How to Stop Binge Eating

Binge eating, or overeating and then restricting yourself only to indulge again, is a cycle sure to derail a healthy eating plan. Here's how to tame your cravings, eliminate triggers, and break the cycle of binge eating with diabetes.


Identifying Binge Triggers

Whether it's leftover holiday candy or a bag of chips tucked away for a party, temptations can send some of us off the smart-eating rails.

"Like everyone, people with diabetes have cravings and fall prey to factors that make them overeat," says Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, a nutrition consultant in New York City. The bigger problem comes when you feel so guilty that you eat sparingly the next day, feel deprived, and then do it all over again.

If you want to break the cycle of bingeing, it's important to know why it happens. For instance, if you overeat when you're sad, angry, or bored, pledge to call a friend or go for a walk the next time those feelings overwhelm you. Time is also a common contributing factor. "People get so busy that they skip a meal, and then they get so hungry that they go all out later," says Dawn Sherr, RD, CDE, practice manager at the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Solutions to try: Commit to eating regular meals. Or carry snacks with carbohydrate that also have protein and fiber so you feel full longer. Another action that might help is to reconsider your all-or-nothing food rules.

"When you break the rigid rules -- such as only eating salads for lunch or low-calorie foods -- it can set you up for an 'I blew it' mind-set that can lead to a binge," says Ann Goebel-Fabbri, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Challenge your self-defeating thoughts, she says. Forgive yourself and move on, allowing a wider range of foods so you don't feel deprived. Cipullo agrees: "If you want cake, eat it. Just make sure to fit it into your carbohydrate allotment for that meal." Eat the fish, but skip the pasta.

That said, if you know a trigger food is likely to send you into a binge cycle, Goebel-Fabbri says, by all means avoid it to minimize the temptation.

"Simple carbs set me up for cravings and a binge," says Susan Deer, 54, a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina, who recently was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. "The more bread and sugary foods that I eat, the more I want. Making the decision not to have those foods around me really keeps me from bingeing."

Having to be so careful about what you eat every day can cause frustration -- and bingeing. "If you're making an effort to eat well but don't see your blood sugar numbers improving, it can make you want to throw in the towel and just eat," Sherr says. "However, it might mean that your blood glucose-lowering medications need adjusting."

And the opposite can happen -- your A1C level (your average blood glucose reading over several months) is great and you binge to celebrate. Yes, you deserve a pat on the back, but give yourself a better reward, such as new outfit or book, instead of indulging in a binge that will only make you feel bad later.