“Why have I done this again?”
You think to yourself as you lie there on the couch, curled up in the foetal position, clutching at your groaning stomach.
It’s Saturday, your weekly cheat day.
You ate clean all week, avoiding processed foods, keeping your sugar and salt intake down, eating plenty of veggies and suffering your bland, boring diet, all in anticipation of today.
Saturday is a ritual.
You kick off with your usual healthy breakfast, then things really get going around mid-afternoon.
Stocked up with “cheat foods” like sugary cereals, donuts, ice cream and pasta, you’ve saved yourself all week for this. You endured meal after meal of chicken, brown rice and broccoli, so you could earn today.
“A little of what you fancy does you good” they say.
But you can’t just have “a little.”
You start with good intentions – just one bowl of cereal, a scoop or two of ice cream, and maybe a few biscuits while you chill out in front of a movie, but that soon turns into an all-out binge fest.
After a week of restriction, you just can’t stop yourself. Pretty soon, that whole tub of ice cream’s gone, and then you demolish another. One or two cookies turns into one or two packets, and despite the pain, you plough on, diligently making your way through bags of pretzels, chips and sweets.
That cheat day doesn’t sound quite so good now, does it?
The Problem with Binging
The first, and perhaps surprisingly lesser, problem with bingeing is the effect it has on your physique.
Despite commonly-held beliefs, you CAN put on a significant amount of body fat from one cheat or one binge as per the above.
Look at it like this –
If you eat in a 500 calorie deficit six days per week, that amounts to a deficit of 3,000 for a week.
Many people can easily put away 5,000 to 6,000 calories in an afternoon like the one above. Not only does that completely wipe out any deficit created earlier in the week, it could even push you into a surplus, leading to a net fat gain over the last seven day period.
I know from my own experiences with clean eating, followed by bingeing, that after a few weeks of my weight dropping, my diet gradually became more restricted, and my weekly binges became larger, which at first caused me to stop losing fat, and then reversed, leading to fat gains.
The second, and in my opinion, more detrimental impact of bingeing is the way it makes you feel psychologically.
We’ve all been there – after a binge like this, you feel dreadful.
For one thing, you’re ashamed at yourself. You feel like all the week’s hard work has gone out the window, and you’re disgusted at your lack of self-control. You tell yourself “never again, next week will be different.” You swear that you’ll get back on the clean eating wagon, maybe indulge just a little next weekend, but you’ll never, ever, eat to the point of feeling like this again.
It’ll be clean food all the way.
Then next cheat day comes, and you do it all over again……
The Binge/Restrict Cycle
The main reason why so many dieters binge, and your first step in stopping it, all comes down to the binge/restrict cycle.
The more you demonise certain foods, swear them off, and declare them as “cheats” “treats” or “unhealthy” the more you want them.
When someone tells you that you can have something, you often don’t want it that much. As soon as they tell you something is off limits, you want it more than anything you’ve ever wanted before. And this leads us on to our first tip –
5 Sure-fire Tips for Beating Bingeing
Rid Yourself of the “Clean/Dirty” Mindset
My own huge issue when I was a ritual once-a-week binger was that I had this notion that certain foods were clean, and certain foods were dirty.
This led to me restricting my food choices massively in the week.
My restrictive diet of choice was the Paleo diet, which meant during the six and a half days of the week that I was “on” my diet I didn’t eat any grains, dairy, beans, processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, condiments, alcohol, or essentially anything “manmade.”
So what did I crave when Saturday came around?
Yup, you guessed it – grains, dairy, beans, processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, condiments and alcohol!
If you let yourself indulge in ANY food, but in moderation, whenever you fancy, you’re far less likely to crave it, and therefore binge on it.
In fact, I’d say that if you completely remove any food restrictions, chances are you won’t even want half the stuff you’d usually binge on.
This leads on very nicely from the above.
