Binge/over eating is a subject quite close to my heart. For years I was in a vicious cycle of over-restricting followed by over eating – one that stopped me from getting the body I wanted without me even realising it!
Over/binge eating seems to be becoming more socially acceptable & in some cases it is even celebrated in the fitness industry with people bragging about the amount they’ve put away in a “cheat meal” & some even posting it all over social media, but how many of these people actually feel happy about the amount they’ve eaten? How many people are following this overeat by starting a new “diet” or compensating with additional cardio or training out of regret or guilt? How many of these people are also in the cycle I was in without realising? Think about it, a large amount of us who are over eaters are often serial dieters too.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the phrase or concept of the “cheat meal” as it suggests that the meal you’re eating is wrong & therefore automatically places guilt around it. It’s this negative association which then creates the compulsion to eat much more in this “cheat window” than you normally would (as this is the only time this “bad” food is allowed). This overeating then causes guilt which leads to over restricting following the “cheat” which leads to another binge, due to lack of control through under eating & so the cycle continues…
These meals are often DELICIOUS foods which most of us should enjoy eating, so why are we making ourselves feel bad for eating them instead of having a bit more control & celebrating the fact that these delicious foods are a part of our lives? The part that brings us pleasure & satisfaction. It might not even be a meal in the traditional sense, it might be a packet of biscuits when the intention was only to have a couple, or a family sized bar of chocolate when the intention was only to have a few squares – what defines this as over eating is eating it past the point at which you wanted to stop, past the point at which you felt comfortable, putting you in a position where you feel regretful or guilty.
Not only does this behaviour create an unhealthy relationship with food but it also can seriously impede your progress. Ok it may not have completely disastrous consequences & you can still achieve some good results but speaking from personal experience I know that once I’d stopped serial “dieting” I was much more in control. I started to enjoy foods that I’d previously seen as bad (or felt I couldn’t eat because I had no “self-control” around them) dropped 12kg & got myself into the leanest condition & best shape I’ve ever been in!
I’m not saying I don’t ever over eat (there are times when I have to lie down on the sofa & undo a button or two after a roast dinner!) but what I’m saying is these occasions are rare. I don’t feel compelled to binge or like I don’t have self-control around certain foods anymore (even whilst I’m in the process of dieting) because I’m no longer restricting foods or under eating on certain days. I’ve taught myself that there’s a way to enjoy food but still achieve the results I want. I follow a Flexible dieting approach which allows me to choose the foods I want to have, so long as they fit into my recommended daily intake of food (which is set according to my goals). This way I have a choice of the foods I want to eat without any diet “rules” telling me, NO you can not.
If you consider yourself to be an overeater here are some practical tips that might help:
- Stop Over Restricting – If you have an uncontrollable urge to cram in all food in sight at certain times, maybe you’re just not taking in enough each day, or maybe you’re trying to go for too quick a weight loss & putting yourself in too much of a calorie deficit. Try & look at your diet in its entirety i.e. the amount you take in across the WHOLE week. Don’t view your diet as something that’s either on or off. If you added up your “diet” day calories & then your “cheat” day calories & divided the lot by 7 I bet you’d end up with a lot more food each day & would, therefore be more satisfied.
- Introduce Some Control – If there are foods that you find yourself having less control around try avoiding having them in situations where you’re more likely to overindulge. For example, if ice cream is your weakness rather than saying “I’m giving up ice cream” (& then putting yourself on a ban until you cave & eat a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting) try going out for dessert rather than having a big tub in the freezer (that you can’t stop thinking about) or saving it for treats like when you go to the cinema or have friends over. That way you’ll be in control & can acknowledge (& actually enjoy the fact) that you’re eating it. Then you’ll start to learn to look forward to it & savour it, rather than feeling bad for eating it, leaving you much more satisfied.
- Look after yourself – sleep & stress levels play a role in the hormones that affect our hunger levels. Many of us live a very fast paced life and we are stressed even if we don’t know it. When our body is under stress it produces a higher amount of cortisol (or stress hormone) & high cortisol can make you crave salty, sweet and high-fat foods. Try & find methods of stress relief that don’t send you reaching for these foods like going for a walk, trying a new exercise class, or even just making the effort to stop & take a few deep breaths before reaching for that food you might regret eating later. Similarly, make sure you stay hydrated as thirst is often mistaken for hunger (particularly if you’re noticing the foods that you’re craving are “juicy” or liquidy ones – you might just be a bit dehydrated).
- Try a Coach – I know what you’re thinking (here’s the plug) but I can honestly say that having a nutrition coach made a huge change to my life & is what inspired me to become qualified to do the same for others. Changing habits takes time but having somebody objectively look at your diet & provide you with sound, evidence backed advice can massively relieve some of the stress of dieting & quickly help dispel the nutrition myths & overwhelming amount of conflicting information there is out there.
For more information on working with me or any of the TEAM-BOX coaches – CLICK HERE