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How To Break Free from the Binge-Restrict Cycle in Recovery

Updated: May 3

Written by Eden Davis, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and co-owner of Pearl Wellness Practice


Do your days start off pushing away hunger, skipping meals and snacks, then overeating in the afternoon? Maybe the day gets away from you or you intentionally restrict yourself in order to eat less food (just to eat more in a binge later on). The binge-restrict cycle is more common than you might think and can indicate a struggle with food.

Binge Restrict Cycle

Why Restriction Leads to Binge Eating

The human body is wired for survival, food is fuel and it's a necessity for survival. The interesting thing is that the hypothalamus doesn't understand why somebody is restricting their intake or dieting. The mind only comprehends that the body does not have access to food and needs to correct this.


That's why those intense hunger pains and feelings kick in after restriction (the body doing its job). After one responds to these hunger cues, it's possible to eat beyond comfort and fullness. This is due to prolonged hunger, not having enough fuel to practice mindfulness, and the body playing catch up on intake.


Depending on the individual, one might have heightened emotions around guilt and shame after eating. This can lead to various behaviors that can be harmful to the body. The shame and guilt may lead to continuing the cycle with more restriction the following day (repeating the entire cycle).

Decreasing calories

Approaching Binge-Restrict Cycle

When exploring the binge-restrict cycle, we can see restriction gets us nowhere productive. In order to overcome the cycle, we need to incorporate meals and snacks throughout the day. Now you may be thinking, "I can't eat snacks??" or "I'll overeat if I have snacks!!" These are statements we often hear while discussing meal plans.


Snacks are not the bad guys and offer several benefits! Check out 3 Reasons We

Should Snack Throughout The Day to learn more. Consistent intake throughout the day will help decrease overeating or binge episodes from occurring as often. Eating every 3 to 4 hours will help stabilize blood glucose, provide the body with nutrients and fuel, and allow the opportunity to practice mindfulness with food.

Meal prep

If you notice difficulties while implementing meal consistency and feel stuck in the binge-restrict cycle, reach out today. It can be challenging to break this cycle, but the good news is that you don't have to do it alone.


Our treatment team specializes in working with clients to break these habits and heal their relationship with food and body. Seeing clients 16 and older for eating disorder treatment through telehealth services in Maryland, DC, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, and California.


With Pearls of Wisdom,

Eden & Kira

eating disorder treatement


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