Binging again? Stop this vicious cycle in its tracks!

Junk_FoodYou started the day off right. Whole grains, protein, a balanced mid-morning snack.

But somewhere along the way, things went downhill. FAST.

Before you could say double chocolate fudge cake, you had already devoured a handful of potato chips, a string cheese, a trail mix bar, a latte…and all of this in addition to the sandwich and baby carrots you had carefully planned for lunch.

By 3pm, you’ve blown through your entire day’s worth of calories.

By dinner time, you figure “What the hell? I’ve already screwed up my healthy eating plan for the day,” and you proceed by eating a giant bowl of pasta smothered in cheese and Italian sausage, followed by a dish of ice cream. Later, you reach for the big bag of Super Extra Butter popcorn because – hey – what difference does it make now?

Sound familiar?

It happens to the best of us. Personally, this is one of my worst habits and biggest fat-loss setbacks.

Binging doesn’t necessarily mean eating crappy foods filled with fat and sugar, either. Often, I still make health-conscious food choices, but can’t seem to stop putting food in my mouth. Other times, I figure I’ve already messed up and go for the full-fat options and add dessert. Either way, something has to change.

Do you track your calories? If not, maybe it’s time to start–even if it’s only for the short-term. Simply seeing what you’ve eaten, and how much, can help you get and stay on track with your goals. But this isn’t a long-term solution.

So how do you avoid this binge train to weight gain and kick the unhealthy habit altogether?

First of all, STOP. Just stop.

Abandon the all-or-nothing attitude. So you over-snacked after lunch. A lot. What’s done is done. Move past it and get back on track immediately. At that point, it’s only a few hundred extra calories (give or take) and one day won’t impact your long-term goals.

For this particular problem, I believe it’s mostly mental. You have to be cognizant of your actions, think about why you are overeating, and make a decision to deal with the real issue–which is probably not hunger.

If it’s simply boredom, get busy doing something. That’s why I take on hobbies that keep my hands busy.

Are you avoiding something? Procrastinating a project? Upset? Whatever the trigger, you must face it and deal with it. Food will not solve anything.

What else can lead to overeating?

For one, as I’ve written about before, a lack of sleep. If you’re overtired, you might start looking for energy in food. And what’s worse, we often reach for high-calorie junk when trying to glean that energy. Solution: make sure to get more sleep.

Poor food choices can also affect how much you snack. Diets too low in fats and proteins might leave you hungry and craving high carb/high sugar foods. No matter how much you eat, if you’re not eating nutritionally-rich foods, you’re going to feel hungry. Solution: eat a balanced diet filled with healthy fats, complex carbs, lean proteins, and fiber.

Additionally, exercise can leave me ravenous. If I don’t time my snacks and meals right, I struggle to get through my workout and then feel starved the rest of the day. Solution: eat a healthy snack before your workout (for example, a banana) and have a protein shake afterwards.

Oddly enough, a lack of activity can also make me over-snack. Studies show that moderate exercise can curb hunger since it affects hormones tied to appetite. Solution: when you start focusing on food and nothing seems to satisfy your appetite, hit the gym.

Create new habits. Don’t let yourself get sucked into the daily “might as well keep eating since I already screwed up” attitude. If this becomes a habit–instead of a rare occurrence–then you will start gaining weight.

Think about it: 300+ extra calories once in a while makes little difference. But 300+ extra calories a day every day could mean an extra pound every week or two…which adds up to 25-50 pounds per year! Yikes.

Feeling like you’ve failed day after day becomes discouraging, and then you risk giving up completely. So don’t kick yourself if you feel like you’ve goofed on your diet. Simply acknowledge it, stop, and move past it. Don’t make it a habit. Make healthy habits. Perhaps one of the solutions above will help you.

Do you have issues with overeating or binging? What kinds of unhealthy eating habits do you have? How do you deal with them?

As a quick but important side note, extreme binging can be labeled as an eating disorder. The advice on this blog is not a substitute for medical advice; I am not a medical professional and cannot diagnose or treat eating disorders.

(Image: Cory Doctorow)

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