bing eating triggers

5 Binge Eating Triggers That Are Making You Eat

What Triggers a Binge?

Binge eating does not appear for no reason. Something (or someone) is usually behind the urge to eat and identifying what trigger is can make a whole world of difference to creating a new healthier lifestyle. So what are the 6 most common binge eating triggers that you need to know about?


Think it is a good idea to diet and restrict your food? Well, think again because a considerable amount of binge eating is caused by over dieting. When you deprive yourself of food and reduce your calories you make yourself hungry. The most you restrict the bigger that hunger becomes until finally, you have to give in and eat something. Only now because you are ravenous you eat far more than you would have if you had eaten normally.

Even worse when you think that you have “failed” because you seem unable to stick to a diet it creates negative feelings. Those negative feelings usually involve self-critical thoughts making you feel sad or depressed. In order to make yourself feel better and forget the thoughts you binge eat. Before you know it you are in a whole cycle of dieting, eating, feeling a failure and eating again to try and feel good.

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Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are some of the biggest triggers out there for binge eating. Yes everyone suffers from stress at some point but binge eaters use food to cope with the problem. Food becomes a way of regulating emotions whilst at the same time, it helps the binge eater forget about the real issue.

As an example, you are finding that work is incredibly stressful at the moment. You don’t want to take time out so you plough on working longer hours to deal with the workload and please your boss. By the time you come home you are feeling stressed out and need to unwind. You reach for a packet of biscuits and start eating and can’t stop. The biscuits temporarily make you forget about the work stress and for a short while you feel relief until you finally stop eating and feel dreadful about what you have done.

It would, of course, have been far more helpful for you to recognise that work was getting on top of you and that you needed some time out. Perhaps leaving the office early for a few days or booking some well needed holiday. Alternatively, if that wasn’t possible finding something to do that would allow you to switch off without the negative consequences that overeating is causing. Finding more helpful ways to manage stress and anxiety can make a major change to your binge eating triggers.

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Negative emotions can have a detrimental impact on someone who has binge eating disorder. Not every binge eater will have the same emotional trigger they just need to understand that certain feelings may cause problems with food.

Typical binge eating triggers include feeling sad or depressed, feelings of loneliness, guilt and anger. It is interesting to note that nearly half of all binge eaters will suffer from depression.

When one of these negative emotions is felt it can cause binge eating triggers and the need for food to self soothe. Tackling the underlying emotion is an important part of binge eating therapy. This is because it helps you to see things from a different perspective allowing you to challenge your thoughts.

It is also important to note that we are creatures of habit. If your brain learns that eating for example sweets helps you forget about a problem it will reach out for them the next time the same problem occurs. Before long the thought patterns are ingrained and running on autopilot without you even thinking about them.

Use our Stop Binge Eating Worksheets to help you start to monitor what you are eating and connect that with the emotions that you are experiencing. These worksheets can help you to eat more mindfully and learn to tackle the root cause of your problem.

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I will often hear from my clients that they find their binge eating triggers are often boredom and procrastination. If they are bored they feel they need to do something to fill the gap when nothing is going. As the food is something that is readily available and easily accessible it becomes the tool of choice to stave off the boredom.

Alternatively, if a client is procrastinating they are generally finding it difficult to take the next step in a task. This could be because they don’t feel capable or good enough to move forward or fear failure if they do. Binge eating is just another form of procrastination. It interrupts the task which is associated with these feelings and prevents the person from getting on with what they need to do. Of course the more you procrastinate the more you will feel a failure or not good enough creating more binges.

Low Self-Esteem

When it comes to eating disorders there is one phrase that I hear more than any other when I am in the therapy room and that is “I am not good enough”. So many of my clients have a belief system that tells them that they are failures, that nobody loves or cares for them or that they are just bad people. Yet many of the people saying this to me having amazing jobs, wonderful families and yet somehow they never feel it is enough.

You can bet that when we conduct therapy to find out where these binge eating triggers around self-esteem came from it will stem from childhood. Do any of these seem familiar to you?

  • Having a sibling who you felt was more loved than you
  • Experiencing continual self-critical comments from a parent or teacher
  • Experiencing a failure such as not passing an exam
  • Being bullied at school and feeling the odd one out
  • Moving house or school and feeling different and unable to fit in
  • Being caught by an elder doing something wrong and feeling you were bad because of it

Even though each individual circumstance will have been a little different the same themes come up again and again. Therapy helps to challenge these old patterns and thoughts to help create more positive feelings and expectations. Alternatively, why not use our self-hypnosis for confidence and self-esteem building.

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How do you Stop the Urge to Binge Eat?

There are a number of ways that binge eating can be helped. Traditionally CBT has been used as a way of addressing the unhelpful behaviours and creating new improved habits around food.

We use binge eating hypnotherapy over a five-step program to help our clients understand the drivers behind their particular problem so that therapy can be aimed at the real binge eating triggers. This can be a powerful therapy as much of the information can be held in the subconscious rather than the conscious. Hypnosis for binge eating helps to elicit this information that other therapies may not always find.

Self-help for binge eating can also be used if you don’t initially want to commit to full-blown therapy. You can read our post on the best books to help binge eating to see what might be useful to you. We also have a self hypnosis for binge eating audio that is available in our online store to address binge eating triggers such as anxiety or stress.

You may also want to read:

How to Stop Binge Eating for Good

5 Binge Eating Self Help Books to Aid Recovery

10 Gifts for People with Anxiety

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Martina McKeough
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5 Binge Eating Triggers that are Making You Eat
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5 Binge Eating Triggers that are Making You Eat
Learn the five major triggers for binge eating and the methods you can use to feel more in control around food.
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Rewire the Mind
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