15 Helpful Tips to Stop Binge Eating

by Rachael Link, MS, RD

Binge eating disorder (BED) is considered the most common eating disorder in the US and can be a difficult problem to address (1).

Characterized by episodes of eating unusually large amounts even in the absence of hunger, binge eating can damage health and leave people feeling guilty and ashamed.

Fortunately, there are plenty of simple strategies you can try to effectively prevent binge eating. Here are 15 tips to help you stop binge eating and gain back control.

1. Ditch the Diet

Not only can fad diets often be very unhealthy, but studies show that these overly restrictive eating methods may also trigger episodes of binge eating.

For example, one study in 496 adolescent girls found that fasting was associated with a higher risk of binge eating (2).

Similarly, another study in 103 women noticed that abstaining from certain foods resulted in increased cravings and a higher risk of overeating (3).

Instead of following diets that focus on cutting out entire food groups or significantly slashing your calorie intake in an effort to lose weight quickly, focus on making healthy changes to your diet.

Eat more whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains and moderate your consumption of treats instead of excluding them from your diet altogether. This will prevent binge eating and promote better health.

2. Avoid Skipping Meals

Setting a regular eating schedule and sticking to it is one of the most effective ways to stop binge eating.

Skipping meals can contribute to cravings and increase your risk of overeating.

One small, two-month study showed that eating one large meal per day increased levels of blood sugar and the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin to a greater extent than eating three meals per day (4).

Another study in 38 people found that adhering to a regular eating pattern was associated with a decreased frequency of binge eating (5).

Whether you prefer eating three large meals each day or smaller, more frequent meals, set a regular eating schedule and stick to it to help you stop binge eating.

15 Helpful Tips to Stop Binge Eating

3. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice that involves listening to your body and bringing your attention to how you feel in the present moment.

This technique can prevent overeating by helping you learn to recognize when you no longer feel hungry.

One review of 14 studies found that practicing mindfulness meditation was effective at decreasing the incidence of binge eating and emotional eating (6).

Another small study showed that combining mindfulness with cognitive-behavioral therapy may improve eating behavior and self-awareness (7).

Try listening to your body to recognize when your hunger tapers off. Additionally, practice eating slowly and enjoying your food to prevent binging and promote healthy eating behaviors.

4. Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a simple yet effective way to curb cravings and stop overeating.

In fact, studies show that increasing water intake could be linked to decreased calorie consumption and less hunger.

For example, one study in 24 older adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before eating a meal decreased the number of calories consumed by 13 percent, compared to a control group (8).

Similarly, another study in older adults showed that 13–17 ounces (375–500 ml) of water 30 minutes before a meal significantly decreased hunger and calorie intake while increasing feelings of fullness during the day (9).

Other studies indicate that drinking more water can boost metabolism and increase weight loss(1011).

The amount of water you should drink each day can vary based on different factors. Therefore, it’s best to listen to your body and drink when you feel thirsty to ensure you’re staying well hydrated.

5. Try Yoga

Yoga is a practice that incorporates both body and mind by using specific breathing exercises, poses and meditation to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.

Studies indicate that yoga can help encourage healthy eating habits and reduce your risk of emotional eating.

One small study in 50 people with BED showed that practicing yoga for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction in binging (12).

Another study in 20 girls found that combining yoga with outpatient eating disorder treatment decreased depression, anxiety and body image disturbances — all of which could be factors involved in emotional eating (13).

Research also shows that yoga can decrease levels of stress hormones such as cortisol to keep stress under control and prevent binge eating (1415).

Try joining a local yoga studio to start adding this type of exercise to your routine. You can also use online resources and videos to practice at home.

6. Eat More Fiber

Fiber moves slowly through your digestive tract, keeping you feeling full longer (16).

Some research suggests that increasing your fiber intake could cut cravings, reduce appetite and food intake.

One small, two-week study found that supplementing twice daily with a type of fiber found in vegetables decreased hunger, increased fullness and reduced calorie intake (17).

Another study in 10 adults showed that taking 16 grams of prebiotic fiber daily increased levels of specific hormones that influence satiety and significantly reduced feelings of hunger (18).

Fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are just a few fiber-rich foods that can keep you feeling full.

7. Clean Out Your Kitchen

Having plenty of junk food in your kitchen can make it much easier to binge eat when cravings start to strike.

Conversely, keeping healthy foods on hand can reduce your risk of emotional eating by limiting the number of unhealthy options.

Start by clearing out processed snack foods like chips, candies and pre-packaged convenience foods and swapping them for healthier alternatives.

Stocking your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, protein foods, whole grains, nuts and seeds can improve your diet and reduce your risk of binge eating on unhealthy foods.

8. Start Hitting the Gym

Studies indicate that adding exercise to your routine could prevent binge eating.

For instance, one six-month study in 77 people showed that increasing weekly exercise frequency stopped binge eating in 81 percent of participants (19).

Another study in 84 women found that pairing cognitive-behavioral therapy with regular exercise was significantly more effective at reducing the frequency of binge eating compared to therapy alone (20).

Plus, other research suggests that exercise can decrease stress levels and enhance mood to prevent emotional eating (21).

