This is part of my new series of helping you to overcome binge eating and find a happy balance with food. I’ve written a lot about this on my blog because it is definitely the biggest thing I’ve had to deal with and I remember how helpless I felt. I just wanted hope that there was a way out. Perhaps you aren’t as deep into it as I was and you just struggle with the occasional binge here and there; but I hope this helps anyone and everyone who has ever struggled with overeating and guilt around food.
The very first thing that I have to mention, is that if you aren’t eating enough; your body is automatically going to be craving food and leading you towards EATING whatever you can get- so none of the stuff below is going to work until you are getting your nutrition in check. To start, aim for at least 2000 calories/ day and getting in 3 balanced meals and 2-3 snacks in. You should feel satisfied and energized and NOT starving! For some people who have past or current eating disorders; 2000 calories may seem like a lot. I challenge you to add up how many calories you eat in the course of a binge (for me it was usually at least 3,000) and then divide that up over every few days or how often you binge. When I realized that the calories I was taking in during a binge COMPLETELY negated any low calorie days in between I realized I need to up my calories majorly to keep me full and HAPPY. As soon as I upped my calories and ate more, I binged less and ending up losing weight. (Not that this is about weight loss, but I know for some of you this may be motivation and if it gets you to eat more, that makes me happy!) Secondly, I don’t want calories to be the focus here and have only used these numbers as a rough estimate.
Once you start eating enough and getting in all your nutrients- you need to start focussing on your BRAIN. In my opinion, the main cause of binge eating has NOTHING to do with self control, willpower or being a “sugar addict”. It has to do with the thoughts swirling around in your head that control everything! Once you start changing your thoughts about food and your body- you truly change your life.
Step 1: Get in tune with those thoughts. You can’t start changing them until you know they are there! Ever find yourself midway through a massive binge and you had no idea how you even got there? That used to happen to me all the time. Once I started practicing more mindfulness I could start to see the triggers. Whenever I was feeling tired or overwhelmed I noticed I tended towards all or nothing thinking. It was either “sit here and focus and do all your work” or “fuck it I’m going to buy chocolate and sit in bed and hide”. Once I had the option to say “fuck it!” you can guess what I did 90% of the time. Now I’m learning to recognize those thoughts and find a better balance. I now shift towards more grey thinking as in “Ok, I’m not really feeling motivated right now, so why don’t I give myself an hour to read my book and relax guilt free, perhaps have some chocolate mindfully and then come back to it?” Listening to your thoughts can allow you to create more options that you didn’t see before. This also comes in handy if you are one of those people that as soon as they “slip up” on a diet- you just figure that day is ruined and eat everything in sight so it’s gone. When you think about this logically it’s actually so NUTS that we do this! A good analogy is if you get one flat tire- instead of changing it and moving on down the road- you slash the other four and end up stuck on the side of the road all day! So if you find yourself labelling foods “good” or “bad” and when you eat “bad” foods you just want to eat them all- challenge your thinking. Is that what you really truly want? To sit on the side of the road all day with 4 flat tires? Or do you want to ENJOY that delicious dessert and move on with your day without obsessing over food? I think all or nothing thinking is extremely common in people that struggle with addiction or eating disorders. Here is the thing- perhaps with other addictions such as drugs/etc you can be “all or nothing” when recovering. With food- you are never going to have that option- so you might as well learn to live in harmony with it, rather than constantly fighting with your brain and cravings. You are going to spend the rest of your life eating, so lets make it joyful and satisfying shall we?
This brings me to my next suggestion… Erasing GUILT around food. I have gotten so much better at this, but I definitely still find myself berating myself for wanting dairy queen or feeling bad if I want 2 servings of dessert. We need to take the GUILT AND SHAME out of eating. Here is the cycle when guilt & shame are included:
Wake up and have a “healthy” breakfast (again- labelling good and bad foods.. which we want to avoid). You feel pride, a sense of control.
Getting hungry an hour later- you’re feeling annoyed and like you already had enough food so why are you hungry again? (judging yourself, and your hunger signals is never good)
You force yourself to wait till lunch because you think you don’t need more food (deprivation)
You forgot your healthy lunch at home and go out- you are starving by now so pizza looks amazing. You know you “shouldn’t” but it just looks so good…
Wolf down two slices of pizza while barely tasting them- and continue to feel guilt around your lunch “that wasn’t the most nutritious option, I should have had a salad, ugh why did I do that, I feel sick..”
Feeling hungry mid-afternoon but since you ate pizza you don’t think you should be snacking on anything.
You get to the end of the day after feeling like garbage all afternoon and decide “Screw this! What’s the point in going home and making myself a nice dinner? I don’t deserve it. I already ruined things by eating that pizza. I’ll just pick up something on the way home and start again tomorrow. “
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Now imagine if we took the guilt and judgement and shame OUT of this equation:
Wake up and have what you are craving for breakfast. Two slices of toast, 2 eggs, avocado, yum! You eat till satisfied and go on with your day. No judgement over how big or little the breakfast was.
Getting hungry an hour later- oh! Well guess I’ll have an apple right now, that sounds good. I’ll enjoy this nice juicy apple.
Lunch time rolls around- You forgot your healthy lunch at home and go out- you are starving by now so pizza looks amazing. You eat pizza. That’s all.
Afternoon- feeling pretty hungry again and need a pick me up- I think I’ll have a handful of nuts, and ooh a latte sounds delicious! (No judgement, just enjoyment)
Dinnertime: I am craving that healthy lunch I left at home, perhaps I’ll have that and a nice glass of wine to go with it! Feel satisfied and enjoyed every bite.
Can you imagine being person #2? Where you just eat what you like? Enjoy it? Don’t obsess over food all day? Well, the first step in becoming person #2 is to start actually recognizing your thoughts. Trust me- no matter how crazy you feel around food right now- it is possible for you to be able to simplify eating and enjoy every bite.
I’ll leave you with this, start listening to your thoughts and identifying triggers. This does take time and I’m not saying you are magically going to become someone who barely thinks about food all day and “forgets to eat”. (Who are you people??) but, you will start noticing patterns, thoughts, and perhaps this will help you with the next step of enjoying all foods guilt-free. Try not to place restrictions on yourself. The more you give yourself UNLIMITED FREEDOM the less pull any food has on you. It’s pretty crazy but the best feeling in the world when you realize the food doesn’t control you!
Comment below any questions, or thoughts you have with this- I would love to hear it!