The first step to stopping binge eating is always to establish a pattern of regular eating of 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks per day. All meals and snacks should balance nutrients and include all the food groups including starches and fats. When eating is restricted binge eating is more likely to occur.
Once you have established a pattern of regular balanced eating, you can start to learn to manage any continued breakthrough urges to binge. One good strategy is to have a list of things to do instead of binge eating. Keep the list handy so that it can be accessed whenever the urge to binge arises. Some activities may be possible in certain situations and conditions, but not others, so it is helpful to create a long list.
Below are some suggested alternatives you may find helpful and may want to include on your own list.
- Call a friend or your therapist and discuss what is happening.
- Go for a walk or leave the environment that is tempting you to binge.
- Write in your journal about how you are feeling at that moment.
- Try to get your mind on something else. Watch TV, read a book, do a puzzle, etc.
- Sit down and try to figure out the real reasons why you want to binge.
- Take a bath to relax or try some deep breathing exercises.
- Put on some of your favorite music, shut yourself in your room and dance and sing to it with your eyes closed.
- If you love music and have extra time, learn to play a few songs with an instrument and practice when you feel like bingeing.
- Go into a church or chapel
- Visit a friend
- Do some crafts
- Pamper yourself (i.e. polish your nails, get your hair done, get a massage, etc.)
- Take a yoga or a stress relieving class.
- Dream of your children laughing.
- Write a page long letter to yourself about how you are a good and worthy person.
- If you have a quote that gives you strength when you read it, recite it to yourself when you are feeling down.
- Draw or color a picture of something powerful.
- Get Together With Friends.
- Flush the food you are planning to binge on down the toilet.
- If you prevent a binge from occurring, calculate how much that binge would have cost. Put the money in a jar each time you succeed in not binging and use that money to do something special for yourself like getting a massage, buying a new outfit, etc.
- Trying playing with you dog or petting your cat if you have a pet. If you do not have a pet you might want to think about whether or not you want one. Pets have proven to be very helpful in calming and comforting people. I would only recommend getting a pet if that is what a person really wants and is willing to take on the responsibility of having one.
- If you enjoying gardening, get involved in planting a garden, etc.
- Rearrange or redecorate a room.
- Shout at your eating disorder. If you are standing at the cupboard or refrigerator about to binge, slam the door and shout NO! Shouting at your eating disorder will give you power.
- If possible, make it so you are unable to plan a binge. For instance, if you live with someone, make sure they do not tell you when they will be coming home.
- Take a walk
- Do a mindfulness meditation
- Take the money you were about to buy binge food with and buy something for someone you care about. Spend time picking out the gift, writing a nice letter to the person and sending it – by the time that’s done – the tide might have gone out.
If you have any suggestions that you feel would be helpful to someone trying to prevent themselves from binging/purging and would like it included on this list, please email us your idea and we will add it to the list.
A helpful resource is 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Susan Albers PsyD
If you suspect that you are in a cycle of binge eating the first thing to do is tell someone close to you and ask for help and support. Secondly, seek a professional nutritionist or eating disorder therapist.
Updated by Dr. Lauren Muhlheim and Tabitha Farrar – 2014
Written by Colleen Thompson – 1997