Food has been your first choice when you feel out of control, and now you’re ready to learn how to stop binge eating. Binging (and purging) isn’t the healthiest response to stress and anxiety, but it is a common way to cope. Here’s how to stop binge eating when you feel scared, anxious, or overwhelmed.
We need to feel secure in life, in our relationships, in our world. Feeling out of control is scary – and binge eating is a way to cope with those feelings. I was inspired to write this article by a reader called Sasha. Here’s what she said on one of my previous posts on how to stop binge eating…
“Thank you for your tips on how to stop binging!” says Sasha on When You Never Feel Full and Can’t Stop Eating. “I read several of your posts. One thing you said is you feel ‘out of control’ and I have that feeling too. How did you stop binge eating even though you were feeling out of control? My binging is getting really bad. Especially at night. Why???? Help!”
Feeling out of control is what started me binging when I was 14. Now – a million years later – I’ve finally learned how to stop binge eating even when I feel lonely, depressed, overwhelmed, or scared. One thing that helped were the lists I made; 10 years ago, I made a list of “bad things about binge eating” and a list of “good reasons to stop binge eating and purging.” I share these lists towards the end of this article.
First, though, I want to respond to Sasha’s question. I can’t give advice on how to stop binge eating when you feel out of control, but I can share what helped me quit that terrible cycle of binging and purging.
Feeling Out of Control? How to Stop Binge Eating
Before you read through my tips, stop for a moment. What advice would you give Sasha? Listen to that still small voice inside of you…what do you already know about taking your power back when you feel out of control?
When we ask for advice or look for help, we often already have the answer inside of us. We may not want to admit the answer, but it’s there.
Learn why you feel out of control
My binging and purging cycle started when I moved out of my mother’s house. I was 14, and couldn’t live with her anymore. She was a single mom, schizophrenic, and prone to paranoid, suspicious outbursts. I recently learned – through reading my own diaries – that she was also abusive. I’d forgotten that part!
Oddly, I didn’t start binge eating until I moved in with my grandma…possibly because my mom was on welfare most of my life and we had no extra food in the house. We went to the food bank often, and there wasn’t anything extra to eat. There was barely enough to eat, actually. So I felt scared, lost, and out of control when I moved in with my grandma. I started eating uncontrollably, and didn’t figure out how to stop binge eating until I was about 44 years old.
Try to get deeper into those “out of control” feelings
What happens to make you feel out of control? Maybe it’s your family situation, finances, or fickle boyfriend. Maybe you got fired or you fret too much. You’ll get one step closer to learning how to stop binge eating if you can sit with those feelings of being overwhelmed and insecure.
When you feel out of control, the healthiest thing may be to actually get further into the feeling. It’s so scary, but if you allow those feelings of fear, anxiety, lack of self-worth, shame, guilt to overcome you, you may not have to turn to food to deal with how you feel.
Talk to a counselor who specializes in eating disorders
The weird truth is that when I got counseling – which I highly recommend and am so glad I did! – it didn’t stop me from binging and purging. I loved/hated my counselor Nancy; she helped me understand so much about myself! But she didn’t “cure” my binge eating disorder.
That said, however, I think all women should spend at least a session with a counselor. It’s amazing to get a professional, objective perspective of your own behavior. Counseling might help you feel more in control of your life and relationships, which can help you stop binging. But you have to be at a certain place in your life for counseling to be effective…and I wasn’t at that place then. I wanted to stop binge eating, but I just wasn’t ready to give it up.
I also have ulcerative colitis, which I talk about it A Simple, No-Cook Diet Plan for Ulcerative Colitis.
Learn about addictions
This is what helped me finally, FINALLY figure out how to stop binge eating: I worked as an intern in a men’s addiction recovery program for a few months. I learned about Alcoholics Anonymous and the Genesis Process, which is a systematic program designed to help people with addictions not relapse back into drugs and alcohol.
Thinking about my binging as a food addiction is what helped me stop compulsively, uncontrollably eating. Whether or not binge eating is an addiction didn’t matter to me; what mattered was that it changed how I thought about my binging. Also – according to National Eating Disorders organization, nearly 50% of individuals with an eating disorder) are also abusing drugs and/or alcohol, a rate five times greater than what is seen in the general population. Women who binge eat are at a higher risk for becoming addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, which is why it’s important to learn about addictions.
If you’re not in the “eating disorder” or addictions category, read 5 Ways to Overcome Obstacles to Eating Healthy. That post will help you stop binge eating when you feel out of control.
Connect with God
This is another huge part of how I learned how to stop binge eating: I learned who I am in Christ. I didn’t realize how much God loves me and how valuable I am to Him! Connecting with God through journaling, prayer, Joyce Meyer books, and Tim Keller podcasts has changed my life. I’ve learned how to let go of the past and accept myself. I’m learning how to Blossom!
I’m not saying you should pray for a miracle, or that God will suddenly stop you from binge eating. I am saying that connecting with Him might help you feel safe, loved, and free – even when you feel out of control.
Figure out why you want to stop binge eating
Here are my two lists, which were semi-helpful in helping me stop binging. When I made these lists I didn’t realize how tightly interconnected binge eating and feeling out of control were. That’s why “feeling out of control” is way down towards the bottom of this list.
Bad Things About Binge Eating
- Hard on my heart
- Bad for stomach, teeth
- Lowers my self-image
- Wastes time!
- Feel hungover after
- Wastes food
- Bad secret
- Makes me avoid my true feelings
- Dirties my clothes
- Wake up feeling sad
- I don’t like binging and purging
- Regret it during and after
- Wrecks my perspective of food
- Disguises who I really am
- Feel out of control
- I have to tell lies to hide it
I showed you mine; now you show me yours! I’m kidding, you don’t have to show me anything. But I encourage you to make your own list of reasons of why you want to learn how to stop binge eating.
Then – and this is the piece I missed 10 years ago when I was trying (and failing) to stop binging – focus on one or two of those reasons. Really dig into it!
For example, one reason I really wanted to learn how to stop binge eating was because of how gross I felt the rest of the day, as well as the day after. It was such a waste of time, energy, and resources.
Good Things About Not Binging and Purging
Here’s my list of reasons I really wanted to stop binging:
- Healthy self-image
- Good for my physical body NOT to be out of control
- Pride when I don’t binge and purge
- Sense of accomplishment
- Feeling of being in control
- More in touch with me
- More time to read and write
- Save money
- Save time
- Can tell the truth
- More productive
- More self-aware
- More authentic
- Higher self-acceptance
- No guilt or shame
Again, make your own list of reasons to stop binge eating. Then pick one or two reasons that stand out to you, and focus on them. Really examine and highlight them, and make them part of your life.
What to Do Next
Read How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too: Stop Binge Eating, Overeating and Dieting For Good, Get the Naturally Thin Body You Crave From the Inside Out by Josie Spinardi. It’s a real, proven, step-by-step solution to stop overeating and binge eating for good – so you can finally get thin and get on with your amazing life! The solution to binge eating and overeating is found in step-by-step, research based, learn-able skills that prevent and eliminate overeating on the spot. The skills (you’ll be happy to know) do not include deprivation or willpower.
Reach out for help in person. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out for in-person help! Don’t try to fight it on your own. It’s great that you’re here, that you searched for tips on how to stop binge eating when you feel out of control. But take it a step further, and get in person help.
Read Tips and Strategies for Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia on the HelpGuide.org website.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share what you know about how to stop binge eating when you feel out of control. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.