Binge eating is a very common issue for dieters and athletes alike. It is defined as ‘episodes of rapid and excessive food consumption not necessarily driven by hunger or metabolic need.’ (1) It can be a very challenging issue to deal with, usually resulting in a cycle of dieting and possibly food restrictions and/or excessive exercise to compensate for the extra calories consumed.
Binge eating when it is a frequent occurrence, can derail your hard work in the gym, your motivation and in more serious cases can even progress to an eating disorders. Don’t beat yourself up about it – it’s more common than people think.
Effects of Binge Eating
The worst parts of a binge are the feelings of guilt and failure that you feel afterwards. Restricting your meal plan may result in leaving you prone to willpower lapses, causing the consumption of foods you originally excluded from your diet.
The most common foods involved in binge eating tend to be desserts such as sweets, cakes and ice-cream – when eaten in excess they certainly will contribute to weight gain. Hence the importance of not depriving yourself of enjoyable foods. Not to say junk food is good for you, but having a small but reasonable amount of a food you enjoy may prevents a binge at a later stage.
Take note of these 7 tips to avoid binge eating…
1. Eat before you’re starving
To avoid over-eating, one of the most effective things you can do is making sure you eat before you get really hungry – even if it’s a quick smoothie or shake. When you are starving, you are much less likely to make a healthy choice or stick to your plan and most people tend to crave high carbohydrate and high fat foods when they let themselves go without food for too long.
These foods are fine in moderation, but you will be much more vulnerable to over-eating as the more famished you are, the more you may eat before your brain registers that it is full. I always find if I eat as soon as I start to feel hungry it is much easier to stick to my food plan – even if i’m not “due” for my next meal.
2. Plan and make the right choices
If I do not plan ahead, I would never be able to stick to my food plan. I have learned this the hard way and have discovered that planning ahead makes life a whole lot easier. Doing this eliminates any issues with choosing the right foods and preparing them, especially if you have a busy day ahead!
Make sure that you have a selection of foods in your fridge that will suit your goals so that when you do want a snack, there are healthy options available to you. It is much easier to make a bad food choice than a good one if you are not prepared; this is why it is so important to make your lifestyle as easy as possible on yourself by making a plan and sticking to it.
The small things all add up and when it comes to food choices, consistency is so much more important than perfection.
3. Take your time and drink fluids
Studies have shown that people who drink a glass of water before and with their meal tend to eat less. A glass of water will make you feel fuller quicker.
It is also important to note that people often mistake thirst for hunger, this is why many weight loss programmes recommend that you stay hydrated throughout the day so that you do not mistake your bodies’ signals of thirst for hunger.
It may be difficult to approach exercise when you’re not feeling great, however, engaging in any form of exercise – whether it be a gentle walk or a hardcore HIIT workout – will not only distract you from your temptation to binge but allow you to release endorphins to boost your mood – all whilst burning calories!
Grab your jacket and head out of the door before you allow yourself time to absorb what’s happening – I promise, you’ll feel a lot better after getting some fresh air to snap you out of it.
5. Concentrate and enjoy your food
Take your time and enjoy your food – often there is a delay in our brain realising that we have eaten enough, therefore many people overeat by rushing their food.
You may think that it will be difficult to eat slower if you are accustomed to eating at a quick pace – but this is where the problem usually lies.
In addition, savouring your meals and eating at a leisurely pace will also prevent any indigestion and discomfort.
6. Challenge your behaviour
to find a balance
to find a balance
Be self aware and understand that while binges can happen, there are also many steps you can do to reduce the likelihood and frequency of them happening. It is unhealthy and both mentally and physically damaging when it becomes a frequent occurrence. I can relate to this and am speaking from a personal perspective – I found that this behaviour resulted in extra weight gain.
Being more flexible with my food has eliminated that guilt that I used to have when I ate ‘uncommon’ foods to my original diet, and now I ensure that I frequently include a small amount of so called ‘bad foods’ into my plan to never feel deprived. This of course is done while ensuring the rest of my plan is balanced, healthy and conductive to reaching my goals and I now have a sense of freedom that I had not got before when I was a lot stricter on my food intake.
7) Know your triggers and
avoid ‘cues to binge’
avoid ‘cues to binge’
Will power is not infinite, especially if you are under any pressure or stress! It is also common for many people to form a habit of binge eating in certain situations. This can vary from having a packet of biscuits with a cup of tea to relying on junk food to get study and assignments done both at work and at home.
Viewing certain foods as a reward can also encourage binge eating especially in times of stress – such as a hard day at work. This is where planning can be very valuable in overcoming binge eating episodes. If you can identify potential triggers to this behaviour you can then put a plan in place to try and avoid it from occurring. If you find you tend to binge eat at night in front of the telly, consider either changing your evening activity, for example going on a walk or even having a bath to break the habit.
Take home message
The steps above have been invaluable for me in maintaining consistency with my food plan and as mentioned above, when it comes to nutrition this are so much more conductive to getting results and reaching goals than perfection.
It is ok to make mistakes and the important thing is how you handle them afterwards. By planning ahead you can take control of your eating habits and also reach your goals while maintaining your health and sanity at the same time!