Greetings, on another drizzly Thursday evening! This one is coming to you straight from a struggle, appropriate for the day after Halloween, when the volume of sugary snacks inside most households reaches a yearly high. If you’ve been here for a minute you know that I’m no guru. I haven’t arrived. The link between knowledge and practice is still very present in my life. If you’re new here, now you know. I’m out here like you, doing my very best to live a healthy, purposeful, splendid and brilliant life. Sometimes I succeed with incredible poise and aplomb. Sometimes I ditch my workout, get frustrated and curse in traffic, then eat a platter of desserts from a work event. You know, balance.
Now that I’ve revealed the grimy truth, hopefully you’ll see the following for what it is; a reminder from an equally challenged and tempted person, just out there striving for more.
Battle of the Binge*– The constant fight to eat healthy in a world of chemically engineered food, all you can eat buffets and pecan pie. The sometimes moment-by-moment struggle to say ‘no’ to the tempting treats lining our store shelves, bakery windows and co-workers’ desks.
Whether you’re a sucker for a sticky bun, or your weakness is a rack of ribs, 90% of the population can identify with knowing what is good for them, and craving something else. We’ve all felt it; after a month of healthful eating, when emotions run high, hormones are flowing, or maybe just because it’s Tuesday. The following is what I’ve learned in my years of learning and even more years of personal experience. Hopefully you can take a nugget you need, and feel the embrace of solidarity next time you get stuck in the rut of binging.
*You don’t have to eat a party pack of Oreos or a family sized bag of Pizza Rolls for it to be a binge. Any time you eat more than you intend to eat of something you know isn’t healthy or you have been working to avoid, you’re in binge territory.
Fuel yourself with the good stuff. Eat full meals with lots of fresh produce and plenty of filling grains or proteins or complex carbs, whatever. If you have a plan for your hunger, and give your body what it needs, cravings go way down. I keep carrot sticks on hand at all times. Seriously, when flying, at the movies, out on the town. They keep me from feeling gross from buying all the snacks I find along the way!
Embrace mental health care. We’ve recently talked about self-care, the things that you do to keep your mind and emotions healthy. It’s crucial for a healthy soul and also a healthy body! I eat like crap when I feel overwhelmed, super stressed or depressed, so I’ve learned that keeping up with my hobbies can keep me feeling physically well. Talking it out, and taking your concerns to others can relieve so much of this emotional weight. Anything you can do to be present with your emotions, address them, and move through is going to increase your overall health.
When those cravings hit, remind yourself why you don’t eat that stuff. Think of your health goals; your target cholesterol, the race you’re running next month, the diabetes you aren’t going to get. Barricade your mind from all those niggling temptations by focusing on what you’re trying to achieve and the progress you’re making instead of your desire to snack. And you know, reading the backs of packages has kept me from falling into a snacking spiral many a time. Do you know what’s actually in the junk food you crave? Or how much fat, calories, carbs and sugar is in the food you want to take a fourth serving of? If I stop and think about the treat I’m about to eat, I’m usually at least 50% less likely to dig in. Which brings me to
Choose high quality treats for yourself, and enjoy them, but don’t leave em around! I have a tendency to “go big” in the “go big or go home” set of options. It’s great for birthday parties, not so great on my eating habits and proclivity for ice cream. It’s been hugely helpful for me to combine the last skill with this one, and avoid all the little junk made by Little Debbie, so I can have a lovely homemade treat made by a gourmet chef, or my Aunt Debbie. A single well-made choc chip cookie is infinitely more satisfying and enjoyable than a hundred Chips Ahoy, and so much better for you.
Finally always deal gracefully with yourself. Give yourself a break. When you don’t have the patience, foresight, determination or emotional strength to use the stuff above, don’t let it get you deeper into your rut. Acknowledge the challenge, and the work you’re doing. See the deep dive into the cookie jar for what it is, a choice to eat lots of something that you decided wasn’t a healthy option because of how you were feeling, what was going on, or a shift in focus and priority. Don’t let what you eat become the focus of your life. The cycle of eating and bingeing and guilt and stress and pain and eating and overeating and sadness is just too much of a merry-go-round of awful for you to keep yourself on it.
So from one binge-battler to another, I see you man. You’re doing amazingly. I’m proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished. I’m excited for the things you’re doing. You are so much more than what you eat and how much. Keep up the fight for wellness. You’re doing it ❤