Overeating is something that is easily overlooked and in many cases socially accepted, particularly in the fitness industry. Notions such as cheat meal days are often celebrated and bragged about, yet what those individuals do not realise is that they are in a vicious restriction and binge eating cycle.
Think back to a time where you were absolutely full to explosion, was it at Christmas lunch or birthday dinner with the family, or was it you, by yourself in your kitchen after a tough day at work? Either way, how did you feel about it? Did you feel ok but just a little sick from too much food? Or did you feel completely guilty about what just happened?
Overeating can happen, and if you overeat from time to time, it does not necessarily mean you have a Binge Eating Disorder. However, many people who binge eat have a negative emotional association with their binge, which can create a vicious cycle of binging and restriction (I will go into that shortly).
I see this happen so often to anyone who has followed a strict diet plan. So if you find yourself overeating regularly and fell guilty about it afterward, then I have some tips that can help you change your habits for the better.
1. Do not deprive yourself
Depriving yourself of certain foods that you love for an extended period can most definitely lead to binging. It happens very often when you go on a restricted rigid diet plan, which so many of us have done at some point in time.
Have you ever liked a food and eaten it now and then, like chocolate or some pizza. Then someone comes along and tell you that you can not have ANY chocolate or pizza for a certain amount of time. I can guarantee you that ALL you will think about and start craving is chocolate and pizza simply because you have NO choice of whether you eat it or not.
What if I told you that you could have chocolate and pizza only one given day of the week or even month. What would you do? You would most likely have the compulsion to go crazy and eat all the chocolate and pizza that you can because you will not be allowed any more for a week or more.
This is the vicious cycle that food deprivation can have and is why I 100% recommend flexible dieting without restriction. Flexible dieting allows you to choose the foods you want to have, so long as they fit into your recommended daily intake of food. This way, you have a choice of the foods you want to eat without anyone telling you NO you can not. This may not work for all binge eaters, however, in my experience, this process has helped me eliminate binge eating completely.
2. Increase your calorie intake
For some people, the urge to binge eat can arise even if they are flexible dieting. This can occur if their daily calorie intake becomes too low. When your calories are restricted then it can be very hard to fit in those "fun" foods that you love and it can become a little overwhelming for some. Any low-calorie diets can induce hunger and cravings, which can trigger binges.
However, in the big scheme of things consistency is key to getting results. If you follow a very low-calorie diet to lose weight, the big binge cannot only ruin all of the hard work that you have done for the rest of the week. It can also lead to feeling of guilt, shame and leads to compensation such as reducing calories further the following day or adding in a copious amount of cardio to compensate.
Instead of letting the vicious cycle continue, increasing your overall daily caloric intake can help. This is because eating more every day will make you feel fuller with a larger amount of food intake, thus reducing the urge to overeat. If you are worried about eating too many calories, then don't be. Consistency is key, you are most likely eating less overall weekly calories with a higher daily calorie intake and no binges, compared to that of a low daily calorie intake including the 1 or 2 binges (or more) that come with that on a weekly basis.
3. Avoid temptation and add control
Are you the kind of person that if you know something is there then you have to eat it? I know I used to be like that and in some cases, it still happens. If you have a certain food (or a number of foods in the house) that can cause triggers to overeating, then you need to get rid of them. You know they are triggers if
1. They are all you can think about f they are in the house, and
2. Once you start eating them, then you simply can not stop until it is finished or you are completely stuffed.
Even if you are dieting in a flexible way, it a good idea to eliminate these foods from the house until you slowly start to restore balance. The most effective way I found to learn to restore this balance was to introduce slowly my "trigger" foods by going out and having them portioned for me.
My vice used to be ice cream. I would over eat until explosion. So over time instead of buying a tub that would sit at home, I would go out and order some from a café or parlour in a smaller portion. This way I would eat it guilt free without over eating.
4. Get enough sleep
Sleep is so important to ensure that your body operates at an optimal level. When you get minimal sleep it directly affects your hormones that control your appetite. Two hormones are affected, ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and leptin, which sends signals to your brain to let it know that you are full.
However, when you skimp on your sleep your appetite hormone increases (ghrelin) and your full hormone (leptin) decrease, which is a recipe for disaster when it comes to controlling your urge to overeat. The more sleep you skip, the more your body will start to crave foods without the control of feeling full and satisfied. So make sure you get plenty of sleep, about 8 hours per night is what you need to be aiming for.
5. Manage your stress
Ever feel extra hungry when you are stressed? Or notice that your cravings increase when you are stressed? The reality is that many of us live a very fast paced life and we are stressed even if we don't know it. When our body is under stress is produces a higher amount of cortisol (or stress hormone). High cortisol can make you crave, salty, sweet and high-fat foods.
These are the foods that lead to comfort, satisfaction, and overall pleasure. But for the most part, this can lead to uncontrollable emotional binges in order to make you feel better about any given situation.
So if you have an urge to binge, instead of heading right for the fridge or pantry, try taking a few deep breaths, take a long relaxing bath, practice a little meditation or even take a yoga class. Anything that can help you relax without turning to food for comfort.
6. Eat frequently
Do not skip meals. Eating frequently during the day is very important to not only fuel your body but also to ensure your blood sugar remains at a steady level throughout the day. If you leave a long gap between meals or snacks your blood sugar can drop too low, which can lead to cravings and strong hunger. When you are famished you will most likely not only make poor food choices but it is very likely that it may trigger binging and overeating at your next meal. So make sure you eat something every 4 hours-5 hours the includes a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats which will help keep you full and satisfied until your next meal.
7. Be kind to yourself
Overeating is associated with a lot of guilt. Many binge eaters often feel regret and shame after a binge and will compensate with extreme measures in order to undo the effective of the binge itself (for example restrict calories the following day to avoid weight gain). When you are taking the steps to eliminate over eating habits you need to forget about being perfect and focus on your improvements.
Changing habits like this can take time, it's about taking baby steps. So small victory needs to be celebrated. If you still find yourself binging, yet you so much less and managed to stop earlier than you had previously then that is awesome and you need to acknowledge your victory. Continue to improve your habits over time and be kind to yourself daily.
Binge eating can be a very tough issue to deal with for anyone. I have absolutely been through this viciously cycle myself. But I can assure you when you become free from the control of the food you feel a sense of relief. But some cases can be quite severe so make sure if you can not stop the vicious cycle to seek help from a professional.
If you want to find balance with food yet still attain results, can check out my Body By Nina Program. In this program, I focus on getting results with large amounts of food, a huge variety of food without restriction and deprivation.