5 Great Tips to Stop Binge Eating

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Imagine a life where diets and food deprivation are things of the past. A life where you can enjoy the foods you love while maintaining a healthy body and cheerful heart. And this life is possible without forced dieting, spending countless hours in the gym, or counting a single macro. 

In this blog, I share five effective tips to stop binge eating and live a happy life. You'll learn why going on a diet leads to weight gain, why emotional eating is not about will power, control, or food addiction. Find out the secret to eating whatever you want without feeling guilt or shame, worrying about gaining weight, or thinking about food all the time. 

I'll also share the exact strategies you need to free yourself from binge eating, and start taking control of your life, and feel good in your body. And this is not only about weight loss. It's also about learning to live your best life, unburdened by constant obsessing over every bite. 

Tip # 1 – It's Not What You Eat But What's Eating “At” You

It's important to understand that Binge eating has nothing to do with willpower or being addicted to food. Diets won't also help you stop binging or emotional eating as they focus on what you're eating and not why you're eating.

Diets are also about food deprivation but we always want what we think we can’t have, so dieting can actually be a reason that you may eventually turn to food.

The reasons why we turn to binge eating or emotional eating are often rooted in our hidden minds. For that reason, food may appear as if it has power over you but that's because you haven't identified those root causes.

Getting on a diet will fail you because you're trying to solve the wrong problem. The way to stop binge eating is to stop focusing on what you're eating and start identifying what's eating you.

Jenna’s Story

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what’s eating us inside so let me tell you about a patient of mine, Jenna. One night Jenna was relaxing on her sofa and watching TV when suddenly, as she put it, “Ben and Jerry's started calling her name”.

She said nothing was upsetting her. She wasn't upset or worried about anything but confessed she was addicted to ice cream. As she put it, Ben & Jerry’s was calling her name.

I asked Jenna what she was watching on TV before ice cream started calling for her. She responded that it was a rerun of Charmed, her favorite show. So because she was doing something she enjoyed there was no reason (or so she thought) that she'd want to down a pint of ice cream.

I wondered if something in the episode may have triggered her to want ice cream for comfort or distraction. Sure enough, that episode featured a demon that broke the bond between sisters, leading to a nasty fight between them.

Jenna had a terrible relationship with her sister. That’s when Jenna had a “Eureka” moment and realized that watching the show activated intense anxiety about their relationship. But before she could realize that the show was triggering some strong emotions, she went to ice cream for comfort and distraction.

Ice cream was therefore not the problem. Instead it was a temporary solution to the true problem – her relationship with her sister. It was difficult for Jenna to express her feelings  about this issue. She also didn't have a healthy way of comforting herself and coping with the situation,

I helped Jenna discover new ways of identifying her emotions and comforting herself.  Ice cream stopped calling her name. She is living proof that change is possible and you can go from feeling powerless over food to having complete control of what you eat.

Jenna’s story also shows how our deepest emotions can be hidden from us. She was unaware of why she was being drawn to ice cream. At first, she believed that ice cream was the problem. Her hidden anxiety from her relationship with her sister was the hidden trigger and the actual reason she craved ice cream.

Most of us are just like Jenna. We think we are triggered by food, triggered by ice cream, chocolate, and other forbidden foods. But the truth is we are not triggered by food, but by a situation that we can't see or maybe don't want to look at. By being curious about those underlying hidden triggers, we can take steps to create lasting change.

Tip # 2 – Decode your Food Cravings

The second tip to stop binge eating is to decode your food cravings. Start by taking a moment  and think about your last craving. Did you want something smooth and creamy like ice cream or filling like pizza and cake or maybe you just grabbed that last bag of chips?

So what does this all mean anyway? Does it matter what type of food you're craving for? Throughout the years that I've worked in psychoanalysis specializing in food, weight, and body image issues, I started noticing some patterns.

Regardless of their age, gender, or ethnicity, when it came to cravings, my clients were drawn to three basic categories of food;:

  1. Smooth and creamy – These include foods like ice cream or pudding or yogurt
  2. Filling Foods –  Bread, pasta, pizza, cake, muffins and the like
  3. Crunchy foods  – These include foods like  chips and crackers

The Food Mood Formula

So what does it all mean? What does craving for creamy, fillings, or crunchy food tell us? Below is my food mood formula that will help you decode your food cravings so you can focus on why you’re eating instead of on what you’re eating.    

