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How to Stop a Binge Before It Happens

When the Urge Strikes

Recognize you’re in the danger zone. “The first step is that you actually have to notice the urge” before you find yourself in front of a plate of food, Anderson says. Becoming very aware of your own moods and anxieties will help.

Change your mindset. Once you are good at noticing the urge, come up with ways to change gears. Anderson recommends keeping a list of your top goals and values on the fridge, and ask yourself whether bingeing would be consistent with them.

Distract to delay. “People often feel like they go from 0 to 60, right from urge to behavior,” Bunnell says. “Try to stretch out the time a little bit.” If you can delay bingeing long enough, you may be able to avoid it. Count your breaths, do yoga, take a walk, listen to music, or call a friend.

Stop a Binge in Progress

Practice "urge surfing." Learn and accept the cycle of your urge to binge.“If you think about a wave, it goes up, up, up, and at some point it starts to go back down,” Anderson says. When you binge, you are acting on the urge to make it stop. Urge surfing is following the urge all the way up and down, knowing it will eventually end if you ride it out.

Turn off the auto pilot. Even if you start to binge, it doesn’t have to continue, Bunnell says. “You can stop after the fourth or fifth bite, and people do get better at doing that.” A key, he says, is to slow down and see the binge as a set of multiple decisions, not one big decision.

Russell Marx, MD, chief science officer at the National Eating Disorders Association, says, “I think it’s good, if you’re starting a binge, to ask yourself, ‘What is continuing this behavior going to accomplish right now? What’s it going to do for me?’”

Anderson says, “Remember that more food isn’t necessarily more enjoyable. There’s a point of diminishing returns.”

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Reviewed on April 23, 2014

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