How to Break the Binge-Restrict Cycle

by | Apr 1, 2023 | Nutrition

Imagine it’s been another one of those days… 

Your morning got off to a crazy start… 

Your work day was stressful and chaotic… 

And if somebody so much as looks at you the wrong way, you’re going to breakdown.   

Putting it nicely – YOU. ARE. STRESSED.  

Suddenly, you feel this hunger washing over you.  

It could be sweet.

It could be salty.  

It could be ANYTHING!  

So you do what you’ve always done – 

Grab something fast, easy and cheap on the way home because you “needed” it.  


Raid the cupboard and start shoveling foods that you don’t even like.  

Before you know it, you’ve eaten WAY MORE than what you intended, blown your diet for the day and have decided “WTF matters for the rest of the day/week?”  

But then you get on the scale and have another WTF moment because in your head there’s NO WAY you did that much damage.  

Again, you do what you’ve always done – 

Slash calories.  

Swear off fun foods, eating out and any foods not on your approved food list.  

And make yourself MISERABLE.  

This lasts for a little bit until it’s another one of those days and the cycle begins all over again… 

You’re stuck in what’s known as the Binge-Restrict Cycle.  

Let’s talk about how to break it.  

What Is the Binge-Restrict Cycle?

From this story, you probably know what the Binge-Restrict Cycle looks like in your life, but let’s talk about the actual in’s and out’s of this vicious cycle.  

Contrary to popular belief, this cycle is not driven by a lack of willpower or motivation.  There’s actually a physiological response driving this.  

Let’s break up each portion first.  

What Qualifies as a Binge? 

A binge is when a person eats a much larger amount of food in a shorter period of time than what they would normally eat.  

In these moments, it’s common to feel a loss of control and may consume thousands of calories in one sitting.  

The binge portion of this cycle has been found to impact female estrogen levels and dramatically alter the leptin and ghrelin (hunger and satiety hormones) for the coming hours and days.  

Following a binge, you might be tired, sluggish, drowsy, uncomfortable or irritable.  

What Qualifies as Restriction? 

A restriction is a reduction in caloric intake below what is typical for the individual for a given period of time.  This can also show up as a complete removal of food from the diet.  

Individuals restricting often feel a regain of control over their diet.  

Like binges, it impacts leptin and ghrelin hormones for days to come.  It also impacts most other hormones as they require resources (calories) in order to be produced.  

Restriction causes individuals to feel slow, sluggish, tired, irritable (hangry) or weak.  

*If you find you have a serious or unhealthy relationship with binges or restriction, please contact a medical provider to advise you on your next steps.  CLICK HERE for a list of resources.  

Now, let’s put it all together. 

In short, a binge leads to a restriction, and a restriction leads to a binge.  

The surge in satiety hormones following a binge encourages you to restrict food because you feel SO full.  

On the other hand, hunger hormones raging throughout your body encourage you to consume anything and everything in sight.  

3 Tips to Break the Binge-Restrict Cycle

Okay, so if one leads to the other, then the secret to beating both is to tackle both with these 3 simple tips.  

#1 Eat Enough Nutrient-Dense Food 

One of the best ways to break the Binge-Restrict Cycle is to look at your current diet.  If we break this into 2 categories, we’ll be able to reduce the temptation to binge and restrict.  

Eat Enough 

Your body likes food.  

It NEEDS it to provide energy for daily living.  

This clearly explains why a period of restriction leads to a binge.  

After eating too few calories or complete restriction, your body pushes back and pushes hormones throughout the body driving you to eat.  

Therefore, if you’re serious about breaking the Binge-Restrict Cycle, it’s important you eat enough food to prevent this major push in hunger hormones.  

Not sure if you’re eating enough? 

CLICK HERE to check out our FREE Calorie Calculator.  

Nutrient-Dense Foods 

Eating enough food unfortunately isn’t enough to break the Binge-Restrict Cycle.  

The best way to break that cycle is to consume enough NUTRIENT-DENSE food. 

Your body craves what you put in, so if you’re regularly consuming low-quality foods, your body is going to crave those.  

If you regularly consume high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, your body is going to crave those foods AND it won’t find itself to be nutritionally depleted (that’s a recipe for cravings for fast, easy and cheap items as a quick fix).     

#2 Consistent Meal Times 

Outside of what you eat, it’s important to look at WHEN you eat.  

Consistent meal times help to regulate your hunger and satiety hormones and prevent massive rises and falls in their levels.  

Start by identifying how many meals you’re going to consume in a day.  For years, 6 meals per day were pushed for fat loss, but this needs to be set according to your lifestyle.  

Know that there is no magic number of meals to encourage fat loss! 

It all comes down to the number of calories consumed per day.  

Once you’ve set your number of meals, plan them into your day according to what regularly fits your schedule.  

Know that there are times where you won’t be able to stick to this schedule – that’s okay! 

But stick with this consistently, and your hormones will balance out.  

#3 Know Your Non-Negotiables 

Non-Negotiables are items you cannot live without.  

At Complete Performance, we use Non-Negotiables to help our #CPTeam identify what lower quality items they want to keep as part of their lives.  

It’s a 3-step process to ensure that regardless of the adjustments to their dietary intake, they never feel restricted from the foods they love.  

If you want to find out what your Non-Negotiables are, CLICK HERE

It’s important to note that doing any of these one time won’t break the Binge-Restrict Cycle.  

If you’re eager to break the cycle, follow these 3 tips consistently (even if you binge or restrict) to put an end to the cycle for good! 

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