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How to overcome binge eating

15 helpful tips to overcome binge eating

Binge eating is characterized by episodes of eating unusually large amounts in the absence of hunger, and it can have long-term health effects if left untreated. Here are 15 tips to help overcome binge eating.

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Last updated on November 29, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on November 22, 2022.

Binge eating disorder is considered the most common feeding and eating disorder in the United States.

Binge eating disorder is about more than food. It’s a recognized psychological condition. That means people with the disorder will likely need a treatment plan designed by a medical professional to overcome it.

People diagnosed with binge eating disorder experience episodes of eating unusually large amounts, even when they’re not hungry. After an episode, they may feel a strong sense of guilt or shame.

Regular binge episodes can lead to weight gain, contributing to health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies you can try — both at home and with the help of a professional — to reduce episodes of binge eating.

Here are 15 tips to help overcome binge eating.

1. Ditch the diet

Fad diets can often be very unhealthy, and studies show that overly restrictive eating methods may trigger episodes of binge eating.

For example, one study of 496 adolescent girls found that fasting was associated with a higher risk of binge eating.

Similarly, another study of 103 women noticed that abstaining from certain foods increased cravings and a higher risk of overeating.

Instead of following diets focusing on cutting out entire food groups or significantly slashing calorie intake to lose weight quickly, focus on making healthy changes.

Eat more whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and moderate your intake of treats rather than excluding them from your diet altogether. This can help reduce binge eating and promote better health.

Summary: Studies show that fasting or eliminating certain foods from your diet may be associated with increased cravings and overeating. Focus on eating healthy foods instead of dieting or cutting out certain foods altogether.

2. Avoid skipping meals

Setting a regular eating schedule and sticking to it is one of the most effective ways to overcome binge eating.

Skipping meals can contribute to cravings and increase the risk of overeating.

One small, 2-month study showed that eating one large meal per day increased blood sugar levels and the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin to a greater extent than eating three meals per day.

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Another study of 38 people found that adhering to a regular eating pattern was associated with a decreased frequency of binge eating.

Try setting a regular eating schedule and sticking to it.

Summary: Adhering to a regular eating pattern can reduce the risk of overeating and may be associated with lower levels of ghrelin and fasting blood sugar.

3. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice that involves listening to your body and paying attention to how you feel at the moment.

This technique can prevent overeating by helping people recognize when they no longer feel hungry.

One review of 14 studies found that practicing mindfulness meditation decreased the incidence of binge eating and emotional eating.

Another study showed that combining mindfulness with cognitive behavioral therapy may improve eating behavior and self-awareness.

Try listening to your body to recognize when hunger tapers off. Additionally, try to eat slowly and enjoy food to promote healthy eating behaviors.

Summary: Practicing mindfulness can help you recognize when you’re no longer hungry, which can improve your eating behaviors and reduce the incidence of binge eating.

4. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a simple yet effective way to curb cravings and stop overeating.

Studies show that increasing water intake could be linked to decreased hunger and calorie intake.

For example, one study in 24 older adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before eating a meal decreased the number of calories consumed by 13%, compared with a control group.

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Similarly, another study in older adults showed that drinking 13–17 ounces (375–500 ml) of water 30 minutes before a meal significantly decreased hunger and calorie intake while increasing feelings of fullness during the day.

Other studies indicate that drinking more water can boost metabolism and weight loss.

The amount of water each person should drink daily depends on various factors. Thus, it’s best to listen to your body and drink when thirsty to ensure you’re staying hydrated.

Summary: Drinking more water can keep you feeling full to decrease calorie intake and prevent binge eating.

5. Try yoga

Yoga is a practice that incorporates both the body and mind by using specific breathing exercises, poses, and meditation to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.

Studies indicate that yoga can help encourage healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of emotional eating.

One small study in 50 people with binge eating disorder showed that practicing yoga for 12 weeks significantly reduced binging.

Another study of 20 girls found that combining yoga with outpatient eating disorder treatment decreased depression, anxiety, and body image disturbances — all of which could be factors involved in emotional eating.

Research also shows that yoga can decrease stress hormones like cortisol to keep stress under control and prevent binge eating.

Try joining a local yoga studio to add this exercise to your routine. You can also use online resources and videos to practice at home.

Summary: Yoga can help prevent binge eating and may reduce common triggers like stress, depression, and anxiety.

6. Eat more fiber

Fiber moves slowly through your digestive tract, keeping you feeling full longer.

Some research suggests that increasing fiber intake could cut cravings, reduce appetite, and food intake.

One small, 2-week study found that supplementing twice daily with a type of fiber found in vegetables decreased hunger and calorie intake while increasing fullness.

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Another study in 10 adults showed that taking 16 grams of prebiotic fiber daily increased levels of specific hormones that influence satiety and significantly reduced feelings of hunger.

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are just a few fiber-rich foods that can keep you feeling full.

Summary: Fiber can help keep you feeling full to reduce calorie intake and feelings of hunger.

7. Removing unhealthy foods from your kitchen

Having lots of junk food or trigger foods in the kitchen can make it much easier to binge eat.

Conversely, keeping healthy foods on hand can reduce your risk of emotional eating by limiting the number of unhealthy options.

Start by clearing out processed snack foods like chips, candies, and pre-packaged convenience foods and swapping them for healthier alternatives.

Stocking your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, protein-rich foods, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can improve your diet and reduce your risk of binge eating unhealthy foods.

