how to beat the urge to binge
  • April 28, 2023

How To Beat The Urge To Binge | Imbodi Health Eating Disorder Dietitian Clinic

Have you been struggling with binge eating or the urge to binge? Binge eating disorder is a mental illness where […]

Have you been struggling with binge eating or the urge to binge?

Binge eating disorder is a mental illness where individuals suffer from regular episodes of binge eating. But what is binge eating? Often people say they have just had ‘a huge binge’ on snack foods, while not understanding the real meaning of a binge.

For those suffering from binge eating disorder, a binge is much more than having a few treats or overeating when celebrating with a friend.

If you are experiencing binge eating, or know someone who is, this article will explore some strategies to beat the urge to binge.



Prevalence of binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder affects more people than any other eating disorder, affecting approxilately 47% of Australians who have an eating disorder (1).

Binge eating disorder tends to start in the late teens to early adulthood and can become a lifelong struggle (1)


How is binge eating disorder diagnosed?

Binge eating disorder is characterised by recurring episodes of binge eating. Binge eating involves eating large amounts of food in a short period of time (less than 2 hours) or grazing continuously throughout the day (2).

People who binge eat often feel out of control and as if they cannot stop themselves from overeating even when they are full.

After or during a binge the person feels very distressed, disappointed in themselves, or guilty for their behaviour (2).

The DSM-5 (an Internationally recognised manual used to help identify mental disorders) is used to diagnose binge eating disorder. The diagnosis criteria states that the person needs to binge eat at least once a week for three months.

Another key characteristic of binge eating disorder is that the person does not engage in compensatory behaviours like purging, over exercising or fasting (3).


how to reduce the urge to binge


Difference between binge eating disorder and overeating

Overeating often occurs naturally in social settings and celebrations like Christmas, birthdays, Easter or alone e.g. watching a movie with some snacks. Overeating is eating past the point of fullness.

Most people occasionally overeat and it can occur for many reasons. We can overeat because the food is tasty and we are enjoying it, we are bored, distracted or because brings us some comfort (1).

Binge eating can share some similarities, but is different to overeating.


Some signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder include (4):

  • Eating rapidly often in secret
  • Unpredictable eating patterns
  • Periods of restriction followed by binging
  • Feeling impulsive, lack of control and continuing to eat past fullness
  • Eating when you aren’t hungry
  • Feeling numb while binging followed by guilt and shame, feeling unhappy with your physical
  • Hiding what you eat and avoiding social outings where food is involved.


Main triggers for binging

One of the first steps to healing binge eating is identifying your main binging triggers. These triggers may exist across a few different areas, including food-related triggers, body-related triggers, and mood-related triggers.


Food-related triggers may include (5):

  • Having foods that are off limits
  • Only eating foods you identify as healthy or low calorie during the day to save calories for later
  • Characterising foods as good and bad
  • All or nothing mindset around food. For example, you diet all day then as the evening approaches you have a ‘bad’ food and you decide that you have broken your ‘good eating’ and spiral into a binge
  • Poor eating habits of those around you leading to food guilt or shame e.g. your mother, partner, friend is constantly on a new fad diet or talks negatively about their eating habits or the eating habits of others


Body-related triggers may include (5):

  • Dieting to change your appearance. Dieting causes your body to be deprived which can lead you to feel hungry and out of control by the end of the day leading to a binge
  • Poor body image. People with poor body image may often go through binge and restrict cycles in an effort to change their appearance, which results in weight fluctuations, followed by further body dissatisfaction
  • Distorted body image


Mood-related triggers may include (5):

  • Unmet emotional needs e.g. experiencing depression, anxiety, burnout, boredom or living in a stressful environment
  • Binge eating may lead to isolation because of embarrassment, fear of food or judgement from others. This may increase sadness and feelings of low self- esteem


poor body image can be a trigger for binge eating


Strategies to beat the urge to binge

There are several strategies you can put in place to help reduce binge eating.


Make sure to eat regular meals and snacks

Eating regularly is important for stabilising appetite, helping you feel more satisfied throughout the day and reducing the likelihood of a binge.

Aim for 3 main meals and 2-3 snacks, eating every 2-3 hours.


Do not skip meals

Skipping meals can intensify feelings of restriction, and increase the likelihood of a binge.

Instead, maintain regular eating patterns as mentioned above!


Build meals that are nutritionally balanced and satisfying

Aim to include a source of carbohydrates, protein, fats and some fibre-rich colourful fruit or vegetables with all meals.

By including a range of different food groups at your meal times, you will feel much more satisfied after eating.


For snacks, aim to include at least 2 different food groups to keep you feeling satisfied between meals. For example:

  • A piece of fruit (fibre and colour) and some nut butter (nourishing fats)
  • Crackers (carbohydrates) with some tuna (protein)
  • Popcorn (carbohydrates) with some dark chocolate (nourishing fats)


Give yourself permission to all foods

To break out of the binge-restrict cycle, it is important to reduce the restriction around certain foods.

All foods fit in a healthy diet, and finding enjoyment in foods is just as important as eating for nutrition!

Make a list of foods that you enjoy, but don’t typically allow yourself. Begin to re-introduce these foods into your diet through food challenges. This is essential in helping minimise the anxiety you feel around food, and improving your relationship with food.

If this sounds daunting, working with an experienced eating disorder dietitian can help support you along this journey.


Work towards understanding your hunger and fullness cues

It can be common to lose touch or trust of your body’s hunger and fullness cues.

By eating regularly and being more mindful when eating, you can begin to practice becoming in tune with these cues.


Identify and reduce triggers

Identifying and reducing triggers is essential in beating the urge to binge.

There may be multiple factors that trigger a binge. If you are unsure of your triggers, working with an experienced counselor or eating disorder dietitian can be invaluable in helping you identify and understand these triggers.

Once you are aware of the triggers, you can begin to put a plan in place to help overcome these triggers.

For example:

  • If food restriction is an identified trigger, you may work to improve your eating patterns and increase the variety of foods in your diet
  • If weighing yourself is a trigger, you may remove the scales from your house
  • If uncomfortable emotions are a trigger, you may work on some alternative coping strategies or on improving your distress tolerance


allow permission to all foods to reduce binge eating


Strategies to help overcome the urge to binge

  • Learning coping mechanisms to help you deal with unmet emotional needs e.g. journalling, meditating, going to counselling or practising self care
  • Finding distractions e.g. calling a loved one, going for a walk, taking up a new hobby
  • Stop dieting and allow yourself permission to all foods
  • Engage in mindfulness, when feeling the urge to binge dive deeper into your emotional state then implement a different coping mechanism (7)


What to do after a binge

  • Practice self-compassion. Be gentle with yourself if/when you do slip up, learn to identify what caused the binge and how you will approach it differently next time (7)
  • Do not continue to restrict or engage in other compensatory behaviours
  • Stay away from the scales
  • Practice kindness towards yourself and remember you still deserve to eat nourishing meals in the days that follow
  • Identify what caused the binge and write it down, then next time you feel this way again implement a different coping mechanism (6)





Binge eating disorder is a mental illness that can be associated with feelings of guilt and shame after a binge occurs.

Making sure to implement coping strategies like eating regular, balanced meals, identifying triggers and finding new coping mechanisms to deal with triggers can help reduce the urge to binge.

If you are struggling with binge eating disorder, working with a team of experienced healthcare professionals such as a counsellor and eating disorder dietitian can help.



Written by: Student dietitian Chanelle Tamihana

Reviewed by: Dietitian Jade Wrigley

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