The Binge Beat-down Post

First off, I feel the need to make a disclaimer: Although I have been without a binge for quite some time (four weeks, I think, and I’ve only binged twice in the past 13 weeks), I reckon I don’t really think I’ve “beat” binge eating. I don’t think that I’ll go without a binge ever again, but there is a big difference between bingeing every few months when you’re presented with delicious noms at the holidays or you just really want deliciousness and bingeing every week and feeling like you’re an emotional wreck afterwards. Everyone binges sometimes, and that’s OK, but the key word here is “sometimes.”

Anyway, if you don’t recall, before my blogging break I was bingeing about every one to two weeks. Part of this was because of stress, part of it was because of a mish-mash of other reasons, but regardless I know other people struggle with this, and I want to share some of the changes I made that allowed me to shake this, somewhat. I hope it helps, because I know how frustrating being a binge eater can be. Also, you’ve probably seen some of these tips before and are going to be like, “OMG I’VE READ THESE IDEAS ALREADY.” Yes, but have you tried them? Regardless, if I’m reiterating them here, it’s because they worked for me. Also, some of these tips may be more “don’t-binge-while-on-a-diet”-oriented then others, as I was trying to lose weight AND quash bingeing at the same time, so if you’re just trying to maintain your weight some of these may not apply to you.

a) You gotta want it. Or, you have to be ready. Honestly, I think for some time I didn’t really care if I continued binge eating. For me, I was in college, i.e. not the “real world,” and I could always just lose the weight next semester before I started my “new life.” Granted, impending graduation is what finally made me get my act together, but if you really don’t want to stop bingeing, then you’re not going to be able to. And, in this same vein …

b) Find an alternative motivation for wanting to lose weight/stop binge eating besides “being thin.” My primary motivation to stop binge eating was, as I just mentioned, not wanting to graduate and enter a new stage of my life as a binge eater. But, I was really helped through the first few weeks of trying to break the habit by two other motivations: The first was that I was thinking of joining the military at the time (and am actually still pondering this), and I kept telling myself “The lighter I am, the faster I’ll run at the physical exam.” My other motivation actually came from someone else’s blog post: A 50-something year old woman happened to comment on a post about how she had been a yo-yo dieter for the last 30 years. It hit me at that moment that if I didn’t put my foot down and stop binge eating, I could be that woman. I could be that person who avoids social events because they are constantly on a diet and spends their whole life obsessing over food. And I didn’t want to be that person—I wanted to be someone who, you know, actually enjoyed my life and wasn’t constantly worrying about my weight.

c) Make a pro and con list when you feel like bingeing. Alright, the frenzy is on you, IT IS HERE. What do you do? Personally, I trained myself to make a pro and con list relating to binge eating. Usually, my thought process went like this:

“OK, what are the pros to binge eating right now?”

“I’ll feel better for a little bit. Also food is tasty.”

“Anything else?”

“… No.”

“OK, what are the cons?”

“I’ll be disappointed with myself. I’ll feel terrible tomorrow. Excessive quantities of food are expensive. I’ll gain weight.”

“Then you shouldn’t do it, should you?”

“No.”

“OK, then.”

And that was that. Once you realize how irrational it is to binge eat, it becomes easier to get through the moment.

d) Distract your mind. OK, that list thing didn’t work. But, guess what? I found that if I could just get my mind off of it for about five minutes, the feeling would usually pass. So, what did I do?

Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video is about five minutes. Turn it on. Rock out.

Buy a coloring book so that when the frenzy strikes, you can color. No, really. I bought (or, my mom bought for me, because she is awesome) a coloring book entitled “Danger from the Deep.” It has pictures of Batman, and I found that when I took a crayon to that sonofabitch, I became so focused/lost in thought it was easy to get through those five minutes. Not in an area where you can color/at work/in a store? Bring your music player to the store/work and when you’re in a munchy-mood, take a “bathroom break” with your mp3 player or crank up the music while you’re cruising the aisles; I found if I was playing tunes that conjured up sexy gyrations, etc., I didn’t really want to overeat.

e) Distract your mouth. OK, you are still in a frenzy. Start drinking—tea, water, whatever. Pop a hard candy. You know Lifesavers? They should also be called Dietsavers; I was in the grocery store one day and was 90% sure I was going to binge when I spotted the sugar-free Lifesavers (One of my few exceptions to the “Minimal artificial sweeteners” tip below, so long as I only eat them when I’m in danger of bingeing). I tore that bitch open and popped a few right there, and the taste kept my mouth busy and lessened the binge-edge. And, if you’re worried about the cashier giving you the evil eye for eating a product in the store, trust me—They could care less. And, if they do care, screw them. In fact, right now, stop giving a shit about what everyone else thinks and just start caring about what you need to do to get over binge eating, because whatever that may be is way more important than the opinion of random check-out girl/guy.

f) Always be prepared. Remember those mints I just talked about? Keep some in your kitchen cabinet/purse/desk drawer for when the binge monster rears its ugly head. Always have a bottle of water on you. Keep a protein bar with you, unless you’re like me and can’t wait to eat it when you actually need it. Keep your music with you. Have distracting YouTube videos bookmarked so you can fire up something amusing right away. Be ready.

g) Take a look at your diet. As I mentioned in this post, integrating more healthy fats into my diet made a HUGE difference in my appetite. And, according to science, if you’re constantly craving food/always feel as though you could binge eat, you’re probably missing something important in your diet. It may be fat, it may not be, but regardless it might be a good idea to tally up the protein, iron, fat, fiber, etc. that you get on a normal eating day; you may be surprised to find you’re lacking an element in your diet that could easily be integrated into it.

