Binge Eating: Change Guilty Feelings Into Good Ones

Medically Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on December 20, 2014
2 min read

If you binge eat, you likely use food to try to manage negative emotions.

Drowning your feelings with food might make you feel good for the moment, but it’s often quickly followed by a lot of guilt and hurtful self-talk. Such shame leads to more bingeing and sets off a cycle that’s hard - but not impossible - to break.

You can end this cycle and start to recover. Here are some tips to get you started.

Silence that nagging voice in your head. Don’t insult yourself constantly. Allow yourself to be sad every now and then.

Or, distract yourself with healthy things that make you happy -- a phone call with a friend, for example. That way, you don’t immediately turn to food for comfort.

Other people have binge eating disorder, and they do get better. You can, too.

The shame and secrecy of binge eating sometimes keeps people from asking for support. Consider reaching out for professional help.

You can take steps to fight off a binge or soothe yourself after a slip-up.

1. Write it out. “Writing your thoughts down helps you tune into what’s going on inside,” says Margo Maine, PhD. She's senior editor of Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention.

“You learn to put your feelings into words. When you binge, it’s often because you don’t have the words for your emotions.”

2. Hang with a friend. When you’re feeling guilty about a binge, being around others is one of the best things you can do. You don’t even need to talk about your problems -- just being in a social setting helps.

“When you’re alone, the negative self-talk, which can trigger a binge, gets magnified,” Maine says.

3. Get help. Visit the Binge Eating Disorder Association’s web site for hopeful stories of recovery. Anonymous online support groups are also helpful.

Maine recommends the book Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop by Cynthia M. Bulik.

You might also consider getting therapy. “Talking your feelings through with a professional is the best way to overcome that sense of worthlessness that really feeds your binge eating,” Maine says.

4. Don’t diet. Restricting what you eat eventually leads to binge eating, research shows.

“If you’re starving yourself, you’re going to compensate,” says Ellen Hendriksen, PhD. She's the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast.

In short, be kind to yourself, and accept that change takes time. You’re on the right track.

Just “having a name for the disorder is one more thing that can chip away at the pain,” Hendriksen says.