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What Causes a Binge Eating Episode?

If you have been diagnosed with BED or binge eating disorder, you might be feeling out of your element and helpless. However, there’s hope for you yet. Regardless of whether you’re thinking of undergoing treatment in a binge eating disorder clinic in an outpatient or inpatient basis, knowing what triggers your binging episodes can help you better manage them.

Generally speaking, BED triggers may be environmental or emotional.

Emotional Binge Eating Disorder Triggers

Emotional eating is typically triggered by boredom, anxiety and stress, anger, social eating, trauma, or childhood habits. When individuals suffer from BED, their binging isn’t really motivated by hunger, but comfort.

This is because when individuals binge on comfort food like pizza, ice cream, burgers and fried foods, it makes them feel comforted and overall good since these foods bring back comforting memories or good experiences.

That being said, in instances where you can’t handle your emotions and think about binging to comfort yourself, try to do everything you can to distract yourself. Walk around outside, call someone for a chat, or do some relaxation strategies.

It’s also a good idea to identify which emotions are causing you to binge so you can accept them and begin to find healthier ways to deal with them.

Environmental Binge Eating Disorder Triggers


These are basically certain things around you that compel you to binge. For instance, social events and gatherings usually involve eating so you may need to eat during these events even if you’re not truly hungry. In some people, even seeing food around like a stash of chips can trigger binge eating.

Likewise, huge portions sizes and packaging might make it harder to stop eating even when you’re already full. Fortunately, you can try the following tips to manage your environmental triggers:

  • Consider planning all your meals in advance.
  • If you must store ready-to-eat and convenient foods like cookies, chips, etc., place them in areas that you rarely see and access.
  • When eating out, refrain from eating free bread and choose healthier options.
  • Store healthier food options such as veggies and fruits right in the front section of the refrigerator.
  • Opt for smaller plates to help control your food portions.
  • Transfer food packed in large containers to smaller ones.

The Importance of Keeping a Food Journal

Addressing your binge eating triggers begin with recognizing them and writing down everything you eat in a day can be a very useful tool for this. List down the following in your food journal:

  • Everything you eat.
  • Every time you eat.
  • Reasons why you ate – were you hungry, bored, sad, anxious or happy?
  • Your feelings before and after you ate.

Eventually, you will see a distinct pattern that could help you pinpoint what triggers a binge eating episode.

Getting Professional Help

Get help if the above tactics don’t work, and if your binging is negatively affecting your quality of life. It’s likewise best to seek help ASAP to avoid making any psychological and physical effects worse. You can go to your primary care doctor for recommendations or straight to your local eating disorder clinic for help.


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