Why Am I Binge Eating? How to Stop the Binge-Restrict Cycle for Good

Created by Beth Rush

Last Updated: June 28, 2022

Everyone has a unique relationship with food. Many factors influence how someone feels about their diet and approaches their daily meals, but sometimes those factors lead to a binge-eating disorder. Read this guide to learn more about this condition and how to stop the binge-restrict cycle for good. A healthy relationship with food is a vital and achievable component in taking care of your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)

What Is the Binge-Restrict Cycle?

People are more comfortable discussing eating disorders now, but many still don’t know what they look like. Disordered eating can take many forms depending on the individual and the circumstances that led to their relationship with food.

If you’re wondering what the binge-restrict cycle is, you can start learning about it by recognizing what is often the first symptom. Binge-eating disorder usually begins when someone eats a significant amount of food in one sitting. It results in feeling physically ill due to overfilling the stomach and negative thoughts regarding the person’s body or habits.

After eating so much, people with a binge-eating disorder may drastically limit how much food they consume in the following days. They may only eat limited foods, like cheese sticks, protein shakes, or water-based vegetables.

The human body can’t go very long without enough calories to support brain and body functions. Hunger then drives these individuals to overeat again, kickstarting a harmful restricting and binging cycle.

A person restricting and binging holds their stomach after eating too much with a pile of pancakes in the background

Symptoms of Binge Eating

There are a few ways binge eating can manifest itself. These are some common physical and mental symptoms a person may experience while dealing with this condition.

Physical Symptoms

Eating portions typically meant for two or more people will result in uncomfortable physical symptoms. Some can be temporary, while others are long-term. A person may experience side effects like:

  • Exhaustion due to overexercising
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Bowel damage from laxative abuse

You may also experience less-common symptoms, like poor blood circulation. When you don’t get enough to eat, your body deals with low blood pressure that prevents proper circulation. It can result in other issues like varicose veins and tingling in the extremities.

[Read about foods that improve circulation here].

If someone deals with their binge-restrict cycle by purging – self-induced vomiting – after meals or snacks, they could also have swollen eyes, throat ulcers, and tooth decay.

Mental and Emotional Symptoms

Although binge eating revolves around food, the person’s mental and emotional state plays a significant role in their condition’s severity. While stuck in their binge and restrict cycle, someone can live with symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Additional thoughts about self-harm

These feelings can drive people into isolation as their binge eating becomes more of a driving factor in their lives. They may not want anyone to see them and may fear social settings where they’ll have to eat. Isolation only makes negative thought spirals and harmful eating habits more powerful, worsening everything the person is experiencing because no one is there to support them.

Emotional symptoms in a binge and restrict cycle include depression, anxiety, and anger-person sitting on floor hugging knees

How to Stop the Binge-Restrict Cycle

Anyone can learn how to stop the binge-restrict cycle when they’re ready to make positive changes to their lives. These are a few things someone with a binge-eating disorder can do to get back to a healthier lifestyle.

1. Find Professional Assistance

Binge eating can result in less intense or more severe cases. If you recognize these habits within your relationship with food or body image, it’s best to start your recovery by checking in with a mental health professional or primary care physician.

An expert can gauge where your mental health is and the best way forward. They’ll recommend the most helpful healing plan for an at-home recovery or a life-changing treatment center if you need more professional help in getting your health back on track.

getting professional help is one of the best steps to take when you want to know how to stop the binge restrict cycle

2. Avoid Restricting Again

Avoiding any restriction habits is one of the essential steps you can take to stop the binge-restrict cycle for good. Those habits could look like this:

  • Eating smaller portion sizes that leave you hungry
  • Eating portions meant for two or more people in one sitting
  • Skipping snacks or meals
  • Preferring to eat any food alone
  • Choosing liquids over solids

Recognizing personal restriction habits is essential to ending the cycle. Reflect on practices like these to determine what your binge-eating habits look like each day or week and better understand how to stop them permanently.

A lady sits at a table and ponders a selection of raw vegetables versus a selection of sweets

3. Work on Thought Control

Many people fluctuate through their binge-eating cycles based on how their thoughts affect them. You may look in the mirror, get dressed in the morning, or have a negative view regarding yourself as an individual and overeat or undereat in response to unhealthy thoughts.

You can start working on these symptoms at home by using dialectical thoughts to think positively when your mind pressures you to restart the cycle. Reinforcing positive thoughts through affirmations or new thought patterns is the next-best way to end your binge eating for good.

Remember to celebrate all of the small victories as well. Something like recognizing negative thoughts may seem inconsequential, but those smaller efforts make a significant difference over time. Eating a snack instead of skipping it or paying attention to hunger cues to learn when you’re full will lead to a more fulfilling relationship with your body and food with daily work on thought control.

4. Remove Any Household Triggers

Thoughts aren’t the only things that could influence your binge cycle. There are also likely household triggers that make relapsing into overeating and undereating more of a possibility. Consider what could make you rely on that eating pattern, such as:

  • Stepping on a bathroom scale
  • Weighing portions on kitchen food scales
  • Keeping protein bars or powders supplied in your pantry
  • Opening food delivery apps to overeat unhealthy foods
  • Maintaining memberships to bulk food stores to restock on binge-meal ingredients

Removing these triggers will help the binge-eating cycle feel further away. Once they’re gone, you won’t have to worry about running into daily triggers that make binging or restricting seem like a permanent part of your life.

recognizing your triggers is an important step in how to stop the binge restrict cycle-bathroom scales and tape measure

5. Create a Healthy Meal Plan

It’s crucial for anyone in an eating disorder recovery plan to create a nutritious meal plan as well. The healthier foods and portion sizes need to be nutritionally balanced to satisfy you between meals or snacks. Diets without protein, fiber, fats, and healthy carbs will only lead to blood-sugar crashes and cravings that result in binge eating.

Ask a dietician for help or find a nutrition recovery guide online to structure your daily food intake. You’ll feel energized, satisfied, and happier when your food choices serve your mental and physical health.

Why Am I Binge Eating?

There are many reasons why people develop a binge-eating disorder. Sometimes it’s a trauma response, while other people might eat that way due to undiagnosed mental health conditions or an unstable lifestyle that makes them seek some form of control. Often, people experiencing chronic pain may restrict their diet if eating exacerbates their symptoms or use food as a distraction.

Talking with a mental health professional is the best way to discover why binge eating is part of your daily life. They’ll find the root causes and give you the tools you need to overcome those challenges without resorting to unhealthy eating patterns.

End Binge-Restrict Cycles Today  

Anyone struggling with an eating disorder can learn how to stop the binge-restrict cycle for good with steps like these. Learning more about the condition is the first step toward recovery. By continuing with healthy changes to your thoughts, environment, and daily diet, you’ll find lasting peace within yourself and a positive relationship with food.

[Learn more in “How to recover from a binge”].

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMER page].

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