Binge Eating Disorder: Stages of Recovery

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 15, 2023
4 min read

Recovery from binge eating disorder can be an uncertain process. Maybe you worry that you are moving too fast or not making enough progress. The good news is you are taking steps to recover.

The basic stages of recovery from addictive behaviors are the same for everyone. Researchers call this “stages of change.” It’s five specific actions that people go through when recovering from problem behaviors such as bingeing. Understanding them can give you motivation and direction as you get better.

Here’s a look at each stage and what you can do right now to help you recover.

You've been sneaking food or eating way past the point of fullness. Your friends and family have noticed something is wrong. Maybe they've tried to talk with you about your eating. Yet you don't see a problem, and you don't think you need help. You might even get angry at them for getting involved.

What you can do now:Understand that binge eating is bad for your health. It can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other problems linked to too much weight.

You know you have an eating disorder. You might have even started to think about getting help. But you're not sure what to do. You feel stuck between your desire to get better and your need to keep bingeing.

What you can do now:See a doctor, therapist, nutritionist, or other eating disorder specialist. They'll help you learn why you binge eat and understand how it affects your life.

You're ready to change. You just need a plan to get started. Your treatment team will help you learn how to:

  • Cope with stress and other problems without food
  • Deal with negative thoughts when they pop up
  • Take care of yourself during treatment
  • Overcome roadblocks that could stand in the way of your recovery

What you can do now: Talk to the friends and family members you trust most. Pull together a support team you can call on for help when you need it.

You have a plan, treatment team, and support group in place. Now it's time to tackle your eating disorder. During therapy, you'll learn healthy new behaviors and ways of thinking that will steer you away from bingeing.

What you can do now: Know that this is a difficult stage. You might relapse. Don't give up. Trust your treatment team. They will work with you to help you get better.

You've been in treatment for at least 6 months, and you've learned how to eat in a healthier way. Now you can use the tips and techniques you learned in treatment to get you through the rough times without turning to food.

What you can do now:Focus on new interests that don't involve eating. Take up a hobby or join a club. Watch out for stress and other triggers that could lead you into another binge.

As you go through the five stages of change and recovery, remember these 10 important parts:

  1. Recovery is in your hands. You will decide when to get treated and seek out the people who can help you succeed.
  2. You'll get the most out of treatment if you tailor it to your needs and strengths.
  3. You are in control, and you can ask for whatever you need to help you through this process.
  4. Recovery isn't just about eating. It should involve all aspects of your life -- including your family, friends, job, education, and spirituality.
  5. Your treatment won't always move forward in a straight line. Sometimes you may take a few steps backward. Only when you realize that you can change for the better will you start to move forward and keep moving in that direction.
  6. Recognize your strengths and talents. Nurture your hobbies. They'll help you build the friendships that will see you through this time of change.
  7. Share what you've learned, and learn from others who are also coping with an eating disorder.
  8. Accept yourself for who you are, and believe that you can get over your eating disorder.
  9. Take responsibility for your own wellness. Learn coping skills and other methods to ensure that you stay healthy.
  10. Have hope. Know that you can get better. Your family and friends will be there to keep you motivated.

Only you will know when you've finished with one stage of change and are ready to move on to the next one. No one should try to force you to move forward before you're ready. Go at your own pace.

Don't expect to move in a straight line from stage one to stage five. You might go back and forth through the stages more than once before you fully recover from your binge eating disorder.