Intuitive Eating for Binge Eating Disorder: Does it Work?

Share this post

Intuitive eating for binge eating disorder? Is intuitive eating the key to stop binge eating disorder? Should we eat until we are full and let out hunger guide how much we eat?

Well, according to the research, it shows that intuitive eating does not help binge eating disorder.

In this article I will explain the 2 ways why intuitive eating for binge eating disorder is not the best way to go and 3 ways how to eat in order to improve binge eating disorder habits.

Why? Here are 2 ways intuitive eating is not beneficial for binge eating disorder:

1. People Struggling with Binge Eating Disorder have dysregulated hunger hormones

It is important to note that intuitive eating is a great tool for binge eating – the single, isolated disordered eating habit, but if you are struggling with binge eating disorder, which is the actual disorder wherein you meet several criteria of disordered eating habits, then intuitive eating for binge eating disorder is not the way to go.

Hunger and fullness are disordered in binge eating disorder. Physiologically, ghrelin (the hunger hormone) is secreted in line with meals and snacks and strongly influences appetite e.g. ghrelin functioning is disrupted by irregular eating schedules. (Gil-campos et al., 2006)

If you always eat a pack of cookies at a certain time of the day, your body will prepare itself for a pack of cookies physiologically (hunger) and psychologically (cravings). So it may be difficult for someone to be told to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.

2. Restricted dieting is only 1 of the triggers driving binges

Whilst it is important to note that restrictive dieting is one of the main factors driving binges, intuitive eating will not be the simple solution to stop all triggers to binges.

There are other triggers of binges that have to be addressed as well such as negative emotions, boredom, loneliness, stress/tiredness as well.

Intuitive eating as a standalone solution does not go through the root cause of these other non-diet triggers such as ‘what is causing these emotions’ and what can be done to cope with these triggers. If binge eating was triggered due to a traumatic event during childhood, we cannot simply place a bandage over it with intuitive eating.

If you are binge eating mainly due to negative emotions or trauma, it is highly recommended to speak to your doctor or therapist in order to unpack these negative emotions and start cognitive restructuring in order to stop binge eating together with a dietitian to support you building a healthy relationship with food.

How to Eat to Stop Binge Eating Disorder

Whilst intuitive eating is very beneficial and protective against disordered eating habits, with binge eating disorder, our hunger hormones are dysregulated so we need to have a strategy to regulate our hunger hormones:

1. To Eat Regular Meals Consistently

If dysregulate hunger hormones is caused by irregular eating, then the solution to regulate our hunger hormones is to eat regularly!

In order to do this, we will have to follow a strict meal pattern of eating every 2-4 hours of meals and snacks in between daily and consistently. An example of this may look like:

  • 7:00: Breakfast
  • 10:30: Mid morning snack
  • 12:00: Lunch
  • 15:00: Mid afternoon snack
  • 18:00: Dinner
  • 21:00: Evening snack

You may be thinking, ‘I am just going to binge more if I eat more!’:

But if you are eating regularly, without any physical restrictions e.g. avoiding certain foods or choosing to eat little portions, then you should be full most of the day – leading you to not overeat or binge – This is the key reason why regular meals is important

You may be thinking ‘But I’ll just eat my binge foods for all meals and snacks!’

This is the next important step: Ensure your meals are balanced – During recovery, to ensure fullness AND satisfaction together with your regular eating throughout the day, make sure your meals contain carbohydrates, fats, protein, and fibre. Having all 4 can ensure that your meals are filling and delicious. For example if you feel like you want toast and butter for breakfast, aim to add a protein source to it like maybe cottage cheese. If you binged last night, but still want something for breakfast and have a piece a plain bagel with nothing on it, and you know you are avoiding the butter because you don’t want to ‘gain’ weight, then that is a form of mental restriction and not honouring your cravings.

2. Avoid Any Mental Restrictions

Mental restriction is a more subtle trigger of binge eating. Do you find yourself mentally restricting?

You may be eating regularly and avoiding physical restrictions, but if you are still having mental restrictions, you may still have a binge episode.

Together with regular eating, if you crave a cookie for a snack, then have that cookie and move on. If you are wanting a cookie then you replace it with a banana for example or just ignore it, whether it is in your mind or not, you will later of subconsciously start to crave it leading to a binge later on in the day or the week.

If you are having a stir fry for lunch but you are avoiding to add any oil or some teriyaki sauce, which you know will make it more delicious but will add more calories, then that is a form of mental restriction.

The key to succeeding with regular eating is to ensure that the meals make you full AND satisfied.

We can eat chicken, broccoli and rice all day and simply have rice cakes and you may be full but if you do not enjoy it, you won’t be satisfied which will later on lead to a binge.

You only binge on foods you restrict.

If we restrict foods we enjoy from ourselves, we place them on a pedestal and when we finally give in to the cravings, we overindulge in them however if we have them regularly, include them as a dessert, or a snack for example during the day, they lose their ‘spark’ as this special food.

3. Place any goals of weight loss aside

It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to start binge eating recovery whilst trying to lose weight.

Avoiding physical restriction and mental restriction will not be possible unless you place your goals of trying to lose weight aside.

Will you gain weight? Maybe? This is what is the ‘make-or-break’ moment of most people during binge eating disorder recovery. Some people are unable to let go for their weight loss goals but those that do, eventually recover from binge eating and finally regulate their hunger, enjoy food without any more guilt.

If you are finding it difficult to let go of trying to lose weight, you may listen to my podcast episode on ‘When You Can’t Let Go of Trying to Lose Weight and What to Do’

I am not saying you should forget about weight loss forever – But what I am saying is, to at least temporarily place it to the side until your hunger hormones are regulated and you have a much better relationship with food. Once you do, whatever you choose to do with your body is up to you.


In principle, intuitive eating is very beneficial and protective against binge eating – the disordered eating habit. However for binge eating disorder, intuitive eating is not the most ideal way to go.

If you are to be free from binge eating disorder, you will have to start focusing on being full and satisfied to stop binge eating episodes. Having a strict meal patter of regular eating – every 2-4 hours with meals and snacks in between to keep you full and avoiding any mental restrictions will keep you satisfied.

Binge eating disorder recovery is not possible if you do this one massive step: To put your weight loss goals aside – at least temporarily – then you will be towards the path of binge eating recovery.

❓Are You Ready To Improve Your Relationship with Food and Get Your Hunger Cues Back?

Watch the  FREE Hunger Regulation Webinar Series and get learn exact steps to restore your hunger cues once again WITHOUT the overwhelm or worry about eating and then ending up in binges

Each webinar is split into one episode sent straight to your email inbox every day, given over 3 days, and you’ll learn absolutely EVERYTHING you need to know about how to restore your hunger cues and end binge eating urges whilst still keep the foods you enjoy once and for all.

Share this post

Recommended Posts

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments