Stop Believing There Is Ever a Reason to Binge

Do you try to come up with complex reasons for why you binge? You are not alone, and this is a common tendency in all bad habits. In this post, I want to help you shift your perspective in a useful way surrounding your reasons for binge eating, and also help you let go of those reasons.

To stop binge eating, you need to stop believing there is ever a reason to binge.

The brain will provide endless rationalizations for continuing the binge eating habit…until you realize it’s not telling the truth. Justifying habits is part of a universal pattern of the lower brain, and it’s important to know that as long as you are engaging in binge eating, the brain will never stop pointing to emotions, problems, or circumstances as reasons for your behavior.

This is not to diminish anything you’re struggling with, because we are all complex individuals, and no one’s life is simple. You have your own unique tendencies, personality, and history. There are likely some factors that led you into the binge eating habit in the first place, but once you realize it’s hurting you, trying to figure out all of the theoretical reasons is not an efficient use of time. Even if you solve for one reason, the brain will provide another and another, because its job is to maintain the habit. Instead, you can learn to dismiss any and all reasons, and take back control. (If you are new to the Brain over Binge approach, you can get my free eBook to help you get started). 

What if my reasons for binge eating are valid?

Until this point, you may think I’m telling you to simply ignore your reasons, and to a large extent, that’s exactly what you need to do. But you may feel that there are certain issues which make it impossible for you to stop binge eating. For example, what if you believe you are acting compulsively because of another issue like ADHD or trauma?

There are definitely factors that can affect your ability to access self-control at times, and I always want you to be compassionate toward yourself for what you are facing. However, I want to challenge you to stop seeing any other issue as a “reason to binge,” and instead start seeing it as a “reason to get additional help in order to stop binge eating.” There are zero conditions that I’m aware of where binge eating is the recommended solution. So, even if you have another condition, get help for that condition, and don’t point to it as a reason to resign to binge eating.

In other words, believing that there is never a reason to binge includes solving for any reason you think is holding you back. Because the truth is, no matter what you are dealing with, binge eating is harming and not helping.

What if it’s helping me emotionally?

You may struggle to let go of emotional reasons for binge eating. Mainstream therapy and also the culture as a whole perpetuates the idea that binge eating is about meeting emotional needs or coping. It’s appealing to believe this, because when we are engaging in a behavior that feels so out of line with our true self, we naturally want to feel like that behavior “makes sense” in some way. Emotions are easy to blame because they are readily available; we are full of difficult emotions daily, and even on our good days, it’s always possible to point to an emotion as the reason.

This is not specific to binge eating. We all want to feel like we have deeper reasons for doing things that we know are destructive, and there’s certainly a place for self-analysis. But when you want to quit binge eating, it’s time to stop analyzing and to start believing that you can avoid the behavior no matter what. The reality is that binge eating does not actually help with emotions, it makes them worse in the long run, and gives you additional negative emotions. Binge eating increases shame, anxiety, depression, loneliness, despair, and fear. It also makes us less able to deal with the other problems in our lives. Even if binge eating brings some temporary distraction or escape from feelings in the moment of bingeing, it isn’t worth it.

Letting go of reasons for binge eating means letting go of the illusion that binge eating is doing anything truly helpful for you.


I understand that this can be a challenging mindset shift to make, and we’re here to help you along the way as you recover.  You can use the resources below to get the support you need to free yourself from this source of pain.

One-on-one Coaching – Book a 45-minute private and highly personalized session with Kathryn or Coach Julie. You will learn to change your thinking, uncover what is holding you back, and get on a path to complete freedom from food issues.

Group Coaching – Get help from coach Julie and support from others who are overcoming this habit. Includes a forum that is open 24/7, group coaching calls, mindfulness resources, plus course access.

Brain over Binge Course – Self-paced online lessons (plus an app) for only $18.99/month. Includes over 125 tracks to listen to that give you the information and answers you need as you end binge eating.

Recovery in emotionally challenging times

Ep. 134: Recovery in Emotionally Challenging Times (with Coach Julie)

Ep. 133: Self-Sabotage and Life Disruptions (with Heather Robertson of Half Size Me)

separating emotions from the act of binge eating

Ep. 132: Recovery Stories Part VIII (Separating Emotions from the Act of Binge Eating)

emotions are not the cause of binge eating

Emotions Are Not the Cause of Binge Eating

Emotions are not the cause of binge eating.

This is not always the most popular message, but once I internalized this concept, it was so freeing. It allowed me to stay binge-free no matter what was going on in my life or in my mind, because I knew that even in the darkest, loneliest, scariest times, I had the ability not to binge.

I understand that it’s often not that simple to let go of the belief that you binge because of emotions. This belief could feel very true for you right now, and I’m not here to talk you out of that. Everyone has their own experience and story, and if the idea that binge eating is because of emotions is helping you stop the behavior, then please don’t change course. This post is for people who are struggling and who can’t seem to stop bingeing no matter what emotional healing or self-improvement work they do. This is for people who sense that they can binge under any circumstance or in response to any feeling (even positive ones), and who believe that even if they could learn to cope with emotions well, they’d still want to binge. This post is also for people who sense that connecting binge eating to emotions is making things worse.

