Bingeing–How to Avoid it, What to do when it happens

binge vicious cycle

Bingeing is something that has been an enigma to people trying to lose weight for years. And it’s been a dreaded enemy.

Willpower, self-control, resolve all go out the window when a desire for a binge comes on.

It is like the invasion of the body snatchers and it feels like an alien has taken over our bodies and we eat anything and everything that we had vowed we would not eat to get slim thighs and a sleek waist.

Why do binges happen and what can be done about them?

Binges happen for a variety reasons and understanding the underlying mechanisms is a huge part in preventing the majority of binges. Let’s take a look at what sets us up for a binge and what we can do to prevent them:

1) Binges happen when we skip meals and do not give our body enough fuel to keep our blood sugar up or nutrients to do its job of repair and function.

We often binge on high-calorie, high-sugar foods to get ENERGY quick when we’ve skipped meals and denied ourselves food either willingly or due to scheduling. The solution? Plan ahead and have food with you and eat at regular intervals in order to keep fueled.

2) Bingeing happens when we eat foods that burn quickly such as low-fiber foods like white flour and coffee and sodas and juices that give us a quick hit of sugar and then a nose-dive blood sugar crash later. We again have what happened in #1 above and need energy quick. Eat high-fiber foods so that sugar is released in a more sustained fashion and give you energy through-out the day.

3) Binges happen on high-salt foods because salt makes us crave more high-salt foods. MSG (monosodiumglutamate) manufacturers know this which is why processed foods, restaurants, and fast foods have so much of it in them. Avoid salt completely. You will lose water weight and you will not be craving food so much. It will take awhile for your body to adjust, but you will not miss it.

4) Binges happen when we are TIRED. At the of the day (bingeing often occurs at night) or even in the morning, if we are not well-rested, we are craving ENERGY to keep going (are you seeing a theme, here?). Make sure you take a nap instead after you eat something healthful and adjust your schedule so that you include regular sleep.

5) Binges happen when we have had any situation that caused us to release adrenalin (usually stressful or scary events) that cause the body to release blood sugar into our blood stream to prepare for the “fight or flight” response and then we have a blood sugar crash.

We also use food, particularly dairy, gluten-containing foods like wheat, and fat–oftentimes all three in combination such as in pizza, cakes, cookies, pies, and donuts– as comfort foods since all of them either contain or cause the body to produce opiates from eating them. Thus, they have a calming effect.

How does one deal better with stress? There are a myriad of ways, but the most effective ways are to have alternative activities that calm you down that you can do quickly such as visit a park, stretching combined with deep breathing, call a friend, listen to relaxing music, or anything else that is immensely enjoyable to you such as petting a cat or dog or sitting by a waterfall or shopping. Divert your mind to this new, pleasurable activity and CALM DOWN.

create a life that feels good not just looks good6) Binges can happen around certain times of the month for women due to hormonal fluctuations that create an effect in our bodies of making us more sensitive to insulin and altering our blood sugar. Again, eat more of your healthful foods such as potatoes, brown rice, veggies, and FRUITS, and know that this temporary weight gain will pass once the hormone surge is over. This is normal and we can do damage control by making sure we are fueled with the right kinds of foods.

7) This relates to #5 above, but sometimes certain stressful situations, such as a high-stress job, a fall-out with a friend or family member, death of a friend or family member can cause us stress for days or weeks. Thus, some may feel vulnerable for this same amount of time.  We can easily be triggered during this time and overwhelmed by the situation and want to turn to familiar comfort foods to cope.

What to do? Be gentle with yourself and acknowledge your vulnerable feelings and seek to make yourself feel as safe as possible. Take a walk in a forest or a park. Practice deep breathing. Get away from the situation if possible. Listen to soothing music.  Break the cycle. Have a list of soothing, comforting things to do for yourself such as take a nap and then pull that list out and do it.

8) If you have binged on something that you hadn’t planned on, it is really, really important that you do not berate yourself. Don’t over-analyze, just forgive yourself for being human and move on. Give yourself some gentle, tender-loving care and know that building health and a fit physique is about many small daily choices. You are not doomed to failure and you can get back on track as soon as you regain your inner peace and equilibrium and remove yourself from the triggering situation.

Practicing self-care is a life-long project and often we forget to be gentle and loving with ourselves. Make sure to get more rest after a binge, do not “punish” yourself with more denial or extra exercise, remove yourself from the stressful situation if at all possible and get out in nature, and realize that it was JUST ONE DAY and you do not need to eat more junk food because you had one junk food meal. Let go of the all-or-nothing perfectionist mind set and forgive yourself.


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