Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Do I Stop Bingeing?

Anyone who has ever had a weight loss goal knows that concentrated periods of over overeating, usually in private, will derail fat loss efforts and lead to serious feelings of regret. The International Journal of Eating Disorders states that,

"Binge eating is closely related to obesity and excessive weight gain, as well as the onset of diabetes, hypertension, and psychiatric disorders such as depression."

So why in the world do we do it, and how can we stop?
Today: Find a place to rest
and think about solutions.

As to the why, to put it simply:

1. Dieting leads to hunger
2. We resist our hunger until our appetites build to the breaking point.
3. Thoughts of stimulating, calorie dense foods become overwhelming.
4. Snack seeking behavior begins, we eat the first bite, and instinct and compulsion take over until the binge food is gone, or we collapse in defeat and exhaustion.

Does that sound about right?

There are so many hyper-palatable foods available now that modern life is a minefield of temptation.  I was talking to a Gordon Studio member about the number of eating cues we regularly pass on the drive downtown to TT class.

 My favorite is the ice cream cone that is bigger than me on one corner, with a young guy spinning a pizza sign on the other.

Yes, the people who sell binge food want our money, and they know how to get our attention.  Once they have our attention, it is difficult to resist the desire to buy and consume what they offer.  On top of that, if you have managed to exercise and eat sensibly long enough to get a body you can be happy with, all of a sudden a little voice starts to whisper to you,

"You look just fine, great even, so what could it hurt to have a little treat?  Look around.  What? are you trying to be better than everyone else?  Everybody else eats sugary, salty, starchy, oily snacks and they love them!"

There is a part of you that wants the "Hit" that comes from sugar, flour, trans fats, and chemical flavorings.  Some of the same science that was used to addict people to nicotine has been transferred over to the manipulation of snack food.  So how in the world do you break free?

After 43 years of struggling with binge eating, (the first binge I can clearly remember happened when I was around age six) I can call myself an expert on this painful habit.  I have learned to manage it enough so that I am enjoying a happy life in the world of sharing fitness with my students and readers, but I still fall into the pit of bingeing despite all that I know, and all that I do to prevent it.

There is hope though!

I have a clear goal, and that is to leave binge eating behind by using the best strategies I know for staying nourished, satisfied, and emotionally balanced, one day at a time.  Each day of sane healthy eating is a gift and a treasure that I weave together to create the strength to let over-eating cues wash over me and pass away without causing harm.

So here are some practical behaviors that soothe and quiet destructive eating impulses.

1.  Eat nutritious, satisfying food, and drink plenty of water.

The solution to hunger is satiety, and I believe that satiety comes from eating nutrient dense food with an appropriate balance of fat, protein, and fibrous carbs.  What is the appropriate balance?  Here is where things get challenging, because it is different for all of us!  Your appetite is as individual as you are- just like your taste in clothes, or romantic partners for that matter.

 (As a matter of fact, the food I sometimes crave reminds me of the guys I used to crave:
 Tempting, a little dangerous, and likely to cause terrible regret after a few moments of pleasure.)

Bottom line, you need to eat enough healthy satisfying food to achieve satiety each day.

2. Know yourself.

If you have a serious problem with binge eating, help is available at Overeaters Anonymous www.oa.org, and Food Addicts Anonymous, www.foodaddictsanonymous.org.  If you want to examine overeating's role in your life, ask yourself these questions:

Are there foods I always overeat?
During the days when I am happy and at peace with food, what do I eat?
During the days when I am happy and at peace with food, what do I do?
What kinds of situations cause me to start the food seeking behaviors that hurt me?

3. Look for solutions.

Books like, "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler, "Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It" by Gary Taubes, and "Abstinence, Members of Overeaters Anonymous Share Their Experience Strength and Hope, By Overeaters Anonymous, and even my book, "Keep the Change: Transform your Body For Good" by Catherine Gordon, can be a place to start looking for answers.  Just be aware that what works, in my experience, is never exactly the same for anyone who wants to overcome binge eating.

Finally, I believe that we look for satisfaction in food when there is an empty space in our lives that needs to be addressed through fulfillment.  Here is a hint as to where to look for that fulfillment.  Ask yourself one more question today:

What do I love doing that could be of service to others?

When you come up with an answer, start to do that thing, or volunteer that service, or simply begin by practicing and studying it.  This has an excellent chance of beginning to fill the empty space that seems to be calling out for the kind of eating behavior that hurts you.

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