lead a healthier life (10).
This will definitely come in handy for anyone who finds it difficult to beat binge eating.
Step 5: Enjoy Plenty of Water
Keeping the body hydrated the entire day reduces your odds of binging. Studies indicate that by consuming a lot of water, people can reduce their hunger and eat fewer calories than they normally would (11).
For instance, drinking water right before a meal reduced the calorie consumption rate by 13%. Scientists evaluated 24 older volunteers who drank 500ml (17 ounces) of water before a meal. With a simple glass of water, the volunteers were able to overcome their cravings and reduce energy intake (12).
Another similar small-scale study showed the exact same results. This trial featured 15 volunteers between the ages of 23 and 26. When the volunteers drank water before the meal, they ate considerably less than those who ate a meal without a drink (13).
The interesting thing is, the water positively affected their satiety levels. This makes water an effective strategy for controlling overeating and keeping the body full.
Step 6: Incorporate Fiber in Your Diet
Our body needs more time to digest the fiber. That means you will remain satiated for a long time. This is a key management strategy when dealing with cravings or increased appetite.
Trials estimate that consuming 16g of prebiotic fiber every day can boost hormone production, particularly for the hormones that induce satiety and decrease hunger (14).
That means anything such as whole grains, legumes, and vegetables can help you achieve the results you are hoping for. For example, you can add veggies packed with fiber two times a day to any meal. This will help increase the fullness, control appetite, and help with the binging (15).
Step 7: Focus on the Protein
Upping the consumption of protein-packed meals is another way to control the binging. Studies indicate that people who’ve boosted their protein intake from 15-30% managed to drastically reduce the fat mass and body weight. They also reduced the calorie intake a day (16).
There is a reason people choose proteins. First, they can speed up the metabolic rate. But, most importantly, they also promote satiety, which is essential when dealing with binge eating. When we eat proteins, the foods directly interact with the GLP-1 hormone.
This hormone can suppress our appetite and give us the control we need. It is a simple option for managing the cravings and supplying the system with a healthy dose of nutrients. So, if you want to get that effect, try adding more eggs, meats, legumes, seeds, and nuts to your meals. With time, you will be able to obtain the type of control you need.
Step 8: Be Physically Active
You’ve probably heard this time and time again, but physical activity can create some outstanding results. It is both a mental health boost and appetite control strategy.
Based on research, 81.4% of female participants who exercised regularly, managed to abstain from binge eating. Those who didn’t, however, were prone to eating foods packed in calories and consuming more than their body can handle (17).
Basically, exercise is the bread & butter for managing binge eating. But, when paired with cognitive behavioral therapy, it can be even more effective. This is a practical strategy that can improve your mood, reduce your stress levels, and help get your mental health back on track. So, this is something you shouldn’t miss out on (18).
Step 9: Keep a Log of Everything You Are Eating
Monitoring your new eating patterns will be extremely difficult. Because you will be creating a completely different eating habit, it is easy to forget what you ate or didn’t eat. That’s where a food log or a diary can prove useful.
People use it as a management tool for identifying all the triggers, healthy meals, and poor food choices. This kind of control will give you a practical option to track your progress and see how far you’ve come with your binge eating habit.
To do that, choose a small notebook you can carry in your pocket or purse. That way you will have it with you at all times. What you will be doing with the log is relatively simple. You will have to list any relevant information about the foods and drinks you’ve consumed.
- How much you’ve eaten – the volume or weight of the meals and drinks you’ve consumed.
- The type of food you implemented – everything should be added, including the condiments, dressings, toppings, sauces, etc. That way you get to monitor the sugar or salt intake.
- When you’ve eaten – as mentioned before, three meals are better than one. But, to make sure that you don’t skip a meal, you should write it down.
- Activities you’ve done – list anything that proved helpful. Maybe you’ve exercised or went for a jog. Try to log that activity to keep track of its impact.
- Your mood – it’s normal to be a little moody after changing your diet. But, you should also record that experience so that you will handle it. It will help you get a clear picture of your mental state and the way the binging affects you.
Once you get the hang of it, you will have less binging episodes and excellent weight loss results.
Binge eating can be a problematic eating disorder. For millions of people all across the globe, it becomes a difficult problem to manage. Luckily, there are multiple steps you can take that will help you turn the tide.
It’s true that these steps take plenty of time and effort to achieve, but this is time worth spending. If you’ve tried all the above strategies listed here, and still can’t beat the binging habit, consult with a doctor.
A mental health expert, like a psychologist or psychiatrist, can help. They will talk to you about your eating pattern and try to determine the underlying issue of your particular eating disorder. But, what matters is that at least you put in some effort in these steps here. They’ve all been scientifically proven and can show you how to overcome this eating habit.
(17) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8932555/(18) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11920978/