No More Binge Eating!

images3Don’t you hate it when you find your hand in the cookie jar…for the fourth time in one night? Or when you open a bag of chips (crips)/pretzels/cookie dough, and the next thing you know, its all gone?

Binge eating sucks. But what drives us to do that? And how we can stop it?

I put that question to my good friends on Turbulence Twitter in order to help a friend who was struggling with overeating.

Disclaimer: Now let me get the legal beagle mumbo jumbo out of the way…I’m not a doctor, and if you have a serious eating problem you should talk to a trained health professional…there’s probably even a medical definition of binge eater that I don’t know about…

…so for our purposes, we’ll refer to binge eating as anything that involves eating too much junk and making you feel guilty.

…And if you are just one of those folks who goes 37 days in a row without binge eating and then – POW – it shows up and kicks you in the butt…leaving you feeling guilty, frustrated, and upset, then let’s help you out.

Personally, there is no better common-sense tip for avoiding binge eating than…

Keeping the junk out of the house. dog-in-fridge

Here’s a photo of Bally inspecting the fridge ==>

Easier said than done in most homes, I know, and heck, when I take Bally The Dog to Grandma’s, I find myself with my hand in the cookie jar more than I’d like. But hey, how else am I going to eat ice cream other than by making home-made ice cream sandwiches?

So do your best on that one, but if you can’t keep ALL the treats out of the house, here are some more tips…

This is another superficial one…but you just need to stay active and find something else to do besides look through the cupboards for the 3rd time this evening.

Don’t use food as a reward or just something to do out of boredom.

Go for a walk. Run some errands. Treat yourself to a bath or download some tunes. Buy a punching bag. Put on some music and dance.

And a couple of other practical tips…if you are going to binge, do so by overeating fruits and vegetables. And also, when you are done eating, brush your teeth, makes eating less appealing for a while.

Okay, those are good, but it is time to get a little deeper.

The overwhelming response on Twitter was this…

You are probably binge eating for some emotional reason.

One person recommended keeping a diary and writing down how you feel when you eat. I think this is great advice that most folks should do even if they don’t binge eat. Just do this for a week and you’ll get a really good understanding of why you are eating.

Were you hungry? Bored? Tired? Stressed? Anxious?

The May 2009 issue of Men’s Health magazine reports that anxiety causes many people to overeat sugar. If that is the case with you, then you need to find a way to deal with the anxiety…and that will take care of the overeating. images4

I’m also reading an interesting book called, “The Culture Code”, and the author argues that most overweight folks overeat because they are mentally “checking out”. Something emotional is driving them to turn to eating so they can escape other problems.

If that is the case, and its serious, then again, professional help is in order. Either way, I think tracking your mood when you eat is a great way to identify the source of your binges, and you’ll be able to build some powerful routines and possibly overcome binge eating.

Some other “deep” responses I received on twitter had to do with the relationship we have with food. How do we view food? As a fuel? As something to be enjoyed with others? As a necessity? Or as one of the major comforts and joys in our lives?

Do we have the POWER over food or does food have the power over us?

Do we practice extreme self-denial that ends up being counterproductive because it leads to binge eating? And if so, then how can we get into a balanced eating lifestyle that allows treats but without binge eating all the time?

Like I said, the discussion on Turbulence Twitter turned serious, quickly!

Another reader recommended “Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Roesch”. I haven’t read it, but they said it was a great book that touches on all aspects of unhealthy food habits. Definitely a good resource for those of you who want more info. If you read it, let me know some big lessons.

And if you have any tips on avoiding binge eating, please let me know below.

Wishing you healthy eating,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

  • How about acceptance. Accept the fact that no one is perfect and you WILL ‘slip’. And it’s OK.
    We always seem to hold ourselves to some philosophically pre-determined non-existent standard that stresses us out more than the actual act of binge-eating itself.
    Thanks for the tips.

  • Jon

    1) Always plan cheat meals to take place outside your house so you don’t store tempting food.

    2) Don’t go shopping when hungry, after work when stressed, with people you know will load their own trolley with nasty stuff or when hungover (you shouldn’t be anyway).

    3) Treat the cause not the effect by first paying attention to triggers. Once you are able to recognise the symptoms of an impending binge, use the activities Craig mentioned as IMMEDIATE solutions before you pull the trigger!


  • Interesting topic. Some of my own thoughts …

    This description of “bingeing” fits nearly everyone, so it would be pointless to attempt a specific prescription for it. Nearly everyone overindulges in junk from time to time. We are at some level probably feast and famine creatures by nature. The problem becomes “bingeing” rather than “feasting” when it becomes pathological.

    If someone really has a problem with bingeing, it means that they go to extremes in depriving themselves, then it catches up with them, then they feel guilty and deprive or purge themselves. The cycle sometimes gets out of control and needs professional help, usually through a combination of strategies. Self-help for serious eating disorders is usually playing with fire; people with eating disorders very often don’t realize or don’t admit it.

