Binge eating is the biggest barrier for folks trying to lose weight. It causes weight gain and makes people feel helpless and bad about themselves.
The truth is, well all overeat, especially on special occasions and holidays. But that doesn’t qualify as bingeing. You’re a binge eater if you:
- Continue to eat even when you’re uncomfortably full.
- Feel guilty and disgusted with yourself after you overeat.
- Lose control when you’re around food.
- Obsess over food and always think about what you’ll eat in the next meal.
- Overeat too often.
If you can relate to more than 2 of the above habits – you’re a binge eater. And frankly, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Binge eating is a real problem, and you have to overcome it to lose weight and keep it off.
Maybe you eat healthy most of the times – you avoid sugary foods and junk food throughout the week. But then the weekend comes and all hell breaks loose. It doesn’t even start with a big plate of junk food in front of you. It only takes a bite of ice cream, and before you know it, the whole carton is gone, and so are all the snacks in the house. After that, you start feeling guilty and ashamed.
At this point, you can either – say screw it, and continue bingeing. Or decide you’ll exercise harder the coming week, to burn off the excess calories.
But none of these approaches will be helpful. Of course, you’ll gain weight if you continue bingeing. And exercising more, won’t burn off all the excess calories, and here’s why….
Exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as you may think.
According to this study by Arizona State University, it takes an average of one hour to burn 500 calories with bodyweight exercises. Assuming you’ll exercise without rest – which is not possible. So realistically, you need about 2 hours to burn 500 calories.
Now, let’s say you munch an excess 3000 calories over the weekend. Simple math tells me that it’ll take 12 hours of exercise to burn the 3000 calories. Well, unless you’re a gym rat, it’s not possible to exercise for 12 hours in a week.
In short, punishing yourself with exercise after bingeing never works.
Other dieters try to make up for bingeing by undereating, but this doesn’t work either. Calorie restriction actually causes bingeing. And it leads to a never-ending cycle of Binge- Starve- Binge. Repeat.
It’s worth noting that dieters binge because of different reasons. It could be due to emotional, physical or environmental factors.
For instance, people who have a history of depression tend to struggle with bingeing. Others binge when they feel lonely or low.
It’s easier to stop bingeing once you identify why you binge, anyway, more on that later. But whatever your reason for bingeing is, you can stop binge eating and have complete control over what and how much you eat. You just need to follow the strategies listed below.
How to Stop Binge Eating for Good
Practice mindful eating
Bingeing mostly happens at nighttime and on the weekends. You know why?
Because, at these times, most people are in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips on their laps. And they eat mindlessly while focusing on what’s on the tube. Only to realize what just happened when the bowl is empty.
Several studies have proved that people overeat when they eat while watching TV.
Avoid watching TV and other distractions while eating. Now, this is easier said than done. Most people will only be mindful for a few days then go back to old ways. So here are a few tips to help you stay mindful throughout.
Sit upright when eating – Maintaining proper sitting posture will bring you to the present moment. You’ll remember to avoid distractions and focus on eating only.
Don’t eat snacks straight from the bag – You can’t know how much you’ve eaten if you eat crisps straight from the bag. Put them in a bowl and eat from there.
Eat at the table – Don’t eat while lying down on the couch or walking. Sit down at the dining table and focus on eating.
Chew slowly – Don’t swallow food immediately it gets in the mouth. Take time to chew it until it’s completely broken down.
Give up cheat days
Cheat days are supposed to give you a break from dieting and recharge the body. The reasoning behind them is that eating healthy has constraints. So cheat days will allow you to reward yourself with foods you enjoy and keep your willpower intact.
But there are a few things wrong with this approach. For one, cheat days have become binge days. Dieters try to compensate for all the days they didn’t eat the foods they wanted – so they end up bingeing. And they’re more likely do the same thing the days following the cheat day.
Second, eating disorder experts say that the term ‘cheat day’ makes dieters feel as if they’re doing something forbidden. So they end up feeling guilty and ashamed after cheat days.
