Binge eating disorder (BED) is considered the most common eating disorder in the US and can be a difficult problem to address ().
Characterized by episodes of eating unusually large amounts even in the absence of hunger, binge eating can damage health and leave people feeling guilty and ashamed.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple strategies you can try to effectively prevent binge eating.
Here are 15 tips to help you stop binge eating and gain back control.
Not only can fad diets often be very unhealthy, but studies show that these overly restrictive eating methods may also trigger episodes of binge eating.
For example, one study in 496 adolescent girls found that fasting was associated with a higher risk of binge eating ().
Similarly, another study in 103 women noticed that abstaining from certain foods resulted in increased cravings and a higher risk of overeating ().
Instead of following diets that focus on cutting out entire food groups or significantly slashing your calorie intake in an effort to lose weight quickly, focus on making healthy changes to your diet.
Eat more whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains and moderate your consumption of treats instead of excluding them from your diet altogether. This will prevent binge eating and promote better health.
Summary Studies show that fasting or eliminating certain foods from your diet may be associated with increased cravings and overeating. Focus on eating healthy foods instead of dieting or cutting out certain foods completely.
Setting a regular eating schedule and sticking to it is one of the most effective ways to stop binge eating.
Skipping meals can contribute to cravings and increase your risk of overeating.
One small, two-month study showed that eating one large meal per day increased levels of blood sugar and the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin to a greater extent than eating three meals per day ().
Another study in 38 people found that adhering to a regular eating pattern was associated with a decreased frequency of binge eating ().
Whether you prefer eating three large meals each day or smaller, more frequent meals, set a regular eating schedule and stick to it to help you stop binge eating.
Summary Adhering to a regular eating pattern can reduce your risk of overeating and may be associated with lower levels of ghrelin and fasting blood sugar.
Mindfulness is a practice that involves listening to your body and bringing your attention to how you feel in the present moment.
This technique can prevent overeating by helping you learn to recognize when you no longer feel hungry.
One review of 14 studies found that practicing mindfulness meditation was effective at decreasing the incidence of binge eating and emotional eating ().
Another small study showed that combining mindfulness with cognitive-behavioral therapy may improve eating behavior and self-awareness ().
Try listening to your body to recognize when your hunger tapers off. Additionally, practice eating slowly and enjoying your food to prevent binging and promote healthy eating behaviors.
Summary Practicing mindfulness can help you recognize when you’re no longer hungry to improve eating behaviors and reduce the incidence of binge eating.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a simple yet effective way to curb cravings and stop overeating.
In fact, studies show that increasing water intake could be linked to decreased calorie consumption and less hunger.
For example, one study in 24 older adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before eating a meal decreased the number of calories consumed by 13%, compared to a control group ().
Similarly, another study in older adults showed that 13–17 ounces (375–500 ml) of water 30 minutes before a meal significantly decreased hunger and calorie intake while increasing feelings of fullness during the day ().
Other studies indicate that drinking more water can boost metabolism and increase weight loss (, ).
The amount of water you should drink each day can vary based on different factors. Therefore, it’s best to listen to your body and drink when you feel thirsty to ensure you’re staying well hydrated.
Summary Drinking more water can keep you feeling full to decrease intake and prevent binge eating.
Yoga is a practice that incorporates both body and mind by using specific breathing exercises, poses and meditation to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.
Studies indicate that yoga can help encourage healthy eating habits and reduce your risk of emotional eating.
One small study in 50 people with BED showed that practicing yoga for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction in binging ().
Another study in 20 girls found that combining yoga with outpatient eating disorder treatment decreased depression, anxiety and body image disturbances — all of which could be factors involved in emotional eating ().
Research also shows that yoga can decrease levels of stress hormones such as cortisol to keep stress under control and prevent binge eating (, ).
Try joining a local yoga studio to start adding this type of exercise to your routine. You can also use online resources and videos to practice at home.
Summary Yoga can help prevent binge eating and may reduce common triggers like stress, depression and anxiety.
Fiber moves slowly through your digestive tract, keeping you feeling full longer ().
Some research suggests that increasing your fiber intake could cut cravings, reduce appetite and food intake.
One small, two-week study found that supplementing twice daily with a type of fiber found in vegetables decreased hunger, increased fullness and reduced calorie intake ().
Another study in 10 adults showed that taking 16 grams of prebiotic fiber daily increased levels of specific hormones that influence satiety and significantly reduced feelings of hunger ().
Fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are just a few fiber-rich foods that can keep you feeling full.
Summary Fiber can help keep you feeling full to reduce calorie intake and feelings of hunger.
Having plenty of junk food in your kitchen can make it much easier to binge eat when cravings start to strike.
Conversely, keeping healthy foods on hand can reduce your risk of emotional eating by limiting the number of unhealthy options.
Start by clearing out processed snack foods like chips, candies and pre-packaged convenience foods and swapping them for healthier alternatives.
Stocking your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, protein foods, whole grains, nuts and seeds can improve your diet and reduce your risk of binge eating on unhealthy foods.
Summary Removing unhealthy foods from your kitchen and stocking up on healthy alternatives can improve your diet quality and make it harder to binge eat.
Studies indicate that adding exercise to your routine could prevent binge eating.
For instance, one six-month study in 77 people showed that increasing weekly exercise frequency stopped binge eating in 81% of participants ().
