Tips for Beginners

     This post will be for those people who are just starting out trying to let the urges to binge pass rather than acting on them, and especially for those who might be struggling with this.  I’ve heard from several readers who relate to my story and believe a similar path to recovery would work for them, yet still have difficulty putting it into practice. Since my book is a memoir of my own recovery, and not a traditional self-help book; it does not include a lot of specific advice and tips for the reader. Instead, I explained exactly what worked for me, in hopes that what I did to recover could be a path for others to follow (although I know that no one will follow my path exactly, because everyone’s situation is a little different and different ideas work for people in different ways).        

    For those unfamiliar with how I recovered, or those who would like this information in one place, I’ll summarize here the 5 steps that allowed me to utilize neuroplasticity and put an end to my bulimia for good (you can also see a more thorough book overview/summary here:

I viewed my urges to binge as neurological junk. (This means I quit believing the urges signaled a real need – physical or emotional – and stopped assigning the urges any value or significance whatsoever. I viewed them as automatic brain messages generated in my lower brain that deserved no attention. 
2. I separated my highest human brain from my urges to binge.(This means I realized the urges weren’t really me, but instead were generated in brain regions inferior to my true self. My true self resided in my prefrontal cortex – my highest human brain – and it gave me the ability to say “no” to binge eating. I had to know my urges were powerless to make me binge, and my true self had ultimate control over my voluntary actions.)  
3I stopped reacting to my urges. (This means I stopped letting my urges to binge affect me emotionally. I simply let them come and go without getting wrapped up in them. This made the urges tolerable and actually rather easy to resist.) 
4.  I stopped acting on my urges. (This was the cure for my bulimia, made possible by the three steps above. I didn’t have to substitute any other behavior or emotionally satisfying activity for binge eating. I only had to refrain from binge eating.)
5. I got excited. (This was a bonus. By rejoicing in my success, I sped along the brain changes that erased my bulimia.)     

     Even if this method makes sense to you, it’s possible that when your urges come up, you may still be overwhelmed by them and end up acting on them. So, here I’m going to give you some suggestions on how you may be able to prevent that from happening.  But before I do, I’m going to ask you all to help me with this task. What I request is that anyone who wants to, write (in the comments section of this post) about what helped you the most in resisting urges to binge, or maybe give your best piece of advice to someone just starting out learning to separate/detach from urges and avoid acting on them. I think it would benefit everyone to be able to read what did and didn’t work for others, and get tips from people other than me who have been successful in quitting binge eating. The more ideas and advice we have available, the better. If you need help getting started thinking about what to write, here are some questions that may spark an idea:   

What is a problem you had in resisting urges to binge, and how did you overcome it? /  Explain what it feels like to separate your true self from the urges to binge? / What does experiencing your urges with detachment mean to you?  / What helps you avoid reacting emotionally to the urges and getting caught up in them? /  What messages from your lower brain make you feel vulnerable and in danger of acting on the urges, and how to you avoid getting overwhelmed by these messages?

Thank you in advance to anyone who decides to share their thoughts here!    

Now, I’m going to list the tips/thoughts of my own. Most of these are suggestions I’ve given to readers in the past, but this is the first time I’m compiling them into one place; so forgive me if this is not extremely organized.   

 How to get better at separating/detaching from urges to binge:

     A few readers have asked me if there was anything specific I did or told myself to disengage the animal/lower brain. Besides briefly reminding myself of what I’d learned and the fact that those thoughts weren’t truly me the first few times I tried this technique, there wasn’t anything specific I did or told myself to disengage the lower brain. I just heard it acting up and sending those automatic faulty messages without letting those messages affect me. I really think trying to have any sort of mental dialogue regarding the urges to binge while experiencing those urges can be counterproductive for some people, because it may actually unwittingly engage the lower brain. This is especially true if you try to be argumentative with your lower brain, trying to refute the automatic messages it sends. I’m going to try an analogy to explain this, which I hope makes some sense and explains this a little better:     
     Let’s say you are in an argument with someone, and after listening to them, getting upset, and arguing back for a while, you eventually realize that arguing is futile and they aren’t worth your time; so you just quit listening/letting their words affect you. You still may hear what they are saying but it makes no difference to you and you no longer get upset. That’s detachment. But, what if instead – prior to trying to detach from the argument – you said out loud, “This is just a fool talking and I’m not going to listen anymore.” It’s probably going to escalate the other person’s argument, right? I think it can be the same thing with the lower brain. When you say, “this is just my animal brain talking; it is wrong; and I’m not going to give it any more of my attention,” you’ll probably hear lots of counter-arguments, like “no, it is truly you that wants to binge,” or “okay, maybe it is your animal brain, but just give in one last time; it will be worth it and you can start over tomorrow.”
     So to me, I think what makes the most sense is no dialogue with the urges at all. If you don’t let your lower brain bother you; if you don’t try to argue with it; if you just let it do what it’s been conditioned to do without reacting at all, it’s going to fall silent. In the beginning, it will try to present its case frequently, but it will taper off.

  How to face setbacks after you’ve been doing well:

     You may do well for a few hours/days/weeks, and then suddenly it feels like you have no choice but to binge and you follow the urge. After this occurs, it might be helpful to try to mentally go back to determine what happened to make give in.  I’m not talking about figuring out what events/feelings “triggered” the urge, I’m talking about the urge itself – how did your lower brain get what it wanted? What did you feel/hear in your head that made you feel like you had no choice? You might feel discouraged about the situation, but by analyzing what happened, you may realize it was just one enticing thought that hooked you and brought you back down to the same level as your lower brain, making you believe you wanted what it wanted.  Knowing what happened can give you the confidence that if those same thoughts/feelings arise in the future, you will be prepared for them and not let them affect your actions. 

How to “practice” detachment/separation from urges to binge

     In a similar manner as above, it might help you to determine what thoughts/feelings are hooking you and getting you to act on the urges. Write them down if you want to. Then, when you are not experiencing an urge, you can say those enticing thoughts in your head or even out loud, and realize that the thoughts in and of themselves can’t actually make you do anything. Something from Rational Recovery I remember was to look at your hands and contemplate the fact that no thought can make your hands move without your voluntary consent. Following this advice, you could say the thoughts that tend to hook you while looking at your hands, knowing that your hands can’t pick up food without you deciding to move them. Doing this little exercise might give you more confidence for when the urges actually arise.

What to do if you feel like you want to binge:

     Like I mentioned in my book, learning to resist the urges wasn’t difficult, but it was a little tricky at first. My lower brain could be deceptive, and by far the most intriguing reason it gave me to binge was that it didn’t matter what part of my brain generated the urges, that I wanted to binge nonetheless. That one was the hardest reason to stay detached from, because if I slipped back into believing “I” truly wanted to binge, acting on the urge would have been soon to follow. And, it did happen once – as I mentioned in the book, I did binge one more time after I decided to quit.
      The idea of wanting to binge vs. wanting to quit ties into my last blog post: Do You Truly Want to Quit?.  I believe that most of the time, the feeling of wanting to binge is only present just prior to a binge when the act seems so appealing. After the binge there is regret and you remember that you in fact, truly don’t want to binge at all. This is why I think it’s so important to be able to dismiss ANY thought or feeling encouraging binge eating as the neurological junk that it is. This includes those messages that tell you binge eating is worth it, and that it is really you that wants to binge. I don’t mean you have to disagree with those thoughts or try to argue them away, because that is usually futile; I only mean to remain unaffected by them until they pass. And after those thoughts pass (in the same way as after a binge, but without all the guilt and disgust) you’ll again remember that you truly don’t want to binge and be so glad you didn’t act on the urge. 

     An important thing to remember is that no matter how much you want to quit or how well you separate yourself from the urges; at first, there are going to be times when binge eating seems very appealing.  I think it’s important to accept that, and realize that at times, you may indeed feel deprived. However, it’s not really you that’s deprived – you are depriving your lower brain and a life-draining habit, and you are getting stronger with each conquered urge. Feelings of deprivation, of strong attraction to binge eating, of ambivalence about quitting – these are some of the more tricky and enticing ways that the urges to binge present themselves. If you can get to the point where you can experience all these feelings without reacting or acting, you will be well on your way to killing off the habit for good. 

What to do if resisting urges in this way feels like a struggle/white knuckling:

     I personally think if you are finding it extremely difficult to resist urges (if it feels like a fight); it is usually one of two things:      
     1.) You are not eating enough/still dieting restrictively. If you are not eating sufficiently, you’ll likely keep your body and brain in “survival” mode, and I truly believe urges that arise because of survival instincts are much harder to detach from than urges that arise due to habit. I think limiting calories and trying to resist urges to binge would be extremely difficult, and is simply not compatible. You certainly don’t need to binge to solve your calorie deficit, but you do need to eat more in your normal diet.      
     2.) You have not yet truly detached/separated from your urges. I say in the book that quitting wasn’t completely effortless at first. However, it certainly was NOT a painful struggle either. It was a bit tricky in the beginning because my lower brain could generate very convincing reasons for binge eating, and I had to get used to staying detached from those thoughts. I found that if I could separate myself from the thoughts and feelings about binge eating before they turned into powerful cravings, it was much easier/effortless; but if the urges became powerful, it required more conviction to step back and put the urges in perspective.      
     During the times when I found myself starting to relate to my cravings and losing separation between me and my lower brain, I tried to simply focus on not acting on the urges and moving on with my day, even if it wasn’t exactly comfortable for a short time. And always, soon enough, I’d be back to feeling like the real me again, who had absolutely no interest in binge eating.    
     It seemed to me that the excitement/amazement I felt at finally being able to control my behavior seemed to override any temporary discomfort I may have experienced in the beginning. Also, I really tried to experience any feelings of discomfort as part of my binge-created brain-wiring problem; those feelings did not truly indicate my discomfort, but my lower brain being deconditioned from a habit it had become so dependent on. 
     I think it’s helpful to treat thoughts telling you that “it’s so hard to resist the urges” as neurological junk. You don’t have to disagree with those thoughts, but instead just let them come and go without getting caught up in them and without reacting/acting. You might find that soon, you stop believing that it’s hard for you to quit, but simply that your lower brain is putting up a fight and doesn’t want to give up the habit. It’s not putting up a fight out of any sort of malice; you’ve just conditioned it to react as if binges are vital and necessary for your survival. It’s only acting automatically; it has no power over you; and you know better than it does about what is best for you.      
     I think once someone experiences true detachment from urges, it ceases to be a struggle. Even if you understand the concept of separating from your urges and listening without reacting or acting, it’s not until you feel/experience it for yourself that it becomes real and powerful. I am thankful that one inspiring woman, Mary in Los Angeles, is allowing me to share something she emailed to me recently which relates to this point. At first, she was struggling somewhat with detachment; but then one day, she “got it” and has been very successful since then. Here is what she wrote:

“Since my last binge, I have employed true detachment when the urge to binge arises.  And Kathryn, it is astonishing. The flicker of the thought or feeling comes up, I see it, briefly acknowledge it, don’t engage in it and just focus on my motor skills of whatever I’m doing and on getting on with my day.  The flicker burns out and I’m left with this kind of glee and giddiness – freedom, that’s the word.  I don’t pretend to feel safe, not even close.  I fear the monster is lurking beneath my bed, but as each of these encounters with the urge to binge comes up and goes away, I feel I’m inching little by little closer to the real me, the life I want and deserve.”    

 With that profound quote (thanks Mary!), I’ll open this up for you to share your own experiences, struggles, tips, and triumphs.    

*Update  1/3/2014:  Please see “Tips for Beginners…Continued (Inspirational Testimony)” for more! 

159 thoughts on “Tips for Beginners

  1. Thanks so much for your awesome blog. I am sooo glad I found it. I just finished reading your book and it was great also. Although I still haven’t been able to stop binging. I probably should read the book again. I just have to learn to not act on the urge. Thanks again for all of the great info!

  2. Finished your book 2 weeks ago after about 15 years of binge eating. I absolutely loved and “got” your ideas. I haven’t binged since reading it! I also love your blog. Especially the Tips for Beginners. A great idea to condense it all into one place. What you say just makes so much sense. It was truly enlightening. I have spent years arguing with myself, and fighting the urges unsucessfully. Now I feel I know the secret. So far so good! It makes me feel excited and set free. I have never felt so positive. I found it helped to read your book twice. Also to thoroughly read your blog along with all the comments. I shall look forward to reading more. Tomorrow we have a family meal and in the past it was always my excuse to binge afterwards. I would follow with a bottle of wine and a litre of icecream as well as a few bowls of cereal…………and this was after a large normal meal. I would binge until I hurt. I could get through a whole box of cereal along with 2 pints of milk. Believe me, my binging is to the extreme! But I can honestly say that tomorrow this won’t be happening. I just know it. I have never felt unhappy with my life, no childhood problems, I am happily married yet I have always been looking for the reason of why on earth I would do this to myself.What emotion was I trying to “stuff down”? Now I know the answer and its so simple. Pure habit. Simple as that. Habits can be broken – all it takes is practice and a little time and determination. Thank you Kathryn for helping me understand.

    1. Hi Mandy,
      Thanks so much for writing and sharing your experience. I am so glad you found the book helpful and that you are taking control of your habit. Congrats to you on your success thus far; it certainly sounds like you are well on your way to a binge-free life:-)

      I hope the family meal went well! It feels great to break all of those old patterns.

  3. hi, I’m still trying to work on the detaching myself from the urges. Often, I feel that they are so real, part of me. And that it’s too hard to quit. The tip for treating “it’s too hard to quit” as neurollogical junk is very helpful. Could you (kathryn or other readers) share on any other forms in which cravings have presented themselves, and how you have overcome them? Much appreciated!!

    1. I think common forms for a lot of people (including myself when I quit) are the “start over tomorrow” messages that serve as excuses to binge today (I touched on this a little in a post a long time ago about New Year’s resolutions:; and the “I’ve already eaten imperfectly, so I might as well binge” messages.

      If you think about those messages when you are not experiencing a desire to binge, they don’t make any logical sense (“I” truly didn’t believe that eating imperfectly warranted a binge; “I” truly didn’t think that I needed ‘one last binge’ in order to quit); but if you have those thoughts when binge eating seems appealing, they can be pretty convincing. That is, if you give those thoughts value.

      I think the way to overcome them is the same as with any other thought/feeling encouraging binge eating: treat it as junk, don’t try to fight it, and just let it come and go without reacting or acting. If you do that, those abnormal thoughts will go away on their own as the brain changes.

      Hope that helps a little, and I hope others will also share some forms in which urges present themselves. Good question!

  4. Hi Kathryn and all, it’s the Mary from Los Angeles quoted in your blog. Thanks for including that, Kathryn.

    What a great post about tips for learning to detach from the urges to binge. It certainly has been a learning process, but every day I’m getting better at it. It has been 4 weeks since I last binged and they have been 4 weeks of relative ease, freedom from fear and panic and, most importantly, 4 weeks that remind me that I can have my life back and it feels better than anything I could have imagined.

    That said, I do want to share that after I first read your book about 2 months ago, Kathryn, I binged 3 more times. I thought I was detaching from the urge to binge but I see now that I was actually engaging my lower brain in constant arguments. When the urge to binge arose, I would actively say to my lower brain “No way, you can’t make me do this. Stop right now!” and other such arguments. I quickly found out that even that level of fighting back kept me hooked into the feelings and thoughts that only served to increase my desire to binge, which I did.

    It was only after I emailed you, Kathryn, and you gave me the same example you cite in this blog about detaching during a futile argument that I finally “got it.” It’s kind of like sitting in a movie theater and hearing the people around you chatter. You are aware of the chatter but you don’t pay any attention to it. I am always aware of the “chatter” from my lower brain but I do not pay attention to it.

    The one exception in the past 4 weeks occurred yesterday when it seemed the chatter was louder and more persistent than ever. Finally I just stopped and asked the question, “What is this? Do I WANT to binge?” No I did not. What I wanted was food because I was hungry, legitimately hungry. I always followed my binges with restricting my caloric intake the next few days, but since I stopped bingeing I am learning for the first time in 15 years what it is like to eat like a normal person. The inclination to continue to restrict my food is still present and I have lost a couple of pounds over the last month even though I don’t need to. I am at a weight I am happy with and that which feels sustainable for the rest of my life. But learning to eat normally, meaning learning to eat enough calories daily to maintain my weight, has been a daily conscious challenge. A few days ago I had a piece of banana cream pie and although I was thrilled that it was not preceded by nor followed by an urge to binge, I have had to consciously eat normal maintenance calories since then. Guess I wasn’t doing it as well as I thought because yesterday I was just plain hungry, truly hungry. I thought the chatter was about the urge to binge, but it really was about hunger. So I added more food and voila, the chatter stopped. In the past that feeling of hunger, which always followed my binges within a day or two, would have led to another binge. I didn’t know it was hunger, it just felt like an overwhelming desire to eat, eat, eat which then would became a binge. Now I know it is hunger and I won’t let myself get to that point again. It felt dangerously like an urge to binge. Thankfully, it was a lesson quickly learned.

    I’m so glad you included a chapter on normal eating in your book, Kathryn. Funny that detaching from the urge to binge has been so much easier than learning to eat normal! I know the two are closely tied together, so I will not be making the mistake of putting myself in harm’s way again.

