Eating disorders and disordered eating might be two different things, but neither is a laughing matter. Even though you make light of stuffing your face to your friends over coffee, you know the out of control feeling signature of an actual binge. But how to stop binge eating when you’ve already started? It could be as simple as one powerful sentence if you struggle with the occasional binge.
It feels magnetic and undeniable, like you’re already fated to consume that entire package of cookies and that pint of ice cream. Sometimes it’s even trancelike; a bag of chips disappears without you being conscious of anything before the first few bites. You snap out of it only when you get up for more food, still feeling fated to live something already written.
But though that makes you feel at your weakest, it’s actually where you can be strongest. How to stop binge eating in the middle of a binge is as simple as attacking this feeling of helplessness.
How to stop binge eating in the middle of a binge
So you tried all those tactics they list for how to stop a binge before it starts. They didn’t work this time. A whole bag of Hershey’s kisses is already gone, and you’re staring into a pantry stuffed with sweets. How to stop binge eating when you’ve already started comes down to this moment right here. What you’re going to push back against is that feeling that what comes next is inevitable.
What you need to tell yourself is simple, but not necessarily obvious: I am in control and I can choose to stop now. A binge tricks you into thinking you have no agency. Reassert your ownership of your own actions and decisions. Your day is not lost, even if you already ate an entire bag of chocolate. You can choose to have it end there.
You might not get it on the first try, and that’s OK
What might happen at first is that you tell yourself this statement, go sit down without any food only to find yourself drifting back to the pantry a couple minutes later. That’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Simply repeat the sentence and go do something distracting. It doesn’t matter if you need to repeat it four, 10 or 20 times. What matters is you’re showing yourself that you’re in charge of your decisions, and it gets easier every time you use it.
If you get annoyed with all the up and down (I know I do), get outside for a quick 10-minute walk. Most of the time that seemingly irresistible hold the sweets or snacks had on you before you left will have melted away by the time you get back. You can do this. You’re stronger than you think and you can choose to end the binge right now — you just have to remind yourself.
NOTE: If you struggle with an eating disorder or your binges interfere in how you live your day-to-day life, please seek help from trained specialists. There’s a difference between the odd binge here and there and an ongoing pattern of eating that requires special attention. So while this tip might eventually help someone struggling during eating disorder recovery, primary treatment should be with doctors. You can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. They offer support Monday–Thursday from 9 a.m.–9 p.m. EST, and Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. EST.