Brain Over Binge - Book Review

- POSTED ON: Jun 28, 2015

Late 2011, or early 2012 I purchased and read Brain over Binge (2011) by Karen Heidebrech, and decided that it deserves the attention of a review here on DietHobby.

Brain over Binge gives an informative scientific perspective on binge eating as well as an interesting personal account. Instead of viewing bingeing as a symptom of complex psychological problems, Heidebrech explains why traditional eating disorder therapy often fails. She explains how she came to understand her bingeing was a function of her brain, and how she used the power of her brain to recover.

Brain Over Binge gives an alternative method of “eating disorder” recovery. The author uses principles of contemporary neuroscience to explain the traps of disordered eating, and how she herself has found recovery from her own binge behavior.

Traditional eating disorder recovery focuses on labeling one’s eating behavior as dysfunctional, then identifying underlying reasons or triggers for that eating behavior, and then having the person attempt to control, correct, or respond differently to their own flaws or environmental stressors. This is an impossible task, because one can never control all of life's stressors and personal vulnerabilities, and believing that this is the only way to recover is often a set-up for failure.

Instead of focusing on emotions, stress, self-esteem and many of the other common explanations offered in conventional treatment, Brain Over Binge provides that binge eating is the result of allowing the urges that spring from one's "animal" brain to override the wisdom of one's "highest human" brain. By surrendering all the power to the animal brain, the binge eater ends up feeling as if she/he has no choice but to give in to the urge to binge, no matter how irrational or self-destructive it is to do so.

Brain over Binge presents a 5-step process for taking back your power over the urges. Heidebrech backs up the simplicity of the cure with an explanation of the research that supports the credibility of her approach. She also relates her own experience to show that one can recover from binge eating without having to be perfect or live a stress-free life.

Bingeing doesn’t always result from external situations. Bingeing itself creates more and more cues to binge in response to everyday life situations. The more situations one responds to by bingeing, the more cues there are to binge. The answer is not to get rid of everyday situations, but to interrupt the cycle, which is done, paradoxically, by dismissing disordered urges as "neurological junk," thereby avoiding reinforcing the behavior and weakening the undesired neurological pathways.

  As a reduced obese person who has personally experienced a lifetime of difficulty with binge behavior, as well as more than 20 years of Therapy involving that issue, I found myself in agreement with a great many of the concepts within this book, and I highly recommend it for adults who would like to experience some recovery from their own binge behaviors.


Originally posted on August 28, 2012, updated for new viewers.

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Existing Comments:

On Sep 14, 2012 TexArk wrote:
I am responding late to this post,but I wanted to thank you for the suggestion. I ordered it to my Kindle and have enjoyed following her story as I put my cardio time in. I haven't been in therapy but I have read nearly all the approaches you discussed and came to some of the same conclusions myself. I laughed out loud at the list of activities to have on hand to divert your attention from a binge. I really do agree with her idea of training the pathways in your brain, and not spending a lifetime trying to get every other aspect of your life in order. LOL There will always be "the next thing" to have to handle. I never binged as much as she described, but I did binge. I never purged either, which is why the weight piled on. This thinking is also why I disagree with cheat days or permission to binge days. All that does is reinforce the binge reward cycle.

On Sep 14, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi TexArk, hope you find the book as interesting as I did. I've had a lifetime of difficulty with Binge behavior, but didnt purge ... not out of personal virtue, but simply because I had no tolerance for either exercise or vomiting. My only viable option to reduce binge damage was eating less when I wasn't binging. Pschologists have now made that an official disease called "Binge Eating Disorder" and made it part of the Eating DIsorders package. you know... I have cognitive difficulty in accepting many of the concepts involved with the standard Eating Disorders Treatment ... they're just WRONG for many people.

On Dec 31, 2016 oolala53 wrote:
I still haven't read Kathryn but had already used a lot of her ideas to help implement No S, though not specifically the bingeing! I wasn't as convinced that I didn't want to do it anymore. I do wonder how well it would have worked for her if she had been truly overweight. She's never had to really reduce calories nor live with the reduced calorie limits of those who have lost weight. I'm pretty sure either in this or in other work she is adamant about "eating enough" and eating frequently, which I don't think is good advice for many overweight or obese people. Instilling fear of being able to satisfactorily reduce eating over the long run seems unnecessarily cautious. I'm not everyone can live with the same restrictions happily, but I think a lot of people could be much happier with less, even if it's not enough "less" to get thin.

On Dec 31, 2016 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Oolala, those are all good points. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

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