    Anyway, I hope some of this personal experience is helpful to others. I am enjoying not only all of your blog entries, Kathryn, but the responses and questions from the readers as well. I’ve learned SO much. Thank you one and all!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here, Mary. You make an excellent point about true hunger, and I’m really glad you wrote about your experience. Learning to meet the body’s hunger signals with more food, not binge eating, is so important in order for those urges to go away. If one responds to hunger by binge eating, it perpetuates the habit; and if one ignores hunger signals and doesn’t eat enough, it keeps the survival instincts in high gear and the urges will likely persist.

      I’ve heard from a couple people who seemed to be using my book as a method to become a better dieter. Meaning, they were trying to eat a low-calorie/restrictive diet, and resist all urges to break their diet. I don’t think that is possible or advisable, and it’s definitely the opposite of the intent of my book.

      Some people might have some trouble deciphering and trusting true hunger signals at first, because binge eating/purging can definitely skew hunger/fullness and that might take a little while to regulate. When in doubt, I personally erred on the side of eating something when I thought it was true hunger. Like I said in another post, I think I would have driven myself crazy if I would have questioned every hunger signal, or viewed as neurological junk every desire to eat.

      Some might worry about following questionable hunger signals though, especially if it frequently escalated into binge eating in the past. Errrin mentions this below, but I’ve said before that if I were hungry when I thought maybe I “shouldn’t” be, I’d often set a mental limit on what I was okay with eating (for example – 1 bowl of cereal, or a sandwich, or a piece of cake…depending on the situation or how hungry I felt). Then, if I still felt unsatisfied afterward and felt an urge to binge creeping in, that’s what I labeled the neurological junk (not the original questionable hunger signal).

      I knew when I followed those questionable hunger signals that my lower brain would likely use that to try to get what it wanted – a binge – so I was well aware that urges would likely arise and I was prepared for them. 

      It’s great that you were so successful in identifying true hunger, Mary. You might find that you indeed need to eat a lot in order to maintain your weight; and at first, eating a lot can sometimes remind you of binge eating and trigger some abnormal thoughts/feelings. But if you remember that eating a lot/nourishing your body well and compulsively binge eating are completely different, this should become effortless too.

      Thanks for your kind words about the blog, and thanks so much for contributing!

  5. Thank you for this blog post Kathryn! I read your book a couple of months ago and I feel it has caused a profound change in the way I view my e.d. and also given me a new hope that recovery is possible. Unfortunately I’m one of your readers who you referred to in your first paragraph… I believe 100% that your solution is THE solution for me, but I have trouble actually putting it into practice when it comes down to it. This entry is a great idea, I hope more people who have had success after reading your book give input! Your analogy of getting into an argument with someone and Mary’s analogy of background chatter in the movie theater help me a lot. I feel I have a better idea of exactly “how” to detach from the urges. I haven’t had any tests of this yet but I feel something clicked.
    There are a ton of challenges to this recovery thing, which you’ve addressed in other posts I’ve seen… a huge one is that my binges rarely start out with the urge to full on binge, they start out with the urge for some dessert or cereal, never intending for it to be 3 bowls full. But yet it ends that way 90% of the time. It’s usually a snowball effect… It’s hard to tell when the voice is pulling this kind of sneak attack, or if I just want some dessert! I don’t want to deprive myself, I think that creates the urge to binge too. I think your suggestion was to eat a predetermined portion of whatever I want and after that if I still have the urge to detach and know its my lower brain, which is better than anything I’ve come up with.
    One thing that I think is helping me to get the hang of detachment is meditating. It’s kind of another way of “practicing” and I think it’s been beneficial to me so maybe it could benefit someone else. The kind of meditation I’m referring to is just where you sit quietly and focus on your breath. There are a ton of resources available on the web…
    Again Kathryn I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart… Your book changed my life.

    1. Hi Erinn,
      I’m glad some ideas in this post helped you understand better how to detach, and I hope you are able to put it into practice. I’m also glad meditating is helping you.

      I understand and definitely experienced urges to binge starting out as just a desire for some desert or cereal. Many of my binges started with just wanting a little of something or a little more of something, but I usually could recognize a particular mindset and soon knew where it was headed. While having some desert/cereal/more food after a meal can be absolutely fine, I could usually sense when it wasn’t that innocent for me (although sometimes I didn’t sense that until I was already eating whatever I set out to have; and then it took a little more awareness to tune out those thoughts/cravings urging me to keep eating and eating…I’ll give an example of this below). 

      If you observe yourself in a situation where you start off just wanting a little of something but then end up binge eating, you might find that there is a particular point when the desire/resignation to binge/let go of control occurs. Using your 3 bowls of cereal scenario as an example from my own experience: Sometime while finishing up the 1st bowl of cereal, I may have started to feel a craving to keep that pleasure going; a false sense of physical emptiness that I wanted to fill up; a desire to get up and get more and more, often with a sense of urgency about it…plus some “logical” reasons why having more would be okay (those faulty messages surfacing signaled to me that it was no longer just an innocent desire for a snack/treat and the habitual response/desire to binge was setting in). At that point, I’d detach from those thoughts and either stop eating after the first bowl if I thought I’d eaten enough to satisfy physical hunger; or sometimes I’d decide to have a pre-determined amount more(maybe 1/2 bowl), in a rational way…and view as junk any remaining desire to keep eating and eating. Does that make sense?

      Desires to have a treat, or some more of this or that – when you are not a binge eater – can be completely harmless; but if you are a binge eater, I believe you have to be careful and aware in these situations. Your lower brain is likely to use the times when you decide to have a treat or an extra serving of something to get you to binge. This doesn’t mean you can’t have those things, it just means you need to be prepared for your lower brain’s reactions and not let it get the better of you.

    2. …and if you are unsure before you have that desert/treat whether it’s a desire to binge or not, then yes, I believe setting a pre-determined amount before you even start eating is a good thing.

      I think most normal eaters naturally do that anyway. We just get a snack/dessert, knowing we’ll just eat that, and it’s not a struggle to stop after it’s done. It’s not being restrictive or imposing controlling limits on yourself; it comes easily. Because without the desire to binge, the thought of having so much of something isn’t appealing. Yes, sometimes normal eaters decide to have more/another serving, especially when the food is highly palatable; but even then, it’s within a rational(and usually intuitive) boundary.

  6. The problem for me now is habitual overeating. I haven’t binged since reading your book almost a month ago, but I do still have compulsive feelings toward overeating. When I’m aware that I’m about to compulsively overeat I use what I learned in Brain Over Binge but more often than not I don’t realize that I’m overeating out of habit, or I succumb to a very reasonable rationalization. I know the same techniques are applicable here, but I’m experiencing difficulty applying them to the greyer areas of my eating behavior.

    1. Congrats on nearly a month binge-free:-) That’s great.

      I’m sorry that you are still struggling with compulsive feelings toward overeating. I know you know that occasional overeating/non-hungry cravings are normal; but if you feel the frequency/intensity is not in the range of normal for you and it affects your life negatively, then it’s absolutely something to address. While I do think, like you said, the same techniques are applicable; I don’t think that what worked for me to stop binge eating is necessarily the cure for all cases of overeating(I talked about this some in my Non-Hungry Cravings post, and mentioned that it might be worth looking into some physiological factors involved in very bothersome non-hungry cravings/overeating).

      Another thing to possibly consider is what your perception of overeating is. For example, people who are trying to diet restrictively might consider breaking their low-calorie diet with a normal meal/snack/desert that isn’t very healthy or low-calorie to be overeating. I’m not saying you are doing this, I only mention it because many people who have/had eating disorders tend to be perfectionists; and there could possibly be an element of ‘being too hard on yourself’ involved in what you perceive to be overeating. You are the only one who knows for sure though, so trust what you think/feel about your own eating habits.

      Yet another thing to mention is stomach stretching from binge eating, which I’ve mentioned in a comment on another post. The stomach has a network of receptors that, when the stomach is stretched, signal to the brain that fullness has been achieved. Prolonged periods of binge eating can make those receptors less sensitive, so that normal quantities of food may not make you feel as full as you would if you never had a history of binge eating. So your brain may only be creating those faulty cravings for overeating because it’s getting skewed messages from the stomach receptors. As normal quantities of food become habit and your stomach returns to normal, this problem may disappear on it’s own.

      Just a few things to think about!

  7. So I can’t believe it but I was actually able to distance myself from an urge!
    I had just read this article after a horrible day binge-wise and was thinking
    there was no way I’d ever be able to distance myself. After dinner I had the urge
    for a fudgscicle and had one. But then I felt like I couldn’t stop and had the intense
    urge to have another and another. I felt the urge and I heard its voice loud and clear
    telling me that there was no way in the world I could resist its power. But then
    I realized, there is “me” and there is “the urge” and they are two separate entities
    (the “higher” and “lower” brain as Kathryn explains it). Did me, Amanda, really want
    the fudgecicle-binge or did the “urge” want it? Did me, Amanda, a beautiful, smart,
    young professional/ yoga student/ mother who is deep and a wonderful friend and rich
    spiritual person really want the fugecicle? No- she didn’t.

    And hell yeah! She didn’t have it.

    1. That’s great, Amanda! I’m so glad you were able to resist an urge to binge. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here; I’m sure it is very motivating to others who read it.

      It’s an amazing feeling when you can sense your own power over the urges, and realize you don’t have to be controlled by them.

  8. Kathyrn, I do remember reading what you wrote above in one of your other blog posts (or maybe it was in your book):

    “I think I would have driven myself crazy if I would have questioned every hunger signal, or viewed as neurological junk every desire to eat.”

    This really helped me to see past the panic that comes up when I have felt hungry or desired a former binge food these past few weeks. Questioning myself is a sure fire way to get the urge to binge activated again. Learning to eat like a normal person is as much a learned behavior as binge eating is. It is taking practice but is getting easier.

    Just today I woke up wanting Milk Duds, my favorite candy. So I bought a box, ate it with relish, loved every bite and stayed aware in case the urge to binge began to arise. I reminded myself of your quote from above, knowing that my craving for the candy was NOT an urge to binge but rather a normal desire for a treat.

    I have now been binge free for 5 weeks and only notice the urge to binge when I do indulge in a former binge food or when I get truly hungry. Nevertheless, I feel that I am truly creating new neural pathways every time I eat a treat without it leading to a binge or every time I eat in response to true hunger. I am starting to get the feeling that I will truly never binge again. That is AMAZING.

    Mary in Los Angeles

    1. That is great to hear, Mary. I definitely think that being able to eat former binge foods in moderation is helpful; it lets you see that you are truly in control and that no food is dangerous.

      I hope you’ll soon know without a doubt that you’ll never binge again!

  9. I downloaded your ebook last week after seeing it mentioned in a comment on a blog. As it’s only been a week, I feel ridiculous saying it’s life changing, but that’s the way I feel right now!

    So getting started: I agree on the non dieting. Even though I am 20 pounds over my ideal weight, I’ve decided to let that go. I hope eventually to level out at a lower weight, but if I don’t, it will be worth it to eat normally. I have also decided to eat what I want to eat. This can be quite tiring, as I’ve either followed a strict meal plan, or eaten every kind of sugary food in sight for the past 25 years. I keep trying to check in with my body and see a)if I’m hungry or just bored etc and b) what do I really want to eat. Surprisingly or not, it’s often not the junk I really fancy eating! I find allowing myself to eat whenever I want removes about 50% of my binge urges. As to the actual urges, it’s only been a week, but what does help me is the habit thing. In the book it discusses creating pathways for the habits, and I remind myself that if I give in to the urge ‘just this once’ I am reinforcing this habit and making it twice as hard next time. Whereas if I don’t give in ‘just this once’ I am actully making that habit weaker and it will carry on getting easier.

    I’m still in the ‘this is too good to be true’ stage. It makes perfect sense to me, but it has to be more complicated than just stopping? 🙂

    I once went to therapy where he suggested I was deliberately keeping myself fat for protection. I spent ages trying to work out if this was true. I genuinely didn’t feel it was, but I worked on it, I wasted so much time.

    1. Hi PoppyR,
      Thanks for writing! I am glad you are finding the book to be life changing. It sounds like you are on the right track with not dieting/trying to determine hunger and what you really want to eat. I completely relate to not really wanting to eat junk often. I crave nourishing food most of the time. Of course I do eat some junk food, but often it’s a convenience thing…I would much rather something healthier or home-cooked; but the day is chaotic and I have to eat something! Sometimes though, it is because the less-than-healthy food is what I do want to eat. I think everyone has to strike a balance that works for them, while also knowing that if that balance gets upset it doesn’t have to lead to binge eating.

      I also understand your feelings that it’s too good to be true. I felt the same way, and the only thing that eased my mind was time and continued success (and the fading/disappearance of the urges to binge). I hope you continue to resist the urges, making the habit weaker and weaker until it’s gone for good. Keep up the good work!

  10. Hi Kathryn,

    Thank you for posting this! I read your book about six months ago, and have had a lot of trouble sticking to your suggestions ever since. Immediately after reading it, I went for about 17 days without binge eating (my longest stretch since the behavior started about 11 years ago), and I felt fabulous. But then the familiar behaviors returned, and I felt powerless to overcome the urges.

    Looking back, I think I failed for a couple of reasons that you’ve outlined here:

    1. I have not let go of the restrictive eating. I know, I know. What was I thinking? But I just can’t seem to shake the desire to be at my “normal” weight. There’s always a vacation coming up or an event that I want to be thinner for. And, while I don’t dramatically restrict my calories, I do consciously count them and aim for a goal that will lead to weight loss. I really need to stop this if I’m ever going to recover.

    2. I have been arguing with the “animal brain,” which I now understand is counterproductive. How very zen to just let the thoughts pass, without reacting to them! But also, how very difficult. I will really work on this passivity, rather than actively thinking “that’s stupid,” or “I don’t have to listed to you!”

    So thanks again. I truly believe I have the power to change this and reclaim my life, and I appreciate your taking time out of your busy life to help all of us who are still struggling!

    Oh, also, thank you for opening up the forum! I plan to participate it, and I hope that it remains a positive, recovery-focused place so that you won’t need to shut it down. I wonder if you could recruit frequent posters to act as moderators if people start posting counterproductive things?


    1. Hi Jess,
      It definitely sounds like you are on the right track with letting go of restrictive eating and trying not to argue with the animal brain. 17 days is great, and at that point the urges to binge should already be starting to weaken (that is, if you aren’t restricting). Of course everyone’s timeline is going to be different because no two brains are alike; but if you are able to be binge-free for 17 days again – this time without the restrictive eating; you might find that it starts to become effortless at that point.

      I truly hope you are able to put this behind you for good.

      Thanks for the suggestion about the forum…it’s a good idea, and I’ll keep it in mind.

  11. Hi Kathryn & fellow posters!

    I read Brain Over Binge in December and can safely say I am not a binge eater any longer 🙂 The book really opened my eyes and once I started taking accountability for my own actions and understanding I could change my behavior/habit, something clicked for me.

    However, I’m not perfect and have had some slip-ups. It’s embarrassing for me to talk about it, but I’m hoping it will help someone reading this who has had the same experience.

    I slipped up last night. The thoughts that were going on in my head went something like this, “You hate where you live right now.” “You are isolated.” “You don’t have any real friends down here.” I moved from the northeast to the south a year ago for grad school and am really struggling. I feel like an alien. Like I just don’t fit in here. However, looking back these thoughts did not make me binge. I did. After reading this post I can now recognize these thoughts and brush them off. I practiced saying these thoughts out loud, looking at my hands, and realizing that however unhappy I may be with a certain aspect of life right now, no one can make me binge but me. Binging will not solve any of my problems, but only make me more anxious b/c I’m filling my body with sugar and processed, crappy foods.

    Thanks for the post, Kathryn. And I’m excited to check out the forum!

    1. Hi and thanks for sharing your thoughts/experience here! I am so glad to hear the book has helped you change your habit.

      I don’t think everyone who quits is going to be done for good in one day. The lower brain can be tricky and if unaware, it’s possible to get swept away by those tempting (and often logical-sounding)thoughts; so don’t be hard on yourself about the slip ups. It’s good that you realize what happened and how you can prevent it from happening again.

      I really think that the complete disconnect I made between my life’s problems and my binge eating helped me avoid acting on urges that arose during times when I was depressed or just really struggling with a difficult situation in my life. I didn’t treat the “I’m so unhappy/this is so hard” thoughts as junk…but once my lower brain started suggesting binge eating as a solution/reprieve from my problems – that’s where I made the disconnect; those were the thoughts I viewed as merely the faulty products of my habit.

      I think that in life, it’s okay to have “poor me” thoughts now and then when things get rough. Once you don’t binge in those difficult situations over and over, your brain will stop suggesting binge eating as a potential solution/relief. Those depressing/”poor me” thoughts will stand alone for what they are; and after they pass, your mind is free to explore real solutions or ways to cope (because we all know that binge eating is not a real solution or even a worthwhile temporary reprieve). Without the after-effects of a binge, you are free to pick yourself up from being down in the dumps, and find ways to make your day a little brighter or find some hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

      I really feel for you being stuck somewhere you feel you don’t belong – I’ve definitely been there and it’s so hard. I hope you are able to find some things you enjoy or someone you can relate to. I’m sure summer in the south doesn’t help your mood much either! Maybe when the leaves start changing things will seem a little brighter.

