August 30, 2011

F.A.Q. #3: How did you stop binge eating?

Ahhh, the million dollar question. If I had a *real* answer to this, I'd be rich!  As promised, here is a post about binge eating.

(Note as of January 29, 2016): I have written much more extensive, in-depth posts about binge eating. I would suggest reading that instead. Here is a link to Part 1 of the the four-part series.

There is a difference between binge eating and overeating/overindulging. I found this in a magazine years ago, which simplifies it:

To see much more specific details about binge eating, you can click here for the DSM-IV criteria for Binge Eating Disorder (BED). It's also important to note that not every person who binge eats has BED.

So first, I want to stress that I do not, in any way, claim to have all the answers. Because I don't. I still have problems with bingeing. I have more control over it now than ever before, and I binge much less frequently than I did at 253 pounds--but I still lose control once in a while.  I've had Binge Eating Disorder the majority of my adult life, and it's a constant struggle for me, even after losing 100+ pounds.

I did go an entire year without bingeing while I was losing weight, and I just thought I'd share a few tips that helped me get through that year of being binge-free. Maybe something will click with you, and could help you out as well. And I'm more than open to hearing suggestions from my readers as well--I can always use all the help I can get!

240-calorie S'mores Pie
#1. I ate dessert every. single. day.  My binge food of choice is always something sweet--ice cream, cookies, cake, candy, etc. So I made it a point to eat dessert daily, and not just a "healthy" dessert like fruit or sugar-free jello with cool whip. I made it something that I really wanted, something that I would eat whether I was dieting or not. Things like brownie sundaes, full-size candy bars, large cookies, etc. I reserved about 200-300 calories per day for these things, which sounds like a lot to someone who is trying to lose weight! However, considering the alternative--bingeing almost daily on thousands of calories of sugar--200-300 calories isn't bad. When I was struggling with binge thoughts during the day, I would just remind myself that after dinner, I was going to have something fantastic. I ate a pretty healthy diet all day, but I would allow myself that daily indulgence.

#2.  I kept extremely busy when I was feeling a binge coming on. Leaving the house always helped, and I enjoyed going to a store and trying on clothes (not necessarily to buy them, but it was fun to see sizes drop). When I was trying on clothes, I wasn't thinking about food. I did a lot of big projects around the house--organizing my cupboards and closets, painting walls, alphabetizing DVD's, etc. Anything to keep my mind and hands really busy helped me a lot.  I made a list of things to do instead of bingeing, and when I was feeling a binge coming on, I would pick something on the list and work on it.

#3.  I only ate foods I truly enjoyed. I don't like salad, so I didn't eat salad. I don't like yogurt, so I didn't eat yogurt. I found that I was much more satisfied with my food when I ate things I enjoyed. I found that I wanted to binge the most on the days that I ate something I didn't care for--so I learned not to do that. It's important to be satisfied mentally with food as much as physically.

#4.  I quit "hoarding" my points/calories for later in the day. My thoughts used to be that "If I eat my snack now, I might not have calories left for later, so I better wait..." and then later, I'd be starving, and I would usually binge. So this time around, when I was hungry, I used my points/calories for a snack at that moment. I usually found that once I used up all my calories for the day, I wasn't hungry after that, regardless of the time of day. It's much easier to refrain from bingeing when you're not starving.

#5.  When all else failed, and I was on the verge of bingeing, I would make myself measure out and eat ONE portion of the binge food and count the calories for it. Then I would wait 10 minutes, promising myself that if I still wanted it, I could just binge. And by eating the food, my blood sugar would go up a little and make me feel better--and in turn, I refrained from bingeing. My mind was much clearer when I wasn't hungry. While I was eating the food, I was 100% positive that after 10 minutes, I'd still want to binge... but it never worked out that way. I still use this trick (almost daily) when I feel a binge coming on. Measure out and eat one portion, then wait 10 minutes--and I rarely lose control after that.

So as you can see, the mental struggle is the hardest part about binge eating. And so much hard work can come undone from one single binge. But the longer you go without a binge, the easier it gets, and it's important to keep that in mind.


  1. wow, thanks you for this post. This gets me every time, I just get out of control sometimes. You have come so far, congrats!

  2. awesome post.
    i find that when i wait to eat and get super hungry is when it starts-for me its just an inability to stop what im doing. last time i binged (28 days ago) it started with twizzlers-i dont even like them!!!!
    ive also learned not to have certain foods in the house, one silly thing i liked to eat an entire pack of is the caramel rice cakes (the small ones by quaker).

  3. As far as I'm aware, I don't have BED, but have suffered from compulsive-overeating disorder for many years. It periodically included binging - though not to the same calorie degree, I don't think. But I would lose control for a couple hours and just eat everything, or generally a whole bunch of one thing, like an entire box of granola bars or a bag of chips. I would eat until I felt completely sick and then suddenly the food would stop appealing to me and the urge to binge would disappear.

