Binge Eating Disorder: How to Overcome Food Addiction

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The most common eating disorder in the U.S., Binge Eating Disorder (BED), affects nearly 3.5% of adult women and 2% of adult men. This article will go into depth about the disorder and help you learn how to tame your cravings and beat food addiction.

When you have a Binge Eating Disorder (BED), you eat large amounts of food in short periods of time. This is often accompanied by feeling like there is a loss of control over how much you are eating.

The other vital features of BED are:

  • Eating more quickly than normal
  • Eating until you are uncomfortably full
  • Feeling guilty after overeating
  • Trying to hide your eating behavior
  • Body dissatisfaction

For example, you may get a BED diagnosis if these symptoms occur at least once a week for 12 weeks. Some people believe that BED and food addiction are the same. However, unlike BED, food addiction is not a medical diagnosis. 


What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

No one knows the exact cause of binge eating disorder. Like other forms of addiction, binge eating disorder is thought to occur when palatable foods trigger the release of the feel-good hormone – dopamine – in the brain. 

Over time, the brain of people with eating disorders becomes to adapt to high dopamine levels, and it requires more food to continue feeling good. Scientists also believe that BED may occur from a complex association between your:

  • Genes
  • Feelings and emotions
  • Social issues
  • Unhealthy eating habits, such as skipping meals, eating too little, or avoiding certain foods




Notably, medical studies have revealed that binge eating disorder may occur with:

  • Bipolar disorder (extreme mood swings)
  • Depression (persistent low moods)
  • Bulimia nervosa (binge eating followed by purging)
  • Anxiety
  • Drug abuse 


How to Treat Binge Eating Disorder?

Levels of care can vary, depending on the severity of the disorder, and a treatment plan for the treatment of binge eating disorder includes:


Talk therapy (Psychotherapy)

Psychotherapy helps you replace unhealthy habits, such as binge eating, with healthy ones. The following types of psychotherapy have shown promising results in binge eating disorder. 


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 

CBT helps you identify triggers and disturbing thoughts that contribute to binge eating. 


Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)

Some people may use food to cope with stress-related problems with partners, peers, or family. IPT focuses on your interpersonal relationships and helps you gain more control over stress eating. 


Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

Difficulty regulating emotions may cause binge eating in some people. DBT teaches healthier ways to manage stress, which may help curb overeating. 



Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) – The US FDA has approved Vyvanse for treating moderate to severe binge-eating disorder in adults. Because Vyvanse is a stimulant, it can be habit-forming. Other medications used to treat binge eating disorders are topiramate (Topamax) and antidepressants. 


7 Tips to Overcome Food Addiction and Binge Eating Disorder


1. Say NO to fad diets

For some people, fad diets can do more harm than good. Restrictive diets and avoiding certain foods are known risk factors for binge eating disorder. They may increase cravings, making you more likely to overeat in the long term. 

Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—limit (rather than abstain entirely from) processed foods. Doing so will help you maintain health and prevent episodes of binge eating. 


2. Do NOT skip your meals

Stick to a regular healthy eating schedule rather than skipping meals.When you skip a meal, the levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin rise, as a result, you will be more prone to binge eating. 


3. Harness the power of mindful eating

Mindful eating makes you aware of the feelings you get when eating. According to one review, people who practice mindfulness meditation have fewer episodes of binge eating and emotional eating. 

Mindfulness helps you:

  • Identify true hunger (sometimes, your body may mistake thirst for hunger)
  • Cope with negative feelings about food intake
  • Enjoy and appreciate food
  • Understand how food affects your feelings 


4. Consume more fiber

Adding more fiber to your diet is a well-established natural remedy for reducing hunger. Dietary fiber makes you feel full for a longer duration. Besides, fiber also helps improve your overall health by feeding the “friendly” bacteria in your gut. In one review, researchers found that consuming fiber helped:

  • Decrease hunger
  • Lower calorie intake
  • Promote weight loss

Animal studies show that intake of cereal fiber makes leptin, the satiety hormone, more effective. 


diet plan


5. Stay active

Regular exercise helps reduce episodes of binge eating and improves other co-occurring conditions, such as depression.

Besides, physical activity also improves your general health, relieves stress, and lifts your mood, making you less likely to binge. Notably, combining exercise with CBT not only helps curb overeating but also reduces body weight. 

Learn more about physical activity guidelines for Americans. Make sure to consult your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.


6. Monitor your eating behavior

Keep a food journal to:

  • Record your daily food intake 
  • Track any changes in behaviors associated with food intake
  • Record thoughts/feelings while eating 


Self-monitoring helps you identify triggers, disturbing thoughts about food intake, and harmful eating patterns. When you decide to self-monitor, be sure to:

  • Be honest with yourself. Remember, cheating won’t help you track your habits effectively 
  • Fill in the self-monitoring sheet immediately after eating or binge eating 
  • Avoid tracking calories
  • Record physical activity (if any) and sleep quality/duration 


7. Get a full night’s sleep

Not getting enough sleep increases food intake and affects food choices. A recent study shows that just a single night of sleep deprivation may make you more likely to:

  • Eat more throughout the day 
  • Decrease fiber intake
  • Increase daily snacks

Furthermore, consistent sleep deprivation can increase the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and decrease the levels of leptin. Adults need seven or more hours per night of sleep regularly for optimal health. 



Is food addiction a mental illness?

Food addiction is a broad topic that may involve mental illnesses, such as binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. 


How do you recover from binge eating?

If you’re looking to recover from binge eating the best place to start is to just seek help. Talk therapy, most notably cognitive-behavioral therapy, has shown promising results in recovery from binge eating. In severe cases, your doctor may decide to use medications, such as antidepressants. 


What triggers binging?

Binge eating may be triggered by:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Childhood trauma
  • Social eating
  • Interpersonal issues
  • Peer pressure 


How can I stop my hunger?

  • Stick to a regular eating schedule 
  • Eat more fiber and protein-rich foods 
  • Stay hydrated
  • Practice mindful eating 
  • Drink coffee


Key Takeaways

  • Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. 
  • Women are more likely than men to have this disorder 
  • The exact cause is unknown. Contributing factors include genes, emotions, social issues,drug abuse, and mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression 
  • Binge eating disorder treatment can include psychotherapy and certain medications 
  • Healthy eating, regular exercise, food journaling, and enough sleep help overcome food addiction and binge eating disorder   

Additionally, binge Eating Disorder, or other eating disorders, are often co-occurring symptoms alongside depression, and drug and alcohol abuse.

If you, or someone you love, are struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental illness, call Opus Health today and talk to a care coordinator for free. 

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