    2. Thank you so much for your kind words. I know how to stop binging for good. I just need to shut up and do it 🙂

  12. Hello Kathryn
    I wanted to thank you for your great book, it does really nail down my binge eating. I want to share my two cents here and see if this can be of use to someone else.

    1) it’s immensely easier for me to separate from the urges when I’m not restricting. If I am restricting, I know it’s a part of me who wants to eats that extra piece of cake, because… I have been restricting. If I know I can have it whenever I want, I would probably eat a piece and be happy about it, that’s it. If I’m restricting, wanting that cookie it’s big deal and as soon as I have tasted a bite the monster wakes up and things get confusing, who wants what?

    2) other thing I observed, it’s easier for me to separate from my urges when I’m doing something that do not require my mind to be focused, like folding laundry or something like that. The urge comes, and after the first few minutes (when I separate from it) it becomes almost funny… “hey lower brain , what are you going to tell me now? That I will pass out if I don’t have that cookie? That there is a worldwide famine starting tomorrow and kashi will stop producing any cereal? ” ” I’m folding laundry here, how do you plan to stop me?” Maybe it’s because it’s very evident there that I have full control of my motor skills, or because I can really listen to my lower brain without having to struggle to make it shut up, I just need not to act on my urge, and somehow it’s a little funny to hear my lower brain ranting …
    I do find I have more trouble (and here is when I sometimes fail) to fight it when I’m at work. I do work doing mathematical simulation and my job requires to have my full mind focused on what I’m doing at the computer. Here is we’re those thoughts come over and over and becomes more like a struggle “shut up I’m working here” and my lower brain seems to reply “no you are not… You need another candy bar… One more and I will leave you alone” or ” you already failed, you might as well keep going” . So that is more like a fight, where I try to make my lower brain shut up. I am yet to figure it out how to deal with this. I succeed some days I fail others… At any rate, the exciment of the binge is almost gone, but I wish I had the same kind of control in that situation as I have when I’m not atwork

    1. Hi Isabel,
      Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you realize restricting makes it much more difficult, and I hope you are able to break that cycle.

      About the other area you are struggling with (having more trouble when you need to focus your full mind on your work); it does make sense to me that that would be the case. When you need to concentrate is when any background noise or interruptions are going to bother you the most. I just thought of an example/analogy from my own life now that may or may not help you in this situation, but I thought I’d share it:

      Whenever I am trying to focus on a mental task and my kids start requesting things/arguing with each other/or just being loud, that’s when I tend to get very frustrated, just wishing they would be quiet for a few moments (and sometimes giving them what they want so they will do just that!). Whereas, if I’m just folding laundry or doing dishes – which require no mental energy – their antics don’t bother me much, and I tend to respond better with less frustration to requests or any discipline issues that may occur.

      But…what if I was trying to focus on a mental task and my kid started incessantly asking for some matches to play with? Would I give him some just to make him be quiet so I could focus? I think that’s how you might have to view the urges that arise during the times you are trying to focus – viewing them as if your lower brain is asking for something so outrageous that it’s not even worth considering whatsoever. Even though it’s easy to reason with yourself in the moment that it’s not a big deal to binge, getting your lower brain to be quiet temporarily isn’t worth it. Ultimately it only serves to keep the habit going and ensures more interruptions to your work in the future. It might indeed be a bit more frustrating at work for a little while, because so much of your mind is needed elsewhere; but hopefully it will get easier over time as the urges fade.

  13. I downloaded your book yesterday and cant put it down. I have had so many “AHA” moments its really unbelievable. Thank you for making sense out of something that made no sense to me. I cant thank you enough. An urge will now come in my head and I say to it “Oh, hi…you again??? What you got this time for me? Is that really the best you can do?” Then I chuckle in my head cause I am closer to the real separation of the 2 brains.
    5 years ago I got sober…went to a holistic rehab that was non AA. They taught us much of what you talk about in your book (what I have read so far) This is like a breath of fresh air. I woke up this morning and it was like the sun was shining brighter. I feel a weight has lifted. The burden of the binge is fleeting.
    Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for putting it out there to help all of us. You are a gift. 🙂

  14. Hi there…me again from the above last post…
    One thought I had this morning (6 days binge free) that may be helpful to others…
    You know the feeling while binging? That sense of detachment…like an out of body experience. Its a non emotional feeling that sort of takes over at some point in the midst of the binge?
    I would get this while driving and binging. A totally mindless gorging.
    Maybe we can learn to use that feeling and reverse it. When an urge comes walking along in our brain, can we detach from it the same way we detached from our higher brain while binging? If people maybe struggle with the separation of the two brains, possible using this feeling as an example might help with how it feels to detach so that we can acknowledge the lower/animal brain but not react to it.
    Does that make sense? I dunno, it was my wake up AHA moment this morning.
    BTW, did I wake up smiling again today? Yes I did because I know I am closer to being free of this nagging monster. Thanks again. 🙂
    (oh and if you have mentioned this idea in your book, I apologize…I am about halfway thru it so far…Im just getting flooded with ideas and new thinking)

    1. Congrats on the 6 days:-) The idea you shared here is very interesting and makes a lot of sense. I did not mention that in the book, so thanks for your insight! I’m sure it will help others.

      I hope you keep waking up smiling…it certainly makes me smile to read that. Keep up the good work, and enjoy your freedom from the binges:-)

  15. Hi Kathryn, I just finished reading your book and everything in this post. I think I am finally ‘getting’ it. I have been a binger for over 30 years. I’ve restricted (very low calorie diets) off and on with several times being probably 6 months long each. I didn’t do a lot of purging, but instead would go through cycles of making myself throw up (I hated throwing up and never got very good at it. I use to over exercise when I was about 14, but that stopped). At times the bingeing would become frantic and the pain in my stomach had to be alleviated, so I would make myself throw up, but this probably only lasted a week or so at a time. The rest of the time I was bingeing but not purging. The purging would come and go through the years, but in comparison to times of bingeing, it wasn’t nearly as often. Because of this I am very overweight-needing to lose over 100 pounds.

    The older I get, the less ‘frantic’ bingeing I do and the more I make the entire day a binge. It’s easier because I don’t hurt myself as much physically, but of course the long term effect is the excess weight gain. I still try to diet, but can’t stick to one much longer than a day. Weight Watchers is the only one I can stick to for several weeks, but I find myself feeling like I am starving because I am eating nearly all fat-free foods and they just can’t hold me for very long after a meal.

    So I guess my question is, how do I know what and how much to eat? Do I eat only ‘healthy’ foods, or eat what I have binged on in the past to keep from feeling like I am restricting? I have never eaten normally in my life. My health is deteriorating due to the obesity and I need to do something that will improve it while not being so restrictive that I want to binge. And honestly, I don’t want to remain this overweight for the rest of my life. I need to do something about the weight, but I also need to stop this self-destructive cycle.

    1. I understand your concerns. I think this is an issue that a lot of people face after binge eating stops, and it can be difficult to decide what is right for you. I think you might find it helpful to read my “Weight after Recovery” post
      (located here: because I address all of your questions in some way. As you’ll see in the post, I don’t think calorie-restrictive diets are a good solution.

      I hope the post answers your questions, and if not, please let me know! Thanks for writing.

  16. Hi Kathryn,
    First off just wanted to thank you very much for your book and all the information you’ve posted here. It really does make much more sense to me then traditional approaches to ED recovery.

    There is one thing I keep getting stuck on though. When I try to just listen to the voice in my head urging me to eat I can’t identify what it is saying. It’s like it happens so fast I can’t catch it, and all I get is an image in my head of the food my animal brain wants me to eat (e.g cake in the fridge). Is this because the voice has become so automatic and happens so quickly that it bypases the actual message and goes straight to the food? It’s making it pretty difficult to catch and dismiss.

    Did you have any similar issues when identifying the addictive voice and animal brain talking?

    Thank you in advance

    1. I understand what you mean about it happening too fast. For me, it always felt like there was enough time between feeling the urge and the actual binge to avoid the action (even if sometimes it wasn’t much time). I had to walk to the refrigerator, go buy food, or even just reach for some cookies. However, interestingly enough, I used this same tactic to stop biting my fingernails years after I stopped binge eating, and I found that it required more awareness. This was because there simply wasn’t as much time between the automatic urge and the action. There really weren’t many thoughts involved in that habit; it was just a well-entrenched automatic action that my brain seemingly did for me after over 20 years. I had to learn to recognize the impulse before it lead to the action, and I wasn’t perfect in doing this. Sometimes I’d be biting my fingernail before I even realized I was doing it; but with practice, I was able to catch it in advance and stop.

      I do think that habits can become so ingrained that there doesn’t seem to be much time and space to interrupt the action, but I do think it’s still possible. I’m reading a book right now called “The Power of Patience” in an attempt to do a better job of staying relaxed with my young, highly energetic (and demanding!) children. I came across something just yesterday in the book that I thought might help you. It said: “New brain research suggests that the time between an impulse and a response is a half a second. Awareness increases that time by another half second. In other words, awareness doubles the time between impulse and action. That half second is the space in which patience is a viable option. Without that pause, we’re operating from the emotional part of our brains that cares only that we get what we want right this minute, whether or not that’s ultimately the most beneficial thing.” This is talking about responding with words or immediate action; I do think that there is more time to stop the action in behaviors that require some preparation to carry out (eating, smoking, drinking..etc.). But, regardless of the time involved, the implication is that increasing awareness can allow you to recognize what you are going to do before you do it.

      You said you can’t identify what your animal brain is saying, but you get an image in your head of the food. That’s probably just how your urges to binge present themselves. Words/mental messages don’t always have to be involved; an urge to binge can be only a strong feeling/craving, or a mental image. If you can learn to be aware and recognize exactly how your own urges present themselves, it will hopefully get easier to catch and dismiss them.

      I hope you are able to have success and overcome this for good.

    2. Thanks so much Kathryn…much to think about there. It rang true for me when you said that the image of the food in my head is probably the way the urge to binge presents itself.

      I also caught an urge last night along the lines of the “poor me” story. All I can say is wow…the addictive voice is so sneaky in how much it sounds like your own voice. I believe that’s what makes it difficult to distance myself from it, cause I really do believe the voice when it says “I have a stressfull week coming up – eating is the best way I know to comfort myself” which is just BS I’ve learnt in therapy.

      I had anorexia and exercise-bulimia and interestingly enough the binge eating didn’t begin until I read a Geneen Roth book and gave my behavoir a name. The act of naming the behavoir and studying it, essentially created it (if you know what I mean). Thanks again for your life changing book and for the above advice.

    3. Yes, linking the binge eating to life’s other problems can easily fuel the addictive voice. It can be difficult for some people to stop making those connections between emotions/life’s problems and binge eating; but one day after recovery, you’ll have an extremely stressful week and not contemplate binge eating even once…and wonder why you ever thought it was a viable option.

      I’m glad my advice was useful to you.

  17. At the grand old age of 43, I’ve binged for over 25+ years. I’ve gone from being underweight, due to VLCD and extreme running to being over weight by 10-20+ pounds. Like you Kathryn, I purged by excessive running and never “got on” with making myself vomit. I’ve used laxatives and anti-depressants. I’ve had CBT counselling and you would think by reading the above, I was a complete nutter! But you would be wrong, I’m happily married to the most wonderful man, have no financial worries in fact the opposite, have a successful career and loving family. But thanks to the counsellors and “experts” I’ve always searched for the problem/issue/memory that made me binge. Of course, I’ve had problems in my life, who hasn’t but your book as been a revelation. That’s quite a big word, but I mean it… finding and reading your book has been a revelation.

    I’m only 1 week into recovery, but compare that to my recent 8 month binge and increase in weight of 20 pounds, you can tell I’m delighted with not having binged for 1 week.

    Like the others have said, your book has got me to a place where no other book or person has been able to do. You understand and you are the first person who has said I don’t have to blame something or someone for having BED. It’s ok to get better without resolving everything which is wrong in my life.

    I don’t even know where to start to say thank you for giving me hope.


    1. Hi Lizzie,
      Thanks for writing, sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. My family and I recently moved (same city, from an apartment to a house) and it’s been a challenge unpacking and getting settled.

      I’m so glad to hear my book has been helpful to you and has given you hope. I truly hope that you are able to put the bulimia behind you for good so you can move on with your life. I really appreciate your kind words; it means a lot to me to know that the book is helping people.

      I wish you all the best!

  18. Kathryn- I feel like it was truly by the grace of God that I stumbled across your book in search of hope and answers after about 10 years of bulimia. No therapist, doctor or nutritionist ever told me anything that I didn’t already know- but they did place alot of questions in my mind asto what was wrong withe me.

    The beauty in your book is the answer to that question- an answer that I hoped and felt might be true for so long but didn’t have the tangible proof or confidence to prove to myself. The answer is >>> nothing! Nothing is wrong with me intrinsically- no deep emotional scars or hurt that I am trying to cope with through binging and purging. Even though it seems simple- it is one of the most profound truths that I have experienced in my life thus far: old habits die hard.

    Thank you for sharing so freely such personal details about your struggle and success. It inspired me to be more honest with my loved ones about what I am facing and the efforts I am taking to nip it in the bud, once and for all. This summer, I decided that I am not going to turn 30 (my birthday is in May) with this bad habit. I’m not going to marry the man of my dreams and tote this baggage into that beauty. I’m not going to have kids and sneak their little debbie snacks out of their lunch boxes. I refuse to do it. And I have you to thank for setting an example of real hope and lasting recovery to get me on that journey.

    I am forever grateful to you. Drie

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experience here. I am so glad my book helped you see that there is nothing wrong with you – that was such a profound realization for me as well.

      I hope by the time you turn 30, the binge eating is just a distant memory; and you can move forward and enjoy your life, your marriage, and your future children to the fullest:-)

  19. Hi, I have read your ebook and today I just suffered from a huge binge… I feel terrible, but I look and see that this is an issue that I want to address for GOOD and NEVER let it take over me again. I mean, our thoughts are the roots of our actions, and for years I have been a slave to habitual, lower brain urges to binge… SO many years wasted feeling terrible and hurting myself. I mean, I don’t understand it. But after reading your book and your blog. I do. I understand it. Now, that I have just binged and I am feeling the “guilt” that my true self always feels after I do this act that feels unbearable. I want to make a promise to myself right now, today.

    I’m not going to binge ever again.

    How? Well these urges are strong and they are enticing, but I know that I am going to APPLY your steps to make these urges go away. And I never have to binge again. Nothing in the world, no thoughts no urges, no habits, nothing can influence me to binge again. Even the toughest urge can come at me. But I am certain that I DON’T EVER want to binge again. My true self hates it and REALLY wants to quit. The animal brain on the other hand? Well im sure he won’t be going down without somewhat of a fight.. But I am prepared to stand my ground. Even when the urges come> REMEMBERING IT’S NOT me. It DOESN’T influence me. And I am going to focus on LOOKING AT MY OWN HANDS. ME. AND knowing that NOTHING can make my fingers pick up food that I, my true self doens’t want to pick up. So, that is it. This is my promise to end bingeing today and forever. I am going to commit to this and denying the urges power right now. I will stay strong. This day forward. I am going to be true to myself. Thank you again Katheryn for your book. And I am ready to change my life. No more excuses.

    1. I apologize it’s taken me so long to respond. Thanks so much for writing. I love your determination and commitment, and I truly hope you’ve had much success since you posted here. All the best!

  20. Hi Kathryn,
    I would like to start off my saying that I am so thankful for your book. I believe it is going to save my life.
    I started to binge eat only 3 years ago at the age of 36. After much therapy, I thought it was due to all the outside factors in my life and that I , all of a sudden, couldn’t handle them anymore. I spent too much money and too much time only to feel so discouraged that I’ll never have the perfect life and therefore, I will never stop bingeing.
    Well, the truth is that I started bingeing after dieting to lose my pregnancy weight. It has been a painful 3 years that has almost ruined my marriage.
    I have not binged for a week now. This is a miracle for me. I had a mini binge today, but just visualized the neural circuits firing off junk. I then visualized the neural circuits getting dimmer and dimmer.I just observed these circuits.
    I stopped mid-binge. This is amazing.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    1. That’s great! I’m glad you’ve already had success stopping a binge. I’m sorry you’ve struggled with this for the past 3 years, but hopefully you are able to put it behind you quickly so you can move on with your life. I wish you all the best.

  21. Dear Kathryn

    I stumbled across your book while surfing the net four days ago, following a particularly nasty week of bingeing. I have been bulimic (self-induced vomiting type) for nearly 10 years. I have read countless books, joined countless self-help websites, tried several types of therapy only to quit several sessions in because it just didn’t seem right, made countless resolutions to have more willpower “tomorrow”, completed countless self-help exercises and tried countless diets promising “the cure”. I have spent extortionate amounts of money I don’t have on bingeing “just this one last time”, ruined my career, ruined my relationships and ruined my health.

    But this Christmas day is the first since 2002 that I have not binged and I have not purged – thanks to you.

