Pizza and ice cream are calling. Here’s how to avoid their tempting siren songs.
There’s a scene in “Sex and the City” where Miranda comes home from a particularly rotten day, takes a distressing phone call and then whips up a batch of brownies, gobbling one after the other. Disgusted with herself, she tosses the rest into the garbage. Hearing more bad news from another call, she stumbles back into the kitchen, grabs the trash can and does a full-on dumpster dive, stuffing her mouth with whatever brownies she can retrieve. Now, consumed with shame, she calls her best friend Carrie and solemnly declares her need to be admitted to the Betty Crocker rehab center. Sound familiar?
The Oxford dictionary defines a binge as “a short period devoted to indulging in an activity to excess, especially eating.” Miranda qualifies. It’s funny how tuna on a bed of greens doesn’t quite do it when you’re anxious and want to soothe yourself. Instead, it’s a bingeable food/beverage product which, in my book “Fight Fat after Forty,” I have defined as any food that:
1. Can be eaten in large quantities during a single sitting;
2. Often comes in family-sized bags, boxes or cartons;
3. Is grab-and-go, usually not requiring extensive or, for that matter, any cooking;
4. Can be any food product but typically involves a “hyperpalatable:” sugary/fatty/salty food combinations;
5. Does not include arugula.
In “The Hunger Fix: The Three Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction,” I noted that science has demonstrated that bingeing is highly associated with addictive eating behavior. It’s no surprise that research has also shown that the top 10 addictive bingeables include pizza, chocolate, chips, cookies, ice cream, French fries, cheeseburgers, sugared sodas, cake and cheese. The problem is that we’re surrounded with 24/7 temptation and often feel helpless, hopeless and defeated as we try to navigate the ubiquitous, multimedia bingeable land mines without overeating.
Here’s a simple guide to help you avoid the bingeables’ tempting siren songs, and stay on track to optimize your health and wellness.
1. Always ask these two questions before you consider eating.
Since bingeing is so highly tied to addictive eating, these two simple yet powerful questions help ground you as you contemplate whether to eat at all.
a. If I consume this food/beverage, will I feel loss of control?
b. If I consume this food/beverage, will I feel shame, blame and guilt?
If the answer to each question is “yes,” then you’re sitting in front of a bingeable. Say to yourself, “this doesn’t work for me,” and leave it. Out of sight, out of mind.
2. HALT before you cave to the crave.
Make the connection between mood and food by using the acronym HALT and asking yourself if, when you feel like overeating, you’re really:
a. Hungry – if it’s truly time to eat your meal or snack, then do so.
b. Anxious or Angry – you need to confront your feelings, not eat.
c. Lonely – you need bonding and connection, not food.
d. Tired – sleep is the answer, not food.
3. Here’s your license to chill.
Sleep deprivation will impair the ability of your hunger and appetite hormones (ghrelin and leptin) to function properly making controlling your eating mission impossible. Start prioritizing high-quality sleep, and you’ll be rewarded with a greatly improved ability to say “no” to temptation.
4. Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.
Toxic stress is associated with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and defeat. When that happens, people want to feel soothed and comforted, and kale’s not going to do it. Learning how to become more stress resilient is key. Staying centered with mindful living and meditation and mind-body modalities like yoga is essential to avoiding self-destructive behaviors like bingeing.
5. Ditch the ménage a trois.
There you are in bed, late at night watching another “Law and Order” marathon with your two best friends, Ben and Jerry. Ditch these guys and get some real people in your life. Bag the loneliness, and reach out to help others by volunteering, connecting with others and getting out of yourself and into someone else’s needs.
6. Stay mindful, and beware of cues and triggers to binge.
Science shows that it’s actually the cues to overeat, not the act of eating, that cause the highest levels of the pleasure brain chemical (dopamine) to be secreted. The anticipation of bingeing is really what’s driving you to binge. Protect yourself by being very aware of, and trying to avoid if possible, the persons, places and things that are likely to trigger you to cave and overeat.
7. Eat crave killers.
Combine healthy protein with fiber to feel full and satisfied, thus decreasing the need to binge. For snacks, try nut butter on apple or banana slices, yogurt with walnuts and berries or carrots and hummus.
8. Try a smarter soothing strategy.
Create a repertoire of ways to soothe yourself without bingeing. If you really want something sweet, throw together a fruit smoothie or yogurt parfait with fresh blueberries. Non-food strategies can include getting up and walking outside to breathe some fresh air and move away from a stressor. Calling a friend to unload a problem helps. Prayer and meditation can keep you grounded. And don’t forget the power of a truly soothing bath.
Throw these tips and techniques into your mental tool box and grab ’em as needed. Consider yourself locked and loaded, prepared to bust an oncoming binge anytime. This was a great article written by Dr. Pamela Peeke with some good tips to curtail those cravings that people get.