Like most people who struggle with weight loss, you have probably lived through this cycle at least once, or perhaps you’ve lived it over and over. Waking up to get ready for work you find your pants are too tight and just won’t button up, so you stand on the scales and it's at an all-time high, and you don’t like what you see. It’s time for you to start your diet again, so you make the promise and vow right then and then to cut all the junk, exercise every day and not exceed 1200 calories.
The next morning comes, day two of your egg and vegetable omelette and a lunch box packed with tuna, vegetables, only one piece of fruit because heaven forbid you have more carbs than you've vowed to not exceed, and carrots and tomatoes for a snack. You come home from work exhausted, but why not get an extra cardio session in there because this new health kick is it for you, you’re a changed person!
Day three comes along, yet again another perfect day. Day four, the headaches begin, you’re not performing at work, you’ve doubled your coffee intake and all you can think about are loaves of bread and blocks of chocolate - and FULL CREAM milk. Every thought and waking moment is spent thinking about those precious 1200 calories, and how you are going to allocate them to survive another day, you food porn in your spare time and have to pull yourself away from the cafe’s display of muffins and cronuts. You want to give up, but no …you stay strong. For a while.
Then soon, everything crumbles. As you are driving home from work you pull into the closest drive-thru and order enough food for a family of four. Then you do a sweet stop and grab some chocolate that you’ve been dying for! Why not pace the aisles of the supermarket too just to make sure nothing has been forgotten. You start and you just can’t stop.
You feel like you deserve it but you hate yourself for giving in. Oh well, you’ll start again on Monday….
This is our client Alice who independently selected foods of her choice meeting our strategic intake requirements set on a weekly basis according to her progress and goals.
Binge eating involves episodes of eating excessive amounts of food in one sitting, often when not hungry. A very common disorder amongst both males and females often with mirroring emotional stigmas of guilt, regret and self despise after the incident. Many binge eaters will struggle to gain a sense of control while in the midst of an episode and will usually be burdened by compensatory measures afterwards like purging, excessive exercise and restrictive eating. In the past we’ve written about this very common psychological illness and elaborated on some of the prior, during and aftermath behaviours of bingeing such as:
Beginning from picking at food
Eating beyond the point of full
Infused by alcohol
The ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ mentality
The guilty aftermath
We assisted in identifying some of the root causes like the ‘paleo, raw and organic world’, the cheat meal regime, ineffective dieting and excessive training; we also touched on different ways to assist Binge Eating Disorder.
In this article we will delve into more management strategies that have been effective in overcoming Binge Eating Disorder for clients of ours that have come to us with the issue they fear will not be resolved.
1. Be prepared
Many binge eaters will have ‘danger zones’ and different experiences or circumstances that tick them off. Recognise these and be prepared with a strategy to prevent a binge or urge to. A lot of people will be set off by not eating for a prolonged period of time during the day feeling hungry or with strong cravings. In these circumstances be sure to always carry low calorie/convenient snacks that don’t require high preparation so you’re not without a meal. Things like protein bars and shakes, yogurts, quick cups of rice and tuna etc. Don’t leave yourself in a position of vulnerability by not eating all day.
2. Track your binge
Whether it’s a food journal in the moment or a calorie counting tool, tracking a binge has been an effective mechanism for many binge eaters in showing the excess calories consumed in the episode and the reality of the issue. With a psychological illness such as binge eating, it’s not expected that in just one day the individual will snap out of binging and never eat in excess consumption again.
The recovery process is about progressively regaining control and minimising the extent of the binges each episode. What may start at a 4000 calorie binge can slowing reduce in severity to going over your intake by just 400 calories in which the repercussions are far easier to manage with a simple activity increase. By tracking the intake of each binge it can be used as a form of progress tracking in improving binge eating habits.
3. Opt for packaged singular foods
Binge eaters will have a tendency to lose control and if this behaviour starts to creep on, it must be managed with as little fuel to the fire as possible. One thing that can make a binge far worse in severity is large packages of food rather than individually wrapped items. Things like tubs of ice-cream, blocks of chocolate, litres of soft drink, family-sized chips etc. Reduce the danger foods in your household by opting for treats and foods you enjoy that are pre-portioned to minimise the severity of overeating. At worst, if you overeat, it may be by 1, 2 or 3 fun size chocolates (240 calories) rather than a family block (1500 calories).
4. Break the cycle
Aim for one week of positive progress to get the streak going and then you’ll find you’ll be on such a high to continue accumulating good day after good day. If you’re a habitual binger then chances are your binging is weighing down your progress and putting your caloric intake weekly at maintenance or a surplus, causing you to either maintain your weight despite your intentions to lose fat or gaining at a rate proportionate to your issue. There comes a point where if you’re fed up, the change has to begin somewhere. If you feel the ‘blackout zone’ coming on, talk yourself out of it and break the cycle from your usual downward spiral binges and regain control.
5. Increase your daily intake
Being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time can be a binge trigger as it can create the mentality that it’s ‘okay’ to have a binge because of the extreme deficit anyhow. You should instead consider increasing your intake closer to maintenance in a slight deficit from your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and focus on the controlled variable of ensuring consistency. If your adherence doesn’t change and you remain consistent for a period of time, you can adjust the intake and also see the benefits of the very slight deficit which will result in progressive fat loss just through your consistency alone.
By keeping this deficit small, it is often possible to reduce or even eliminate some of these cravings that result in binges through ample intake to enjoy a balanced range of food choices. Most people will find that once they are adequately fueling their bodies and eating closer to maintenance calories that they feel more in control. They feel satiated and no longer have that constant hunger.