  1. Yearning for Comfort – Everytime we crave ice cream or something creamy it’s not ice cream that we really want but comfort. Thus, the key to change is finding new ways to comfort yourself that don't involve eating.
  1. Filling an Inner Emptiness – On the other hand, filling foods takes up space within us, which is related to symbolically filling a void. Therefore, it’s crucial that you examine the holes and empty spaces in your life and find new ways to fill them.
  1. Dealing with Anger – Finally, foods with crunchy textures and those that make us bite down hard are associated with forms of anger. Anger can range from annoyance, frustration, irritation, or rage. If this resonates, you have to learn to express anger in a healthier way with words.

Chocolates and Candy

What about chocolates and candies? The answer depends on the type of chocolate or candy. If it's milk chocolate and similar variants, then it belongs in the creamy foods just like ice cream and this means yearning for comfort.

If you like chocolate with nuts or dark chocolate, which have a bit of a crunch, that indicates you may be dealing with some form of anger.

If you're craving candies like Twizzlers or non-chocolate treats, then you are likely craving some sweetness in your life. That does not mean the kind of sweetness that comes from sugar, but the sweetness of connection, fulfillment, and love.

This is my Food Mood Formula guide, which is one of the best tips to stop binge eating. Keep in mind though, that eating some chips with your sandwich is not the same thing as eating a family-sized bag of Doritos and hating yourself with every bite. 

The Food Mood Formula only applies to situations where you feel a pull towards food to change the way you emotionally feel. Thus, next time you get a craving, consider whether it is for something creamy, filling, crunchy, or sweet. 

Once you recognize and respond to those underlying needs, emotions, wishes, and internal conflicts, you stop eating to cope. What I just shared with you is a tool that helps you uncover the “hidden why” you’re turning to food. Once you have a clear understanding of this, it’s easy for you to address it directly.

Tip # 3 – Soothe without Food

One of the best tips to stop binge eating that you need to learn is to soothe without food. As you have seen, what you're eating isn't the real problem. The real problem is societal message that it's not okay to have emotions.

If we openly express our emotions, we are perceived as weak. Conversely, we’re perceived as strong if we shrug them off. Society tells us to be strong and not give in to fear. If we’re angry, we’re told not to be “an angry person” and possibly sent to anger management classes.

If we’re sad, we’re often labeled depressed and prescribed an antidepressant. And if we’re anxious, there's a pill for that too. The message is clear: there is something wrong with feelings and emotions. 

But don't get me wrong — many people do benefit from medication, and I'm not against medication per se. I'm talking about cultural injunctions against our basic human emotions that connect us to ourselves and to each other. And with all these prohibitions, it’s no wonder many of us don't know how to comfort ourselves, be with ourselves, or express ourselves.

It’s also not a surprise why so many of us eat as a way of coping. However, once we find other ways of coping, everything changes. Instead of stuffing down your emotions, you need to learn how to express them.

Emotions are not the Enemy

Today, emotions ‌get a bad rap. Although they're usually seen as negative in our society, they're really just reactions to situations and are not character flaws. If you get angry, it doesn’t immediately mean you're an angry person. It means you’re angry at something or someone at the moment. There’s a difference.

Also, we sometimes respond to vulnerability by covering it up with anger. Men often get the message not to be vulnerable or have soft emotions so they turn sadness and anxiety into anger. Similarly, the communication to women is that it’s not nice to be angry and they may convert their anger into sadness.

Thus, instead of dismissing your emotions, pay more attention to what's bothering you. Focus on what's making you upset. 

Your emotions require your attention, not your condemnation. Easier said than done though, as many of us don't know how to feel our feelings and express ourselves. You need to start by putting words to your emotions and use the food mood formula I just mentioned in Tip # 2  to help you identify what’s going on. 

Thus, you can say, “I'm frustrated because of all the terrible things that are going on in the world today” or “I'm really anxious that I can't find a solution to a current problem in my life”. You can also say, “I'm sad because so many people are suffering,” or “I'm sad because I’m lonely.”

Likewise, you can express emotions in words, such as saying, “I'm really happy that I just got to spend quality time with my family.”

It's important to express your emotional truth without judgment. Express yourself in a journal or talk to a friend. The bottom line is, we cannot ignore emotions, dismiss them, minimize them, positive-think them away, or stuff them down. The only way to get rid of feelings is to actually feel them and express them. And what you feel, you will heal.

This is how to manage stress, resentment, sadness, anger, anxiety, and everything else. Put them into words and express them. Remember, practice makes progress.

Tip # 4 – Activate Self-Love

The next tip to stop binge eating is to activate self-love. Take a moment and think about a friend of yours, someone that you really care about deeply, or anyone that you love.

