Binge eating means eating too much food. Most of the time binge eating has little to do with the body’s need for nutrition. Instead, it’s usually caused by stress, fear, anger, boredom, frustration or some other underlying emotional issue. When you take time to examine what triggers binge eating, you are much less likely to succumb to episodes that leave you further from your goals and feeling bad about yourself.
1. Eat when you’re truly hungry. There is a difference between hunger and cravings. When you’re hungry you’ll eat anything, including fruits, veggies and other wholesome foods. However, cravings are usually for something specific like chocolate, candy, nuts, or potato chips. Cravings are almost always brought on by stress, boredom or something else that’s bothering you. The next time a craving strikes, have a plan for it… take a walk, call a friend or step outside. When you get your mind off of it, it’s likely to go away.
2. Don’t skip meals. In order to keep blood sugar levels stable, aim for three meals a day plus small snacks in between. Skipping a meal almost always results in overeating during the next meal. In addition, skipped meals cause lower metbolism which means your next meal will be broken down more slowly and a higher portion stored as fat. Perhaps the most serious problem with skipping meals is the impact it has on dropping your blood sugar. Low blood sugar makes you feel sluggish and messes with insulin levels in the body. Chronic skipping of meals could set you up for the development of diabetes later in life.
3. Set up for success at mealtime. Drink plenty of water before your meal, and consider a small salad to start. This will make you feel more full when the entree is served and less likely to overeat. Get rid of the distractions and treat your meal like it’s important to you. Eat slowly, taking sips of water between bites. If you’re still feeling hungry after your meal, stop anyway and recall your motivations for losing weight and becoming healthier. Chances are if you wait 10 minutes, the urge to eat more will have passed.
4. Go to bed. Getting the proper rest at nite is good for proper brain function, decision making, emotional stability… and also appetite control. The hormones that regulate appetite are called ghrelin and leptin, and they are resonsible for sending signals to the brain to tell you if you’re hungry or not. Good sleeping habits (recommended 6-8 hours per nite, and varies by person) balance the ghrelin and leptin levels in the body. Failing to get adequate sleep causes over-production of ghrelin (which increases the desire for food) and underproduction of leptin (which is the body’s appetite suppressant). Double whammy!
5. Don’t expect weight loss to be easy. Losing weight requires lifestyle changes that are hard to make and maintain. Quick fixes just don’t exist. Fad diets and pills are not sustainable methods of weight loss and weight maintenance. The only answer is doing the hard work, day by day, to become healthier. This almost always requires us to examine the true reasons behind overeating. When you appropriately set your expectations, you’re much more likely to be successful in your journey. Unrealistic expectations almost always lead to crashing and binge eating.
Bottom line: Binge eating is the largest contributor to weight gain. Many people have good intentions, and then lose control on the weekends or other times of weakness. Challenge yourself to commit to the five suggestions above. If necessary, take them one at a time adding a new one each week. Being healthy isn’t an all-or-none proposition, it’s a journey filled with making good healthful decisions along the way. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip and take a few steps in the wrong direction one weekend, just get back on track as soon as you can.