Strategies to Beat a Binge When it First Starts
Late at night is when the cravings start. It happens when I stay up past my bedtime, sometime between 10 pm and midnight. I'm not really hungry, but I want to eat something. I start craving junk food like salty chips, sweet candies or fattening cookies. Quickly the thought of that food becomes an obsession that crowds everything else out of my mind.
When that happens, I have two choices. Give in to the obsession or take a stand. That's when I have to stop and ask myself three questions.
Question number one: Am I really hungry, or is something else going on? Often when I feel a craving, I'm not hungry. I'm bored, angry, lonely or tired. I just want the temporary comfort junk food provides. If I'm not hungry, I do something to take my mind off the cravings. I might drink a glass of cold water, chew on a piece of gum or get ready for bed. By taking action, I take my mind off the obsession and push myself to do something constructive.
When cravings strike earlier in the day, I engage in diversions to carry me through to my next proper mealtime. Doing a little work in my yard, taking a shower or bath, cleaning my house, reading email or phoning a friend are all things that have helped.
Question number two: If I'm hungry because I haven't eaten enough, what do I have that's healthy? This is when it's nice to have some already prepared food in the freezer or refrigerator so you can heat and eat. A healthy frozen dinner, one of my homemade protein bars, half a sandwich or a handful of vegetables with a little fat-free dressing allow me to indulge guilt-free.
If it's too late in the evening for a full meal, I reach for something that's a treat, but that won't leave me feeling bad. An apple, peach or pear are all lower in calories while still satisfying the desire to treat myself. When I finish, I brush my teeth (that tells my brain I'm done eating for the day) and head to bed for some sleep.
Question number three: Sometimes, even after I've done all the things that are good for me, I'm still obsessing about junk food. That's when I ask myself, what would be the consequences of satisfying my cravings? Then I write my feelings down in a journal, pray or call a friend for support. If I don't have the strength to stop a binge, I need to reach out to someone or something stronger.
Binges can be devastating to a diet plan. All the good work of a week can be undone in a single afternoon. So you need to take additional steps to fight against them. Here are a few more ideas that may help.
- Purge your house of junk food now. If you're worried about other members of your family, remember if it's unhealthy for you, it's unhealthy for them too.
- Never buy junk food just "in case." If you're having a party, pick up some baked chips, pretzels, veggies or treats the day before. Don't buy those foods to store in the pantry because they'll be too tempting just sitting around.
- Any foods that have triggered binges in the past don't buy or bring home.
- Don't eat out of bags or boxes. When you want a snack, portion out a serving, close up the container and put it away. Then when you're done eating, wash the dish and put it away.
- When treats are delivered for the holidays, invite the gift giver to join you for a bite. After you're done and your guest has left, get rid of the remaining treats. Give them to a neighbor, friend or co-worker; throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Better they end up in the garbage than on your waist or clogging your arteries.
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