How to Stop Binge Eating and What Triggers to Look For
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Binge eating disorder (BED) is more common than many people realize: it affects millions of people and is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. Despite that, it’s often misunderstood, and mistaken for things like “food addiction” or simply a “lack of willpower” around food, frameworks that make sense given the power of diet culture in our society. But the truth is that binge eating disorder is a complex and serious mental health condition, and if you’re struggling with binge eating, you need the right support and a strategic plan of action to stop.

Triggers of binge eating

First off, let’s define binge eating. A binge occurs when someone eats a large amount of food in a short period, often past the point of discomfort, accompanied by a feeling of loss of control. Binges are generally followed by intense feelings of shame or guilt. Binges are different from just having a big meal or a snack. Binge eating can happen even when you’re not hungry, and it often brings a mix of emotions like shame, guilt, or discomfort.

So what can trigger binge eating? The specific triggers can vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance, but some common triggers include:

  • Dieting or restriction: Some form of restriction is usually at the heart of most instances of binge eating and most cases of binge eating disorder. Being restrictive with your diet can result in a natural hunger that almost inevitably leads to binge eating.
  • Emotional stress: For many, binge eating is a coping mechanism gone awry. Without a healthy way to handle difficult emotions, binges can help some people numb their pain.
  • Lonely or bored: Isolation can also play a role. For some people, food can become a companion in those moments of loneliness or boredom.
  • Negative body image: If you’re not feeling great about your body, it can sometimes lead to binge eating.
  • Social pressures: Sometimes, being overwhelmed in social situations, such as the pressure to eat a certain way or to fit in with others, can trigger binge eating.

Common symptoms of binge eating

How do you know if you’re dealing with binge eating or binge eating disorder? Here’s what to look out for:

  • Eating large amounts quickly: Binge eating usually involves eating more than you normally do in a short period of time. You might not remember how much you’ve eaten, and continue to eat after you feel full.
  • Feeling out of control: During a binge, you may feel like you’ve lost control over how much you’re eating and couldn’t stop even if you wanted to.
  • Eating despite not being hungry: Binge eating isn’t always about satisfying your hunger. Though it tends to occur in response to restriction, binges continue after a person feels full.
  • Eating in secret: Hiding the amount of food you’ve eaten or feeling ashamed about it, can be a sign you might have binge eating disorder.
  • Feeling distressed after eating: After you binge, it's typical to feel a wave of negative emotions, like guilt, disgust, or shame.

How to stop binge eating

Binge eating isn’t fun or healthy for anyone. So the question is: what do you do to stop binge eating? It’s not as simple as just deciding to do so.

Binge eating disorder is a complex illness, not a matter of willpower. Like many other mental health conditions, it takes time and support to recover, but lasting recovery is possible. Some of the essential steps toward recovery include:

  • Recognizing your triggers: Understanding what triggers your binge eating can help shine a light on the problem. Once you know your triggers, you can develop healthier ways to cope with them rather than resorting to binge eating.
  • Eating regular meals: If you skip meals, it can set the stage for hunger and blood sugar dips and make you more likely to binge. Making sure you eat regular, balanced meals gives your body a steady supply of energy, reducing the urge you may have to binge eat later.
  • Seeking support: Talking to someone you trust about what you’re going through can be a game-changer for support. It’s like lifting a weight off your shoulders and getting the support you need.
  • Practicing mindful eating: Paying attention to what and how you’re eating can help you hit the brakes and reduce mindless eating. Being mindful about eating can help you interrupt any automatic behavior, savor your food, and recognize when you’re satisfied.
  • Challenging negative thoughts: Negative thoughts can come with binge eating. Challenging these thoughts can help take away their power. Therapy can be incredibly helpful in overcoming these negative thoughts.

Equip provides a safe space for you to explore, learn, and grow to break free from the patterns of binge eating that are holding you back. Through our virtual, evidence-based eating disorder treatment, our personalized treatment helps you achieve recovery at home.

Get in touch with our team today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

About Angela Celio Doyle, PhD

Dr. Doyle has been a clinician and researcher in the eating disorder field for over 20 years. Passionate about early intervention and access to evidence-based care, she trains treatment providers internationally in providing family-based treatment for eating disorders and has a research background in internet-based eating disorder prevention programs. Dr. Doyle earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. She holds an adjunct faculty position at the University of Washington's Department of Psychology and is Vice President of Behavioral Health Care at Equip.


1. de Jong, Martie, et al. “Effectiveness of Enhanced Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Eating Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 53, no. 5, 2020, pp. 447-57. doi:10.1002/eat.23239.

2. Peat, Christine M., et al. “Binge Eating Disorder: Evidence-Based Treatments.” Current Psychiatry, vol. 11, no. 5, 2012, pp. 32-39.

Kate Willsky
Senior Manager, Content
Clinically reviewed by:
Angela Celio Doyle, PhD, FAED
Vice President, Behavioral Health Care, Equip
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