    I know it is very early days as I only read your book four days ago, but I just feel as if something has clicked. I truly believed that I was just a weak, pathetic person who was too fragile to get through life’s ups and downs without bingeing and purging(and I have always had a good life, so what did this say about me?). I truly believed I was going to have to give up virtually every food on the planet permanently if I was to recover, as so many foods seemed to trigger me – and this seemed miserable and unsurmountable. I truly believed there was no hope, and that I just had to wait for my body to disintegrate due to my own despicable weakness. Being a type 1 diabetic, this disintegration was not going to take long and was not going to be pretty when I had reached a stage where I was bingeing and purging 3-4 days a week at best and 7 days a week at worst. Dangerously, just as you described in your book, the “knowledge” that overwhelming feelings would make me binge, I was using this as an excuse day after day to justify what I was doing.

    However, your book has given me the power to walk with my head held high again. I have had some minor urges over the last couple of days, however I feel completely calm and in control as I know they cannot rule me. No more sitting wrapped in a blanket on the sofa trying to ride the craving (always unsuccessfully). No more wearing myself out trying to create dozens of tricks and routines and meal plans to take the urges away. No more feeling deprived because I can only eat a severely limited range of foods.

    In my mind I feel recovered for the first time ever. The real test for me will come when I go back to work after the holidays, as work triggers urges for me, however I just feel so calm and relaxed about the whole thing (having been suicidal in the past) that I know it will be fine.

    I don’t know how to thank you.

    I will keep you updated.

    A very grateful English girl.

    1. After responding to your most recent post, I realized I didn’t respond to this one. I truly apologize. I vividly remember reading this comment on Christmas day (it means a lot to me that you would take time on Christmas to contact me), and I’m not sure how I overlooked it when sending responses. Thanks so much for sharing your story here and keeping me updated. I know others will find your story inspiring as well.

  22. Thank God I found this blog. I’ve been chubby for most of my life, and a few years ago I did some extreme dieting which wasn’t too detrimental in itself, but then I snapped suddenly and developed BED (with some bulimia on the side), and gained everything back and then some. My problem has persisted for almost two years now. I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months, and I’ve been reading tons of books on binge eating, but there hasn’t been a lot of progress with either. Although both are always emphasizing brain chemistry and ways in which I should control myself, you word it a little bit differently. You actually emphasize the lower brain, and although it feels like a simple concept that I’ve always known, it’s like an epiphany to me! I still have a terribly hard time understanding my body and cravings, and those cravings are so PERSISTENT, but I feel like I’ve found a solution. Just to ignore and keep ignoring /without consciously ignoring it/ is the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I’ve literally only JUST come across your blog, so I haven’t put any of this into practice, but I really feel like I’ve finally found the help I need. Thank you.

  23. 14 days binge-free! Miracle! Although I have gone 14 days without purging before, I have usually continued to binge to some extent. And it has always been very hard to ignore the “cravings”; very stressful and difficult. I usually have to eat junk food in some quantity to “ease” things. This time, I have had a couple of days where it has been difficult not to give in, but these were days when I had been exercising and it seems logical that I hadn’t eaten enough, as you discuss in your book. This knowledge helped me to stay in control. There was one day where I overate on walnuts, but I stopped at the end of the packet rather than let it lead to a binge. I have eaten no junk food for 14 days – only wholefood vegan, which is the diet I love and the diet my higher brain chooses for me rather than the nasty, harmful diet my lower brain chooses.

    I have got through the Christmas holiday and New Year, times when I always get out of control, returning to work (work often triggers “cravings”), and Friday night at the end of a working week. Knowing that I could sleep and hide away all weekend has traditionally meant that I would binge badly on a Friday night. Today I have been home nearly an hour and am about to cook a nice recipe for dinner. No urges at all to eat myself into oblivion.

    Thank you, Kathryn.

    1. Wonderful!! It’s great to hear from you again. Congrats on your continued success, and for overcoming your most difficult “trigger” situations. You sound like you are well on your way to a binge-free life:-) Keep up the good work.

  24. I know the blog is on hold for now, but it’s so helpful to read all the posts and comments even without responses. The way to treat the URGE seems similar to how I sometimes deal with my young child. He has heard adults talking and reasoning about things, he is experimenting with shaping the world the way he would like it by reasoning in an adult sounding way, but he is not an adult. So when he protests that he doesn’t want to take a bath, and I have to add that he’s a very persistent one, kind of like an animal brain, I don’t try to reason with him, I just stay light and upbeat and proceed to get the bath ready and offer him a bath toy or something. But I don’t respond to “let’s do it tomorrow, puhleeeeeaaaze”, “I didn’t even get dirty”, “I hate taking baths”. And if I do that consistently, there is very little complaining. My husband will try to persuade him, talking about dirt and germs and smells and doesn’t he want to be clean, etc. that doesn’t work. Dealing with small children is similar ton dealing with binge urges in that children don’t have a strong higher brain yet. And with strong willed children, like my older one, repeated action is the best way to get through our days in one piece without too many meltdowns and frustrations. Just like if you don’t binge for a while the animal brain will stop asking for it. Like my son will now happily wash his hands after he uses the bathroom, take a bath, brush teeth etc etc. without the enormous fuss it caused in the beginning.
    And lest I come off as a disciplinarian, I’m actually quite the hippie mom. Now I just have to stop
    Binging. It’s been twenty years and not more than 24 days off binging. I’m exhausted.

    1. Your oldest sounds like my oldest! He’s 6, and engaging him in argument/reasoning can be completely exhausting. I definitely agree with you on the similarities of dealing with children and dealing with binge urges. Not that we ignore our kids’ frustrations; but like you said, sometimes the best way to deal with it is by not focusing on the negative behavior at all. Thanks for the insight!

  25. Hi Kathryn
    Thank you so much for the book. I think I’m cured! Just got some weight to lose as I’m classified as obese at the moment, however I feel like it will be easy to do now I know I don’t have to binge anymore.
    One slightly odd benefit I’ve noticed is the freedom to have a negative thought about myself or my life, without having the fear that it will cause me to binge! Not that I aim to have more negative thoughts, but it is pretty exhausting having to consider every thought you have in case it “causes” a binge. To know that this is not the case is so liberating.
    I was also thinking of a dress that I have from a while ago in a smaller size, that I’ve been trying to get my head around accepting I’ll probably never wear again. I was trying to work myself up to getting rid of it, as per the advice of many self-help books, as I believed having smaller clothes in my cupboard could be a binge trigger (sounds ridiculous now!).
    Thanks again, I think I will be able to get on with my life now, good and bad things will happen, but I believe I won’t need to binge any more.

    1. I’m so glad to hear you think you’re cured. That’s wonderful news.

      Yes, it is nice to have negative thoughts and bad things happen without having to worry that it will lead to binge eating. Not that those difficult things are ‘nice,’…but life is challenging enough as it is without coupling binge eating with the negative stuff that inevitably comes up.

      I truly hope you never look back, and you enjoy your binge-free life:-)

  26. Okay, I’m back on this thread… when I last posted I hadn’t started stopping bingeing yet. I had read the book and it made so much sense, but I had a hard time getting started. I too was never super overweight despite terrible bingeing for twenty years, tempered only by restrictive dieting, maybe 50% of the time, if that. I too tried a bunch of therapy and felt that though I definitely had some problems I wasn’t really more messed up than the other person. Nothing some introspection with some self help books couldn’t fix.
    What Kathryn wrote was so easy for me to visualize. I remembered when I was 16 and had a big report on the different parts of the brain and (it being before the days of everybody doing everything on computers), I drew out a sketch of the brain with its different parts, including the lizard brain and the cerebral cortex.
    What helped me implement it and get started with seeing binge urges differently was taking just two days to write down every thought about bingeing or related to bingeing that came in my head. I just used my phone to jot down the time and the content of the thought. “Eat [x]!” came up a lot initially. Then “Just start tomorrow.” and so on. It made it easy for me to see there was a limited set of messages, with some of them having a few variations. I think writing down the thoughts helped a lot to “separate” myself from the urge because it gave *me* (the true self) something to do that was not arguing with or fighting against the urge. It was kind of interesting to see what different categories there were of messages. It helped put some distance between me and them. Later, I set up an iPhone app (atimelogger) with buttons for the different messages and just logged them whenever they came up. To my recollection, after I logged them the urges never bothered me anymore. There was no more struggle. Here are the buttons on my app:
    – Eat [x]
    – It’s okay sometimes
    – You’ve been good for so long
    – It’s just too hard ***[Note, this was mentioned somewhere here in blog comments by KH that this was just another junk message, and that insight was so helpful to me in getting over that first two day coming out of a binge haze hump]***
    – You’re fat
    – Might as well keep eating
    – Just start tomorrow
    – Flip a coin, and if the coin says [x], you can binge
    So, the key, I think, is to find a way to not engage with the urge at all. For me, creating a habit of logging it was very effective. For me, it’s not effective to think about how bad I’ll feel after bingeing, or how good I’ll feel if I stay away from it. I used to focus a lot of energy on those areas, but it was pulling me in to seeing myself bingeing and giving the urges too much power.
    I’m seven days binge free and today managed to eat some chocolate pretzels (huge, huge “trigger’) and then stop, and go back to normal food and end the day feeling light.

    1. Wow, what a great idea!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write all of this. I am sure it will be of much use to others as well. I’m so glad you are having success! Keep up the good work.

  27. Just wanted to add that this idea that some thoughts are just junk messages is helping me even in other arenas. For example in dealing with my kids. I have this message sometimes in my head that “you’re pathetic. nobody respects you. you are just the kind of person that everybody knows they can walk all over.” This causes me sometimes to get much more irritated with my kids than is necessary over little things, because I’m blowing them out of proportion. I want to be a relaxed, generous, loving parent, setting firm limits where necessary, but in a calm and in control manner, and using humor when possible to diffuse the situation. Not yelling and shouting and pushing and yanking, which I was stooping too sometimes. After I was having some success with ignoring the binge urges, I realized, this really is not the person I want to be with my kids, and these thoughts that are causing me to act this way are really not me at all. And it’s made a huge difference. I haven’t yelled again at my kids and just dismissed those thoughts as not true and junk about how pathetic I am that got me so worked up before.

    1. I definitely agree (although I can’t say I’m always 100 percent perfect at not raising my voice at my kids:-)).

      If you are interested in other applications for these ideas, I recently learned that Research Psychiatrist Jeffery Schwartz, who I quote extensively in my book (he did the OCD study that I talk a lot about) wrote a new book titled “You are Not Your Brain.” I just started reading it but it seems very useful.

    2. I had started reading that book because the title really grabbed me. But a quarter or so into it, it felt very gimmicky. I’ll give it another try.

    3. Thanks for the input; I’m not even a quarter of the way into it. That’s disappointing because I loved his previous book and assumed this one would be just as good. Trust yourself, and don’t give it another try if you feel it isn’t right for you! Next time I recommend a book, I’ll be sure to complete it first.

  28. Dear Kathryn,
    I just wanted to help you for absolutely and completely changing my life. I have been struggling with binge eating for 2 years, and I had not binged for a week until today after finishing your book. Despite the setback I experienced today, in general I feel more in control and more like I am on a better path to recovery and becoming the person I want to be.

    The thing I really found so amazing about your book is how much the animal brain sounds like yourself and can really convince you that it is YOU doing the talking. It sometimes becomes difficult for me to separate myself from the animal brain because it is so relentless. I reviewed what thoughts my animal brain fired off today, including “you’ll start tomorrow” or “you might as well finish these granola bars.” For so long, I truly thought that was myself, but through the realization that this is the animal brain– as any thoughts that promote binge eating– I can start really separating myself from these urges.

    Additionally, I would like to ask if there is any advice you can provide after having a setback.
    Thank you again, for truly changing my life and making me feel so hopeful for a full recovery.

    1. I’m glad you found the book helpful and you feel like you’re on a better path to recovery.

      Remember that I binged 2 more times after reading Rational Recovery (although the 2nd I didn’t really consider a true binge). I think it’s a common experience to get deceived by the urges when you are just starting out. As long as you learn from the experience and don’t let it shake your resolve, you can move forward and prevent it from happening again.

      I believe that avoiding slips/relapse comes down to continuing to ignore those urges day after day, even when you don’t have much desire to do so. It’s easy in the beginning to be excited about recovery, to be vigilant about recognizing and resisting urges; but as the days go by, motivation can fade for a lot of people. The lower brain will keep trying to pull us back to those old habits – that is, until the new habits/brain changes take root. Our job is to stay the course even on days when we don’t feel like ignoring the urges, when we aren’t excited about quitting, when we feel it would be easier to go ahead and binge and “start over tomorrow.”  If you can keep going forward, not allowing yourself to be swayed by the false appeal of old habits, the brain will change, and those habits will – sometimes suddenly – stop being appealing.

      I hope you are doing well, and you were able to get back on track after the setback. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you!

  29. Hi I have a question about stopping binging. I want to stop but for some reason I don’t feel as guilty as I used to after binges. Sometimes I feel like they are innevitable and so afterwards I just don’t mind because I thought it would happen anyway. I worry that I just don’t want to stop strongly enough. When the opportunity to binge arises, I really want to take advantage of it, I feel the opportunity is wasted if I don’t binge. And if I don’t get to binge when the opportunity is taken away, I can get quite grumpy and annoyed. How do you stop yourself from binging in a situation when you always binge? When I know I can binge at a certain time/place in advance, my lower brain part gets really excited so when that time/place occurs, it just seems to take over. As if my upper brain doesn’t have a say because that situation is out of my control. How do I keep my upper brain focused when put in a binge situation? Most of the time it feels like my upper brain just abandons me.

    1. I’m sorry you are having a hard time. You may have already read it, but my post “Do You Truly Want to Quit” (5/27/12)might be of interest to you since you feel like maybe you don’t want to stop.

      I believe that if there are certain situations that always trigger your urges, heightened awareness and possibly some practice is necessary.

      I found that my desire to binge often began with just a thought and then slowly (or quickly) grew into a powerful urge. If I could detach from the first thoughts (“you are going to be alone tonight,” “you won’t have another chance for a while,” “it’s the perfect opportunity”…etc.), it prevented the powerful urges from ever developing.

      You could also try thinking about the situation when you are not in it, and listen to the “reasons” you lower brain comes up with; and practice detaching from those thoughts. You don’t have to disagree with those thoughts or try to convince yourself that not binge eating is the better option – just let those destructive thoughts come and go without giving them any power.

      Tell yourself that it’s okay if you feel grumpy and annoyed afterward. Feel sorry for yourself for a little while if you need to! Those negative feelings are part of the habit too, and they will pass and give way to excitement and pride that you overcame the tough situation.

  30. I am a student in college, so something that has helped me a lot with controlling the urges is to think about it like a teacher talking in class. Most of the times when it is hard to pay attention, I am detached from the classroom environment. I am aware that the teacher is speaking but I am not focusing any energy on it, not reacting to it in any way, shape or form. The voice is there, it keeps talking, but I am not captivated by it.

    I know its different, but the idea of the voice just coming and going without real reactions has helped me because I can relate to that feeling of separation. I hope this helps!

  31. Hello Kathyrn,
    I just want to say that I am a 20yr old British student and have been struggling with BED and bulimic episodes since I was 13. I have never told anyone close to me and never sought out professional help because I didn’t think they could help me. To me it seemed that I binged because I liked the food and wanted it, but then couldn’t stop once I’d started and not because of any underlying emotional issues.
    Your book seemed to speak directly to me, like you were speaking my language that no one else knew. And while I’m only on day 3 of trying your method it has worked wonders already. Never before have I been able to have my “binge foods” in the house and not have eaten them all before the end of the day of purchase. I really hope I am able to continue with this success.
    I’m a member of several ED webpages and forums where I’d go to other like minded individuals for support that I couldn’t find in the “normal” world. I’m now spreading the word of your book to the ED community and hoping it helps many of them also. Nobody should have to suffer like we have when there is such a simple solution!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I am so glad my book resonated with you, and you’ve had success. I hope you are still doing well (I’m truly sorry for the delay in my response).

      I appreciate you spreading the word about my book (that’s very kind of you); I hope it helps the others as well.

  32. Hi Kathryn,

    I also want to thank you for sharing your experience in your book and for this blog! I don’t want to repeat all that already has been said here, but I can totally relate to most of the comments. I think it’s really important to realize (and it was your book that made me do just that) that despite all the differences in individuals none of us is really that special – from the point of view of evolution all humans are the same and that’s why everyone is capable of changing their habits with the help of the RR technique and your insighs as you described them in your book (although it can, at first, be more difficult for some to get what is meant by the detachment – including me – but once you get it, it really is rather easy, because you simply know how to do it).

    I’ve been struggling with BED for the past 3 years, and with overeating even longer. I never told anyone (although at least my family knows of the overeating), but instead tried to find information and recover by myself – unsuccessfully..

