How to Put an End to the Binge-Restrict Cycle When You Feel Out of Control Around Food


Dealing with binge eating can be an incredibly challenging experience. It can leave you feeling out of control, guilty, and trapped in a cycle of negative emotions. The binge-restrict cycle is a vicious loop that many people struggle with when it comes to their relationship with food. But it is possible to break free from this cycle and develop a healthier relationship with food.  We’ll explore several strategies to help address binge-restrict behaviors. We’ll go into understanding the tendency to binge and then restrict, as well as offer insight on what to do to find healing and balance.  

Understanding the Binge-Restrict Cycle

The binge-restrict way of eating is very common for people with  disordered eating or chronic dieting who have had an all-or-nothing mentality around food. It typically starts with a restriction phase, where people follow strict diets or severely limit their food intake. This restriction often leads to feelings of deprivation, cravings, and an intense desire to eat. Eventually, the restriction becomes unsustainable, leading to a binge episode where large quantities of food are consumed quickly, in a short period of time.  Some people express feeling out of control during binges and may even disassociate. Others describe binges as compulsive. No matter how it plays out, binge-eating episodes are often  followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and the need to regain control. That control tends to show up as subsequent restriction, which starts the binge-restrict cycle again.

Breaking the Seemingly Never-Ending Cycle

Breaking free from the binge-restrict mentality requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the underlying emotional, psychological, and behavioral factors contributing to these behaviors.. Here are some steps that can help you on your journey…

Seek Support

The best thing you can do if you want to put an end to binge eating and restricting is to seek out the support of a registered dietitian. “White-knuckling” it or “muscling your way through it” seldom works. That’s because this isn’t about a lack of willpower. Many people think that if they just try hard enough, they’ll be able to push through. Unfortunately, most find themselves right back where they started. Professionals like nutritional therapists or registered dietitians who specialize in eating disorders will give you the support, guidance, and understanding you need to navigate this challenging experience.

Challenge Restrictive Thoughts

Recognize and challenge the restrictive thoughts and beliefs that contribute to the cycle. Yes, you deserve to eat. Not only that, but you deserve to feel good as you do it. Replace negative thoughts about food with more compassionate and flexible beliefs about food and your body. Remind yourself that all foods can fit into a balanced and healthy eating pattern.

Incorporate Additional Coping Mechanisms

Restriction and binge eating can be coping mechanisms, offer a sense of control, or be a natural result from one another. It is common to feel self-blame, embarrassment or shame around binge eating or feeling out of control around food because of the fat phobic and diet-centric society we live in. However, eating a large amount of food or feeding your body after a period of withholding food is a natural reaction to restriction. And, this cycle can be distressing and exhausting. Working with a dietitian and therapist as a team can offer a supportive and therapeutic environment to address the environments and emotions that trigger this cycle and provide additional support and tools for you to change this pattern. Understanding your mental and emotional triggers is one of the most important steps towards developing a better relationship with food, one that does not involve the binge-restrict cycle. Once you understand where your discomfort is coming from, you may be able to address it in other ways, such as with  journaling, drawing, creating music, or talk therapy.

Nourish Your Body

In order to really get ahead of the binge-restrict cycle, you need to adequately nourish your body. This means eating adequately and consistently throughout the day and including all major food groups.  Challenge food rules or labeling certain foods as “good” or “bad”.

Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself throughout this journey. Recognize that breaking free from the binge-restrict cycle takes time and effort. Use the same empathy, understanding, and compassion on yourself as you would a loved one going through similar challenges.

A Fresh Start Towards a Healthy Relationship with Food

By implementing these strategies and practices, you can begin to break free from the binge-restrict cycle and pave the way for a healthier relationship with food. Remember, healing takes time, so be good to and patient with yourself. Celebrate small victories along the way and reach out for support when needed. You deserve to live a life free from obsession and restriction.

Embracing a healthy relationship with food is a personal journey that requires self-reflection, self-compassion, and a willingness to challenge harmful beliefs and behaviors. Breaking away from the binge-restrict cycle is possible, and with the right support and strategies, you can cultivate a balanced and nourishing approach to eating. Remember, you are not alone on this journey, and there are resources available to help you every step of the way.

Leave Restriction Behind – Discover True Nourishment 

At The Wellful, our nutrition therapy provides a customized approach focused on your unique needs. 

We are building a judgment-free community dedicated to calling out diet culture so you can rebuild a healthy relationship with food and your body. In our corner of the internet, you’ll find a community dedicated to  finding freedom from food rules and learning self-acceptance.

Our goal is to bring clarity and empower you to nourish your body and soul with care and compassion. When you stop agonizing over food and your appearance, your world expands. You become fully present for your needs, hopes, passions and relationships. This journey is not easy, but you don’t have to walk it alone. 

To get started, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Brenna, RD. Contact us today at 925-725-2761 to take the first step toward food freedom.


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