How to Curb Compulsive Eating in BED Recovery

Woman struggling with Structure in Eating Disorder Recovery

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is an eating disorder that includes overeating and compulsive eating. It can be damaging to both your physical and emotional health.

Often those who engage in compulsive overeating in binge eating disorder will often overeat, at least 1 to 3 times per week, and have feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment after an episode [1].

Cycle of Behaviors and Feelings

Curbing your compulsive eating is important during eating disorder treatment. Often food can be used to cope with negative feelings or situations.

When people begin to think about food all the time, have feelings of guilt or shame after eating and may have other issues such as depression or anxiety, it is part of a larger concern than eating too much once in awhile.

Compulsive eating typically has roots in the cycle of an eating disorder that includes restricting. When a person restricts food, their body and mind fight the restriction because it wants to be nourished, and the person compulsively eats to try to keep homeostasis.

Many individuals will start to try to lose weight, struggle with the ‘diet mentality,’ behaviors and restriction, then binge. After an episode, they will start to restrict to try to compensate for the overeating, but it leads to further compulsive eating.

Compulsive overeating is typically when a person feels the need or urge to eat and do not have the sensation of hunger [2]. When someone is engaging in compulsive eating, they feel they are unable to stop even when feeling hungry.

Stress is a part of binge eating disorder. It can fuel the behaviors and the cycle of binge eating. Learning healthy coping skills can help with Curbing Compulsive eating in BED Recovery.

Curbing Your Urges to Eat

1. Observe what and when you are eating. Most treatment programs will give you a journal to log your food and liquid intake, sleep and exercise time, as well as the time of day and thoughts or emotions associated with the meal or snack.

You can also use a notebook or purchase a special journal for keeping track. It is important to note if you feel that you have overeaten or binged during the day if you are skipping meals and any hunger or fullness cues that you have. It is okay if you do not notice hunger or fullness cues at first as this can take during binge eating treatment to identify.

Self Confidence Praise yourself when you are making healthy choices or sticking to your meal plan, even if it just for one portion of the day [3].

Try to stay consistent with your eating times and scheduled.

If it varies from day-to-day that can create an unsettling within your mind and body and encourage compulsive eating.

If you have set times or a period of time that you can eat, try to attain those a goals by eating at those times each day.

2. Ditch the diet mentality. Typically diets are a direct connection to overeating, binging, and compulsive eating. They do not work! Over 98% of all diets fail [3].

It gives into black-and-white thinking and leaves a person feeling like they have failed the diet, versus the diet failing them. It goes against intuitive eating and healing yourself from the inside out.

When a person diets, it deprives them of certain foods or food groups, setting our body up for overeating. Our body craves and depends on varied nutrition to fuel and heal our body.

3. Listen to your thoughts and feelings [3]. What is the food doing for you? What thoughts do you notice before, during, and after a binge eating episode?

You can track your mood, thoughts, and feelings after an episode. It can help with being able to identify a pattern of thinking or behaving that may encourage an episode of eating. It can also help you work through the issue versus sitting in the emotions following compulsive eating.

4. Slowing down when eating can help with curbing compulsive eating. Being able to practice mindfulness when eating, or setting a timer to try to eat your meal or snack within that time (think 10-15 minutes for a snack, and 30 minutes to 1 hour for a meal).

Be present with your food and use your senses. Plate your food, even if you feel it is binge food and sit down with it at your table. Turn off electronics and pay attention to how the food looks, smells, and tastes when you take a bite.

Finish chewing and swallowing the first bite before you take the next. Often it can help to journal after a few bites before continuing to see what your most present thoughts and feelings are.

5. Talk about it in therapy [4]. It can help to have a supportive person to discuss your concerns, setbacks, and success with when in recovery for binge eating disorder.

Group TherapyTherapy can also help you address underlying issues that come with binge eating disorder such as depression, anxiety, past trauma that can lead to compulsive eating.

In conclusion, curbing your compulsive eating can be challenging, but doable. It means paying attention to when and what you eat, engaging in mindfulness practices, journaling your day, and working with your treatment team to help you recover.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] Compulsive Overeating and How to Stop It. (n.d.). Retrieved July 02, 2017, from
[2] Compulsive Eating & Binge Eating Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved July 02, 2017, from
[3] How to Stop Compulsive Eating. (n.d.). Retrieved July 02, 2017, from
[4] Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved July 02, 2017, from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on September 21, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 21, 2017.
Published on