    I never believed conventianal therapy could help me (nor did I believe my case was that serious to seek any help), but through my own insights and consequent research on the internet I’ve recently started to view my problem as an addiction (so in the end I actually did accept the conventional therapy approach, as you made me realize) – it made sense to me at first, because it was all scientific, and by taking supplement to increase some of my neurotransmitters I actually experienced improvement – but as you well point out, modern science does not yet know nearly enough about our brain chemistry and messing with one’s brain chemicals (1) doesn’t solve the problem – you would have to take them for the rest of your life, (2) will soon enough cause side effects.. any drug/pill is bad!

    so, I guess all I want to say is that I am incredibly thankful to you, I feel very lucky to have found your book relatively early in my life, I truly believe it is THE solution (as some one already posted here before me) and as I know about few people among my friends/family who are struggling with a ED am I sure to pass the word!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing some of your story and insights. I’m glad to hear my book has been helpful to you. Thanks also for your kind comments about my book/blog. I truly appreciate that.

      I hope you are finding it easy to detach from urges and move on with life.

  33. Kathryn,
    I cannot thank you enough for documenting your journey and publishing your book. I read it one sitting yesterday. I am 35 years old and had been bingeing since I was in high school (overeating since between ages 7 and 8 years old due to emotional issues from my parents’ divorce). My mother had been trained in dieting and pressured by her mother to be/stay thin. So, she put me on Weight Watchers for the first time at age 10 and the self-reinforcing dieting-overeating-bingeing saga began.

    I truly wish I could go back in time. I am certain that reading your book decades ago would have changed the course of my life. I know it still will and, for the first time in a long time, I am hopeful about the future. Until yesterday, my lower brain ruled my life.

    I was profoundly impacted by the experiences you bring to light in your book becauase I relate to them so completely, right down to waking up in the basement of my dorm (sorority house) after having consumed two boxes of economy size frozen pizza snacks stolen from the house refrigerator (not even mine to eat). I let feeling fat from binges and being overweight as a result of bingeing rob me of opportunities, like travel and dating and relationships, as well as spending time with my friends and family. I am 35 and single and my inability to control my bingeing and weight has contributed greatly to a feeling of worthlessness and unlovability. After thousands of dollars spent on therapy and probably fifty-thousand dollars spent on binge food. I have, quite literally, had enough.

    What is more interesting, perhaps, is that in discovering such similarity in our stories, I was, for the first time, able to see what I had been doing to myself and the catastrophic consequences BED had on my life. When I was in the throws of bingeing behaviors and being gripped by the guilt, shame, planning, fear of the urges, internal arguments, rationalization and food obsession, I could not think about anything else. For all these years, though I knew in my higher brain and from observing the experience of others that my experince was not “normal” and I wished I was one of those people who just “did not care about food,” it took reading about someone else going through the same thing to realize the horror and tragedy of what I was putting myself through. Finally, with the help of your honesty and courage, I can detach. Those voices are “junk;” it’s not me.

    Oh and it just keeps getting better…I finished my master of science degree in organization development degree last August. The curriculum focuses on self-as-instrument of change and the first quarter of the program focuses on intra-personal psychology. We learned about concepts like: the “lizard brain” (amygdala-governed responses), emotional intelligence, Johari window (blind self, open self, hidden self and unknown self), cognitive biases, defensive routines and behavioral change. In the course of the program we learned about neurobiology and neuroplasticity and mindfulness and its power to overcome the primal responses of the lizard brain as well as change established routines and “ruts.” In fact, one of my professors actually said “what fires together wires together” during the course of that unit. Moreover, I actively teach this to others in the course of my daily work with clients on increasing emotional intelligence, challenging established patterns and behaviors. I cannot explain to you how many times I have drawn out on a whiteboard and described in detail how the physical layout of the brain actually changes, forming a rut or groove, as a behavioral pattern is ingrained and becomes a habit. I have over and over explained to clients how difficult it is to change and escape from unhealthy patterns of behavior-the brain has to literally climb out of a rut. Oh the irony! Unkown self indeed.

    So, after all the tragedy, the sun rises again and I am not perfect, but I am free. Thank you Kathryn, for everything.


    1. Hi Dara,
      Thanks so much for sharing your story. Your kind words mean a lot to me, and I apologize I have been unable to respond until now. I’m glad my book gave you hope and you were able to relate to it so profoundly. I hope you are doing well and having much success overcoming binge urges.

      It is interesting that you teach about neuroplasticity! Understanding how it all works surely gives you an added advantage in conquering the habit.

      I hope you are able to put this behind you for good.

      All the best,

  34. I just bought your book, and I can’t wait to jump in and read it. I’ve been practicing self-control over bingeing for quite awhile, and while successful on occasion, mostly not. Most of the time I manage to justify a binge and then self-chastisement and loathing enter.

    Interestingly enough I have 30 years of sobriety from drugs and alcohol. I no longer go to 12 step meetings because… well… because I don’t feel I need the same support I once did. Which brings up your point.

    The 12-step process would not work for most alcoholics if they were not willing to put “the plug in the jug” along with the steps. These steps are sort of like therapy — they encourage us to look deeper at many issues and emotions. But if the truth were told, looking deeper alone, does not fix the problem. One has to practice at stopping.

    Also, there is so much more new information out there today regarding neuro-science and how our brain works and relates to change. Consider Kelly McGonigal’s book THE WILLPOWER INSTINCT and THE NEURO-SCIENCE OF CHANGE. Both excellent and both elaborate on your point.

    Just my two-cents. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much for your input! I truly hope you find my book helpful in overcoming binge eating. I had not heard of Kelly McGonigal’s work; thanks for sharing that. I ordered The Willpower Instinct a few days ago, and I’m looking forward to reading it. All the best!

  35. Hi Kathryn

    I read Brain Over Binge a few months ago in May and spent a good few weeks binge free. I was the happiest I’d been since November of 2011, before my bulimia started. The reason I have not been binge free for good is that now I have a diet and exercise coach who sets a calorie controlled diet for me.

    While I am still able to eat previous binge foods on this diet (in small amounts) my lower brain constantly tells me “you are being restricted like when you first started dieting”! The survivial instincts kick in like crazy when I follow this diet for a few days, like when they did at the beginning of my restrictive dieting all those years ago.

    The thing I am struggling with is how when I follow this diet just for a few days I look in the mirror and love what I see, so I tell myself that following this diet is ultimately bringing me closer to my goal that I hold in my heart to look the way I truly want. I am in a profession where the pressure to look very fit is very real- and I am always the one to put the most pressure on myself.

    But then I know that the restrictive eating is triggering my survival instincts again and that I am making it harder on myself to give up binge eating.

    Basically I am at odds with my goals which I hold in my heart to look a certain way and the knowledge that I may have to give up these goals to just live a normal healthy life. This is my struggle now.

    1. Hi Emma,
      I understand your concerns (and I truly apologize for the delay in my response…this past month has been extraordinarily busy). I hope you are doing okay.

      I am sorry you are struggling with this. First of all, don’t blame yourself that you aren’t able to stick to a low number of calories – not many people can; and those who manage it for any length of time only succeed at damaging their metabolism (making them gain even more weight when a normal diet is resumed). Sadly, some women never resume a normal diet after calorie restriction; they either end up binge eating/overeating, or find themselves feeling trapped into continued calorie restriction (because their body now stores fat more efficiently).

      In no way do I want to scare you, you have NOT ruined your metabolism; it can be corrected. However, continued calorie restriction is NOT the answer. In my opinion, if any dieting coach is still using the “create a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound” equation, you should look for a new coach. In my opinion this equation is simply false (it accounts for no adaptation by the body/brain to cope with the calorie deficit). It also doesn’t take into account individual differences in caloric needs, hormones, and nutritional requirements. Furthermore, it puts weight loss above health, and ignores the fact that a healthy body can shed excess weight, even on a technical calorie “surplus.”

      There is so much misinformation out there, and I certainly do not claim to have all the answers; but I would encourage you to research other ways to meet your goals without depriving your body of needed calories and nutrition. I know a lot of eating disorder experts would say that you have to part with your goals of having a fit body. While I don’t agree with trying to pursue a weight that’s too low for your body type, or setting unrealistic goals; there is nothing wrong with trying to be in shape in a healthy way. But, the fittest people I know eat a lot and don’t diet (they might eat healthy for the most part, but they definitely don’t calorie restrict). I wouldn’t call myself super fit by any stretch of the imagination, but I am thin, and thinking about my daily intake…it’s likely in the range of 2800-3000 per day right now (I’m active with my 4 kids, I’ve been running a little, and I’m also nursing my 9 month old). I’m not recommending that everyone simply bump up their calorie intake to lose weight, it’s more complicated than that. However, I wholeheartedly disagree with the advice to simply bump calories down to lose weight…especially for recovering binge eaters.

      All of that being said, I think putting an end to the binge eating has to come first. I don’t think anyone trying to quit should aim for weight loss (in any way) until they’ve been binge free for quite a while. See my post titled “Weight After Recovery” for more on this.

      Sorry I’ve gotten a little carried away with this, it’s a topic I feel strongly about and I plan to address it further in my next blog post. Thanks for bringing it up. I hope this helps a little.

  36. I think your struggle is that of sooooo many trying to recover. Myself included. I can stop bingeing if I eat unrestricted for the most part, but losing weight is very hard. As is accepting a body that feels squishy to me (from all the bingeing). It’s truly maddening. I know it’s a matter of not bingeing and cutting back only very slightly so as not to trigger the lower brain quite so much, but it’s quite hard. There’s a great website where a lot of people are trying to find that balance.

  37. Thanks for the website link Cynthia. I will definately check it out.

    “Maddening” it is- to look in the mirror when I am at a healthy set-point weight again after being binge free (and dieting) for a few days, and all I can focus on is the stubborn fat which remains and will only come off after dieting down for an extended period of time (or maybe even never- something I can’t live with).

    This is sometimes enough to trigger a thought then an urge to binge. The urge sounds like “you are never going to lose the stubborn fat that remains, even at a healthy weight range, you would need to be at an unhealthy weight for this to happen. So what’s the point?”

    I have actually even tried to reason with myself that once I give up binge eating for good and am in a weight range my body is happy to sustain, that I will get liposuction to remove the stubborn fat that remains in one area due to the years of binging.

    I have considered changing professions and giving up my strong interest in fitness, to take the pressure of myself to look very lean. I know this isn’t the solution to ending my binge eating of course, as to do this I need to stop following my urges completely, but I do think it might end the pressure I put on myself to be very lean.

    1. It seems that this is the same person who posted above, and if that’s the case, it does seem like you are holding some unrealistic goals if you are hyper-critical of yourself even at your natural weight. I mentioned that I’m thin, but by no means do I have a perfect body! What I said above about losing weight in a healthy way would apply if you needed to lose it or if your fitness goals were healthy; but if you’re already at a healthy weight (but just not perfect in your mind), I would suggest working on your mindset instead of on your body. Like Cynthia said above, those thoughts telling you that you “have” to be perfect and you “can’t live with” stubborn fat don’t have to control you.

    2. Thank you for your replies Kathryn. I do agree I am my harshest critic. Last week was a good week- no binge eating, but I was eating according to my diet on 1,100 cals per day. Of course on the weekend I felt like I looked great (thin). Then this week I have binged and purged the last 3 days. I have photos being taken next week where I will be in little gym clothes and I am having a hard time with the pressure of dieting. I feel so disgusted with myself today and the way I have put myself back about 3 steps.

  38. I’ve started realizing that the thought of “I have to be thin” that is so suffocating is just another junk thought that perpetuates the binge cycle. That’s not to say I can never get leaner. It’s just that obsessing about being a certain kind of thin by a certain date and getting hooked into that rush of a quick result is junk. There’s a book that talks more generally about engaging the prefrontal cortex to avoid lower brain traps and make deliberate choices called “the Willpower Instinct”. I found in a lot of ways it helped to illuminate the ideas from BOB further, from a different angle.

  39. I am so incredible thankful to you for your book, this site and the way you are proactive with your readers. I am first week into my recovery and thought I would share my experiences. My binge binge started this spring. In November 2012 my life turned upside down – at the age 33 I’ve got insulin dependent Diabetes, type 1. Just like that, without any family history and gestational diabetes. I went to ER with Blood glucose of 184 (normal is 83). and at home I had a new baby.
    But frankly, I had some episodes prior to that.
    I do have problem with my body image and always was a hungry child.
    My childhood binges were triggered by the fact that I was allergic to some stuff and my parents hid candy from me. You can understand how it all turned out. Food became very important/comforting to me. All my childhood memories are at some point have food in it. I still smell food, I remember the feelings it brought etc. Scary.
    Later, in college I binged a lot. I recognize these: “tomorrow I will quit, but today you want to eat these cookies, the whole bag of it”. I managed to quit this after leaving college and moving to another country,
    In a year I lost weight and got my act together. I never restricted any foods, just ate the whole lot less. But I still could never stop with just a square of a milk chocolate, not the whole 200 grams. That little deprived child was still in me. Occasionally I could overeat but my weight was stable for 13 years.
    And now Diabetes.
    As someone mentioned earlier, I got my binge after reading some stuff. I desperately want my life back, being mother of a beautiful baby and all that, so I am reading a lot about my condition. One way of getting better control is to low carb. And this indeed made my life easier. I couldn’t stand not being able to skip some meals, I felt trapped in food again. It became about food. And feeding my insulin. Food food food. Counting carbs, adjusting insulin. Never guessing the right dosage because I still have some insulin production left. That could result in severe hypos episodes. So I’ve started lowcarbing. Felt great for a week. Got my old self back. But …
    later on I’ve read that all type 1 have no production of satiety hormone amylin, which is made by pancreas. This means that type 1 always feel hungry. A lot of people use hunger suppressants, like synthetic amylin and other meds or supplements like hoodia and 5 htp.
    And I’ve started to feel hungry. Crazy hungry. I would wait when my husband will go to give a bath to our baby and I would open fridge and eat butter and cheese. Or the nuts. I felt horrible, but couldn’t stop.
    No matter how much dinner and proteins I ate I never felt satisfied. And proteins because of my lowcarbing turned into glucose much later, that gave me bad control of my BG.
    I’ve talked to people on diabetes forums and very few experienced that kind of problems. Especially on lowcarb/high fat diet. NOT ME! I felt like alien.
    I tried all the advice people gave me – add more protein (got extra 10 kg doing that), drink water, go for a walk, don’t buy nuts. NOTHING HELPED.
    I never tried meds or supplements except glutomann, because of breastfeeding.
    So I never binge on high carb foods, I binge on butter, cheese and nuts.
    3 of August was a turning point for me. I ate 500 gr of macadamia nuts. this is like 4000 calories. I felt sick and disgusting, I lost the whole day of my life to binge. I wanted to quit.
    Therapy didn’t help at all with my cravings. Or it did but I couldn’t go without overeating more than a week after a session. I know my emotional problems, I am addressing them but I want to keep myself away from the fridge at night and feel disgusting.
    And I want my body back.
    I need the life-long strategy of keeping myself from overeating.
    So thanks to you: I am trying to detach myself
    I am trying to “control” portions. I want that deprived child go away. I want to be able eat small amount of nuts and don’t the whole jar. I want to understand that looking at the plate and feeling that’s enough!
    I am on my way, thanks to you!

    1. Hi Asz,
      I hope you are doing well; I apologize for the delay in my response. Congrats on your new baby (I also had a baby in Nov, 2012:-)). I am sorry you are dealing with diabetes, and I understand your concerns about the physiological issues and how that affects quitting binge eating. If you are always feeling hungry because of the hormone problems, I can see how it might be difficult to recognize the binge urges.

      You mentioned that you are breastfeeding….I know that when I am breastfeeding (which I am also doing now), I have a big increase in appetite. You’ve probably heard/read that breastfeeding uses up extra 500 calories a day. I understand that your hunger issues are more than simply breastfeeding; I only wanted to mention that because it could be an additional factor in why you are feeling so hungry. Not to mention all the additional energy required to take care of a little one! I am non-stop taking care of my 4(plus breastfeeding and doing some exercise), and I’m likely eating about 2800-3000 cal/day.

      I am not an expert on diabetes, but as it relates to binge eating recovery, I think that feeding/not feeding your hunger will likely be a balancing act that requires you to rely on your higher brain a little more than your appetite. Unfortunately, people with hormonal issues that affect satiety can’t rely purely on their own hunger/fullness signals. It’s important, however, to eat enough and don’t fully disregard your strong appetite. Of course you know you don’t need 4000 calories of nuts in one sitting, but don’t try to make yourself have just 8 of them if you are feeling really hungry. Eat heartily, nourish your body well; but determine when you need to draw the line to avoid overeating/binge eating. You might find my post titled “Binge Subjectivity” helpful.

      I’m glad you found my book useful, and I hope you are able to have success overcoming binge eating.

      All the best!


  40. How I started overcoming urges-

    When I first started succeeding in implementing these suggestions, I was after years with the disorder, trying and failing over and over again and feeling desperate and hopeless.

    Even reading this post I felt like there is no way I can do what everyone else here did, and what Kathryn did and I felt like I was on the bottom of the word, worthless, hopeless, frustrated and ashamed.

    But I told myself that I only had to do it ONE time. I could do it ONE time…right? I knew my strongest urges come at 4:00 when I come home from work so I prepared myself for detachment, sitting on my hands and not engaging in arguments with the urges.

    The feeling of empowerment was amazing and I was soon able to do it one more time, and one more and so on!

