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How to stop binge eating by Karina Melvin

How to stop binge eating: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach that works!

Struggling to work out how to stop binge eating is a common complaint that so many of my clients experience. The degree to which this is an issue for people varies widely, but today I’d like to share with you a cognitive behavioral therapy approach I use with my clients which they find extremely helpful when overcoming binge eating.

The key here is to actually write out the answers to the questions below, just as I encouraged you to do with the ABC sheet in my post about emotional eating.  On the left are the questions and on the right are my sample answers.

Question Sample Answer
What is your most important wish? (this should be challenging & feasible) To stop binging
What behavior are you going to do? (rather than ‘what are you not going to do’)

The idea here is to change the answer into an ‘approach goal’ rather than an ‘avoidance goal’.

Eat when I actually feel hungry as opposed to when I have an urge to binge or when I think I ‘should’.

(To help you learn to identify when you actually feel hungry, check out my free mini course where I teach you all about the hunger scale and how to learn to tune into your body )

What will be the most positive outcome of realizing your wish? What are the events & experiences associated with this positive outcome? I will feel much better in myself and more at ease. I  won’t be ruled by food and I’ll be a much happier person. I will enjoy food more and I’ll stop constantly thinking about it.

I will feel more comfortable going out for meals with friends as I won’t be so worried about binge eating at other times.

What’s the most critical obstacle to what you wrote for question 1?  

What events and experiences are associated with this obstacle?

-The most critical obstacle is having thoughts that if I don’t control my eating I will gain weight. These thoughts make me feel very anxious.

Events and experiences associated with this obstacle are:

-If I gain weight, I know this will upset me, and if I lose weight, I might start trying to control my food intake again, rather than listening to my body and eating when I’m actually hungry.

-When I weight myself. (CBT encourages you to weigh yourself just once a week, no more, no less).

-Around my period, I always feel like binging as my weight goes up a little and I feel low and crave chocolate.

-Whenever I experience a trigger thought about losing weight, hearing friends talking about how much weight they’ve lost, or when I compare myself negatively to others whose bodies I admire.

What can I do to overcome or circumvent these obstacles? -When I’m already having thoughts about wanting to restrict what I eat to lose weight, I can remind myself that I am stuck in a cycle of binge eating and restricting. I know that restricting just puts me at risk of binge eating, and overcoming binge eating is the most important thing for me right now.

-I know I can do this without self criticism and when I find myself worrying that I will gain weight, if I listen to my body and eat when I feel hungry, I know I can remind myself that the average calories I consume when I binge is approx 1500-2000, a whole day’s calories. This is why I am unhappy with my weight!

-I now know that eating when I am actually hungry and listening to my body will help me achieve my weight loss goal.  

-I can acknowledge that worrying about gaining weight is a moment of suffering and I can speak to myself kindly rather than with criticism.

-I can listen to the Artful Eating cognitive hypnosis audio to help with my motivation for change and my commitment to stop binge eating.

When and where is an opportunity to prevent these obstacles from occurring, and what can I do to prevent them from occurring? – I can make some treat foods, so that I get used to eating treat foods occasionally, without it leading to binge eating or restricting.

– I can be aware of when I am paying attention to skinny people at the gym and check myself.

– When I find myself thinking that its ok to overeat a little because of a particular situation, I can remind myself of how this leads to the desire to restrict my eating afterwards and that this increases my risk of bingeing. I will always check in with myself and use the hunger scale (see image below) to determine if I am actually hungry and if I’m not, I know I can eat something when I do feel hungry. That there is plenty of food there, whenever I need it. 

When and where is a good opportunity for me to act in line with my goal, and what would the the actions be in order to achieve my goal? -I will be prepared, this is key. I will make sure my home is stocked with healthy nutritious food that I enjoy and I will avoid purchasing the foods I am particularly susceptible to binging on.

-I will also make sure I have nice home made treats to hand, as I know and understand that I can eat something I will enjoy when I am actually hungry. 

I will practice body awareness and use the hunger scale as a guide every time I go to eat. Simply asking myself: am I hungry? Will allow me to determine if I should eat. If I don’t actually feel hungry, then I know that when I eventually do I can eat something that I will enjoy and that will nourish me. Privileging body awareness and listening to my thoughts and the physical signs of hunger will empower me to eat more intuitively instead on relying on control and restrictions. 

Homework: how to stop binge eating

Condition your environment for success:

Struggling to stop binge eating? Make a daily reminder affirmation and put it as a screensaver on your phone, place it on your fridge and save it as a note on your phone to remind you of your commitment each morning.

Practice makes perfect!

Practice writing answers to all the questions everyday to reinforce your commitment to achieving your goal.  Pick a regular time to do this, often it’s great to do it either first thing in the morning or last thing at night in preparation for the following day. Once you’ve practiced in written this form enough times, you’ll start to be able to assimilate the questions and check in with yourself when you notice triggers occurring. Even when you feel you’ve mastered this technique, I encourage you to return to writing your answers frequently to reinforce the positive behaviours.

I strongly encourage you to watch this free training on overcoming emotional eating as a supplement to this exercise. I think you will find it extremely helpful when it comes to hunger awareness which is a key part of this strategy – I hope it will help you understand how to stop binge eating.

To learn more about Artful Eating: the psychology of lasting weight loss, an approach where I will share with you the skills and tools to lose weight, enjoy food and achieve your dream body without the pain and restriction of dieting, check out my free training Artful Eating: Reprogram your mind to transform your body.

How to stop binge eating: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach that works!

Karina Melvin, MSc, MA

Karina Melvin provides online psychoanalysis and counselling services from her South Dublin office with her team of high-level psychoanalysts. You can learn more about online counselling, psychoanalysis by clicking the link below.

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APA Reference
Melvin, K. (2019). How to stop binge eating: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach that works!. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 20 Mar 2019
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