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What to do if you feel like binge eating

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States, with an estimated 2.8 million Americans living with the condition.1

People with binge eating disorder experience compulsive episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food, even when they are not hungry. During these episodes, they experience a loss of control over their eating, and once it’s over often feel guilt and shame.2

Many people who struggle with binge eating also restrict either food overall or specific types of food, which can result in a binge-restrictive cycle. This type of eating pattern can cause emotional distress and physical discomfort and contribute to various medical and mental health problems.2

Thankfully, many strategies can be done at home and with the support of a professional that can help address your urge to binge and reduce the frequency of episodes.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
January 9, 2024
What to do if you feel like binge eating
In this article

Tips on how to reduce the urge to binge eat

If you think you have binge eating disorder or need help with eating disorders in general, contact an eating disorder specialist. While working towards eating regularly and adequately, managing stress, and building a support system are great tools to help reduce the urge to binge eat, they are no substitute for an eating disorder treatment program.

The following tips and advice on what to do if you feel like binge eating are intended to help improve overall mental health, and emotional regulation, when done in accordance with a treatment program. Here are some tips on how to reduce the urge to binge eat:2,3,4

Eat regularly throughout the day

While everyone is different, many people feel best physically and mentally when they eat regularly throughout the day and have a meal or snack every few hours. Some people may try to eat less earlier in the day to restrict or compensate, but this can increase the likelihood of getting extremely hungry or feeling deprived later on, triggering a binge episode. 

Ditch the diet

Following a rigid and restrictive diet can cause feelings of physical and psychological deprivation and hunger. Both physical and mental restriction and deprivation can lead to episodes of binge eating and result in getting stuck in a binge-restrict cycle. Therefore, eating a nutritionally balanced diet in which no foods are off-limits (with the exception of allergies and other medical needs) instead of trying to stick to fad diets can be a helpful approach.

Avoid banning foods

Unless you have a diagnosed allergy or intolerance to a specific food, avoid labeling certain food as “bad” or “forbidden” as it can increase feelings of restriction and deprivation and further the binge-restrict cycle. Instead, intentionally incorporating these foods into your regular meals and snacks and enjoying them mindfully can help to break this cycle and decrease the fear and power they hold.

Knowing these foods are available whenever you want them and allowing yourself to eat and enjoy them without shame can reduce the feeling that you have to have as much of them as possible because they will never be available again. 

Schedule fun and engaging activities

Having things to look forward to throughout the week can help reduce feelings of stress, isolation, boredom, and other negative emotions which may lead to binge episodes.

Learn how to stop emotional eating and reduce binge eating.

If there are specific times of day when you often find yourself engaging in eating disorder behaviors, you may want to try intentionally scheduling a call with a friend, an art class, a walk in a beautiful place, or something else that will keep you busy and lift your mood.

Minimize stress

Studies show that stress is a common trigger for binge eating. Furthermore, stress can minimize a person’s awareness of their hunger and satiety cues, which can contribute to both restriction (including unintentionally) and binge episodes.

There are many effective ways to reduce or relieve stress, including:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Therapy
  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Alternative techniques (e.g., acupuncture and aromatherapy)

Try mindful eating

This eating technique involves focusing on being in the moment when enjoying your meals and snacks. Mindful eating includes eating slowly and purposefully, so you can savor the flavors and textures of the food, as well as recognize hunger and fullness cues. In addition, it can help you stop eating to deal with emotions, stress, or other triggers.

Being intentional about regularly eating throughout the day and approaching each meal or snack mindfully can disrupt the binge-restrictive cycle. It may even be helpful to journal before and after eating.

Build a strong support system

Having people to support and talk to you when you feel like binging can provide you with alternative coping mechanisms besides eating disorder behaviors just by being there for you. Research indicates that reliable support is associated with reduced episodes of binge eating. A strong support system can reduce the impact of stress, which can itself be a trigger for binging.