Imagine if that person is upset. If you want the person to feel better, would you tell him/her to grab an ice cream in the freezer, get the chips in the pantry, or order pizza online? Probably not. Instead, you would likely be helpful, supportive, and ready to listen when they want to express their emotions.

The goal is to treat ourselves the same way as we would with someone we care about. However, to activate self love, we first need to identify the part of us that is critical. 

Becca’s Story

Becca started each day staring at the bathroom mirror and making a face of disgust at herself. She would tell her reflection, “You are disgusting.” From then on, her day was ruined. She’d turn to food to escape her own mean voice.

I asked her to repeat the words from a first-person pronoun. Instead of saying, “You’re disgusting,” she was to try saying, “I’m disgusting.” 

And she couldn’t. She exclaimed that it sounded too harsh (and I agree). Using the pronoun “you” when we're talking to ourselves often means our inner critic is in charge of our thoughts.  Thus, if you say something negative to yourself like “you're not good enough, you're going to fail, or they don't like you,” it’s your inner critic talking. 

That voice makes us feel bad and then worse, we often use food for comfort and escape. That’s why if you’re self-critical, you may eat just to escape your own mean voice. 

Instead of turning to food, take your own side. And ask yourself “Okay what's going on with me right now? What do I need right now? What am I feeling”. Tell yourself, “I'm capable; I've got this; I'm perfectly imperfect.” Changing the way we talk to ourselves is extremely powerful.

Becca started being nicer to herself and guess what? The food stopped having power over her. She stopped binge eating and got her life back: a better life than before. Once she looks in the mirror now, she radiates with beauty, vibrancy and confidence from the inside out.

How You Say It Matters: Sam’s Story

Being kind to ourselves is also not just the words we say, but how we say them. Let me tell you about Sam. Sam tried talking to himself and it didn't work. He said that he used all the right words but it didn't help or make any difference. 

I asked Sam to repeat exactly what he had said, word for word. He responded in a very flat and unemotional voice, “This is hard but I'm going to get through. It will be okay.” He sounded like he was at a funeral. It’s no surprise  he didn't feel better.

The same words can sound completely different when spoken in a different tone. So I asked Sam to say the same words using a kind and encouraging tone. A comforting tone can feel like a verbal hug. This made a difference and he noticed a huge shift in his relationship with food

Once Sam started being kinder to himself, food stopped being a problem. He had never kept Oreos in the house without eating the whole box. One day, he realized he had forgotten about the Oreos stocked in the pantry, which had been sitting there for weeks.  

Sam stopped binge eating and felt for the first time in his life that he was truly living and not merely existing. The same can happen to you once you change the way you talk to yourself. Food will stop controlling you and you'll get your life back.

Tip # 5 – Stop Sabotaging Yourself

My last tip to stop binge eating is learning how to stop the sabotage. Does this sound all too familiar to you:

You've finally seen the results of your hard work. You've been making healthy choices, and your clothes are feeling a little looser. You are very close to reaching your goal weight, and then… you have a cookie or a piece of cake, or something you haven’t let yourself eat, and suddenly you’re bingeing again.

You can't understand why you are doing this. And deep down you know this isn't the first time it happened. In fact, each time you get close to your ideal weight you start binging again. So what's going on here? How do you stop the sabotage?

Fear of Happiness

One of the biggest reasons we sabotage our success is fear of happiness. On the surface, this may sound absurd. Most people say, “I want to be happy. When I stop binge eating or emotional eating, I will be happy. I want it more than anything.”

Consciously, we want happiness. But there are hidden fears that cause sabotage.

That has to do with uncertainty about the future, fear of not deserving happiness, or having a sense that when things go “too” well, something bad will happen.

Some people become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable because they know what to expect. Familiarity feels safe. They don’t know what will happen if they lose weight. They fear that people will treat them differently or that they might be objectified. They’re also afraid of the shame of regaining that lost weight.

Others think that they don’t deserve to be happy or feel good in their lives. They believe that they are not good enough and therefore are supposed to suffer. 

Another reason to fear happiness is the notion that if things go well, it’s a set-up for something bad. Our culture reinforces this belief, with idioms such as, “The other shoe is going to drop,” or, “It was too good to be true,” or, “The rug will be pulled out from under you.”

If you resonate with the idea that, “If things get too good, something terrible is going to happen,” you may unconsciously keep yourself safe by never getting “too” happy. As long as you don’t feel happy with your relationship with food or your weight, you don’t have to worry about things being “too” good.

If you sabotage your success, start examining your beliefs about happiness. When you uncover the root cause of self-sabotage, you can break free of it by challenging the ideas behind it and finding a new way of relating to yourself.