    So really anyone can do this no matter how “deep in the gutter” you are. You don’t need superhuman strength.

  41. The moment I read your book I sobbed to my husband. After all these years, 15 to be exact I finally found someone (you) that believed me! I have had CBT on 5 occasions bought all the self help books available. when I used to visit my G.P and tell him that the bingeing was the cause of my depression he have me 60mg of Prozac and referred me again for counselling! I was sick of him not believing me! It was not the depression causing me to binge it was the urges to binge and the bingeing and how I felt afterwards that caused my depression. He never listened. my depression began after my BED after many years 15 to be exact of constant dieting.
    I read your book in two days, I couldn’t sleep as I was so excited to finish it!
    I finished it 2 days ago and broke down to my husband in a heap. He thought I had just heard some horrific news. It was actually completely and utterly overwhelmed and relieved.
    Kathryn, you have gave me my life. you have given me the knowledge that I totally relate to. I went to bed last night and just kept grinning in the dark. I have not binged in TWO days! That is amazing for me! And I have had lots of urges. Instead of them over whelming me I just am aware that they come then just smile at how powerless they are and get on with life! EVEN after having Pizza last night which would truly be a binge food, I just ate three pieces, enjoyed them and smiled all through the night.
    Thank you from me and all of my family xxxx
    Amanda from United Kingdom

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience. I am truly sorry that I have taken so long to reply; I’ve simply gotten really behind lately.

      I’m so glad my book resonated with you, and has helped you feel so relieved and hopeful. Congrats on your success resisting binge urges the first two days; I hope you are still doing great.

      Thanks again for your kind comment. I wish you all the best, and I hope you will soon be completely free of the urges to binge.

      All the best,

  42. I read your book in last November, and although my bulimia got a lot better then, I soon fell back to bingeing, probably because I still hadn’t given up dieting and the restrictive mentality. However, last month I decided to give it another try, this time really trying my best not to restrict my intake. (It’s pretty hard, as I’m quite a small woman – 5’4″ and a small body frame – and when I try to follow my intuition, my body seems to feel good at 1500-1600 calories only, although many people say you should be closer to 2000 at least.

    This time I’ve actually managed to go three weeks without bingeing, but then I failed today. I’m not going to give up, I know I am making progress. But there is one thing that is bothering me, and I’d like to ask your advice. I’ve been bulimic for ten years, and my eating disorder has had me think about food, diet, or my body all the time. I was obsessed with food. When I’ve attempted recovery, I feel like that obsession hasn’t gone anywhere – I STILL think about food far too much. (Like planning my meals, watching diet related tv shows, obsessing over recovery itself, self-help books and recovery blogs and such…) Did you have similar experiences? You said in your book that you just didn’t pay too much attention to food – this sounds like a ridiculous question, but how were you able to do it, after being eating disordered for so long?

    1. I’m glad you are trying again, this time without the restriction. From talking to many people, I find that restricting calories too low is a very common reason to return to binge eating.

      As you know and have experienced, simply increasing calories isn’t a cure either – but eating enough coupled with knowing how to resist urges gives you a good chance to succeed.

      About the food/weight obsessions, this is what I wrote on the FAQ section of my website:

      “I am obsessed with food and weight.”
      Dieting/weight/food obsessions can be difficult for some people to deal with. Even if you stop binge eating, it’s possible for some of those issues to remain. Sadly, so many women (and men) struggle with this, and it’s rare to find a woman who doesn’t want to change something about her body. I am not trying to say that weight/food obsessions are normal and we should just accept that; instead I’m pointing out that struggling with food and weight isn’t exclusive to people with eating disorders. Most people can keep body image issues in perspective, but if your concerns about your weight interfere with your life and consume your thoughts; then it’s definitely something to address.

      I am not an expert in helping women develop a good body image or maintain an ideal weight; my focus is on using my own story to help people stop binge eating. I realize that for some of you, stopping binge eating is not all you need to feel like your problems with food and weight are over. But, without stopping binge eating, it’s unlikely that you will ever be able to decrease your food/weight obsessions. Actually, once binge eating is out of the way, you may find that many of your concerns about food and weight simply go away on their own; and you’ll definitely be in a better position to tackle any issues that remain.


      I don’t think it’s helpful to try to force yourself to stop thinking about food/diet, because we know that when you tell yourself not to think about something, that’s usually when you think about it. Maybe just try to notice when you are thinking about food/diet, and then gently direct your thoughts elsewhere (to anything you choose). If thoughts about diet creep back in a few minutes later, simply notice them and again, gently redirect your thoughts elsewhere. Even if you are not able to redirect your thoughts every time, the more times that you can, the better you will get at it.

      That is basically what I did. It’s not that I never thought about food/weight/diet, it’s that when those obsessive thoughts came up, I didn’t assign them much significance. I tried to just get on with my life. It wasn’t immediate, but as the weeks/months went by, my mind was much less focused on those things.

  43. Hi, Kathryn! I just finished reading your book, and I was practicing your method of detachment along the reading period. What you have described I read in great detail with scientific research int eh book by Kelly McGonical “The WIllpower Instinct”. So I really think your recovery has a full-proof foundation, you just employed full-time a your willpower!! 🙂

    I have been successfully dieting for over a year, then binges and laxatives became a part of life…After I gave up purging, I just accepted my binging. It’s getting less acute now. Hopefully I will completely recover soon.

    I have 2 questions for you. I have been keeping it in my mind while reading the book. You mentioned trouble detaching oneself from desires to binge in the section of this post “What to do if resisting urges in this way feels like a struggle/white knuckling”. How can you tell if you are fighting your urge and when you are detached from it? When I am fighting I might be an observer, just as when I am detached. If I place any attention to my non-physical, and non-biological hunger, then the urge to eat amplifies.

    You wrote that you started recognizing the hunger sygnals better, and that despite your bulimia history they were able to work again. How can I train the neuro-signals of fullness to function better, so I am be able to recognize the fact of fullness before I eat more than I should? My urges to eat more and more grow bigger when I am eating my normal meal, the fullness signal is harder to recognize because I want to keep eating…How did you deal with this problem?

    Please help me..

    1. Thanks for writing! About your questions…

      I think as long as you are not actively arguing with that voice urging you to binge, or trying to will it away; then you are not fighting/white knuckling. If you are white knuckling, it won’t feel like you have any separation between yourself and your urges. Instead, you will feel like “you” want to binge, and it will be painful not to. If you are simply observing arguments your brain is generating, that’s different than fighting. Does that make sense?

      About recognizing hunger… I had to use my eyes/rational brain more than the neuro-signals of fullness at first. I knew what normal portions (not diet-y portions, not binge portions) were, I knew what normal eating looked like; so when I ate, I set out to eat “normally.” If my fullness signals didn’t tell me to stop when I knew I’d had a normal/reasonable/nourishing amount, I stopped anyway, knowing that I’d have another meal/snack soon enough. It wasn’t highly specific, sometimes I ate more or less than usual, but nothing out of the range of what I perceived ‘normal’ to be (everyone has to define that for themselves). Only when I did that for a while (I’d say about a month), I began to feel that ‘comfortably full’ feeling after every meal.

      One thing that may be helpful is: when you do experience a fullness signal after eating a normal amount, focus a lot of attention on it (because as we know, the brain fuels what we focus on). Really notice what it feels like, get excited about feeling that way, and visualize yourself feeling like that after every meal. This may help your fullness signals fall in line sooner.

  44. Hi, Kathryn. I read your book twice and was moved each time I read it. I have to thank you, and commend your for your incredible work. I am commenting here just to ask for some advice on the dieting aspect of “brain over binge.” I don’t tend to get the incredible urges when I am not restrictively dieting/not allowing myself to freely eating. I have lost a significant amount of weight by changing my lifestyle/eating certain foods and had trouble maintaing that weight – so I began counting calories and that’s when the binge eating began. The calories probably got too low (1300-1500) with exercising, and not allowing myself foods, or feeling guilty or obsessive about eating foods, or wanting to count foods- and gainging a ton of weight back has left me in a place where all I want to do is diet, which is causing a diet/binge cycle. It feel so impossible to get out of that. Do you have any advice?

    1. I’m sorry you are struggling with this. I find that the most common reason for people going back to binge eating is because they begin calorie restrictive dieting. I do think that 1300-1500 is much too low, especially with exercising.

      Calorie restrictive dieting isn’t a long term solution for weight loss (it’s not a good short term fix either because it slows your metabolism, and then makes you feel trapped into continuing to restrict).

      It sounds like you made some healthy changes in your diet/lifestyle; and that’s wonderful. I think it’s so helpful to focus on health, and not just a number on the scale. It may help you to realize that a healthy body can shed excess weight, and an unhealthy one often can’t. So, even if you aren’t what you consider your ideal weight when you are focusing on health/nourishing your body well – that’s the only way you’ll have a chance of ever achieving your ideal weight. Dieting only makes it less and less likely. (I am assuming that your goals are realistic and you are not fighting against your natural weight. It’s simply not worth it to put forth so much time and energy to be a weight that your body isn’t designed to be.)

      A book I recommended in another post is “Ditching Diets” by Gillian Riley. Others have also been helped by Josie Spinardi’s “How to Have Your Cake and Skinny Jeans Too” (I’m not a fan of the title, but it’s helpful in teaching people how to give up dieting)

      I hope this helps!

  45. Hi Kathryn

    I’ll just add another voice to the chorus thanking you for your book. I think you’ve managed to grab me just before I tipped over the edge and started thinking about my binging as being the result of deep seated emotional issues which I needed to resolve first – that never felt right, but I didn’t know what else to do. I’m so glad I found your book before I went too far down that path!

    I have a tip I want to share with other people who, like me, have obsessively read every comment on this page. (Yay! You’re nearly at the bottom! Go you!) That tip is: You can’t win an irrational argument with a rational one.

    I actually learned this dealing with an emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend early this year, and suddenly last week I realised its significance to brain over binge. Essentially (and amongst a lot of other things) he was behaving irrationally by refusing to accept we were breaking up. I gave him every rational reason in the world why we couldn’t stay together, but he wouldn’t accept it. Eventually (and with the help of some insightful friends) I understood that because he was behaving so irrationally, he actually couldn’t be reasoned with, and the effort I was putting into reasoning with him was upsetting me much more than it was actually helping.

    You see this in arguments all the time. Everyone has an issue they’re passionate about, right? And you know all the reasons why your side of the argument makes sense. They’re strong, logical, rational reasons. But then you come up against someone who holds the opposite view and they won’t even listen to your point of view. They basically just scream you down, hurl abuse, and absolutely WILL NOT listen to or accept your carefully thought out, rational, sensible position. (I hate people like that, don’t you?) The only thing you can do is stop fighting and let them yell themselves out of breath, because you can’t win that fight. A rational argument can’t beat someone behaving irrationally.

    So where does binge eating come into this? Well I realised that the arguments my lower brain puts forward are stupid, and I have sensible, rational reasons for ignoring those arguments – I’ll feel gross after, the food tastes better when I’m really hungry, the cost, etc etc. But the thing is, my lower brain is behaving irrationally, and so no amount of rational argument is actually going to convince it that it’s wrong. I can’t use a rational argument to beat the irrational behaviour of my lower brain. The only useful thing I can do is ignore it. Let it make it’s noises. Don’t react. Don’t respond. And it’ll go away.

    It worked with my ex-boyfriend. When I finally understood he would never accept my rational reasons for breaking up, I simply cut off contact and stopped responding to him. At first, the number of calls and texts and emails was boggling and really hard to deal with, but as I continued to ignore him, after a few weeks there were less and less, and after a few months he stopped entirely. (Woohoo!)

    And it’s working now with my binge eating. At first I tried to argue with my lower brain, but that won’t work because it is behaving irrationally. Letting the thoughts go and just not responding to them is SO much more effective!

    Sorry that was a bit long winded. 🙂 I’m a bit excited about understanding this and I want to share it if it helps others too.

    Also I have one other recommendation for those worried about their weight. Try Josie Spinardi’s How To Have Your Cake And Your Skinny Jeans Too. It’s absolutely awesome, because it helps you get in touch with what your body really wants you to eat without feeling deprived at all. It’s already helped me lose a few kilos and make so much progress towards eating normally. I’d recommend this to ANYONE who has struggled with dieting and who worries that they don’t or never will eat normally.

    Good luck everyone! And thank you again Kathryn, so, so much!!

    Martina 🙂

    1. Martina,
      Thanks so much for your insightful and inspirational comment! Your advice is great, and I truly appreciate you taking the time to share what has helped you. Congrats on your success!

  46. Hi Kathryn!

    I don’t think anyone on this page could thank you enough for your book. You are literally giving me back my life! I finally understand my ED. I have lived an extraordinarily lucky life with the most amazing family and friends, never been bullied, never had anyone treat me wrongly. At school, I was always the sporty one that people would say had an amazing figure regardless of what I ate. Maybe this was the problem… all the complimenting? I just could never see what drew me to restrictive eating and eventually binge eating. Emotionally, I am definitely more than stable. The only possible thing I can think of that makes me upset is binge eating. Basically, Im trying to say I am so glad I read your book because finally I can stop being so confused about WHAT MY EMOTIONS ARE and just focus on the real problem at hand.

    I could not go 3 or 4 days without bingeing in the last few weeks because I was getting to the point where I just thought there was no way of going back. Once I started a binge, it would usually last for 3 or 4 days, so as a result I have gained a lot of weight.

    However, reading your book has resulted in me having 2 weeks of no complete binges until today. Today and last night I binged BUT the difference is, I’m left with more motivation to get this right this time rather than cry about it and continue to binge for the next few days.

    I just had one question though. Within those 2 weeks, I had about 3 or 4 times where I felt like I was beginning a binge, however, it never really got to the extent of thousands of calories. I didn’t feel in control, but the binge would only last a few hundred calories and I would end up stopping much earlier than I usually would. I never classified this as a binge at the time but would you say that this is still strengthening the bingeing habit? I felt like it was these moments that have led me to binge today. I just can’t decide whether they were actually a step to recovery or a step backwards?! Has this happened to anyone else when trying to recover? Maybe I need to work harder on those moments and completely rid even the smallest binges.

    Thanks Kathryn, not only for giving us hope and believing in us, but for (slowly) giving me back my life.

    Rachel 🙂

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for your kind comments about the book; I’m so glad it’s helping you. I hope you are doing well.

      I think the small, questionable binges that you are describing are definitely a sign of progress, not a step backward. Once you get more comfortable detaching yourself from urges, you’ll likely find that won’t happen anymore, and you’ll have an even greater sense of control. However, don’t get overzealous about stopping all forms of overeating right now. I actually wrote a blog post today (“Overeating,” Part II: Don’t Overdo Self-Control”) that may help you in some way.

      Congrats on your success thus far!

  47. Hello Kathryn!

    I have read so much good things here, and I really need help. I’m studying medicine, and my binges are really making me lose myself and all of what I’ve fight for. But I’m from Spain and I don’t know where or how can I get you’re book 🙁 please help me I’m desperate

    Thanks for everything you are doing, keep going!

    1. I’m sorry you are struggling. Unfortunately the paperback is not available internationally. To help with this, I have it for sale on my website for basically just the cost of international shipping (, click on the the “Buy Book” tab). The only problem with this is that shipping times can be about 14 business days. The other option is the eBook. Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can still get the Kindle version from Amazon and read it on your computer. has information about this. I hope this helps!

    2. Hi Anonymous, the Spanish Amazon site, has the ebook for sale currently EUR6.88 which is a great price.
      As Kathryn points out, you don’t need a Kindle, you can read on pc or on ios devices with the Kindle app.
      Kathryn, I hope I don’t disadvantage you by making this recommendation for Anonymous to buy it via Amazon, I just think it’s important to get the message out there that it IS available in a lot of other countries 🙂

  48. Hi Kathryn,

    I started reading your book last week after I saw a youtube video praising it and I haven’t binged since. I’m 22 years old and binge eating has ruled my life for almost 10 years. I never thought anyone could understand what was in my head and the shame of bingeing has led to anxiety and depression. I’m currently in my third year at university with one year left and so many times I have felt unable to let myself enjoy student life, I’ve missed classes, missed work, all because of bingeing but finally I feel that I CAN control it. At first I didn’t believe it could be so simple but now I’ve resisted the urges a few times I know I am going to recover.
    I had a doctors appointment this week to get a referral to therapy but since reading your book I cancelled it. I know I don’t need therapy, deep down I have always known my eating wasn’t emotional, it was just something I did that I seemed to have no control over.
    The thing that is helping me resist the urges the most is how excited I am about quitting bingeing!!!
    I cannot thank you enough, your book is giving me my life back.


    1. That’s wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad to hear you’ve had success resisting binge urges. I hope you are still doing great and enjoying your freedom from binge eating. I wish you all the best!

  49. what should I do when I want to eat when I’m sad? I think that food is the only entertainment and relaxation for me…

    1. I apologize it’s taken me so long to get to this question. It’s a good one.

      There is definitely a correlation between sadness/negative feelings and binge eating. Eating is pleasurable, and even those who don’t binge may want to eat more when they are sad/stressed (not everyone though; many people experience a reduced appetite when they have negative feelings).