Responding to the urge to binge when it hits

Even when working hard at recovery and building support and structure into your life, urges to binge can still surface. You can employ some great strategies to ride the urge out without engaging in binging. They include:

Acknowledging the emotion
Visualize the urge as a wave
Distract yourself
Pick up the phone

The warning signs that may lead to binge eating

Binge episodes are generally triggered by unpleasant thoughts, feelings, traumas, or even certain situations you find yourself in. Identifying your triggers for binging can help you avoid or manage them or implement alternative coping strategies.

For example, if relationship problems often seem to precede a binging episode, the next time you feel stressed out by your partner, redirect your negative thoughts and feelings by removing yourself from the situation and intentionally engaging in an alternative activity. For example, go for a walk in your favorite nature spot, call up a friend to vent, or watch a movie that makes you feel good.

Keeping a journal can be a handy tool in addressing and identifying your eating disorder triggers. Some things which may feel helpful to record include: 

  • Specific events preceding binge episodes or other eating disorder behavior 
  • Specific emotions preceding binge episodes or other eating disorder behavior 
  • The time of day the binge hits
  • Whether you were skipping meals (intentionally or unintentionally) earlier in the day or the day before

Over time you may see patterns emerge that point to your triggers. Recording and tracking eating behaviors, even when the focus is on emotions and triggers and not calories, can lead to disordered patterns for some people, so this strategy may not be helpful to everyone.

What to do if you feel like binge eating

Common triggers for binge eating

Certain events, emotions, and physical sensations can play an important role in binge eating disorder for many people.5

Emotional Triggers

A variety of different emotions can result in binge episodes. Some people may binge as a response to: 

  • The desire to distract from or avoid negative emotions like stress and anxiety
  • The desire to alleviate boredom
  • Falling into childhood habits 
  • A habituated response to trauma
  • Desiring a reward 

Working with a therapist or on your own to identify emotional triggers, process emotions constructively, and respond to them differently can be an important part of recovering from BED and getting appropriate trauma support if necessary. 

Environmental Triggers

Environmental triggers are usually food triggers within your environment that can lead to a binge episode. Examples include:

  • Social gatherings that include food
  • Being around food that is constantly visible
  • Large portion sizes
  • Free food

Identifying which environmental factors are most triggering for you and planning alternate responses to them can help make them feel less daunting. Eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day, incorporating all types of food, can also reduce the power of environmental triggers when your body and mind are no longer restricted.

Recover from binge eating at home

Within offers a 100% virtual eating disorder treatment program to help you overcome binge eating and learn how to eat intuitively. With both partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs available, help is just a phone call away.

Call us at (866) 293-0041

How to treat binge eating disorder

Here at Within, we know how difficult it is to cope with the intense urges of binge eating disorder (BED). If your relationship with food impacts your quality of life, reaching out for support can be essential to making positive changes.

The treatment programs at Within offer a holistic understanding of eating disorders with a multidisciplinary approach to treating the person as a whole. Your personalized plan will address the underlying issues driving your eating disorder behaviors and treat any coexisting conditions to help improve your mental health overall.

It’s important to remember that recovery from binge eating disorder doesn’t happen overnight. During recovery, you’re likely to still feel the urge to binge, and binge episodes may still occur. However, remaining curious about the emotional or environmental triggers that lead to these episodes and practicing alternative skills and responses can help to disrupt and decrease these episodes over time.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Schaeffer, J. (2016, December 19). Binge eating disorder: Statistics, facts, and you. Healthline. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  2. Link, R. (2019, November 14). 15 tips to overcome binge eating. Healthline. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  3. WebMD. (n.d.). Binge eating: How you can stop it before it starts. WebMD. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  4. Lane, S. N. (n.d.). 6 how to stop binge eating. Verywell Health. Retrieved February 16.
  5. McDermott, A. (2016, December 19). Binge eating disorder triggers: Identification and management. Healthline. Retrieved February 16, 2023.


How can I overcome binge eating?

There are several steps you can take to reduce binging and overeating, including to:

  • Eat regularly
  • Reduce stress
  • Identify triggers
  • Ask for support from a family member or friend

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating happens when you turn to food for comfort from things like stress and unpleasant emotions. Unfortunately, most people turn to junk food and other "unhealthy" foods in these situations. 

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