How to stop binge eating
Well, it’s happened. I had an exhausting week, and came home from work tired, stressed and strung out. The last thing I wanted to do was cook. Didn’t even have the energy to boil water for tea. That’s pretty pathetic! So, I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I sat down at the computer to check my email, along with a bag of Trader Joe’s Baked Cheese Crunchies. I. Ate. The. Whole. Bag. How could I even write about this? I feel awful. I feel like I need to turn this around and figure out how to stop binge eating.
How could I let this happen?
Consuming plant-strong foods day in and day out, can be, well, mind-numbing sometimes. It takes a lot of planning and prep, before work, and on weekends.
It takes a constant stream of consciousness to have the awareness of what I am putting in my mouth at any given meal, and tonight was a blow-out for me. A total and complete plant-based black-out of epic proportions.
Why did this happen? The easy answer is, “well, I was tired and I deserve it” — but that’s a cop out. The truth is that I didn’t plan. Plain and simple. As each day went by, I planned less and less, and my FitBit app was waiting for me to log in and track my calories. But it remained silent, no tracking, no nothing.
So I was setting myself up for a good sabotage, as we all do, from time to time.
Getting back to basics
So, once I work my way through a litany of self-defeating scripts that will scroll in an endless loop in my head, I will get to the point of forgiveness.
The damage is done. I consumed huge amounts of cheddar cheese, milk, salt, whey, butter, buttermilk, canola oil, sunflower oil, cornmeal, expeller-pressed vegetable oil, and more salt, for dinner.
Now is the time to take a step back and understand that being healthy and plant-strong isn’t something that happens on it’s own. It takes a level of awareness, of desire and with the belief system that eating mostly plants, fruits, legumes and grains, is the way to go, hands down.
It is a way of life, and as such, takes kick-ass work. No other way around it.
It is so easy to fall back to a life of complacency, going back to bad habits, but I think it is important to recognize where our motivation to be plant-strong came from to begin with. Was it a diagnosis? A weight concern? A warning from the doctor? Is all of that even motivating at all…?
The problem is that fear becomes the motivator, which as we know, is not long-lasting. It is just human nature to fall back to old habits, even after a warning from the doctor or a life-threatening event, or cancer.
I am a breast-cancer survivor, so you would think that I would be so careful every moment of every day. How can I stay motivated to such an extent and for such a long period of time?
Concentrating on the horrible things that can happen to us is motivating, but only for short periods of time. Why? It is uncomfortable!
How can we stay in a mindset of eating healthy just to prevent illness and doom? How can we stay motivated, knowing that we are just eating this way because cancer and heart disease run in our families?
What about changing our mindset from thinking in terms of what awful things will happen if we DON’T change our ways, to what great things will happen if we DO change our ways! See the difference? It is important to re-frame our thoughts, which is so critical for long-term gain.
So, why the cheese crunchies?
Aside from the obvious lapse in judgement and planning, my thoughts were along the lines of, “well, if I keep eating cheese crunchies for dinner, I will gain weight and feel awful and clog all my arteries”. HOW could that line of thinking change my behavior, other than to make me feel worse? There was NO way it could have. I think I could have been more successful had I thought something like, “remember how great you feel when you have a salad or something delicious and fresh for dinner?”
Here’s another: “I am going to eat split pea lentil soup for dinner instead of a burger and fries, because I want to ___________________” Fill in the blank with something that you feel passionate about — something to keep you motivated from a place of love and positivity.
Instead of focusing on the negative, I’m thinking that remembering the feelings of health and wellness are what sustain motivation.
After the enthusiasm wears off
We’ve all been there. Starting a new, healthy way of eating is exciting and new, filled with good intentions. But after those good intentions have worn off, it’s a slippery slope into a chips-and-guac-induced coma.
Changing our behavior from intentional to automatic is key. We need to stop thinking about what we are doing, and act out of habit, so that those healthy choices can sustain us no matter where we are.
For me, the problem lies in making too many diet-related decisions. Day after day, I make hundreds of food-related decisions. Call it decision-exhaustion, which erodes willpower. So, after making so many decisions around food, is it any wonder I had cheese crunchies for dinner? See what I mean?
We need to set up our lives so that our food-related decisions are minimized, and that the healthiest choices are always the easiest.
How do we do that?
Making sure our pantries are always stocked with healthy foods and snacks, packing healthy food to take on trips, to the office, on errands, and to keep in the car on a long drive, so that you don’t end up scrounging for food at the local gas station grocery.
Make sure the food you pack is food you like, and will want to eat when you feel hungry. Make sure it is satisfying to the extent that you don’t feel deprived.
Keep it simple. There are lots of plant-based foods in the supermarket that are pre-packaged, in smaller containers, already chopped, washed and ready to go. It doesn’t reflect negatively if you choose to buy a bag of organic spinach, because you don’t have the time to chop and clean a fresh bunch. No big deal.
Or if you have to buy a bag of organic carrots that are already cut up. Just rinse and go. Who cares!
Avoid making decisions as much as possible. (Is that even possible?!) Make sure your healthiest choices are always the easiest. Keep in mind that addictive foods (like the one I had for dinner tonight) only feel good in the immediate moment. Have a plan in place to implement your intentions. In other words, plan ahead.
What does that accomplish? Planning ahead avoids the decision-making point, when you are faced with a decision that is overpowered by hunger or stress. Planning ahead also eliminates the pleasure trap of reacting in the moment without thought or intention.
So if you are going out to eat with friends this weekend, take a look at the menu in advance (usually online) and figure out what you are going to order. You have the time, in advance, to put a plan in place, to set your intentions. When you are at the restaurant, you can enjoy the company of your friends without experiencing “decision fatigue” and making an impulsive, unhealthy choice.
Anticipating when you will need to make decisions, can help to avoid the possibility of making unhealthy ones, or certainly ones you won’t feel so good about.
Tonight was a perfect example. I was exhausted, couldn’t face one more decision, had nothing prepared in the refridge, and grabbed the cheese crunchies for immediate gratification. Time for some warm lemon water for my aching tummy, as I try to recover from binge eating.