The anatomy of a binge

binge eating

Binge eating isn’t necessarily a household word, but it’s become a common and secretive behavior behind closed doors. Binge eating is consuming abnormally large amounts of food in a rapid amount of time. The binge eater feels uncomfortably bloated afterwards; followed by feelings of remorse, guilt and disgust. Immobility and fatigue are the immediate responses following a binge, but over time, obesity and rapidly deteriorating health are the ultimate outcomes.  

How do I know? I was a chronic binge eater for nearly thirty years of my life; plus, I’ve been interacting with many binge eaters [aka “overeaters”] over the past two years. It’s a behavior that shrouds the participant with shame and embarrassment. Like all unhealthy addictions, it is disease promoting, and one must overcome it to live in optimal health. 

A binge usually starts with a small compromise of some sort.  It may be as simple and innocent as an extra handful of nuts with dinner. A healthy response to that extra handful of nuts would be to acknowledge it, “Okay, I just overrate an extra handful of nuts.” Then the next step would be to quickly move on and not think anymore about it. The key phrase here is quickly move on. Most likely he/she will not feel hunger for breakfast the next morning, and that’s perfectly fine. Perhaps after a vigorous workout and a morning of work, a light lunch at eleven, when he/she is truly hungry again, will be most welcome and pleasurable. This natural response is health promoting.

The mindset of a chronic binge eater is, “I blew it. I over ate that extra handful of nuts with dinner. I’m a failure. I might as well give up and eat anything and everything in sight now.” The problem with this unhealthy thinking pattern is the person will go to bed stuffed and miserably uncomfortable; only to wake up the next morning full of remorse and defeat which will immediately perpetuate more binge eating. The cycle continues until the person has created a pathway of ruts straight into the dungeon of obesity. 

So, if you are reading this post and caught in the cycle of a binge:

1)      Stop. Stop immediately. Put that spoonful of nut butter down. Throw that handful of M&M’s in  the trash.   

2)      Acknowledge it.  Verbally list in your mind what you just over ate. Don’t deny it. 

3)      Move on quickly. Depending upon the amount that you over ate, you may not feel well. No big deal. This too shall pass. Be kind to yourself and don’t eat until you are truly hungry again. 

4)      Listen to Dr. Fuhrman’s teleconference in the member center library, “Curtailing Overeating.” Watch the Livestream by Dr. Fuhrman from the Health Getaway on Food Addictions and Weight Loss. Thoroughly understand his instructions on not eating again until your body is at the end of the catabolic phase of digestion and repair.

5)      Visualize what you will look and feel like when chronic binge eating is completely removed from your life. 

6)      Be 100% committed to overcoming binge eating. 100% commitment is not the same as 100% perfection. Slip-ups happen on occasion. They just do. The key to success is minimizing slip-ups and move on quickly. Quickly is the key word! 

7)      Feeling good is highly motivating. Once you feel good again, it will be a thoroughly pleasurable experience, and will thrust you into the contagious cycle of enjoying optimal health for life!

Freedom from binge eating to all!


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Comments (13) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Matt Stone - July 25, 2010 7:13 AM

Like most eating disorder information, this too focuses completely on the person and what is a break in willpower and discipline, which is a huge mistake.

Binge eaters are more likely to be stuck in a perpetual state of functional starvation, in which they experience telltale physiological signs of starvation like chronic hunger, cravings - especially for the fat/sugar combo., a low body temperature, depression, and lack of physical energy.

Fuhrman's plan helps to extinguish it in many because the nutrient and calorie-density of the diet, it's anti-inflammatory nature, etc. are major tools in conquering the source of most people's chronic hunger and binge tendency - which is leptin resistance.

Obese people eat too much and don't burn the food they eat because they are starving, not because they are willpower-less maggots.

Emily Boller - July 25, 2010 5:04 PM


Although there is that physiological component to binge eating as you metioned; mainly, the body is severely malnourished so it desperately seeks optimal nutrition and turns to binge eating to meet its requirements. However, there is also the all-or-nothing, perfection mindset that says, "If I don't eat exactly perfectly, then I'm a failure; therefore, I might as well blow it big time, and eat whatever/whenever." It's almost a self-loeathing, self-destructiove *welcome* sort of punishment. Been there. Done that. It is no fun.

If an individual continues to have an unhealthy thinking pattern as mentioned in my post, then even a well-nourished nutritarian can fall into habitual binge eating. As the mind becomes free with correct, scientific information AND a healthy mindset, the body [permanently] transformas as a result. I agree with you, willpower has nothing to do with it.


Kate - July 25, 2010 9:27 PM

Sounds familiar. My own binges were physiological and psychological in nature. I had to let go of the, "I blew it" mentality, and I also had to quit trying to make up for poor choices by starving myself. Going more than 3-4 hours without eating set me up for binges.

Jeane - July 26, 2010 8:50 AM

You wrote a really good article and then tell people they have no control? If not a person's will , what makes them do steps one through six? A person is always in control of their will. We have just been brain washed to believe we have no control. We have control over, I will, or I will not. Being in control of my "will" has everything to do with it. Dr Fuhrman states that if you are not 100% committed then don't even bother. That commitment that he speaks of , or that you write about is 100% will power. "Yes, I will". "No matter what, I will"
If you all tell people they can't, then they just sit on the fence and wait for the good fairy to come by and sprinkle them with magic. We have the magic, the power to choose, yes I will, no I won't.