Summary: Removing unhealthy foods from your kitchen and stocking up on healthy alternatives can improve diet quality and make it harder to binge eat.

8. Exercise

Studies indicate that adding exercise to your routine could prevent binge eating.

For instance, one 6-month study of 77 people showed that increasing weekly exercise frequency stopped binge eating in 81% of participants.

Another study of 84 women found that pairing cognitive behavioral therapy with regular exercise was significantly more effective at reducing the frequency of binge eating than therapy alone.

Other research suggests that exercise can decrease stress levels and enhance mood to prevent emotional eating.

Walking, running, swimming, biking, and playing sports are just a few different forms of physical activity that can help relieve stress and reduce binge eating.

Summary: Studies show that exercising can reduce the risk of binge eating and decrease stress levels.

9. Eat breakfast every day

Starting each day off with a healthy breakfast might reduce the risk of binge eating later in the day.

Several studies have found that maintaining a regular eating pattern is associated with less binge eating and lower levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger.

Plus, filling up on the right foods can keep you feeling full to curb cravings and reduce hunger throughout the day.

For example, one study of 15 people found that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced ghrelin levels to a greater extent than eating a high-carb breakfast.

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Meanwhile, eating fiber- and protein-rich oatmeal was shown to improve appetite control and promote fullness in another study of 48 people.

Try combining a few fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, with a good source of protein to avoid overeating.

Summary: Eating a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast can prevent cravings and keep you satisfied throughout the morning.

10. Get enough sleep

Sleep affects your hunger levels and appetite, and sleep deprivation may be linked to binge eating.

One study of 146 people found that those with binge eating disorder reported significantly more symptoms of insomnia than people without a history of this condition.

Another study showed that shorter sleep duration was associated with higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower levels of leptin — the hormone responsible for promoting fullness.

Sleeping less than 8 hours per night was also linked to higher body weight.

Aim to squeeze in at least 8 hours per night to keep your appetite in check and reduce your risk of binge eating.

Summary: Binge eating disorder may be linked to increased insomnia symptoms. Sleep deprivation has been shown to alter the levels of hormones that affect hunger and appetite.

11. Keep a food and mood journal

Keeping a food and mood journal that tracks what you eat and how you feel can be an effective tool. It can help identify potential emotional and food triggers and promote healthier eating habits.

One study of 17 people showed that using an online self-help program that involved keeping a food diary was associated with fewer self-reported episodes of binge eating.

Several other studies also suggest that tracking your intake may be linked to increased weight loss and aid in long-term weight management.

To get started, simply record what you eat and how you feel each day using a journal or app.

Summary: Food and mood journals can help identify triggers to address potential problems. Studies show that using a food diary is associated with fewer episodes of binge eating and increased weight loss.

12. Find someone to talk to

Talking to a friend or peer when you feel like binging may help reduce your likelihood of overeating.

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One study of 101 adolescents undergoing sleeve gastrectomy showed that reliable social support was associated with less binge eating.

Another study of 125 women with obesity found that better social support was linked to decreased binge eating severity.

A good social support system is thought to reduce the impact of stress, which may help decrease your risk of other coping habits like emotional eating.

Next time you feel like binge eating, pick up the phone and call a trusted friend or family member. If you don’t have someone to talk to, eating disorder helplines are available free of charge.

Summary: A good social support system may be linked to decreased binge eating and stress.

13. Increase your protein intake

Upping your intake of protein-rich foods can keep you feeling full and help control your appetite.

One study in 19 people showed that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% led to significant reductions in body weight and fat mass and decreased daily calorie intake by an average of 441 calories.

Similarly, another study found that following a high-protein diet enhanced metabolism, promoted feelings of fullness, and increased levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a hormone known for its ability to suppress appetite.

Try including at least one good source of protein — such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, or legumes — in each meal and enjoy high-protein snacks when you feel hungry to keep cravings at bay.

Summary: Increasing your protein intake has been shown to decrease calorie intake, enhance feelings of fullness, and increase levels of GLP-1, a hormone that can help suppress appetite.

14. Plan meals

Planning meals can help ensure you have healthy ingredients to prepare nutritious meals. Also, measuring out portion sizes and putting the remainder of food away may help you avoid triggering a binge.

One study of over 40,000 adults showed that meal planning was associated with improved diet quality and variety and a lower risk of obesity.

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Meal planning also makes it easier to stick to a regular eating pattern, which has been linked to a decreased frequency of binge eating.

Set aside an hour or two each week to plan a weekly meal rotation.

Summary: Meal planning has been associated with improving diet quality and variety. It can also make sticking to a regular eating pattern easier and ensure that you always have healthy ingredients on hand.

15. Seek help

While the strategies above can be helpful, a treatment plan designed by a professional is often needed to help overcome binging.

Treating binge eating disorder can involve different therapy or medications to help get binging under control and treat any underlying causes or symptoms.

The most effective therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, explores the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and eating patterns and then develops strategies to modify your behavior.

Other therapies to treat binge eating include dialectical behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and behavioral weight loss therapy.

Antidepressants, antiepileptic drugs, and certain stimulants are also sometimes used to treat binge eating disorder, though more research is needed to evaluate the long-term effects of these medications.

Summary: Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered an effective treatment method for binge eating. Other types of therapy and certain medications can also be used.

Summary

Binge eating disorder is a recognized psychological condition that affects millions of people around the world.

However, overcoming it with the right treatment plan and healthy lifestyle modifications is possible.

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