Does this scenario look familiar to anyone? After sticking rigidly to my diet for weeks, I “cracked” and scoffed an entire stick of garlic bread with a tub of onion and garlic dip.
At least the vampires kept away that night…
The body and mind react badly to several weeks of “perfect” dieting. Constant low-level hunger makes you crave food, and forbidding anything makes it perversely more desirable.
Weeks of deprivation lead to grabbing the nearest high-fat, high-calorie foods and digging in. So, what can you do to break the pattern?
After a binge is over
You’re staring at a pile of chocolate wrappers, crisp packets and biscuits crumbs. You feel horribly stuffed, and a bit sick. And you feel awful because you’ve “broken” your diet.
There is absolutely no point beating yourself up. It’s happened. It’s over. Draw a firm mental line and put it behind you. Go and get a bath or a long shower. Once you’re feeling calmer, sit down somewhere quiet and work out what led to the binge. (You may find it helps to write this down.)
- Have you eaten enough over the past few days or weeks?
- Where did the “binge” food come from? (If it was in your cupboards, maybe a clear-out is in order … it’s much easier to avoid eating junk if it’s not there!)
- How were you feeling? Miserable? Bored? Annoyed? Upset?
- What were your thoughts before you started the binge?
Once you’ve pin-pointed the “trigger” for the binge, you’re 90% of the way to avoiding it happening again. An hour of over-eating won’t ruin your diet, but carrying on for a whole day or week will inevitably sabotage your weight-loss.
In the middle of a binge
Sometimes, you come to your senses half-way through the family-sized pack of cookies. You realize you’ve just scoffed your calorie allowance for the day. But it’s too late to stop, isn’t it?
It’s better to eat five cookies than ten. As soon as you realize what you’re doing:
- Put the food down. Throw away the rest of the packet. If this seems an awful waste, so much the better; by chucking it out, you show you’re serious
- Go and brush your teeth, which should reduce the urge to keep going until you’re completely stuffed.
- Make a note of the time, and promise yourself you won’t eat anything for the next three hours.
Then find something to do which will keep you away from food. If it’s active, even better. Throw yourself into the chores, get out in the garden, go for a long walk. Or phone a friend, do something creative (like knitting or papercrafts), anything that keeps your hands busy.
Once you’ve had a chance to calm down from the binge, be proud; you stopped yourself part-way, which is hard to do. Think through the factors listed for “After a binge is over” above – what led to it? What will you do differently in future?
Before the binge has started
Perhaps you already know what triggers your overeating, or perhaps you’re able to work it out from a past binge. If so, take active steps now to avoid the things that set you off. Try:
- Avoiding boredom. Find hobbies to occupy your brain (and hands) in the evenings and at weekends.
- Getting exercise. You’ll be much less inclined to wolf down a mars bar when you’ve spent thirty minutes sweating away in the gym.
- Portion control. Buying a family-sized bag of tortilla chips is never a good idea; “I’ll just have a handful a day” won’t work. Stick to multipacks.
- Having treats. Don’t cut out everything “bad”. Have a little treat to look forward to each day. Take the occasional evening off – eat things you really enjoy, though, rather than scoffing everything in sight.
How have you conquered binge-eating?