Walking, running, swimming, biking and playing sports are just a few different forms of physical activity that can help relieve stress and reduce binge eating.

9. Eat Breakfast Every Day

Starting each day off with a healthy breakfast can help you stay on track and reduce your risk of binge eating later in the day.

Several studies have found that maintaining a regular eating pattern is associated with less binge eating and lower levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger (45).

Plus, filling up on the right foods can keep you feeling full to curb cravings and reduce hunger throughout the day.

For example, one study in 15 people found that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced levels of ghrelin to a greater extent than a high-carb breakfast (22).

Meanwhile, eating fiber- and protein-rich oatmeal was shown to improve appetite control and promote fullness in another study in 48 people (23).

Try combining a few fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains, with a good source of protein to avoid overeating.

10. Get Enough Sleep

Not only does sleep impact hunger levels and appetite, but sleep deprivation may be linked to binge eating.

In fact, one study in 146 people found that those with BED reported significantly greater insomnia symptoms than people without a history of this condition (24).

Another large study showed that shorter sleep durations were associated with higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower levels of leptin — the hormone responsible for promoting fullness.

Additionally, sleeping under eight hours per night was linked to higher body weight (25).

Aim to squeeze in at least eight hours per night to keep your appetite in check and reduce your risk of binge eating.

11. Keep a Food and Mood Journal

A food and mood journal can be an effective tool that involves tracking what you eat and how you feel. This helps you take responsibility, identify potential triggers and promote healthier eating habits.

Keeping a food and mood journal makes it easier to look for patterns in your diet and address potential problems and triggers.

One study in 17 people showed that using an online self-help program that involved keeping a food diary was associated with fewer self-reported episodes of binge eating (26).

Several other studies also suggest that tracking your intake may be linked to increased weight loss and better success with long-term weight management (272829).

To get started, simply start recording what you eat and how you feel each day using either a journal or app.

12. Find Someone to Talk To

Talking to a friend or peer when you feel like binging is a simple strategy to stop overeating.

One study in 101 adolescents undergoing sleeve gastrectomy showed that reliable social support was associated with less binge eating (30).

Another study in 125 obese women found that better social support was linked to decreased binge eating severity (31).

A good social support system is thought to reduce the impact of stress, which may help decrease your risk of unhealthy habits like emotional eating (3233).

Next time you feel like binge eating, pick up the phone and call a trusted friend or family member. If you don’t have someone to talk to, eating disorder helplines are available free of charge.

13. Increase Your Protein Intake

Upping your intake of protein-rich foods can keep you feeling full and help control your appetite to stop binge eating.

One study in 19 people showed that increasing protein intake from 15 percent to 30 percent led to significant reductions in body weight and fat mass, as well as decreased daily calorie intake by an average of 441 calories (34).

Similarly, another study found that following a high-protein diet enhanced metabolism, promoted feelings of fullness and increased levels of GLP-1, a hormone known for its ability to suppress appetite (35).

Try including at least one good source of protein — such as nuts, seeds or legumes — in each meal and enjoy high-protein snacks when you feel hungry to keep cravings at bay.

14. Plan Out Your Meals

Planning out your meals can help ensure that you have healthy ingredients on hand to prepare nutritious meals, minimizing your risk of overindulging on junk foods.

The practice can also help you improve your diet quality and make it easier to fit in plenty of fiber- and protein-rich foods.

In fact, one study in over 40,000 adults showed that meal planning was associated with improvements in diet quality and diet variety, as well as a lower risk of obesity (36).

Meal planning also makes it easier to stick to a regular eating pattern, which has been linked to a decreased frequency of binge eating (5).

Set aside an hour or two each week to plan out a weekly rotation for your meals so that you reduce your risk of binging.

15. Seek Help, If Needed

If you’re still struggling with binge eating even after trying some of the strategies listed above, it may be time to seek treatment.

Treatment for BED can involve different types of therapy or medications to help get binging under control and treat any underlying causes or symptoms.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, the most effective form of therapy, explores the connection between your thoughts, feelings and eating patterns, then develops strategies to modify your behavior (37).

Other types of therapy used to treat binge eating include dialectical-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and behavioral weight loss therapy (37).

Antidepressants, antiepileptic drugs and certain stimulants are also sometimes used to treat BED, though more research is needed to evaluate the long-term effects of these medications (3839).

The Bottom Line

Binge eating is a common issue that affects millions of people around the world.

Not only can it wreak havoc on your body, it can also take a major toll on your mental health and self-esteem.

Luckily, a few simple modifications in your diet and lifestyle can help prevent episodes of binge eating while improving your overall health and wellbeing.

Related at Care2

Images via Thinkstock

37 comments

Sue L
Sue L2 months ago

Different people struggle with different issues. It's only simple if you don't struggle with the particular issue.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R2 months ago

I couldn't binge eat if I tried...

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Ruth S
Ruth S2 months ago

Thanks.

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hELEN h
hELEN h2 months ago

tyfs

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

TYFS

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Mike R
Mike R2 months ago

Thanks

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Linda Wallace
Linda Wallace2 months ago

Thank you.

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Teresa A
Teresa Antela2 months ago

This is not a problem of mine...

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jerome S
Jerome S2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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