      Patterns of association frequently develop between sadness and binge eating; but most people who develop this pattern realize at some level that the binge eating doesn’t actually help them feel better in the long run. I think in most cases, the thoughts that say “binge eating is the only thing that will help me feel better” are thoughts from the lower brain – automatic neurological junk that doesn’t need to be given any value. Once a pattern of association develops between sadness and binge eating, the lower brain will produce those thoughts every time you are sad, just like a smoker’s brain tells them that “only thing that will help them relax” is to light up. In the moment, yes, that might be true, but only because it will quiet thoughts and cravings from the lower brain – thoughts and cravings that will come right back the next time you feel sad or the smoker feels anxious.

      It becomes a self-perpetuating pattern, which only increases sadness over time. If you can remain detached from the thoughts that tell you that binge eating is the only thing that will help you feel better – realizing that they are temporary thoughts that don’t need to affect your actions – you’ll be in a better positive to make a different choice.

      That’s one way to look at it… for more discussion on this topic check out my “Pain” post (, and “Do You Truly Want To Quit” post (

  50. hello all…new here and suffering from BED since i was 10 years old…33 years old now. forgive me for my english, it is not my כirst language
    i think this recovery method can realy help me, i read the book, but i already have a problem, a begginers problem. i didnt binge for a few days now, by ignoring the AV. but I eat a lot. these are not binges, but still- lots of unhealthy foods. I’m afraid that by restricting myself- i would begin the cycle again of binging and purging. on the other hand, if i continue eating like this i will gain a lot of weight which will make it harder and harder for me not to go on a diet again.
    what should i do?? i cant even reconize when I’m hungry or just want lots of suger. how do i know when i’m hungry and its OK to eat, and when it’s only my bad habits and AV telling me i should eat this junk?? when it is considered to be a “restriction” of food which is bad for me, and when it is OK to tell myself “you shouldn’t it that” ? please help, i’m so lost….

    1. It can be difficult to find a balance between giving up restricting and avoiding overeating. Know that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling this way, and there is nothing you are doing wrong. If you’ve been a restrictive dieter, it’s completely normal that your body and brain will encourage you to eat more than a non-dieter. See my FAQ section ( ) for discussions about overeating and recognizing hunger/fullness signals.

      Know that this will pass and your body/brain will get the message that you aren’t going to deprive it of food anymore. That doesn’t mean you have to allow yourself to eat anything and everything; it only means that if you find yourself eating more than you think you need, then try not to worry about it right now.

      You may also find my blog posts on “Overeating” helpful, especially this one: .

      I hope this helps!

  51. Hi Kathryn,

    I’m 36 years old and have been battling with eating disorders since I was 12. That’s 2/3 of my life. I started with Anorexia but when I was 16 I transitioned to Bulimia which I’ve struggled ever since. As you, I went to many therapies and even though for me it enlightened me in certain opportunities it certainly didn’t stop my binges/ purges. I discovered your book earlier this week and literally read it in 2 nights. I finished reading it last night and I think your approach will be the flip to my switch. Everything just makes so much sense. Thank you so much for sharing your story. For the first time in 24 years I think I have the answer to my problem.


  52. Hi Kathryn,
    So I went Binge/ Purge free for 11 full days after reading the book but today I had a setback. I was so sure I had found the answer to my problem and would never ever binge again. I guess the excitement faded away and I let my lower brain trick me one more time. I read again the tip for beginners blog and will review my notes from the book tonight. I still believe detaching myself from the lower brain urges will be the key to a Bulimia-free life.

    1. I apologize, I just realized you were the one that posted above. I’m sorry you’ve had a setback, but I’m glad you aren’t letting it get you down. It doesn’t mean you are back to where you started, it only means that you gave into one urges (and maybe it was just one thought that you didn’t detach from). You may want to see my FAQ section on my website (…at the top I talk some about how to maintain motivation. I hope it helps!

  53. Dear Kathryn,
    I am now 16, almost 17 and I came upon your book in a youtube video of a girl that stopped Binge Eating with its help. I “binge” or compulsively overeat for 2-3 years now after 1 year of anorexia. I completely agree with your ideas and I can really identify with your feelings. Everything you say is completely plausible to me, but my brain always finds stupid excuses, that this can’t count for me, and I’m more complicated and so on. I also have the fear not to be able to overcome my urges, because first I am so young and my animal brain is “stronger”, plus I have ADHD and second because I pretty much resignated to my situation and am scared of facing life without bingeing. Nevertheless thanks to your books and blog I finally have REAL hope and a realistic way out. Thank you Kathryn!
    My dream is to study Psychology and I will do everything to clear things up in the case of eating disorders. At least I hope so.


    (P.S. I hope everything is “readable”, I’m german so please excuse any mistakes..)

    1. I’m very sorry that my response time has become so slow. I am having trouble keeping up with everything while raising my four children. If the ideas in my book make sense to you, but you are still having trouble resisting urges, I would suggest taking a slightly different route and work on strengthening the prefrontal cortex (area of the brain responsible for self-control). If you haven’t read it already, I really like the Willpower Instinct (this is a summary of some of the ideas: Taking some measurable steps from that article could help you build up the capacity to say no to the urges. That being said, because of your age, it’s extremely important that you get help if you feel you need it.

      I hope you are doing okay. That’s great that you are studying psychology and want to help others with eating disorders.

    2. That’s interesting that you liked that book too. It really helped me let go of the panicked diet mindset and just eat enough that my brain wasn’t in crazy deprivation state all the time. I would be that most people that are still having trouble after reading BOB and Willpower Instinct would have a much easier time if they TRULY gave up dieting and calorie restriction, even just for a while, to see how it feels when your brian isn’t screaming for calories.

  54. Hi Kathryn, I have read your book brain over binge and it has been so insightful and hopeful to learn the rational reasons behind my urges to binges. Thank you. I still find though that even having learnt this information, every time I get an urge to binge, the urge and everything that it entails (eg palpitations, “logical” reasons for binge eating produced by the lower brain – “ill just have one/ why not? There’s no harm in that/i deserve it”) consumes me to such an extent and is so convincing that it’s the only thing on my mind and as a result i always go down the same easier route and simply binge. I fall for the urge every time again and again and when i experience an urge to binge (which i now understand the scientific reason behind) I’m always convinced that it’s worth following and that its the natural easy option. Sometimes my binge begins within a second of laying eyes on food, and before i really have time to register that its an urge (or allow myself to register) I’ve already begun to binge. other times I’m aware that I’m getting an urge to binge and yet with all the information i have learnt now thanks to your book (on why urges are neurological junk and the techniques that you have suggested to apply), id rather make an effort not to acknowledge or listen to this information because following the urge just feels so relieving and right and im more concerned with finding food that i can binge on. i feel that there is something that I’m not doing which if i don’t change, i will simply continue to go down the same route. I am so dedicated and putting so much energy into overcoming my binge eating habits, yet when it comes down to the moment when i get an urge- id rather just go with it and take the easy option of following it. in that moment It just feels like i couldn’t think of anything better to do. And of course only after do I see that it was a mistake and regret falling for the urge, which makes me feel so weak and lazy for having fallen for it once again. Would you have any suggestions to overcome this?

    1. I also find that when im stressed on other things and an urge is triggered, this is even more the case, as i dont have the drive or energy or desire to resist/not follow the urge, which at the time feels like such an attractive and exciting option to take. yet obviously once having binged (and even the process of binging) only ends up increasing to my stress and the rational reasons for binge eating only truly make sense and i only truly take them seriously after having binged.

    2. It does not make you weak and lazy that you are still following the urges! I wrote this post because I’ve had many people tell me the same thing, so you are not alone. I’m truly, truly sorry that I am unable to respond in a more timely manner.

      For some people, learning about the origin of the urges is all they need to recover, but others need more tools/resources. I’ve recommended some that I think are helpful in the FAQ section at the bottom. For you, I think “Willpower Instinct” might be the most useful because it really explains why stress can make us feel less able to resist impulses, and gives some tools for strengthening the higher brain.

      I think for a lot of people, it just takes resisting several urges (even if it is a bit uncomfortable at first) to activate the desire and will to continue. Right now, binge eating seems appealing because that’s what your brain knows, and that’s what it’s conditioned to do. The brain naturally resists change because it’s energy efficient, and rewiring neural pathways requires energy. Know that what you experience as desire to keep binge eating is just your brain trying to conserve energy and stay on it’s current path. Once you resist several times, your prefrontal cortex will gain some traction, and you’ll find motivation to keep going. Then, as the brain is rewired, it will become effortless. I hope that makes sense and helps somewhat! I wish you all the best.

  55. Hello Kathryn and everyone,

    I also found your video from a girl on youtube and you have literally changed my life. Thank you so so much for that. I was anorexic for a year and didn’t realize I had BED until i started reading your book. I completely related to every single thing you said. In your book, you explained everything perfectly and I immediately got excited and experienced goose bumps while realizing that I finally have found the way out. And we ALL have, and I am sure that every single person that is writing in this blog and communicating with you will eventually leave this disgusting habit far behind. I just want to share one thing and I am really interested in seeing if anyone can relate to this. A problem that I have been experiencing over the past months is the belief that EVERYTHING seems irrationally boring to me, except… food. But not boring in a usual way, neither in a depressed kind of way, but somehow in a diseased, wrong way. I knew for a fact that these thoughts were not coming from my genuine self. For example I would watch a movie and become extremely attached to something that had happened in the movie and then I would ask myself “How come you’re crying if you didn’t find any interest in the movie, if the only interest in your life is stuffing your mouth with extremely large quantities of food?” It was as if some part of me wanted to convince me that this is what i really wanted to do and this was the only interest I had, which sounds so pathetic, I know. I am extremely ashamed that this belief had taken over me and again I am so thankful of being introduced to your book. I might be wrong, but I believe that it was the “animal brain” that had taken over myself all along. This confuses me however, is it possible that the animal brain is over-developed in some people or less in others? Also, one last question, although I do know that it is a fact, I have difficulty understanding how thoughts coming from my own head, are not actually mine?

    (I sent you a facebook inbox before I found out about this blog, sorry about that.)

    Thank you very much for everything.

    1. Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience. I’m truly sorry that my response time has been slow. I do think that some people have a ‘stronger’ animal brain, or at least are more prone to identify with it, which can make those people more susceptible to addictions and other bad habits. Some people have a natural, possibly innate tendency to ignore thoughts/impulses that are out of line with their goals and identity, while some people more easily give into base urges. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with those people who have a harder time with self-control – it just means they need more information and practice.

      About thoughts coming from your own head not being yours… this is meant to be a useful way to conceptualize the fact that much of your thought-life is automatic and you aren’t activity thinking most of the thoughts that run around in your head; but you get to choose which thoughts to identify with and which ones to dismiss. Your brain produces thoughts based on past experiences and conditioning. Some automatic thoughts are fine to identify with- even if they are from the animal brain (the animal brain is not your enemy, but in addictions, it becomes conditioned to produce harmful thoughts). You get to decide thoughts are “you” (the ones that are in line with your goals and identify), and which ones are “not you” (harmful ones that you no longer want to identify with). There is no magic formula to decide which thoughts to identify with and which to ignore – usually it’s a matter of listening to your inner wisdom. In my book, I’m trying to keep things simple for the purposes of bulimia/BED recovery: the thoughts that encourage binge eating are not you. This doesn’t mean your own brain did not generate them; but that the part of your brain that generated them is temporarily wired in a faulty way. Does that make sense?

  56. Hi Kathryn and friends!
    I was reading your blog and comments for hours the other night; it seemed to make sense to me. I never really thought I had a problem until recently…
    This is how my mind tends to work: at night I’ll have eaten loads, so I feel angry with myself. I’ll spend hours looking for motivational pics on Twitter, or articles etc to set me in good stead for the next day, which i plan will have NO junk, or ONE chocolate bar in my day along with other healthy snacks/meals.
    The next day comes: I want toast after my filling fruit/cereal. I feel full til mid morning, want a snack in break time (well, want lots, but have one). Have lunch but no matter how much I pack snackwise I’ll want to pop to the shop and buy more. It’s all I’ll be thinking about the whole hour lunch break. Get home at night, have a healthy dinner. Plan not to touch anything but before I know it, my brain seems to go ‘f*** it,’ and I go to the cupboards and demolish anything sweet and chocolatey I have. Then I feel rubbish and the cycle repeats.
    I think it is just a thing of habit now, and I totally get what you mean about restricting yourself making you more likely to start the cycle… but my question is, how the heck do I start? I made notes on my phone from all the key ideas but as soon as the binge hit I forgot to look at it/didn’t care, and ate anyway. How did people get their first victory?!
    Thanks for everything you’ve done.
    Tina x

    1. Getting the first victory is very important, because you will learn from your own success. Until you actually feel detachment from urges, it can be hard to internalize. I hope that you are doing okay, and I sincerely apologize I am unable to respond in a more timely way.

      My suggestion would be to start by only focusing on the time when you give in and have a full binge. Trying to perfect all of your other eating during the day can serve to complicate things. Aim to eat adequately (no calorie-restrictive dieting), but don’t worry if your eating isn’t ideal. Once you get the actual binges under control, your other eating habits will likely improve on their own. Really try to figure out which thoughts precede the f*** it response, and work on detaching from those.

      You seem to have a pattern and know when the urge will appear so you need to be prepared for it, and be able to sit with it for a while. Even if you eventually give in, the longer you can experience the urge without reacting to it or acting on it, the more confidence you will gain.

      I hope that helps a little.

  57. I am reading your book – more than halfway through now. And while I feel like I knew all this before, it has been put in such a way that it “makes sense” now. I have struggled with eating a lot – not extreme binging, but wanting to eat until I felt sick – for 13 years, since I was in graduate school. If I control my eating, I binge with buying things I don’t need – big ticket things or going to the store for hours buying little things that add up to a lot. Sometimes I do both, buy a lot that day and then eat a lot that night because I feel bad that I yet agaon spent money I didn’t want to spend. I have felt out of control for YEARS and finally feel like I may have a solution to my problems. I have been using the skills for a few days only, but I noticed that some of the words that really convinced me to eat or spend money do seem rediculous when I actually listen to myself as if I were listening to someone else. It’s very easy to keep the urges down to very short time frames. We’ll see how it goes in the future. The one concern I have is that I do need to lose weight for health reasons because I have been diagnosed with a weight related illness due to my overeating for so many years. I know that you say not to try to diet while working on these issues, but I do have a relatively structured diet plan put into place by a nutritionist and feel I NEED to follow this in order to be healthy. I don’t really feel too hungry on the plan – I can eat approved snacks when needed – and it isn’t too restrictive (except on the carbs) so I feel that I could follow through. I guess I am just worried about whether this will negatively affect my ability to stay clear of my overeating (and overspending because it feels like the same thing to me).

    1. I’m truly sorry I’ve fallen behind on responding to comments. I appreciate you taking the time to write, and I hope you are doing well. I’m glad my book made sense to you, and I hope you found the rest of it useful as well. If you haven’t already read it, check out my “Weight After Recovery” post–it may give you some things to think about regarding weight. I’m not a nutritionist, so yes, definitely follow the advice of the professionals you are working with for the health issues. My only word of caution would be to make sure your diet isn’t calorie restrictive–for reasons I discussed in this post,

  58. Hello, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story, it has been inspiring to read and has given me hope and excitment for the future, i couldnt get my head around the fact that even though i wanted to stop binge eating more than anything else and would put in so much energy to stop, the moment i would get an urge.. i could never resist. now i understand how convincing the animal brain can be.

    I have a quick question on the differences between:
    what chemical/area of the brain that causes a person to feel an urge to binge and the effects of dopamine. do you know how they are seperate and how they are related? i understand that it is not dopamine that causes the urges to binge. but that they can be linked

    is this because often the effect of dopamine will cause a person to want to eat sugary/fatty foods, and thus from there this may often trigger an urge to binge due to habit which has formed?

    Thank you again:)
    Best wishes,

    1. Sorry just to add to my previous comment: does pleasure seeking due to dopamine feel different to an urge to binge? and do natural food cravings involve dopamine or are they felt for different reasons?

    2. I am truly, truly sorry for my delayed response. In my post about dopamine, I was saying that spikes in dopamine, which prime the brain to seek reward, do not cause binge eating–they only cause urges. We ultimately can choose what to do when we have those urges.

      Dopamine is involved in most, if not all reward-seeking behavior. A flood of dopamine primes us to seek something we desire–or something the brain perceives we need at that moment. The problem in addictions is that the brain perceives we need something that we actually don’t need. The brain treats that substance (in this case, large amounts of food) as if it is necessary for our survival. Spikes in dopamine–when they aren’t related to addictions or other bad habits–are normal and necessary and vital to our existence. Otherwise we wouldn’t have motivation to do anything.

      Even when binge eating stops, there will be dopamine spikes that cause you to seek pleasure in food in normal amounts. The problem is that dopamine is spiking for something that not just a simple, harmless indulgence or a real need.

      Yes, normal food cravings involve dopamine, but it’s fundamentally different than urges to binge. Sometimes normal food cravings in binge eaters lead to urges to binge, but once the habit is broken, that won’t happen. I hope that makes sense and answers your questions.

