How To Stop Binge Eating: CBT Can Help

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. You may have experienced binge eating once, twice, or many times. Binge eating means you eat beyond fullness. There are different levels to binge eating and the problems it may cause. It becomes a real problem when you feel physically sick from it, your self-esteem suffers, you become lethargic, you find yourself hiding your binges, and/or you don’t feel in control. With the summer swiftly approaching, this is a time our self-esteem is in check as we think about our “bikini bodies”. While I think a bikini body is defined as any body that is wearing a bikini, I understand the pressure to want to feel fit and comfortable in your own body as you bare more skin in the heat of summer. Binge eating usually comes from eating emotionally. This is why CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) can help someone sort through their emotions so that they can cope with their feelings in a healthier way than binge eating.

Anchor Therapy is a counseling center in Hoboken, NJ with psychotherapists specialized to help teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions.

As of 2013, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) was added to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This is a book that all professional mental health therapists and psychiatrists use to diagnose mental health disorders.

The Symptoms to Diagnose Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Binge eating episodes are associated with 3 or more of the following:

    • Eating more rapidly than normal

    • Eating until you feel uncomfortably full

    • Eating a large amount of food when you are not hungry

    • Eating alone, or hiding your eating, because of embarrassment by how much you are eating

    • After you eat, you feel disgusted with yourself, very guilty, or depressed

  • You feel distressed about your binge eating and find that it is causing major problems in your life.

  • These symptoms have to be persistent and recurrent in order to get an official diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder. If you don’t experience this on the daily, but you still identify with the symptoms above then it means you may experience binge eating episodes at times. This can still be something that you want to get treated. It only means that you don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.

  • If you binge eat and then purge (throw up your food) after then you don’t have a binge eating disorder- you have Bulimia Nervosa.

Now that you have diagnosed yourself with Binge Eating Disorder or you notice that you have episodes of binge eating then you may be thinking how do I solve this problem. This is where mental health therapy and CBT comes in. To learn more about CBT click here. If you’re interested in reading more about CBT and how it can help your anxiety and panic then click here. Now that you are an expert on CBT, you can see how it not only helps your anxiety and/or depression, but it could also help your binge eating. Here are the steps of CBT below and how it would be applied to decrease your binge eating:

  1. Thoughts: What are you thinking before you binge eat? Maybe you are worrying about something in the future that’s not in your control. Maybe you are thinking you failed an exam. Whatever you are thinking, you want to slow down those thoughts and pick apart what is going on in your head. You may find it helpful to write these thoughts down. You want to find the source of what is causing you to also have thoughts that you want to eat more food.

  2. Mindfulness: Stop and think. Ask yourself why you want to eat food right now. Are you hungry? This means you should physically feel symptoms of hunger. When’s the last time you ate? If it was many hours ago then your body most likely needs food. If you recently ate and you’re not physically hungry, then there has to be another thought going on in your head. What is this thought or thoughts? Really try to pick them apart so that you can focus and work on these thoughts rather than the “I must be hungry” thought.

  3. Feelings: With CBT, it shows that our thoughts lead to how we feel. If you are thinking the thought I used as an example, “What if I failed my exam?” Then you are most likely feeling worried, anxious, and/or sad. Let’s say you’re feeling sad because you think you failed your exam. The way you cope with your sadness may usually be to binge eat. This is usually done on an unconscious level. It is a way of coping. We don’t usually analyze exactly what we’re thinking and feeling and if we’re actually hungry or not. Another common feeling that leads to binge eating is boredom. You may feel lonely or bored. Instead of identifying these feelings, you go straight to your fridge or snack drawer. But if you can take the time to identify what you’re actually feeling then you can start to cope in a healthier way.

  4. Change the behavior: The last step is to make a change. If you’re able to sort through and identify your thoughts and feelings then you’re able to take the moment to ask yourself what’s a healthy way to cope with it. Your automatic response will most likely be to eat food. If you take the step further to figure out that you’re not actually hungry then you have to find a new solution. One example is that if you’re feeling lonely, you may just need a hug from someone you love. This could be from a partner, a friend, a pet, etc. If no one is around then you may want to text or call a friend. If you’re feeling bored then you want to find something that can fulfill your free time. This may be to read a book, watch a TV show or movie, start a puzzle, create art, write a journal entry, exercise, etc. There are many ways we can cope with our thoughts and feelings. The hardest part is to really identify them and then to change the habit away from eating food.

    Seeing a professional mental health counselor can really help you with these CBT steps to change your binge eating behavior. If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me below by filling out the form.

Psychotherapist Hoboken Courtney Glashow

Courtney Glashow, LCSW

is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in helping teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions through counseling. Courtney can help NY or NJ residents through telehealth (video/phone) therapy sessions as well.

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