Breaking the binge cycle

When I first started trying to get out of B.E.D., I had no idea how to break out of the vicious cycle that I was trapped in for so long. Once I identified the physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that were part of my disordered eating habits, I had a place to start.

So, today I thought I’d share with you a way to visualize your own binge cycle. Take a piece of paper and orient it horizontally (“landscape” view to those who know computers and printing modes). At the top of the page write, “Physical Sensations”. On the right side of the page write, “Thoughts”. At the bottom write, “Feelings” and on the left side of the page write, “Behaviors”. Under each category write the numbers 1, 2, and 3. Now, in the top left hand corner of the page write, “Event/Situation”.

Think back to the most recent time you binged or overate. Close your eyes and try to remember the events of that day. When you have a picture in your mind of the things that happened that day, prior to your binge or overeating, open your eyes. Write some of those events/situations under that category on your paper.

Mine might look like this:

Event/Situation: Busy day at work with no time for lunch break; ate cupcake at 3pm when I was really hungry; went to a meeting at the end of the day and two of my co-workers argued.

So, those are the situations that led up to the start of the binge cycle that day. Now comes the hard part: identifying the physical sensations, thoughts and feelings that you had. Here’s an example:

Physical sensation: 1. stomach rumbling; flushed cheeks; lightheaded

Thoughts: 1. I’m so hungry. I need to eat right now or I might pass out.

Feeling: 1. Anxiety

Behavior (my response to the feeling): 1. Grabbed the nearest snack and started eating while standing up in the kitchen.

Okay, so you’ve now written something next to the “1” in each category. Keep going with the cycle. What happened next?

Physical sensation: 2. no change; still feeling really hungry

Thoughts: 2. That was stupid. I could have prepared a healthy meal, but I’m just standing here snacking.

Feeling: 2. Annoyed; frustrated

Behavior (my response to the feeling): 2. Look through cabinets for other foods that will taste good.

See how everything is connected? Keep mapping out the elements of your cycle until you have listed the binge or overeating under the “behavior” category. Once you have it all mapped out, you can decide where you might make a change next time. Here are some options:

1. Tackle the problem at the very beginning of the cycle by making time for regularly spaced meals and snacks so you never get that really hungry feeling.

2. Create a list of alternatives to bingeing/overeating (e.g., go for a walk; call a friend; start a creative project) and have them available when you notice yourself about to binge.

3. Modify your thoughts so that you’re gentler on yourself.

4. Practice mindfulness techniques in order to learn to tolerate the physical sensations and distressing emotions (anxiety, annoyance, frustration).

Those are just a few ways to break the binge cycle. I’d love to hear from you if you try this. Let me know what works: megansbook2006[at]

Peace, joy, and health.



4 thoughts on “Breaking the binge cycle

  1. Leslie Neshama says:

    I am very “stuck” right now, Megan, in the binge cycle, so your post is very apropos, very “beshert”, as the Yiddish expression goes. I feel so alone and so hopeless, and the ambivalence I feel about “getting myself unstuck”, perhaps is more despair than anything else. Thank you for listening.

    • getoutofbedonedayatatime says:

      Thanks for writing, Leslie. One thing I like to say (to myself and my clients) when encountering ambivalence is that ambivalence is normal. It’s actually part of the “stages of change”. Few people go from realizing they need to make a change (the contemplation stage) to making the change (the action stage). Second, I would ask myself or my clients, “How important is it to me/you to make this change right now?” And “How confident am I that I can make this change right now?” Answers to those two questions can help understand ambivalence. Maybe the change really isn’t that important to you. Or maybe it’s really important but you feel you lack the tools to make the change. Either situation could lead to ambivalence. You’re in good company!

  2. Scarlett says:

    This is a great strategy. I think really working to identify the situational triggers will be helpful in identifying times I’m likely to binge and purge, and therefore to be proactive in stopping myself. Awesome post!

  3. Leslie Neshama says:

    Dear Megan, I so appreciate your comments on ambivalence, especially when I realize how ‘normal’ it is, given the leap of faith we must make — that is, to leave behind old, chaotic behaviors and go on to a place, a world, a new life, as it were, of getting out of B.E.D. That said, I had a session yesterday with my psychiatrist, and I *was* able to identify probably *the* most difficult time for me, when I “go to the food”. When I verbalized that time, said it aloud, I told my doctor is “THAT IS WHEN I AM IN DANGER”. I almost am able to see the danger, as if I am rafting down a beautiful river, and then the killer vortex appears: Danger!! Thank you for listening to me 🙂 I have your book and will take it with me today, especially.
    The chaos of binge eating is so painful……………..
    (Hello, Scarlett, I agree, this post from Megan is awesome!)

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