The Best Things You Can Do to Head Off a Binge

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on November 17, 2020

Recovery from binge eating disorder (BED) doesn’t happen all at once. You’ll feel like you have to binge while you recover. You may even relapse. As time goes by, urges will come less often and they may be less demanding.

Through treatment, you can learn to manage those strong feelings. When they do happen, you’ll learn how to handle them.

Along with your treatment, there are lifestyle changes that can help you head off a binge, and tips that can help you when the moment hits.

Day-to-Day Tips

Eat breakfast. People who binge eat have predictable patterns. Many will eat no breakfast, have a light lunch, then be famished in the afternoon and eat too much. Eat at regular times throughout the day. Timely, predictable meals go a long way toward giving you power over the binge.

Avoid temptation. You’re more likely to go overboard if junk food and desserts are at arm’s reach. Plan your treats. Go to a shop and enjoy one cup of ice cream. But don’t stock the freezer with gallons of it.

Build a support system. Pick out a few family members or friends who you can talk with about your struggles. As you’re choosing, remember that they need to be able to encourage you when you’re feeling down, too.

You may find a support group helpful. You would spend time with folks who are on the same journey you are. What’s more, those relationships don’t have the emotional ties that can come with family.

Get moving. Exercise is a great stress reliever that can do wonders for your mood. The natural spirit-elevating chemicals that physical activity brings can help curb emotional eating.

Make sure to ask your doctor what kind of exercise is best for you, especially if you have health issues.

Identify emotional triggers. Try to figure out what tends to push you into a binge. Is it anger? Frustration? Boredom? Is it when you’re celebrating? Pay attention to which feelings flip the switch, and use them as warning signs.

Relieve stress. Find ways to handle tough times without food. Some options include:

Stopping a Binge When It Hits

Despite your best efforts, the urge can still come upon you. Try these tactics to stop yourself. And have multiple approaches in your toolbox in case plan A fails.

Sit with the emotion. What are you feeling that makes you want to binge? Identify it, and accept it without judging the emotion or yourself. This will be hard at first. But emotions pass, and as you accept your feelings, you’ll realize you don’t have to binge to get rid of them.

Surf the urge. You may think your desire to binge will just continue to grow. But if you distract yourself with other things and get away from your food triggers, you’ll see that feeling start to go away. Think of the urge as an ocean wave that will grow, but then wash away.

Distract yourself. Find something to take your mind and body away from food. You can, among other things:

  • Play a game you really enjoy
  • Go for a walk
  • Go to the park
  • Mow the lawn
  • Go for a drive
  • Meditate
  • Read a book

Pick up the phone. Here’s where that support system you built comes in. Call your trusted friend or support group member and tell them what you’re going through. Talking it out can help make the urge pass.

Also, some therapists specialize in working with binge eating disorder, and some medications are FDA-approved to treat it. Talk with your doctor to explore these options.

Find your happy place. Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself. You can listen to music that boosts your mood, hit the gym, or watch a funny movie.

Think it through. If you do start to eat, try to slow down, pay attention to each bite, and don’t allow yourself to fall into a daze. Stay in the moment.

WebMD Medical Reference



National Eating Disorders Association.

Cynthia Bulik, PhD, founding director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, Chapel Hill, NC.

Mayo Clinic: “Binge Eating Disorder: Self-Management.” “Binge Eating Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Help.”

National Centre for Eating Disorders: “Bulimia Nervosa. A Contemporary Analysis.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Click to view privacy policy and trust info