How to stop binge eating

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…?

Uncomfortable motivators

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! 

Bottom line

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.

 

 

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10 thoughts on “How to stop binge eating”

  • Love this post, Amy! Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings. Before I started to get interested in healthy eating and a healthy life I didn’t plan at all what to eat. I just ate what I was used to eating, for example, a lot of pasta with sauces and drink way too much sweet iced tea. I love ice cream and chocolate and I ate too much of it, which showed on the scale. Now, I limit the consumption of sweets to the weekends. I eat much more fruit and vegetables. On days when my willpower is low, it happens that I eat more than usual and I ”allow myself” bread with jam or sweet yogurt or even ice cream. Later I feel awful and remember the times I had more kilos.

    Planning ahead is a wise advice, it reduces the stress of making decisions. Getting enough sleep is also very helpful to me. If I don’t have slept enough, I feel hungrier and get cravings for sweets. So my best recipe is to get enough sleep.

    Your ”keep it simple” tip is very appreciated !!

    Pernilla

    • Thank you, Pernilla! Glad my article resonated with you. I think that sleep is vastly overlooked and really it is the place we need to start. Can can we possibly stay focused and on track during the day when our brain cells are running on overdrive and we are exhausted? The perfect storm for over-eating. We eat sugar just to stay awake! I agree that eating sweets on weekends is a good strategy! Something to look forward to!

  • Years ago, I had a health scare and decided not to eat junk food anymore. I think junk food is toxic to the body, so I stay away from them. My body is so conditioned now to healthy eating that I can’t even eat those cheese crunches. I would rather grab an apple. Is there a special time of day to drink warm lemon water, or should we just sip it throughout the day?

    • Hi Carol! Thanks for writing…! Good for you for putting the junk food aside. It is very hard to do, since the ingredients are so addicting…!  As for lemon water, it really doesn’t matter when you drink it. I guess for me it depends on the weather. So, for example, in the cold months of winter, I prefer to sip a cup of warm lemon water in the morning to get my day started. In the summer, I will drink a whole water bottle full of lemon water, filled with ice. Doesn’t matter much, as long as you drink it somehow! All the best!

  • I absolutely love this post. It hits close to home for me.
    I taught my children to seek comfort in junk food the same way I did. Only to realize it was just another excuse for me to keep filling my body with junk food.
    It’s been a real struggle to get us out of those bad habits. So I really appreciate your tips here. So helpful.
    Thank you

    • Yes it is very easy to have junk food to soothe our souls — and very difficult to break out of that. Planning ahead is key, and don’t keep the stuff in the house! Thanks for writing!

  • I’m one of those chips, cookies, and junk food people. I have had that problem for a long time. I have tried harder now that I’m older and have learned to care about my health more.
    I was always one of those people that could and would eat whatever I wanted, never gain any weight but now to say in the long run. Its probably what interrupted my thyroid glands proper functions.
    So the damage is done now I have to think more about what I’m eating and tho I may not see it….how its effecting my health. Very good article!
    -Ruth

    • Thanks, Ruth — and yes, as we get older there is a certain awareness that comes, with age, but yet difficult to break those old habits. I have a thyroid issue as well, which makes it that much more important to eat healthy and clean. I appreciate your comments and thank you!

  • That is exactly what I do! I only stock my cabinets and fridge with healthy choices. We don’t have chips, crackers, dips, etc in our home. So when my son goes looking for a snack, he is only going to find healthy choices. And yes, sometimes you just need a break from the healthy. It is a slippery road, because once I head out and get something totally unhealthy, it just temps me to keep doing it!

    • Yes — that’s the thing with addictive carbs and junk — the more you eat the more you want. But you are right — having only healthy snacks in the house is the way to go! Thanks for writing!

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