6. Shift your goals
On that note, consider shifting your goals to focus on overcoming your binge eating issue rather than trying to dually focus on two demanding goals with counterproductive methods at once. Many people will use a comp prep or a weight loss journey to mask or ignite focus on losing weight and eliminating bingeing. However, dropping your calories too low and taking an overly aggressive approach will result in cravings that will soon become overpowering and subject you to a binge. You can use willpower for a while to overcome these feelings, but eventually, your willpower will be defeated by your cravings and urges.
Cravings are much like a slingshot, in that you can use the force of willpower to pull you back from the temptation to overeat for just so long but once the tension is at a maximum the rebound is severe. Focus first on addressing your binging issues before drastically applying a cut plan in place. Soon enough, the consistency through not binging and eating according to a slight TDEE deficit will result in progressive fat loss anyhow.
7. Eliminate your cheat meals
For a binge eater, the notion of a cheat meal or even just the weekend can ignite a sense of freedom and fuel going off the rails. If you exempt any of your meals or days as not being part of your plan it will only give reason to turning the reasonable meal into a consecutive binge or excessive consumption of food. Instead consider heightening your daily intake to create a lesser daily average on a weekly basis but having more calories on a daily by reducing the one excess day/overindulgent meal. Remember if you have the tendency to binge you want to eliminate the triggers as effectively as possible and giving a binge eater a ‘free day’ is just a ticket for disaster.
8. Diet flexibly
Flexible dieting or eating according to your macronutrients can be a blissful and enjoyable process. Coming from a clean eating or restrictive background it can educate you on meeting the essential requirements for your physical goals and maintaining good health. At Equalution, we’ve had great success in Binge Eating Disorder clients just taking every day as it comes and incorporating foods within their macronutrient requirements without restricting based on a ‘type’ of food. By doing so, science is on your side in that while there is no excess in calorie consumption i.e the treat food fits within your requirements and doesn’t tip you into a calorie surplus - then you will not gain weight as well as not need the excuse of a binge day to eat your favourite foods.
Day by day, having foods of choice and preference can better your relationship with food and divorce you from binge eating behaviours given your awareness to being able to incorporate foods you love within your daily intake goals. Your methods will say a lot about your adherence and tendency to binge, if you can’t live every day as you do for the rest of your life then you’re bound to relapse. You will learn to consider the following questions when making food choices as opposed to eating out of compulsion, lack of control or against your personal want of food choice:
What have I eaten so far today? If you’ve eaten more calorie-dense up until that point then have a lower calorie less dense meal so you don’t spill over your energy requirements for the day. If you happen to have had a calorie-dense meal and have fewer to spare, remember THERE IS ALWAYS TOMORROW! You don’t need to use this as an excuse to throw in the towel, keep mindful of your goal and remember there is day after day after day to ration out other foods you love. Yes, you probably can’t fit a pizza, donut, ice-cream and burger all on one day but there are 7 days in a week, be smart and spread them out!
What do I feel like? It’s important to eat foods you enjoy. If you deprive or rob yourself of the food choices you want, then it can later lead to binging. If you begin tracking your intake then it can also be consumed on a blowout day.
What macronutrients have I had most of today? If you’ve eaten lots of fat up until that point then try and select a food choice a little higher in protein in order to give your body what it requires. Remember to try and hit the necessities first and you can leave some room for chocolate later within your requirements - no binge necessary!
What is convenient? Don’t bend over backwards for your diet. It becomes exhausting and can lead to giving up and letting loose. Let your diet fit into your lifestyle, if you lead a busy life there are plenty of wise choices that can be made. Spending hours in the kitchen piling food into Tupperware containers will only make you feel restricted and lead to a binge later or stopping at a take out joint for a massive blowout.
Am I hungry? Meal timing is irrelevant. Don’t feel as though you need to keep the metabolism ‘firing’ by eating every two-three hours as this has been scientifically proven as a myth. Eat when you’re hungry and learn to separate hunger from boredom. Listening to your body is a key skill that many people with Binge Eating Disorder can’t get the knack of. It’s really important for triggering when you eat and when you stop. As a binge eater, you may be used to big volumes of food. Test out having less frequent but more calorie-dense meals made up of voluminous ingredients so you feel like you’re getting a big serving and are fuller for longer.
9. Quit excusing itCome to terms with the fact that you have an issue if you continue to overeat or can’t adhere to a reasonable intake of food daily and consistently. Replacing your excuses and justifications with a self-confession that there is an underlying problem will allow you to address it.
10. Seek professional help
A healthcare professional with experience can help you set goals, make a plan and address the root cause of your issue to help you overcome it. Our team deals with overcoming eating disorders in individuals of all ages on a daily basis. We have worked up clients suffering anorexia on less than 300 calories a day to over 3000 calories a day with progressive muscle and weight gain through hitting their required macronutrient targets.
We have had clients rejoice at not binging or feeling the need to slip purely because their plans were reflective of their exact foods of choice not hindering their lifestyle. It all begins and ends with bettering your perception and relationship with food. As well as this, a professional can help bridge the barrier between your mental setbacks, showing you a method that will get you results through a plan that embodies scientific fundamentals of fat loss or muscle gain or weight management.
Binge eating is a habitual addiction which can be managed immediately but requires patience, time and commitment to building a better relationship with self-perception and food.
If you’re sick and tired of the same old vicious cycle and want to eat what you want sustainably, take the first step in seeking professional assistance and we can show you the ways of flexible dieting. If you're ready to make friends with food, give us a shout.
Yours in Health & Fitness,
The Equalution Team