5 Tips to Stop Binge Eating in its TracksJanuary 10, 2022
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States. In the DSM-5, BED is described as regular episodes of consuming large quantities of food (often to the point of physical discomfort), and more than a person may consume under normal circumstances, within a short specified time period.
The binge is paired with feelings of loss of control followed by guilt and shame. Binge eating can also occur at a sub-clinical level and falls under the umbrella of disordered eating. Whether you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or are struggling with binge/overeating, here are some tips to help you stop binge eating in its tracks.
Tips to Stop Binge Eating
Find a team of professionals and a support system
Your care team should include a medical provider (i.e Primary Care Physician, Nurse Practitioner, or Physician Assistant), a mental health provider (Psychiatrist and/or licensed therapist), and a Registered Dietitian. There are numerous treatment modalities including different types of therapy and medication. You can work together to stop binge eating with your care team to find a treatment plan that works best based on your individual goals and needs.
In addition to medical and mental health professionals, try to surround yourself with a support system of friends and family. You may be surprised by how many people close to you are struggling with the same thing. Instead of “powering through” and isolating yourself, lean on the love and support around you.
Not skipping meals
Skipping meals can be harmful for many reasons, including leaving you at high risk of binge eating. When your body goes long hours without eating, blood sugar drops and this can lead to cravings, low energy levels, brain fog, and irritability.
Because of the drop in blood sugar and your body being in a psychological and physiological state of hunger, choosing quick energy sources (i.e. sweets, pasta, rice, bread, and fried food) tends to be much more appealing than food that will take longer and more energy for the body to break down (i.e. grilled chicken and vegetables).
These quick energy foods are generally eaten in larger quantities to promote the feeling of satiety. It is also very common to experience late-night cravings after a day of skipping meals. This is your body trying to compensate for an energy deficit.
Planning ahead can be a great tool to prevent skipping meals. It is much easier to stick to a specific detailed game plan than it is to go in blind. Try spending some time over the weekend (or whenever you have a few free minutes) planning out your meals for the week.
If you know a few days are going to be busy and there won’t be time to cook, plan out where you plan to buy your meals. Having some quick and easy meals and snacks stocked in the kitchen can be very helpful as well; a few examples include bagged salad kits, rotisserie chicken, low sodium turkey deli meat, eggs, high protein pasta, freezer meals, etc. Setting yourself up for success doesn’t need to mean hours of grocery shopping and meal prepping. With a little bit of prep work and thought, you can significantly reduce your risk of skipping meals and binge eating.
Make your meals complete
Try to make your meals complete by following the Rule of 3: 3 meals per day with 3 food groups on your plate. Including all 3 macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) on your plate can promote satiety and reduce the desire to binge. Here are a few examples of foods to include from each macronutrient group:
- Protein: animal protein such as lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, whey protein powder or plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds, soy milk, plant-based protein supplements, peanut or almond butter, meat alternatives, etc.
- Carbohydrates: whole grains, oatmeal, sprouted grain bread, beans and lentils, starchy vegetables like sweet potato and squash, fruit, and vegetables
- Fat: avocado, olive oil, avocado oil, nuts and seeds, and nut butters
Aim for ~1/2 your body weight (in lbs) in ounces of water, or whatever your medical team has recommended. This is a difficult one for many, but drinking enough water can be very helpful in decreasing cravings and overeating.
My favorite recommendation is to splurge on a nice cup or bottle that you can keep at home or on your desk. Make it fun so that you are excited to drink water. You can also try tracking your water in an app, setting an alarm reminder, or leaving sticky notes to remind yourself. If you hate the taste of water, try adding flavor by squeezing lemon or lime juice or fresh fruit. Hint water and sugar-free beverages like crystal light and vitamin water zero are other great options to help you get your fluids in!
Know your triggers and understand the emotional side of eating
Binge eating can also be triggered by emotions, i.e. feeling sad, lonely, angry, anxious, tired, etc. It can be very helpful to practice mindfulness emotional eating triggers. To stop binge eating, try keeping a food and feelings journal, either handwritten or through an app like Recovery Record.
Keeping a log can help you understand when emotions are contributing to food choices, and allow you to choose other, healthier tools to cope, such as exercise, meditation, or talking to a friend.
While binge eating is very common and can be difficult to deal with, there are many resources and strategies you can use to help you feel more in control around food. Most importantly – get yourself the help and support you need with professionals along with friends and family. This is not something you have to deal with alone!
Disclaimer – this article is in no way replacing the care provided from a team of professionals, but rather serves as supplemental education and to provide resources.
ABOUT THE AUTHORCassie Steinberg MS, RD, CPT is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. She completed both her undergraduate and masters degree in clinical nutrition from NYU, graduating in 2017 and 2019. Cassie became a NASM certified personal trainer and taught group fitness classes in NYC while completing her dietetic internship and masters degree. Since becoming a registered dietitian, Cassie has worked in various settings including private practice, corporate wellness, and her current position as a bariatric dietitian at Lenox Hill Bariatric Surgery Program.