So what should you do? Abandon cheat meals? Stop eating certain foods?
Well, you should stop having cheat days and start enjoying treats from time to time. Instead of eating all treats in one day, spread them through the week. For instance, you can eat cookies on Monday night, Tuesday night and Friday night.
Note that this approach may not work for everyone. Some people can’t have one cookie and be satisfied – they’ll eat more and more. If that’s you – completely avoid those foods. Maybe you can start eating them in future after you’ve gained more control over food.
Stay away from strict diets
As I said earlier, restrictive diets usually lead to bingeing and increase cravings. Stop focusing on things like what time you eat carbs or when you exercise.
Just make sure most of the calories you eat come from nutrient dense foods and unprocessed foods. And don’t eliminate a whole macronutrient out of your diet. Your diet should have fats, carbs, and proteins.
Try to make your meal plan as simple as possible. And pay less attention to diet composition – instead, focus on quality and quantity of food.
All you have to do is maintain a calorie deficit and eat healthy 90 percent of the time. Then eat the high-calorie foods you enjoy 10 percent of the time.
Make it hard to binge
You’re more likely to binge if the foods you crave are in the house. In fact, seeing those foods can trigger cravings. So remove the foods you’re likely to binge on from the house.
Well, this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t binge but it reduces the chances. Because when you crave foods, you’ll have to go to the shop to buy them. Now, on the way, you’ll have time to think about what you’re about to do and its consequences and you may change your mind.
Avoid buying big bags of snacks. When buying snacks, only buy what you intend to eat that day.
Research shows that maintaining a calorie deficit increases the risk of bingeing. So stay away from diets which advocate for huge calorie deficits.
Naturally, you’ll want to lower your calorie intake when weight loss slows down. But that’s never a good idea – huge calorie deficits lead to loss of muscle which consequently slows down metabolism.
Well, you still need to maintain a calorie deficit to lose weight. So eat enough to keep hunger at bay and still be able to lose weight.
How will you do this?
Eat foods which are filling and low in calories. These are foods which are rich in fiber and are unprocessed. They include vegetables, fruits, meat, whole grains, and so on.
Learn to deal with negative emotions
Stop turning to food for comfort when you feel negative emotions. Find other ways to deal with stress or loneliness.
If you’re stressed, talk about it with friends and family or see a therapist. Exercise, yoga, meditation, and playing sports can also get rid of stress. Remember that stress hinders weight loss so find a way to reduce it.
For most people, stepping on the scale brings anxiety and frustration. So stop weighing yourself every day. And don’t attach too much value to the number on the scale. Focus on other things like strength, how many push ups you can do, and so on.
Research shows that building strong relationships with spouses and friends can help reduce loneliness.
Lastly, if your goals are not realistic you’ll end up being frustrated. Realize that fat loss takes time – be realistic with your goals.
Keep a bingeing journal
Keeping a journal will help you identify situations which trigger bingeing. Once you’ve identified these situations, it’ll be easier to come up with a plan to avoid them.
When you binge – write down the time you binged, the food you ate, what you were doing, and so on. Soon you’ll identify a pattern and you’ll be able to stop it.
Believe you can control yourself
Bingeing is less about the foods you eat and more about YOU. Most binge eaters believe that they have no control over what they eat. Since they’ve failed in diet after diet, they convince themselves that they have no willpower over food.
But you only failed because you did a few things wrong. Once you follow the tips in this article, you’ll start having control over food and you won’t feel guilty when you eat your favorite foods.
See a professional
If you try all these tips and nothing seems to work, seek help from a counselor or a doctor who specializes in eating disorders.
It’s not possible to lose weight and keep it off if you’re a binge eater. I hope that the strategies in this article will help you overcome bingeing and reach your ideal weight.
Realize that bingeing is a big challenge for many people. So if you have any strategies that have worked for you, please share them in the comments section.
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