Before I share how I stopped binge eating, you need to know something upfront: I don’t believe in diets, and I deeply believe in the power of the human spirit and psyche.
My approach to stop compulsive eating is called Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, and it’s rooted in psychology and spirituality. This path to stop binge eating is about the inner work.
Before we dig into the steps I took to stop binge eating, let’s look at how unhealthy my relationship with food used to be. Then I’ll share 3 steps you can take to address your own unwanted eating patterns.
At the end of this post, there’s also a free 13-page ebook on eating psychology that you can get. If you want it now, click here to gain instant access.
Why “Flat Belly Days” Fueled My Binge Eating
Women’s Health magazine used to be my go-to source for health tips. At the time, I didn’t know it was extreme diet culture propaganda keeping me stuck in the restrict-binge cycle.
Inside each issue was a spread titled “Your Flat-Belly Day” that outlined a 1 day meal plan under 1,400 calories.
(Side note: Counting calories is useless because it neglects the psychological reasons for overeating. This, again, is why diets don’t work!)
But I was always entranced by these Flat-Belly Days. I would read them and wonder what my body would look like if I ate that way every day.
Logically, I knew that I couldn’t and shouldn’t. But my desperate, burning desire for a thin body always surpassed logic.
So I tried these “Flat Belly Days” many, many times. And they would always turn out the same way…
Why Restriction Leads to Binges
On my Flat-Belly Days, I always started with a small, healthy breakfast, a similarly small, healthy lunch, and a sorry excuse for a midafternoon snack.
By the time midafternoon was over… I was really hungry and pretty cranky. Food was constantly on my mind, and now I was craving unhealthy stuff even more than normal. (Hello, human body’s response to starvation!)
By the time dinner rolled around, all I wanted was a chicken and black bean burrito.
But that wasn’t in the meal plan, so instead I would eat a salad that, although beautiful and delicious, left me unsatisfied.
As the night creeped on, my hunger only grew – even though I had finished eating the “entire day’s worth of food.”
So in my attempt to not sabotage all my effort, I would have a piece of fruit to curb my hunger.
Surely this 100-calorie piece of fruit wouldn’t push me over the edge….
When “Good Behavior” Leads to “Binge Behavior”
And yet 30 minutes later I was back in the kitchen looking for more tiny bites to eat to try and satisfy my raging hunger.
So I had a handful of pretzels. And a handful of almonds.
Surely these little snacks won’t undo my entire day…
Now it’s 10:30 at night and I’m ready for bed – but then my stomach grumbles and my body starts craving protein!
Now I’m in front of the fridge pulling out last night’s leftovers and eating the entire thing.
It was probably around 700 calories, which put me well over a normal caloric intake for the day.
Plus it happened at night.
Plus I created a ton of unnecessary stress and wasted willpower trying to resist the foods that my body wanted in the first place.
This is what binge eating is.
Now, how can we climb out of this awful cycle?
How I Stopped Binge Eating without Dieting Ever Again
The path I took to stop binge eating was unique.
After lots of trial and error, I took everything I learned and tied it all together into Psycho-Spiritual Wellness.
There’s a lot that goes into Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, but there are 3 pillars that I will outline next.
These are 3 core philosophies that can help you start the climb out of binge eating.
1. Stop dieting and counting calories
If every restriction results in a binge, the best way to stop binge eating is to stop restricting.
When I first stopped dieting, I was amazed at how little I overate. It blew my mind. (Coming from a background of Women’s Health magazine, no wonder!)
But I wasn’t super committed when I first tried to stop. I was too afraid of gaining weight, so I only tried it for one month.
The first 3 weeks were smooth sailing, but once the last week came around, my binges returned. I knew the freedom was almost over, so “Last Supper Eating” pushed me right back into binge eating.
And once I saw this undeniable correlation between restricting my dieting and binge eating, that’s when I gave up dieting for good.
2. Being willing to be uncomfortable
Behind every binge is a feeling that you don’t want to feel.
Sometimes it’s obvious, like with depression, where binges are the epitome of “comfort eating.” We detach from the emotional body because we don’t want to feel the sharp edges of emotion.
To stop emotional eating, try using my tool called the “Stop, Drop, & Feel.” It sounds funny, but it’s my #1 tool to stop binge eating.
It involves making space for uncomfortable feelings to co-exist with you. And while that may sound airy fairy — it works. My desire to binge goes away almost every single time I use this tool.
Here’s my most-watched video on how to do it:
This practice embodies how I stopped binge eating because it has nothing to do with food. Instead, it helps you build emotional tolerance, which is your ability to be uncomfortable without being swept away by it.
3. Discover the subconscious beliefs causing self-sabotage
Giving up dieting and practicing the SDF were crucial to how I stopped binge eating, but they aren’t the end-all-be-all.
Another cornerstone of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness is uncovering your beliefs. This is at the heart of the “inner work.”
When our internal belief system and external actions don’t match, self-sabotage happens.
This is why it’s critical to do more of this “inner work” I keep referring to. You’ll see the best results by working with a therapist or coach.
My workbook Why We Do the Things We Do can also help you pinpoint the beliefs that fuel self-sabotage.
Overcoming Binge Eating
These steps helped me stop binge eating, and that’s why I believe in it. While I still have slip ups every now and then (like all humans do), it’s nothing like the pit I was once trapped in.
When you combine the SDF with the other tools I presented here, like Why We Do the Things We Do, they can help you get rockin’ and rollin’ on the path to stop binge eating.
If you want to learn more about the psychology of eating, you’re in luck! Because this is just one slice of the Psycho-Spiritual Wellness pie!
To learn more, check out the free ebook below, which includes a free 5-day course in Psycho-Spiritual Wellness to catch you up to speed.
Originally published April 4, 2018 // Last updated August 2, 2020
This was soooooo helpful!!
Thank you so much! I’ve never stopped to ask myself why I even fell into this trap to begin with. I will definitely be using this method from now on!
Kari Dahlgren says
I’m so glad it was helpful Elizabeth ????
Mary Claire says
I am a therapist and even I struggle with my own feelings. I literally feel like I have put such a mask over my underlying feelings that cause me to binge eat and covered them so well that they are unreachable. I hope I can find them and feel them so I can overcome this cycle that has taken over.
Thank you for your insight!
Kari Dahlgren says
Thank you so much for opening up and sharing this Mary! I admire your awareness and willingness to look into these uncomfortable places.
A lot of this is about stopping yourself from binging or emotional eating. But what happens when you fail? What if one day you are particularly less successful, and you do binge. Even if you manage to stop the binge part way through, how do you deal with those feelings of failure?
Kari Dahlgren says
With compassion. So much compassion. In my book and newsletters I talk a lot about giving yourself grace on the days where you just can’t SDF, or just can’t [insert task that your brain is mad at you for doing or not doing]. It always comes back to compassion.