STOP Before Binge Eating

Salina Grilli, LMSW

Distress Tolerance is a component of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that focuses on tolerating, surviving, and accepting pain. The “STOP” skill is a distress tolerance tool that is effective in “crisis” situations and provides temporary relief to a painful problem. For individuals with Binge Eating Disorder (BED), food has become a maladaptive (yet often effective) way to cope with unpleasant situations, thoughts, and feelings. While food provides temporary relief to individuals suffering from BED, this impulsive behavior often leads to more suffering. 

The “STOP" skill is often an effective way to stop a binge before it starts. “STOP” is a mnemonic that stands for “Stop,” “Take a step back,” “Observe,” and “Proceed mindfully.” This skill involves pausing and considering whether binge eating will be an effective long-term solution to a painful situation.

How to Use the “STOP” Skill: 

S: Stop
When you notice an urge to binge, say the word “STOP” out loud to yourself. You can also imagine that there’s a stop sign in front of you, blocking your path forward. In this moment, you are susceptible to acting impulsively based on emotions. 

T: Take a Step Back
Take a step back (physically and/or mentally). This enables you to detach from the impulse to binge. Remind yourself that you are not your emotions or thoughts. Next, slowly bring your attention to your breath. Notice your breath cycle. Are your breaths shallow? Are you allowing yourself to breath? Take 5-10 slow, deep breaths.

O: Observe
Observe what is happening in that moment. Observe your thoughts and feelings. Remind yourself that thoughts are not facts. What thought/emotion are you trying to numb by bingeing? Ask yourself if there are other ways to attend to and take care of that emotion and/or thought. 

P: Proceed Mindfully
Before you proceed ask yourself the following question: “will acting on the impulse to binge be beneficial in the long run?” 

Salina Grilli, LMSW is therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support with binge eating contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.