  59. Hi Kathryn,
    I read your book and I was literally blown away! It’s the only self-help book worth reading. It’s the only book that did something useful for me. I don’t know how to thank you enough. You should be really proud of yourself for writing such a masterpiece. Everyone should know about your book, not just bulimics (and other addicts), but also therapists. Even people affected by panic attacks, as I am/was (it’s all changing now thanks to you) should read your book because it can save lives!
    I would like to ask you a question. My story is almost identical to yours, except that I ended up so scared of food, people eating, restaurants, situations, parties, anything related to food, that I lost all contact with people and lived completely isolated trying to avoid anything that could make me eat too much or even binge (you can imagine how depressed I got). 6 weeks ago I stopped bingeing and purging (purging was never extreme, just eating less the next day). It was relatively easy, even though the first 2 weeks I had really strong urges that were really like torture to resist. But after 2 weeks I was fine. My urges disappeared and I don’t even think about bingeing, not even in those situations where I used to go mental (after seeing my parents, after an argument with my husband, on a day where work is hard, when I am bored, etc.). My problem is this: even if the bulimia is gone, I am left with the other part, the fear that comes up like a panic attack. Did you ever experience that? Some days eating is so easy, like when I was a child, completely free of worry, completely in tune with my body, I can feel my hunger, my needs, my satisfaction, and I am calm and happy. Those times feel like I am completely recovered, because I can see that I am in control, I didn’t lose my ability to eat normally, and I can enjoy following my body signals because I know that there is no “monster” that is going to come and make me eat. Other times I start making my lunch and I start getting scared of food, even if it’s the most innocent food ever, and then when I sit to eat I find myself in a trance, on auto-pilot: I can’t feel my hunger, not even my body, I am in a total panic. When that happens I choose how much to eat with my head, not with my body, just to keep myself safe and avoid getting into more of a mess.
    What I’d like to know is ….

    1. (carry on from previous one because it didn’t fit)
      What part of my brain panics like that (about certain foods, or certain situations)? Is it still my lower brain, the brain that made me binge after I dieted the first time? Or is it me, the real me, the part of me that was always scared of my urges all these years? What’s happening to me when I sit at the table and I panic so much that I can’t eat anymore, not to mention talk to other people around me? If it’s my lower brain doing that, what is it trying to achieve? I thought I had to learn to detach myself from my lower brain if an urge to binge or overeat comes, and I can do that (so far). But what have I got to do with these fears? In those situations I am not scared I am going to binge, I am scared I am not going to be able to eat normally and maybe I am going to end up eating more or less than I need. And it’s not even a problem if I eat a bit more, because since I stopped bingeing I’ve been losing weight and I am going back to my natural shape, it’s more that I would really like to feel like you do: completely recovered, completely normal. I don’t want to be out of bulimia, but still unable to feel safe around food. So when the fear starts and I panic and then I feel like I am jumping off a plane and soon it’s going to be over, what should I think or do instead, that I am not doing? Maybe if I understand what’s happening to me, as I did for the urges, I could free myself forever. Maybe if I know what part of my brain is doing what, and why, I could then rationalize what’s happening and calm down. I can’t wait to your reply and anybody else that has a similar experience to mine please let me know what you think and what you do. In the meantime I am going to carry on rereading your book another million times, just in case I’ve missed something. I am infinitely grateful for it. Thank you very much for writing it so well, for being so thorough, so scientific, so fussy about details.

    2. Thanks so much for writing and I apologize that I’m unable to respond in a timely manner right now. You ask good questions, and I will do my best to address them. First of all, congrats on your success stopping binge eating–that’s wonderful!

      Stopping binge eating is not all some people need to develop a normal, healthy relationship with food…but, it’s a necessary first step. It’s unlikely that you would be able to solve your other eating issues without stopping the binge eating first. I wasn’t a perfect eater after I stopped binge eating; I did as you did–used my head to determine how I was going to eat if my body wasn’t cooperating. I just kept eating normally day after day (based on what I thought “normal” was), and eventually, normal eating felt…well…normal! It’s understandable that you would have food hang-ups after years of binge eating, and you can’t expect them to go away overnight. Just keep doing what you are doing–using your rational brain to help guide your decisions about food, and it will get easier.

      As far as what part of the brain is responsible for your fears/anxiety, I honestly don’t think it matters all that much, and let me explain why. Your brain is constantly producing automatic thoughts beyond your conscious awareness; we are running on auto-pilot much of the time. Being mindful allows you to notice your thoughts and decide which ones to identify with and which ones to disregard. You get to choose which thoughts you label “you” and which ones you label “not you.” Anything that feels out of line with your true self and intrusive, you can decide to detach from. Whether or not it’s technically from the “animal” or “lower” brain is not as important as the fact that the thoughts/feelings are automatic and arise against your will. Does that make sense?

      Just give it time and I think many of your anxieties around food will lessen, and if not, you can start working on them one by one–by viewing those uncomfortable thoughts as neurological junk as well.

  60. Hello Kathryn! I’m so thankful that I stumbled upon your blog. I have had issues with bulimia/binge eating for about 6 years now, and so far nothing else has worked. By trying to separate myself from the urges, I was able to avoid binging for only a few days. I try to ignore the thoughts, but the more I try to focus on something else (because I have things to do!), the louder and more overpowering the thoughts become. I don’t know how to focus on my life without the other thoughts going crazy! What am I doing wrong? I just know that this will work for me once I understand what to do, but right now my brain is just so obsessed with binging.

    I am a ballet/modern dancer in my early twenties. I dance about 5 hours a day for my art; I love what I do and this is not a “purge” by any means. However, I am 5’8″ and 144 pounds; I feel this is heavy for my body type. I wear a size 10-14 in pants. I do not diet or restrict (although I used to years ago), but I am confused as to what normal eating is. Is it normal to eat only when you’re feeling constant hunger signals? Or do you sometimes eat when you’re not hungry? Do you follow the same principles to avoid eating when you’re not hungry & to avoid binging, or is this considered to same thing? Help! I want to take care of my body, but I can’t get rid of this binge eating!

    Anonymous Texan

    1. I’m sorry you are struggling with this. Many people are confused about how to eat “normally,” so you definitely are not alone. There is no one right or wrong answer, and there are many different philosophies out there about how to regulate eating habits. I’d start by reading my FAQ section, because I address some of issues you mentioned. Ultimately how you approach your regular eating is going to be based on what makes the most sense to you. Some people like to do intuitive eating, but some people like a more structured approach in the beginning–planning meals and snacks in a flexible way; and some people like to do a combination of structure and intuitive eating. Regarding detaching from the urges, I address some of those issues in the FAQ as well; but I’m also working on a simple workbook that will be available on my website very soon, which I hope will help people who have trouble detaching from urges. I have a version of it right now that I could send you via email…if you are interested, send me an email at

  61. Thanks for giving me permission to let the binge happen and the permission to not act on it!!!!

  62. your story is inspirational Kathryn and the knowledge you have shared has been so valuable and helpful to me and im sure so many others. to no longer be controlled by my binge eating habits has been so liberating and i am now enjoying and lookimg forward to spending that time and energy on things i really want to do. thank you again.

  63. After being on strict diets for over 21 years (started when I was around 6 or 7), Brain Over Binge is a revelation for me. It frustrates me that I didn’t rationalize it before because I studied psychology and neurology. I know how the brain works and how the hypothalamus responds to diets. You explain everything so clearly and logically. I’m only one day 3 but I’ve already had a few urges come up that I was able to ignore. I know I’ll probably be struggling a bit more the coming weeks but so far, so good! I have faith that this is what I was looking for all along!! Thanks!!

  64. Kathryn…

    I don’t know where to even begin. Im a 17 year old girl living in South Africa freaking out at this moment…

    I was usually happy as a child: no worries, stress.. just happy. My weight was always how it should be ( not under/over weight) . . . The obsession came in high school.

    Most teenage girls feel the need to be skinny. I was never like that, although I always wanted to loose some weight, but failed everytime. It didn’t took away my social life or anything, because of the “disgusting feeling” of myself.

    I have a passion for dancing ! I started taking dance classes at the age of 7. Still going on… Loved every moment of it. My love I’ll say that I have for horses are undescribable! In high school I started with drama (acting) and it became the solution for my future. I’m going to become an actress! ! ! =))

    Just before my 16th birthday a close friend and I decided to start exercising like crazy and eating healthy… It seemed hard at firts, but after the 3rd week we got a hold of it. I would not eat if I’m not suppose to. I was cutting all the fatty food out. So, I lost 8kg. I know it’s not that much, but I was still in the process. Everybody told me how good I look, and I loved that feeling, but it also made me feel like I was extreamly fat before… It still felt like we were not losing weight fast enough.. We actually thought about food poisoning. I got so frustrated that I went and buy a chicken, put it in the sun for a couple of hours, back in the fridge, then again in the sun… then ate it. It did nothing… I was really frustrated at this time. And to think now, I actually lookes great ! I

    Then a certan action took place and we were no longer friends…

    I did not exercise like I use to and started slow but steady to cheat on what I was eating.. . Thing began to get out of control, but I did not care anymore like I used to. I was hanging out with my other friends who were eating junk food and parting… My lifestyle changed…

    Over the year I kept on gain weight, but not fast. Untill now…

    I became bulimic I’ll say. I was so disgusting with my body.. Hating to see myself in the mirror and everytime I felt bad I eated more just to feel worse, then puring. That friend of mine became anorexic.

    She’s so beautiful, although she’ll never believed it. She was seeing all kinds of professional people for help. She looked really bad. Everyone at school stared at her.

    My heart was breaking to see her like that. She told me that I will never understand, because I’m not in her situation. So, I thought and realised that she was fatter than me in the begining… So, if she could have get anorexia than I can get it to and then I’mm understand her situation and help her out of it.

    That is where the real nightmare started…

    I was going crazy in exercising. Than suddenly I’ll crack and eat a huge amount of food and purge it out again. Sometimes I did not even ourge because I was to tired and felt asleep. I can’t go to dance class anymore because I feel SO nad about myself.

    I started to gain weight faster than ever now…

    Binging is more than just a habbit for me now: it’s an addiction!

    I really need your help !!! I cry myself to sleep. I don’t want to feel like this.

    I need to take control of my life. The voices inside my head is making me mad.


    I’ll try this methods that you gave. It really makes sense…

    If you have any personal advice regarding my story PLEASE feel free to give it to me…

    Thank you
    Ps. She (my friend) is doing very well right now. She does not have the disorder anymore, but she still eats only her kinds of food. She’s on the right path… And I love her so much.

  65. Hello Kathryn-
    I found Brain over Binge and am almost through it in it’s entirety. Like yourself, I have probably read well over 20-30 books on binging, addiction, overcoming overeating, etc. Nothing has worked and I instantly found hope in the fact that someone else was not only searching for answers as hard as I was, but was also a small framed girl who was consuming upwards of 5,000 calories per day, downing boxes of cookies, cereals, taking food from anyone who happened to share a living space with me, and essentially being a slave to food. Over the past 3 years, I have been living my dream in an amazing job that has afforded me to travel the world doing what I love. However, binging has become so severe that I recently moved back to my hometown, and putting a massive pause on a career that most saw as propelling quickly in the direction I had always hoped for. My binging has got to the point where I either do not leave the house due to anxiety about being away from food (no access at a moments notice in case I ‘need it’) or not leaving the house because I have already moved and I am in too much of a food coma and feel to bloated and disgusted to move, or put on normal clothes (and anything besides leggings, such as waist-hugging jeans- no way!) Many of times when I read books I felt as though the authors struggled with binge eating, but never quite to the desperate and hopeless extent that I am. Although it truly made me sad to read about your struggle, I found comfort in knowing someone might possibly understand and I wasn’t entirely an anomaly in my ‘disorder’.
    When I read your chapter early on regarding Topamax, I made appointments with 3 different doctors before I found one who would prescribe it to me for binge eating disorder. I know in your book you were in no way promoting the use of this drug, but I began researching it online upon reading Brain Over Binge and found that many people are taking this for binge eating disorder and all began dropping weight instantly. I have been on Topamax for over a month now, and stepped on the scale for the first time this past weekend and broke down in tears until there were none left when I saw that not a pound had been lost. I suffered through the side effects, everything, and still no weight loss. I sound like such a downer right now, and I hate that, but this has made me feel even more hopeless in my journey against ever overcoming this problem. If changing my brain chemicals with medicine cannot help with my problem, then is there any chance of simply telling myself not to binge and ignoring my “internal chatter”/animal brain junk being powerful enough not to? I have been so discouraged this week seeing how tons of tons of people have overcome BED using topamax, but my worst fears were possibly confirmed that mine really is just too strong to be overcome. It isn’t fair that this has taken over my life, and in so many ways taken away everything. If you have any words of wisdom, I would so appreciate hearing from you, and if anyone else has had a similar experience with topamax not working, but still finding a way to overcome binging, please share, because I really feel like there is no way to ever climb out of this after knowing even medicine cannot work.
    Thank you so much for reading, I really appreciate not only the book, but this forum for all of us to come share our experiences and feel not so alone.

  66. Dear kathryn
    I absolutely LOVED your book. It was truly amazing. It was like as though i was seeing my life. I was exactly like you, a sportsperson, a girl who wanted to achieve perfectionism in all fields. I wasnt fat…. i was fit. However i was pretty tall for my age, hence i felt dat i wud look huge if i put on weight, so i began restricting food
    Soon it became an obsession, i was counting calories and exercising frantically. I actually began hating exercise, the very thought of it made me shrug…. nevertheless i continued it and contiued eating very less in my desperation to remain thin. I became sooooo thin, people thought i had cancer or some life threatning disease!! (cant blame them, i truly looked horrible). my uncle was a psychiatrist and soon convinced my mother to take me to therapy. the doctor there told me that unless i ate, i would be admitted in the hospital for 6 months, i would have to stay away from my mom, discontinue my studies and would be forcefed everyday. That was too much to sacrifice, so i asked the doctor to give me 3 months, promising him that i wud eat. I began eating, although i was hesistant at first but soon began eating, but Still stayed away from sweets and junk( i used to always crave sweets, i guess The sweet tooth was hereditary in the family). But One day i ate an oreo & it was magical. I ate 2 whole packs. I greatly regretted it, starved and exercised the next day….. there started the binge-purge cycle. I continued this for a while…. but As my weight was still increasing, i felt that the exercise was not helping and
    I stopped it(i had begun to hate exercise, it was a good excuse to stop it). So I was just binging, and then crying for the rest of the day. I was helpless, depressed, bloated, uncomfortable and very unhappy. i couldnt even give my 100% to my studies as binge eating consumed so much of my time. Even my mom and brother couldnt stand to see me like this, and tried everything they could to help me, but nothing worked. I googled, learnt all about BED, tried everything….. but No success. It was at this time i stumbled across your book. The title intrigued me. I started reading it and i couldnt stop until i finished it. Your book made so Much sense to me, u actually explained the neurological basis of my behavior(coincidentally we were learning about the working of the brain in college at the same time)and i could understand and relate to it. And the solution was so SIMPLE. No diets, no restriction, no boring counsilling session, i just had to ignore the urges. As goes the saying ‘barking dogs seldom bite’, my lower brain could only ‘bark’ and could actually do no harm to me, unless i reacted to it. I executed this at my very next meal, and viola! i didnt binge. I felt so powerfull, something i had not felt for a long long time. I remained binge free for a week but Did give in after that Thinking ‘its ok to binge one day’. But after reading your blog i realised that even this thought is sent by my lower brain to entice me(my lower brain is one clever dog!! ). i cannot thank u enough, you are a life savour. The method u advocated was the only method that enabled me to stay binge free for such a long time. The happiness and relief i feel is undescribable……….. i truly can escape from binge eating after all!!!!!
    thank you,

  67. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have read your book in the last 24 hours, I couldn’t put it down. It definitely resonated with me and is empowering for all of us who struggle with the extermination of our ed. Unfortunately, no sooner had I finished reading, I found myself binging again. I am wondering if some differences in our story means I should approach recovery differently. Technically my diagnosis is Anorexia. I developed this later in life (in my early thirties), although could be said to have disordered easing prior to this and there is a history of eating disorders in my family. My anorexia lead to severe health problems that lead to long periods of forced hospitalisation and several years where I was severely underweight. I then experienced recurring binge eating that spurred me to begin eating sufficiently. However the binging never really normalised despite my weight increasing to much greater than my previous heaviest adult weight, and my continued unrestricted diet. Eventually this lead to extreme restriction again, with both rapid and unsafe weight loss. Predictably this has lead to binging again in the last few months and again my weight has quickly returned to an all time high (which definitely puts me at the highest end of normal in the bmi range). I desperately want to stop the binging and eat normally. I don’t care about my weight beyond the embaressingly fast fluctuations. I love the concept of your book but I can’t seem to disentangle the urge to binge from the basic urge to eat. Basically as soon as I eat, I have a bit more and a bit more and so on and so on. I don’t experience an urge to binge, more I just find myself unable to stop eating once I have started. So it feels like to avoid binging I have to avoid eating altogether. In this case would it be more helpful to stick to a stricter meal plan? How can I approach eating when every time I go to eat I am petrified it will become a binge? I really hope you will reply, even though I know you must be so busy.

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