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Binge Eating Disorder Treatment: Quick Overview To Stop Worrying

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Last updated on September 11, 2020

Are you looking into binge eating disorder treatment?

Treatment means you already know you have a problem with binge eating. 

Now you are looking for help in order to get rid of your binge eating problem. 

  1. What binge eating disorder treatment option is best?
  2. What should you know before you commit to a treatment path?
  3. What are the different treatment options out there? How are they different?

If you realize that you need more information about ‘what is binge eating?’ please read this article here.

1 – Binge Eating Disorder Treatment: Finding The Right Counselor More Important Than The ‘Best’ Approach

There are a few primary binge eating disorder treatment approaches:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Intuitive Eating

I’ll tell you about these treatments later in this article.

But first, let me tell you about an important binge eating disorder treatment mindset:

The most important thing is to begin your treatment with a competent mental health therapist or counselor.

These days therapists, counselors and coaches often have direct specialties in eating disorders.

There is no single ‘best’ treatment option.

Instead, a competent therapist or counselor who specializes in eating disorders will effectively combine different binge eating disorder approaches.

The reason this mindset is important is because it’s easy to get stuck in decision mode. A person on their own could potentially spend years trying things out and debating between which treatment for binge eating is best.

While it’s true that there are different eating disorder approaches, the differences between them are small.

  • Little unique nuances. 
  • Slightly different theoretical underpinnings. 
  • Slightly different therapeutic tools.

A competent therapist who studies multiple approaches will be able to combine different treatments and fit treatment to the individual client.

The key is finding a therapist who can integrate these different mental health treatments to meet you where you are at.

So don’t worry about finding the perfect health treatment.

Find a great therapist or counselor who may genuinely help you. 

2 – What Should You Know Before You Commit To A Treatment Path?

Weight loss is secondary. It should not be the primary focus when changing your eating behavior.

Bad things happen to your health when you focus on weight loss and try to stop binge eating at the same time.

The truth is that dieting and most weight loss attempts as measured in the United States:

  • May actually lead to WEIGHT GAIN!
  • May actually lead to binge eating
  • May be the cause of being at war with food and having no peace of mind

For many people dieting and purposeful weight loss simply hasn’t worked.

You can evaluate this statement from your own experience. Has dieting worked for your health? Or has it made your health worse and backfired?

If dieting and purposeful weight loss haven’t worked for you, then this means that you have to reset.

Resetting is the first focus of treatment to end binge eating disorders.

You need to become more normal and happier with food again.

A key part of this is to understand how dieting and your previous attempts at weight loss may actually cause you to self-sabotage your health, gain weight, and binge eat.

After you stop binge eating and can understand your health and body in an entirely different, more positive way …

After you gain this understanding and address your unhealthy eating patterns, then and only then will you be  in a much better position to think about weight loss.

So first, stop binge eating!

This chart shows how ending binge eating is the first step, no matter your goals.

This chart shows the progression you’d go through if you reset and take this more positive approach.  Please note that this diagram is not meant to highlight ‘weight loss’ as a treatment goal.

While you may need to lose weight, if you suffer from bingeing habits then it’s best to get binge free stability first.

However, many people new to binge eating disorder treatment sometimes need to see how their deeply desired goal of weight loss fits into binge eating disorder treatment in order to be willing to begin treatment.

So that’s why the above diagram is useful – it shows that you eventually can get to the weight loss phase after you stop binging.  .

But still, while you are ending binge eating, don’t think about weight loss!

3 – Binge Eating Disorder Treatment – Various Treatment Paths

The following therapeutic approaches have all passed a high bar of scientific scrutiny:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This is where you learn more about the thoughts and emotions that are running in your subconscious mind and start to make changes
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This therapy is for when you “emotionally eat’ all the time. It’s for dealing with intense emotions.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): This style involves facing painful emotions and staying flexibly committed to a course of action based on your innermost values.
  • Intuitive Eating: This style combines aspects of all the above in a flexible approach. It’s slightly different than CBT, with more of an emphasis on body instead of thinking. 

There is also another well-known treatment for binge eating disorder treatment called Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT). 

However, I have never used this approach myself so I will refrain from discussion. For more information on this approach you can read this article here.

Additionally, there are medications that may help binge eating disorder treatment in more extreme situations. 

Most people who binge eat, have food compulsions or struggle with emotional eating will not need medications. But there are more severe cases where medication may help.

Because I am not a licensed psychiatrist, I will not comment further on medications. If you would like some initial information about potentially appropriate medicines, see  this WebMD article .

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most well-studied therapy approach.

Out of all the useful therapeutic models, CBT is the most well-researched.