The whole purpose of a flexible diet is to give you complete control over your nutrition, and allow you to eat anything within moderation.
Flexible dieting often gets a bad rap for advising people eat “junk,” though this is entirely unfair. It simply works on the principle that provided you hit your predetermined calorie and macronutrient intakes, and eat mostly unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, some “junk” will do no harm to your progress, and keep you adhering to your diet much better.
How you do this is up to you.
Personally I like the 80:20 principle – 80% of your nutrition should come from what most would deem “clean” food, while the other 20% can be nutrient-deficient foods that wouldn’t generally be considered “healthy.”
A second way would be to give yourself a set number of discretionary calories every day.
Figure Out Your Preferred Meal Schedule
Binges don’t just happen on a weekly basis for many people. Others find that (to a lesser extent) they occur each day.
For most, this usually happens around mid-afternoon, when the afternoon energy slump hits.
It starts with you feeling just a little hungry, and you maybe grab a piece of fruit, some rice cakes, or a handful of nuts. Pretty soon though, you’ve demolished a few chocolate bars, downed a couple of sugary coffees and hit up the vending machine for more tasty snacks.
While this might not amount to quite the same calories as out once-a-week mega-bingers, over your five working days each week, it certainly adds up the same.
The problem here is that you’re not following a meal frequency that allows you to stay full and satiated long-term.
As much as meal frequency and timings doesn’t appear to have too much of a direct effect on body composition, it certainly matters on an individual basis.
This is why it’s crucial to figure out whether you’re what I’d refer to as a “big meal-er” or a snacker.
Some prefer just three big meals a day, with each one containing around a third of your daily calories, while others like smaller, lower-calorie meals, with snacks in between.
If you’re not sure, try a couple of weeks one way, and a couple of weeks the other way.
Being bored is a massive reason why many people binge.
The classic case is someone who’s had a tough day, stuck to their eating plan really well all morning, managed to get through a difficult afternoon at work okay, hit the gym, had a healthy dinner, then find themselves in front of the TV in the evening, twiddling their thumbs …… and out comes the food!
Keep yourself occupied – whether this means going for a walk, getting engrossed in a good book, or even leaving the house and going out for a drink or to the movies.
Grab Some Chromium
Or chromium picolinate to be precise.
This supplement could be key in beating binges.
While the mechanisms by which chromium picolinate works to reduce hunger and cravings are still debated, it does appear to have a positive impact on appetite control.
The main reason why researchers believe it has this effect is due to the interaction chromium has with insulin. Chromium sensitizes cells to insulin, which has several potential benefits
Firstly, this increased sensitivity may aid muscle preservation, which can lead to an increase in metabolism while dieting. Increased metabolism means you can eat more calories while still losing fat, and feel much fuller.
Secondly, chromium aids glucose and fat metabolism, and may also cause an increase in serotonin levels, all of which help with controlling and reducing hunger and cravings. (1)
Though study numbers are slim, it does appear that chromium picolate’s potential physiological benefits translate to real world results with dieters. (2,3)
Chromium supplementation is relatively cheap, so may be worth considering alongside other binge-reducing tactics.
The Wrap Up – It’s All Mental
Beating bingeing is never easy, especially if you’re used to years of yoyo dieting and restrictive eating. But the power of the mind is a wonderful thing.
Aside from following the principles of flexible dieting, and working out what works best for YOU to beat binges, one question reigns supreme –
“How much do I want this?”
Ask yourself this question every time the urge to binge strikes.
Think about it – what matters more to you – over-indulging in your cravings for a few minutes of food pleasure, followed by hours, weeks and days of guilt, or staying strong, overcoming your binge tendencies, and having total control over your diet, your physique and your health?
Result Based Training
PS: Want to know how to work out your own nutrition plan for free? plus have 2 weeks worth of Personal Training at one of our Melbourne or Gold Coast Training Studio’s. Simply fill out the form below and lets get you the body of your dreams.