    If it isn’t out of control, it is just a “diet wrecker,” and not a deeply established pattern, then you still have a chance to fix it yourself. The main thing is to understand that the bingeing is caused by the deprivation. When people say “relationship to food” they mean something that isn’t obvious at first, that even if you are trying to lose weight you still have a human biology and you should still live with it rather than fighting it. Learn the specific skills needed to satisfy your hunger with an appopriate amount of energy rather than trying to find tricks for eating less.

    The main difference between a typical dieter and someone with an eating disorder is that people with eating disorders are more successful at obsessively controlling the supposedly “bad” things, depriving themselves pathologically. Their “relationship with food” becomes one of fear and guilt rather than enjoyment because they haven’t acquired the habits and skills for satisfying their biological and psychological needs without taking in excessive amounts of energy.

    I highly recommend Barbara Rolls “Volumetrics” books for those who want to learn strategies for eating to satisfy while still being in control of energy intake.

    kind regards,


  • Good list Craig.
    Good point Todd
    …that said, I’m most satisfied with binging on fruit 🙂

  • sue

    When you are a “true” binge eater, the last thing you want to binge on is fruit!

  • Another thing… if you brush and mouthwash immediately after eating you might be less likely to reach for more food.

  • killer tips Craig,

    In fact I wrote about this on my blog a few weeks ago.

    binge eating is something that most people including myself would’ve indulged in at some point or another.

    my tip is don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. Most people do at some point or another.

    Realise that today ends at midnight and tomorrows another day. Get back on the horse and put the steps in place to make the next day a success with your healthy eating plan.

  • Laurel Gossen

    I have struggled with binge eating over the last 9 months or so. It seemed I wouldn’t be able to go more than 2 weeks without a disaster. I would find myself getting up to go to the fridge like 18 times. Even though I don’t keep junk in the house, when you’re on a binge, you will find anything and turn it into junk. Bread with peanut butter, cocoa powder mixed with maple syrup (makes a fantastic chocolate sauce, actually), jam, whatever I could get my hands on. You eat until you physically can’t stuff any more in. Nobody knew, because I work out hard and am fit, but this was something out of my control.

    I have now gone 3 weeks without a binge, the longest stretch since August, and I think it is because of two things: I realized that sugar is an addiction, it’s something I cannot control, and it’s bigger than me, so I cannot try and do “moderation.” It’s all or nothing, so I quit eating sugar. The other thing is that I have started praying for 4 things specifically: 1. Thank God for providing food for your nutrition 2. Ask Him to help you to always prefer what’s best for you. 3. Ask him to help you to be satisfied with the correct portion and then stop, and 4. Ask him to break any enslavement to food that you may have.

    When you have a disorder, or a compulsion that you cannot control, something has to change. For me it was kicking sugar out of my diet & eating only whole foods. No more of this “cheat meal” stuff, as I can’t do that. If I have a little bit, the desire is kindled, and I gorge on crap! Secondly, recognizing my inability to control this thing and asking for help!!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Laurel, I am so proud of you! Stay strong! And thank you for sharing, you rock.


  • jonas

    I think emotional binging is bad. I think being able to eat till your satisfied is good. I’ve been following the warrior diet for a long time now and it teaches you how to “binge” correctly and let your body tell you when you’ve had enough.

    A good way to know if your really hungry is if anything is good. What I mean is if your hungry and you want pizza but you get a salad and fish and it’s still good then you were hungry. If you want only pizza then its probably an emotional/craving type thing.

    I think not having junk food in the house is very helpful.

    also if you go 37 days without binging I think a cheat day is ok. So does the cheat your way thin guy.

  • lindy

    in fact i am binging while reading all your comments. no one thinks i have a problem since they all say i am tall and strong built so i have no problems. i go to the gym to keep fit, even have a personal trainer. i eat healthy only because i feel i am forced to do so( be healthy) . tonight after a curry, i bought a doughnut in the corner shop then it got out of control. ordered a pizza and a banoffee pie in pizza hut. while waiting, i sneaked into the kebab shop close by to get some hashbrowns and chicken nuggets. somehow the guy ended up serving me like 15 hashbrowns when i ordered two( he thought i was joking) half a tub of ben and jerrys is empty now. right now i feel disgusted and disappointed with myself. but i know this is going to happen again.
    p.s when i told my GP i might have compulsive eating disoder, she had a grin on her face, saying i look fine etc…dont obessess. she was lovely but i know i do have a problem. help

    • Hi Lindy,

      I noticed your post and I wanted to see how you’re doing. I commented earlier on this thread about my binge eating problem, and I wanted to touch base. Email me if you feel comfortable doing so, at


  • Rebecca

    Hey there-
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    Hope to hear from you soon,