Binge Eating Help: Identify your Binge Eating Triggers

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Binge eating is one of the most prevalent eating disorders in the United States today, and recent research indicates there is a direct link between the nationwide problem with obesity and underlying binge eating disorders.

Clinical research has shown that binge eating patterns occur as a result of several factors, including psychological and sociological factors, which "trigger" the need to eat in individuals prone to binge eating. The ability to recognize and control these triggers is at the heart of overcoming binge eating.

Learning to identify your personal binge eating triggers takes a lot of self-examination, and in some cases, professional therapy may also need to be used to fully examine the root causes of binge eating behavior.

For most individuals suffering from binge eating disorders, the factors that cause overeating are largely emotional, tied in to poor self-image or external stresses that are internalized through bingeing. The most common emotional stressors that lead to severe, sporadic overeating are explored below.


Worry and stress about finances, a presentation at work, an upcoming reunion or any one of a million other events can cause binge eating in those prone to the disorder. In a world filled with stresses, it's no wonder anxiety is the number one cause of binge eating in America.


Individuals who do not see themselves as part of a larger group and who do not have regular and easy access to the support of family, friends or loved ones may turn to binge eating as a source of comfort. Feeling lonely can also lead to deeper feelings of isolation. Because many individuals who suffer from eating disorders also have a poor sense of self-esteem, often due to a poor or distorted body image, seeking out friends and joining in social situations can be extremely difficult.


Hopelessness includes a lack of control or depression. All parts of the same whole, these feelings are among the most common triggers of binge eating, as well as other eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. Even individuals who believe they have their eating disorder under control may binge during periods of extreme or unusual stress, such as holiday time or when facing an unpleasant or otherwise anxious period of their lives.

Anger or Disappointment

Maybe you were overlooked for a promotion at work, or you feel your work or other input was under-appreciated by coworkers, your boss, or family or friends. Feeling disappointment or even anger is a natural response, but one that can lead binge eaters to reach for food.


This factor often occurs in tandem with loneliness. When not engaged in a stimulating activity, either alone or with others, boredom can quickly find an outlet in eating.

Feeling like an outsider

Like loneliness, individuals in new, unfamiliar or seemingly unfriendly situations can turn to food for comfort. Changing jobs or schools are two common triggers that can cause individuals to feel like they don't belong.

In addition to these emotional triggers, researchers have determined that there are certain foods which, for some individuals, may cause some types of binge eating. Foods like chocolate, for instance, can cause feelings of happiness and even mild euphoria in some individuals, due to its chemical content. Other individuals may crave salt or fatty foods. In these instances, the cravings are largely learned behaviors, which have developed over time as an individual reaches time and again for his or her favorite food during times of stress. If you find yourself consistently reaching for the same type of unhealthy food when you face one of the triggers listed above, consider removing foods of that type from your home, and avoid purchasing them in the future. If you feel you must eat something, try substituting fruit or raw vegetables for the unhealthy option until you can learn to develop behaviors that do not involve consuming any food.

Once you learn to identify your individual triggers that cause you to binge, most therapists and eating disorder experts recommend writing down a list of alternative behaviors that you can use to combat the initial feelings that eventually lead to binge eating. For instance, feelings of boredom can be erased by learning a new craft or skill. Taking a walk at the first signs of stress releases natural chemicals in your brain that can make you feel better and actually help suppress those initial pangs of hunger.

After you've made your list of alternative behaviors or activities, consider writing each idea on an index card and posting it conspicuously where it can be easily seen when an emotion begins to overcome you. Or keep them in a notebook in a purse or briefcase where they are always at hand.

Karen Zabel is a freelance writer who writes about self improvement by seeking out binge eating help.

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