Michael - July 26, 2010 9:28 AM

I definitely think there is more to binge-eating than just following the ETL plan. Overeaters Anonymous has helped me tremendously to break the binge-eating habits that I've had nearly all of my life. I think re-learning to use healthy coping mechanisms instead of food is an important aspect to breaking addiction as well. For me, overcoming extreme shyness and having regular healthy social interactions is vital to eating properly. I had a strong tendency to eat when I was in social settings because I was so uncomfortable. I think changing the way you think and act in life is very helpful to breaking any addiction.

Rachel Assuncao - July 26, 2010 9:28 AM

I think it's a disservice to binge eaters to simply say 'understand what you are doing to yourself and commit to doing something different'.

All too often we brush off the emotional and psychological components of eating disorders - whether it's over eating or starving yourself. Understanding what it is that leaves you feeling so unsatisfied in your life that you need to turn to either overeating or deprivation to feel some sense of satisfaction is the key.

Most people who I've observed with eating issues are really dealing with emotional issues. As they work on those emotional issues, they naturally begin to eat healthier foods in healthy portion sizes because their mental/emotional/spiritual bodies are getting the nourishment they need too.

Emily Boller - July 26, 2010 5:01 PM


I understand your perspective, but many have successfully overcome food addiction and resulting health issues in the midst of deep, emotionally trying times. Emotional and psychological stress itself can be a welcome excuse to continue in disease promoting ways. We need to be mindfully aware of what we are putting into our mouths at all times; whether we are dealing with turmoil and stressful issues or not. Sometimes, not always, it takes the irritating grain of sand to produce the necessary stuff to create the beautiful pearl.


I think we are on the same page; perhaps different meanings to the words. When I think of willpower, I think of an almost superhuman surge of desire and extraordinary discipline pulsating through a person to achieve next-to-impossible feats. You are correct, the key to earning health back is those little, daily choices; choosing to overcome obstacles; choosing to press forward with wise and health promoting choices on when our bodies want to eat whatever and whenever, and/or when our bodies want to sit on the couch and watch TV instead of go on a vigorous walk.

Great dialogue everyone! Wouldn't it be the tops to discover that one, magic pill that could resolve all of our bad habits and inner conflicts?! Keep up the great job of going after optimal health everyone. Most likely you wouldn't be on this blog named, "Disease Proof" if you weren't serious about your health! Go for the GOLD!

I heard Dr. Fuhrman mention recently that when he was an ice-skating coach, he could tell the ones who would reach their full potential as possible Olympic champions, and those who wouldn't. Their ice-skating futures hinged on 5%; those who gave 95% and those who gave all 100%.

Let's all give 100% and enjoy a lifetime ahead of optimal health!

Beth - July 27, 2010 10:00 AM

I don't understand how a handful of nuts extra at dinner would make someone not hungry until 11:00 the next morning (with a workout thrown in there as well). To me, this seems unduly punitive and borderline-anorexic behavior--I don't care how much the person weighs. It would make more sense to me for someone not to punish themselves, and move back to the normal diet thereafter.

Perhaps I am perpetually in a state of overeating, and that's why I don't understand.

I do appreciate that one shouldn't throw in the towel because of a little bit of extra eating. Eating one piece of cake doesn't mean go ahead and have three, etc.

Kim - July 27, 2010 10:23 AM

More helpful would be to list a few foods acceptable to overcome the hunger instead of just saying not to eat the nut butter or M&Ms. How about a glass of water, an apple, a handfull of rasins nuts or berries? Even a piece of raw vegetable such as broccoli, tomato, carrot or celery. Doing this every 3-4 hours in between meals will curb the urge to binge and you dont feel as hungry in between meals and tend to eat less during those meals.

Emily Boller - July 27, 2010 10:45 AM


When one gets close to an ideal weight, it really doesn't take much food to satisfy true hunger. Not eating again until the signal for true hunger comes back has nothing to do with punishment. It's a healthy response; signaling the body doesn't need food yet. Dr. Fuhrman has a wonderful teaching on the topic from a recent lecture titled, "Food Addictions and Weight Loss."

Emily Boller - July 27, 2010 12:30 PM


You are describing the symptoms of toxic hunger; not true hunger. The overwhelming desire to eat every 3-4 hours are cravings/toxic hunger; not true hunger. Again, Dr. Fuhrman's lecture (link posted in my comment above) is helpful to thoroughly understand the difference.

Lilly - July 30, 2010 12:17 PM

I appreciate and can relate to what you wrote about binge eating. Realizing that 100% committment doesn't mean 100% perfection caught my attention. How do I get to the place where I choose 100% committment? I think it helps to believe it is possible. To not replay the many times I've failed. To learn and practice nutritarian habits until they become a lifestyle. It also helps to read about people who have overcome overeating and transformed their physical and emotional health. This blog is a great place for finding that inspiration. Thank you.

Disa - September 9, 2010 12:16 PM

Beth---I know this conversation is old, but I wanted to address your point anyway.

Half a cup of dry roasted cashews is almost 400 calories, with 10 grams of protein and 31 grams of fat. That _was_ breakfast, already eaten the night before. If I had an extra half cup of nuts at dinner time, I definitely would not be hungry for breakfast.

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