Blaming emotions makes you “need” the harmful binge eating behavior

Through my years of helping binge eaters, I’ve heard from so many who tell me that therapy or other self-help resources convinced them they binged for deep emotional reasons, and this only served to strengthen the habit, because it made them feel like they actually needed the habit to cope.

You may have indeed developed a connection between your emotions and your bingeing, I think that most people with a binge eating habit (or any habit) do. But, as I talk about in my books, this connection is indirect. Emotions don’t truly cause the bingeing, because if that were true, anyone who had strong emotions would binge, and curing emotional issues would cure binge eating.

Because of patterns you’ve developed over time, your brain may automatically urge you to binge in response to certain emotions. When you can recognize this pattern, you can gradually learn to decondition it. However, what often happens is that when you try to avoid binges, emotions can seem temporarily worse, which may cause you to give up and revert back to your old patterns. I want to help you understand this so that it doesn’t stop you from continuing toward a binge-free life.

Why do emotions feel worse when I try to stop binge eating?

There are a couple of common reasons why emotions may seem more difficult for a period of time as you are ending binge eating:

1.) You’re out of practice being with emotions without binge eating

2.) Your primitive brain tells you the emotions are terrible so that it can get what it wants – a binge

1. You are out of practice being with emotions without binge eating

If you’re used to following the urge automatically during certain emotions, then to just have the emotion without binge eating is going to feel different. Different does not mean worse. All things considered, it feels much worse to binge.

Binge eating is a dangerous and health-sabotaging behavior, but that’s what you’re used to at this point. So, when you don’t distract yourself, there are going to be new sensations that arise. You’ll have to deal with both dismissing the urge and having whatever sensations the emotions cause. It’s not that bingeing ever helped you cope with that emotion or solved any problem, but it did create temporary pleasure that diverted your attention, and then pain and shame afterward that likely prevented you from focusing on other problems and emotions.

It’s important to accept that whatever distraction binge eating provides, it’s not worth it. You don’t want to be binge eating in response to emotions, or to anything for that matter. You want binge eating out of your life, and to do that, it’s going to take some practice of not binge eating and dealing with whatever you feel when you aren’t distracted by a dangerous habit. It often takes just letting these emotions pass a few times to start realizing that you are definitely capable of doing that, and nothing terrible happens, and in fact, you are so much better for it.

You can do whatever you need to do to learn to deal with emotions, but to give yourself a chance to learn to cope in healthy ways, you have to dismiss the urge to binge. When binging is simply not an option, then you have so many options available to you for helping you get through tough emotions.

2.  Your primitive brain tells you the emotions are terrible so that it can get what it wants – a binge

The second reason emotions feel worse when you first quit binge eating is that your primitive brain is trying to perpetuate a habit. To do that, you’ll have automatic thoughts that tell you how awful it is to not binge. Your primitive/lower brain will send messages that make you believe the emotions are much worse than they really are. During urges to binge, you’ll feel like the emotions are awful and a binge will be great, but in reality, that’s not the case.

This thought is very common: “you can’t possibly deal with this emotion, so you need to binge.”

That thought has likely worked to get you to binge in the past, so it’s going keep showing up, without regard for the fact that binge eating is so much worse for you than an emotion. Consider that this thought is simply part of how your urge to binge operates and has nothing to do with what you’re truly capable of. When you dismiss the thoughts that say you should binge because you can’t handle emotions, you start to realize that the emotions are never as bad as your primitive brain says they are.

On the other hand, the binges are always much, much worse than your primitive brain says they are going to be. You’ll have thoughts saying a binge is exactly what you need, but when you follow that thought, it only leads to pain. If you can step back from the lower brain’s false promises and realize that you can learn to experience the full range of human emotions, it helps build your confidence, and you’ll realize that you never actually needed to binge to cope with emotions.

More help:

If you want extra guidance as you learn to break the connection between binge eating and emotions, here are some resources for additional support:

Brain over Binge Course – Self-paced online lessons (plus an app) for only $18.99/month. Includes over 125 tracks to listen to that give you the information and answers you need as you end binge eating.

Group Coaching – Get help from coach Julie and support from others who are overcoming this habit. Includes a forum that is open 24/7, weekly group coaching calls, mindfulness resources, plus course access.

One-on-one Coaching – Book a 45-minute private session with coach Julie. She will help you change your thinking, uncover what is holding you back, and get on a path to complete freedom from food issues.

reasons to binge

Ep. 124: Reasons to binge? (…and join me tomorrow for the 2-Hour Course!)

Ep. 107: Recovery Stories (Part VI)

Ep. 98: The Illusion That Overeating Makes You Feel Better (with Cookie Rosenblum)