Another study in 84 women found that pairing cognitive-behavioral therapy with regular exercise was significantly more effective at reducing the frequency of binge eating compared to therapy alone ().
Plus, other research suggests that exercise can decrease stress levels and enhance mood to prevent emotional eating ().
Walking, running, swimming, biking and playing sports are just a few different forms of physical activity that can help relieve stress and reduce binge eating.
Summary Studies show that exercising can reduce your risk of binge eating and decrease stress levels.
Starting each day off with a healthy breakfast can help you stay on track and reduce your risk of binge eating later in the day.
Several studies have found that maintaining a regular eating pattern is associated with less binge eating and lower levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger (, ).
Plus, filling up on the right foods can keep you feeling full to curb cravings and reduce hunger throughout the day.
For example, one study in 15 people found that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced levels of ghrelin to a greater extent than a high-carb breakfast ().
Meanwhile, eating fiber- and protein-rich oatmeal was shown to improve appetite control and promote fullness in another study in 48 people ().
Try combining a few fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains, with a good source of protein to avoid overeating.
Summary Eating a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast can prevent cravings and keep you satisfied throughout the morning.
Not only does sleep impact hunger levels and appetite, but sleep deprivation may be linked to binge eating.
In fact, one study in 146 people found that those with BED reported significantly greater insomnia symptoms than people without a history of this condition ().
Another large study showed that shorter sleep durations were associated with higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower levels of leptin — the hormone responsible for promoting fullness.
Additionally, sleeping under eight hours per night was linked to higher body weight ().
Aim to squeeze in at least eight hours per night to keep your appetite in check and reduce your risk of binge eating.
Summary BED may be linked to increased symptoms of insomnia. Sleep deprivation has been shown to alter the levels of hormones that affect hunger and appetite.
A food and mood journal can be an effective tool that involves tracking what you eat and how you feel. This helps you take responsibility, identify potential triggers and promote healthier eating habits.
Keeping a food and mood journal makes it easier to look for patterns in your diet and address potential problems and triggers.
One study in 17 people showed that using an online self-help program that involved keeping a food diary was associated with fewer self-reported episodes of binge eating ().
Several other studies also suggest that tracking your intake may be linked to increased weight loss and better success with long-term weight management (, , ).
To get started, simply start recording what you eat and how you feel each day using either a journal or app.
Summary Food and mood journals can help identify triggers to address potential problems. Studies show that using a food diary is associated with fewer episodes of binge eating, as well as increased weight loss.
Talking to a friend or peer when you feel like binging is a simple strategy to stop overeating.
One study in 101 adolescents undergoing sleeve gastrectomy showed that reliable social support was associated with less binge eating ().
Another study in 125 obese women found that better social support was linked to decreased binge eating severity ().
A good social support system is thought to reduce the impact of stress, which may help decrease your risk of unhealthy habits like emotional eating (, ).
Next time you feel like binge eating, pick up the phone and call a trusted friend or family member. If you don’t have someone to talk to, eating disorder helplines are available free of charge.
Summary A good social support system may be linked to decreased binge eating and stress.
Upping your intake of protein-rich foods can keep you feeling full and help control your appetite to stop binge eating.
One study in 19 people showed that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% led to significant reductions in body weight and fat mass, as well as decreased daily calorie intake by an average of 441 calories ().
Similarly, another study found that following a high-protein diet enhanced metabolism, promoted feelings of fullness and increased levels of GLP-1, a hormone known for its ability to suppress appetite ().
Try including at least one good source of protein — such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds or legumes — in each meal and enjoy high-protein snacks when you feel hungry to keep cravings at bay.
Summary Increasing your protein intake has been shown to decrease calorie intake, enhance feelings of fullness and increase levels of GLP-1, a hormone that can help suppress appetite.
Planning out your meals can help ensure that you have healthy ingredients on hand to prepare nutritious meals, minimizing your risk of overindulging on junk foods.
The practice can also help you improve your diet quality and make it easier to fit in plenty of fiber- and protein-rich foods.
In fact, one study in over 40,000 adults showed that meal planning was associated with improvements in diet quality and diet variety, as well as a lower risk of obesity ().
Meal planning also makes it easier to stick to a regular eating pattern, which has been linked to a decreased frequency of binge eating ().
Set aside an hour or two each week to plan out a weekly rotation for your meals so that you reduce your risk of binging.
Summary Meal planning has been associated with improvements in diet quality and diet variety. It can also make sticking to a regular eating pattern easier and ensure that you have healthy ingredients on hand at all times.
If you’re still struggling with binge eating even after trying some of the strategies listed above, it may be time to seek treatment.
Treatment for BED can involve different types of therapy or medications to help get binging under control and treat any underlying causes or symptoms.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, the most effective form of therapy, explores the connection between your thoughts, feelings and eating patterns, then develops strategies to modify your behavior ().
Other types of therapy used to treat binge eating include dialectical-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and behavioral weight loss therapy ().
Antidepressants, antiepileptic drugs and certain stimulants are also sometimes used to treat BED, though more research is needed to evaluate the long-term effects of these medications (, ).
Summary Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered an effective treatment method for binge eating. Other types of therapy and certain medications can also be used.
Binge eating is a common issue that affects millions of people around the world.
Not only can it wreak havoc on your body, it can also take a major toll on your mental health and self-esteem.
Luckily, a few simple modifications in your diet and lifestyle can help prevent episodes of binge eating while improving your overall health and wellbeing.