h) Minimal artificial sweeteners. For a while, I’ve wondered if artificial sweeteners were wrecking havoc on my appetite. So, this time around, I pretty much cut them out altogether. Granted, I still pick up a Diet Snapple every once and awhile (because it is a tasty beverage), but I probably have a product that contains artificial sweeteners at most once a week.

i) Take a multivitamin every day. This is in line with the “take a look at your diet” idea. You may be missing out on some essential nutrients by dieting, so try and a pop a multivitamin so you are at least covering some of your bases.

j) Pretend you’re someone else. OK, this is the most ridiculous of the bunch, but just hang with me for a second. When I wanted to binge, I would sometimes think, “This is not behavior befitting a Naval Officer!” (’cause, you know, the military thing). And, the thing is, binge eating isn’t behavior becoming of anyone. So, the next time you’re thinking about bingeing, think about what future you/your trainer/someone else you think is rad or healthy would do.

k) Think about what you really want to chomp. Whenever I had a ravenous appetite, I would think, “OK, self, you can have one thing—what do you want?” If I couldn’t pinpoint one thing that I reallyyyyy wanted, I knew I was just looking to eat copious amounts of food. If I could name something, though, and I legitimately, seriously craved it, then I chomped it. Chances are, if you give yourself a break every once and a while, you’ll be less likely to binge in the future. BUT, I always made sure I only chomped that one thing, because Naval Officer-me would practice restraint like a dignified lady who eats normally.

l) White knuckle it—you’re forming a good habit. OK, you’re in the store, and you see all the treats you want to buy, but you can avoid a binge by just making ONE GOOD DECISION to not buy the chomps. The same goes when you’re at home and want to plow through cupboards. And, here’s the thing: Every time you make that one good decision, or every time you start to binge but put the breaks on, you’re forming a good habit. Basically, you’re building a “Good Choice Muscle,” as I like to call it. Every time you make a good decision, making good decisions in the future will come more easily to you, and the more good decisions you make and the longer you go without bingeing, the less you’ll want to go back to square one. Is it hard sometimes to make a good decision and outlast the frenzy? Yes, but just grit your teeth and bear it—If not eating is the worst experience you’ll ever have in your life, consider yourself lucky.

m) Integrate some yoga-time into your schedule. Yoga practitioners are more likely to practice mindful eating, too. Neat, no? And, it’s certainly proved true for me.

n) Know thyself, and stop keeping that junk food in your house. My hairdresser is stick thin, and it’s not because she doesn’t love sweets or hates food; in fact, she told me that she can’t keep packs of Hershey bars in her home, because she’ll eat them all. Bottom line: Non-binge eaters have portion control problems, too, but they just don’t keep certain trigger foods in their house.  Is that “value size” pack of candy on sale, and you know this time you won’t eat it all? YES, YES YOU WILL, STOP FOOLING YOURSELF. SERIOUSLY. I know if I buy a bag of Dove chocolate, I’ll eat the whole goddamn thing, so, guess what? I buy a single serving bar, instead. And, 90% of the time you can buy your favorite foods in single-serve portions. And, just because you can’t exercise portion control doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human. Recognize that, learn from it, and put down the gallons of ice cream that are buy one, get one free, because if ice cream is your trigger food, you’re just putting yourself unnecessarily in a lair of temptation.

o) Don’t be afraid of hunger. One of the big things I see when I look at dieting tips is “Don’t let yourself get too hungry!”, which is, in fact, a good idea. But, I also think it has made people afraid of hunger when they don’t need to be. “HOLY GOD,” they think, “WHAT IF I GET HUNGRY AND I CAN’T EAT/DON’T HAVE ENOUGH CALORIES?! AHHH ANXIETY/AHHH FEAR OF FAILURE BINGE BINGE BINGE.” Whoah. Chillax. Think about the worst case scenario: OK, you get hungry. So what? The human body can go quite a while without food before it gives out. If you get hungry, you’re not going to starve to death. Hunger is not an emergency (unless you’ve been hungry for a week and you really are going to starve to death); it is uncomfortable, but you can tolerate a headache/being tired, right? Then you’re going to be OK if you become hungry. And if you’re out of calories for the day and you’re hungry, then have an apple/carrot—those 50 calories are only going to amount to 1/70 of a pound at the end of the day. Not hungry enough for an apple? Then chances are you just have an appetite and need to discract yourself.

p) Stay off the scale for a bit. I used to weigh myself every day. And, guess what? It made me bat-shit anxious. But, SCIENCE IS RIGHT: YOUR WEIGHT FLUCTUATES. Sometimes, on a Wednesday, I’ll be three pounds heavier than I will be on Friday. So, if you’re dieting, weigh yourself once a week, at most; otherwise, if you’re anything like me, the number will just make you crazy-anxious and you’ll try to remedy that anxiety through binge eating.

q) Brush your teeth. OK, this one is also pretty ridiculous. But, you know how you finish a meal sometimes, and you feel even “hungrier” after you’ve eaten than you did before having done so? Brush your teeth—it kind of works along the same lines as the mint-popping deal. Regardless, I can’t tell you how many times it kept me from having my meal turn into an afternoon snackfest.

Phew. Wall of text. I think that’s it, though. If you have any questions/want me to elaborate on anything, don’t hesitate to ask, and I hope this is helpful to someone, somewhere.

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