Creating a New Life

Once you recognize the reasons behind sabotage, you can create a new perspective on life. Start by thinking about what you really want, your deepest desires, and your goals.

Once you understand what you're striving for, you can begin visualizing your ideal life. Try to imagine these things in your ideal life:

  • What does your day-to-day life look like?
  • Who are the people in your life? 
  • What's your job?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Where do you live?
  • What are your new character traits and habits?

Then take steps to achieve the life that you desire. Be sure to encourage yourself as you set about meeting your goals. Nobody decides to run a marathon and immediately goes out to run 26 miles.

They start by walking, then build up to running a mile, then another, and another. When you have a vision for the life you want, you can take steps to achieve it.

Recapping the 5 Tips to Stop Binge Eating

The journey to stop binge eating isn't just about changing what's on your plate; it's about transforming your relationship with food and with yourself. In this blog, we've explored five essential tips to help you break free from the cycle of binge eating and find lasting peace with food and your body.

First, we learned that binge eating isn't about willpower or food addiction, but often stems from deeper emotional triggers. Understanding the root causes of your cravings is key to overcoming them. 

Second, by decoding your food cravings and recognizing the underlying emotions they represent, you can learn to address your true needs without turning to food for comfort.

Third, we've discussed the importance of soothing without food and learning to express your emotions openly and without judgment. Emotions are not te enemy; they are signals that guide us towards healing and growth. By cultivating self-awareness and self-compassion, you can break free from the cycle of emotional eating.

Fourth, activating self-love is crucial in combating binge eating. Treating yourself with the same kindness and support you would offer a loved one can transform your relationship with food and your body. By challenging your inner critic and practicing self-affirming language, you can reclaim control over your thoughts and behaviors.

Last, we explored the role of fear in self-sabotage and the importance of creating a roadmap for your dream life. Achieving lasting change requires more than just reaching a certain weight; it involves creating a life that aligns with your deepest desires and values. By confronting your fears and taking proactive steps toward your goals, you can break free from the cycle of self-sabotage and create a life of fulfillment and joy.

Ultimately, stopping binge eating is not just about changing what you eat, but about transforming how you think, feel, and live. With dedication, self-awareness, and the right support, you can break free from the grips of binge eating and embrace a life of freedom, joy, and self-love.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this Frequently Asked Questions section, we aim to address common inquiries regarding strategies and tips to stop binge eating. If you're seeking clarity on how to navigate the challenges of binge eating and develop healthier habits, you've come to the right place. 

These questions delve into key aspects of the journey to stop binge eating, providing insights into understanding cravings, managing emotions, and cultivating self-compassion. 

Whether you're looking for guidance on decoding food cravings or strategies for disrupting feelings of guilt and shame, this section offers valuable answers to support you on your path to freedom from binge eating.

1. How do I know if I'm binge eating?

Binge eating is characterized by consuming large amounts of food in a short period, often feeling a loss of control during the episode. If you find yourself regularly overeating to the point of discomfort, feeling guilty or ashamed afterward, or using food to cope with emotions, you may be experiencing binge eating.

2. Can I overcome binge eating without going on a diet?

Yes, absolutely. Diets often exacerbate binge eating behaviors by creating feelings of deprivation and restriction, which can lead to cycles of bingeing and restriction. Instead of focusing on what you're eating, it's more effective to address the underlying emotional triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

3. How can I decode my food cravings?

Understanding the emotions behind your cravings is essential to overcoming binge eating. Cravings for certain types of foods, such as creamy, filling, crunchy, or sweet, can signify different emotional needs. By identifying these underlying emotions, you can address them directly rather than turning to food for comfort.

4. What are some strategies for soothing without food?

Learning to express your emotions openly and without judgment is key to soothing without food. This can involve journaling, talking to a friend or therapist, practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques, or engaging in activities that bring you joy and comfort. 

5. How can I disrupt feelings of guilt and shame surrounding food choices? 

Disrupting feelings of guilt and shame involves challenging the belief that food choices are tied to morality. Recognize that food is not inherently good or bad, and that feeling guilty or ashamed for indulging perpetuates the cycle of binge eating. Practice self-compassion and address underlying feelings of unworthiness to cultivate a healthier relationship with food and yourself.

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 The Author


Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a psychoanalyst, author and radio host specializing in binge eating disorder. She is the author of The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating and Food for Thought: Perspectives on Eating Disorders, and co-editor of Beyond the Primal Addiction. She hosts The Dr. Nina Show radio program on LA Talk Radio.

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