    I generally have this much worse when I'm stressed out, or when I'm angry at myself for eating (and therefore attacking myself with food). In fact I still have issues with attacking myself with food when I'm angry, that's one thing that's really hard for me to overcome. So anyway, I know it's not the same thing as BED but it does have a lot of similar symptoms. The tricks you mention above are the same ones I've used to overcome it (except #5, which actually never worked for me, though I did try it).

  4. I couldn't agree with you more in regards to eating what you like. I laughed when I saw your first food journal entry because it could have been mine.

  5. I binged on Sunday, fully aware of what I was doing, but continued anyway. It started with the stress and anxiety of the hurricane. I had a great day on Saturday, running 5 miles and eating right. But on Sunday, I knew I wasn't getting to the gym, and even though I didn't lose power and had AMPLE opprtunity to exercise at home, I didn't. The inactivity will sometimes trigger a binge. It makes no sense. If I don't exercise then the day is ruined?? Exercise seems to help me keep my eating in check, even though I know it doesn't do as much for weight loss as caloric control does. The difference with me now is that it is one isolated incident and then I get back on track the next day. It hasn't de-railed my mission. I also can't ingest the quantity of food I used to. I feel completely ill, which never used to happen.

    Baked goods and sweets are definitely my weapon of choice, because like Amanda said, we really are attacking ourselves with food. Like yourself, I do eat things I enjoy. There are no 'BANNED FOODS' anymore. I think that might be the biggest revelation. When you say you can't have something, the more you want it!!

  6. I think your blog today has helped me realize that I am binge eating when I start out with pop-corn, which I think I have to have everyday, then move on to something else and then something else until I am miserable and stop. I have never told a soul on this earth that I do that. I am so ashamed of it. I should be in more control of myself than that. But I am not. I am going to try the tips that you suggested. Every single one of them. My ongoing thought process is that whatever I do to get this weight off of me, I have to be able to continue doing the rest of my life. This is a life-change for me, NOT a diet. Thanks for your honesty and all the info on binging!

  7. Great post Katie, and as usual I can totally relate! :)

    I also eat dessert or candy every single day. Sometimes my colleagues get a kick out of seeing me come in with a baggie with 6 swedish fish or something.

    This summer I think I have mastered eating my favorite ice cream in moderation - measuring 1 cup and counting it. Another binge food is homemade cookies and milk. Something about it soothes me. I don't think eating just two cookies would be as satisfying and I am a little afraid to try.

    I like your 1 portion / 10 minutes rule.

  8. Excellent tips and suggestions, Katie. I appreciate the delineation of an "overindulger" and a "binge eater." A lot of what you write is about being cognizant of behavior and to prove your strength over the impulses. Thanks for posting on a daily basis! It's a pleasure to read your writing while enjoying my nutritious breakfast/snack.


  9. Amazing tips as always katie! I look at a lot of the things you mentioned here that I actually did and think yeah she's totally right and then I look at a lot of the things where you said if you do this or that then you'll find yourself wanting to binge and go crazy on it later and think yeah thats totally what i did when I did that. haha. Not sure if this is making sense anymore.. but just yeah. I totally get what you're saying! and i love it! :D

  10. I don't have BED, but these were great tips just to avoid those cravings. I too, especially now, have an occasional sweet treat in the evening, sherbet, frozen yogurt, a WW ice cream bar. Like you mentioned, it gives me something to look forward to. I know you do a lot of craft-type stuff too, like crocheting and knitting. I can imagine that helps keep you out of the kitchen. I know my counted cross stitch projects have been a life-saver for me!

  11. Thanks for sharing this. I don't binge much any more. Once I stop associated food with guilt, it was much easier. I do eat too much at times with PMS. I also have found out that either wheat or grains are a big trigger for me to want to binge. I am not sure which it is, and I lean towards wheat. These 3 grain free weeks and I have had no urges to binge or even have many cravings. I think there really is a physical component to binges as well.

  12. HI katie, thanks so much for sharing this information. It's so good to read how you handled the binging when you were in "losing mode". You are an inspiration.

  13. GREAT TIPS! I love the comparison between over-indulgers and bingers. :)

  14. Thank you for shedding light on Binge Eating it's important and I think unfortunately not talked about enough. On another note, that smore's pie needs to get in my belly right NOW!

  15. Katie, thanks again for another great blog...they're all great, but this one is extra great! By definition of this, I don't know that I have official BED, but I have had many many binges over the past over 40 years or so of my dieting career. I have now gone 9 months without a full out binge (lost close to 30 lbs so far) and I have to say, a lot of what you said has been so helpful for me, especially the idea of eating what you enjoy, not having forbidden foods and learning to enjoy what you love in moderation. That has helped me a lot. I am going to try some of your other tips that I have not tried yet. Thanks again for what you do.

  16. I'm struggling these days with hoarding my calories. I'll save them for later sometimes thinking if I eat them now that I'll be hungry later. Also when I'm full at the end of the day and I still have like 100 calories left I will try to find something in the house that is 100 calories even if I'm full.

  17. I am so struck by the similarities between us. THANK YOU for sharing your journey! It helps me (and countless others, I'm sure!) so much and I appreciate your taking time to put all of this out there. Congratulations on your successes!


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