There is a specific form of CBT, called CBT-E, for eating disorders. 

The E stands for ‘enhanced cognitive therapy’ and refers to ‘transdiagnostic’ treatment for eating disorders.

This  means CBT-E can be used for different eating disorders such as:

  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Orthorexia
  • Binge eating disorder


CBT-E typically consists of 20 sessions spread across approximately 5 months. 

This time frame is considered an average length for binge eating disorder treatment across therapy models.

The goals of CBT-E are to educate clients about binge eating disorder and to stop binge eating disorder.

These CBT-E goals tend towards changing a person’s thought patterns. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (CBT) is also used in binge eating disorder treatment.

While Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is more of a generalized approach for every person and every type of eating disorder, DBT is very focused on people who also have borderline personality disorder.

A person with borderline personality disorder may have extreme mood swings. They may feel abandoned or be very emotionally sensitive.

They may be impulsive, and have unclear shifting relationships.

DBT is more targeted to help these individuals.

DBT tends to lean towards managing stressful emotions, instead of emphasizing changing thought patterns as in CBT.

Here’s an example of how the DBT “ACCEPT” technique teaches people how to help manage stressful feelings. 

Let’s say you get a call from your boss.

Your boss’s voice is tense. Your boss says that you need to come in to the office and be at your desk in exactly 60 minutes.

Your heart starts to race.

Do you go use food to cope with these intense emotions? Or do you ACCEPT?

  • Activities – distract yourself with activities like reading
  • Contributing – some how make someone’s life better, for example even something simple as saying “happy birthday” to someone on facebook
  • Comparisons – put things in perspective – has this situation happened before?
  • Emotions – Do something to counter negative emotions.   If you are feeling anxious, go on a walk. If you are feeling depressed, go watch funny cat videos
  • Pushing away – it’s okay to push the thought out of your mind. Say to yourself that you will come back to the thought when you are ready
  • Thoughts – Use a mantra to overcome negative thoughts.
  • Sensations – Some how use your sense to de-stress – splash your face with water, take a bath, listen to music, etc

Acceptance And Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and DBT both tend to focus on managing difficult thoughts and feelings.

They both differ from CBT, which focuses more on changing thought and eating patterns themselves.

ACT is different from DBT primarily because it uses a different approach to managing difficult feelings.

As mentioned above in the ACCEPT technique, DBT tends to train individuals in using certain tools to handle emotions. 

While ACT does greatly emphasize acceptance in its methodology, and while both ACT and DBT emphasize mindfulness …

ACT overall trains individuals to handle difficult thoughts and feelings by identifying their values.

A value is highly individualized, but every person has certain values. This means the value is more important than feeling good.

A person is trained to evaluate their actions on whether they are acting towards their values, or just trying to feel good. 

This can help a person manage their difficult thoughts and feelings by taking a new perspective.

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating, I would say, is a hybrid between all these approaches.

However, Intuitive Eating is slightly different in placing more emphasis on the body in comparison with the other approaches. 

The body plays an important role in Intuitive Eating with core principles related to hunger, satisfaction. 

Of course, Intuitive Eating also talks about binge eating disorder education, as does CBT, and helps individuals with soothing skills, as does DBT. 

Practical Lifestyle Tips 

Finally, as we wrap up this piece, let’s talk about some general tips that I recommend no matter what binge eating disorder treatment approach you take!

We’ll call these Practical Lifestyle Tips. 

Again, remember all the treatment approaches described above have more in common than not! 

They give therapists and counselors a variety of effective tools to use when helping clients.

With that being said, let’s look at some general pieces of advice that are relevant no matter what  binge eating disorder treatment is being used.

  • Don’t diet – purposeful weight loss attempts usually backfire. 
  • Eat Regularly – breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a minimum every day
  • Eat Nutritiously – eat nutrient-dense foods, or whole foods. Examples include beans, nuts, whole grains
  • Get Healthy Fats – Olive oil, nuts, yogurt are all sources of healthy fats
  • Remove Certain Foods From Sight – I recommend that, at a minimum, you remove all those sugar foods from eyesight. You can have them in the closet somewhere, but seeing all these foods can sometimes trigger binges.
  • Manage Stress Better – There are a thousand ways to manage stress. The key is realizing even a little stress is important to manage.
  • Maintain Positive Relationships – Ask questions, show interest, make eye contact. Practice saying no and setting boundaries.
  • Movement – Whether gardening, yoga or walking, find some type of movement that you enjoy. It’ll help with the stress relief too 🙂


With that being said, please leave a comment or share this piece if you find it useful! 

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