Food & Drink Magazine

Stopping Binge Eating, Saying No By Saying Yes

By Gjosefsberg @gjosefsberg

[365] 096In the past 7 years, as I’ve started eating healthier and healthier, I’ve also starting running into a problem with binge eating.  Some days I would eat very healthy and some days I wouldn’t.  On the days that I didn’t, what would usually happen is a binge.  I’d pick up a single piece of food that was on my disallowed list (diet coke, candy, bread, pizza, etc…) and eat it thinking to myself “it’s just one piece”.  Except one piece never stayed at one.  I would eat more and more until I consumed far more than was healthy.  Some of these binges would reach epic proportions of 6,000 to 7,000 calories.

Now I’m not talking about Tim Ferriss style planned binge days where you relax your rules and stuff yourself silly.  I’m talking about periods of time where you feel a loss of control, an inability to stop eating.  That’s what I was experiencing and it troubled me greatly as I tried to lose weight.  I kept blaming myself and coming up with new ways to reinforce my willpower.  These new ways would work for a few days and then I would binge again, ruining all my progress.

Note – This is one of my reasons for writing this series.  Because even with knowledge of how to eat healthy, we still need to figure out a way to keep ourselves on the healthy track.

Recent Developments

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a Stanford study about binge eating.  I’ve also been reading The Willpower Instinct by another Stanford professor unrelated to the study.  I highly recommend this book by the way for anyone who wants to understand a bit more about why we try and fail to control our impulses.  What I’ve learned is that placing too many restrictions on ourselves will eventually backfire, especially when those restrictions are rapid and life changing.  

Remember, Grok, our subconscious caveman, has the mentality of a 2 year old.  He wants what he wants and he’s willing to listen to the occasional no, but if you tell him no, no, no, no and no to every single thing he wants, he’s going to rebel.  Ever seen a two year old rebel?  That’s right, they throw a temper tantrum.  They’re out of control, screaming and crying and doing every thing possible to make new parents hate their life.  That’s Grok.  When I told Grok “No sweets, no diet coke, no pizza, no beef and you exercise 5 times a week” I was asking too much of him.  He put up with it for a day or two but eventually he threw a tantrum and a binge was the result.

The lesson both the Stanford study and the book had for me was to relax.  Stop thinking about what you can’t do and stop obsessing about these rules.  Get on a normal eating routine and just eat healthy instead of worrying about restrictions.  If you want a piece of chocolate, go have one and don’t beat yourself up over it.

Wait, Doesn’t That Mean I’m Going To Gain Weight?

I was confused at first and worried that this approach would cause me to gain weight and lose the progress I had made.  Except a funny thing happened when I started implementing this approach.  Yes, I occasionally ate a piece of candy but the binges went away.  Yes, I occasionally a diet coke, but the days of drinking three gallons of the stuff were gone.  Even though I could now eat these things if I wanted them, I found out I no longer wanted them.  In fact, I found myself sticking to my healthy eating a lot better than I did before.

The act of relaxing helped me to stop triggering Grok’s tantrums.  By no longer saying NO to everything, I was able to pick and choose what I wanted to do and when.  By no longer trying to be perfect 100% of the time, I was able to achieve a level of healthy eating I was failing at before.  Sounds counter intuitive but it’s true.  I was no longer telling my inner two year old “you can’t have that!” Instead, I was telling him “sure, whatever, have it if you want, it’s fine” and like any two year old, that’s exactly when he stopped wanting that item.

Remember, Grok is a primal being.  He understands impulses because they kept him alive.  He doesn’t want to be told “don’t do this, don’t do that” and if you tell him that too much, he’ll eventually rebel.  If instead we focus on what we want and not worry about the occasional craving, Grok will be much happier and we’ll be much healthier.

If we do want to slowly weed things out of our diet, and I still do, we should do so gradually and in a way that doesn’t feel too restrictive.  Rather than hammer home “NO CANDY!” over and over, just focus on a healthy snack every couple of hours.  Grok will grumble a bit but he won’t throw a fit, and you’ll be eating healthy, if not quite 100% perfect.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :