How many of us have lost and gained weight multiple times? Statistics indicate more than 95% of people that lose a significant amount of weight end up gaining it back. Great. Way to motivate me.
How can we be different?
Binging tendencies are managed, not cured. Relapses will happen and for most of us that have struggled with lifelong obesity, overcoming a relapse is difficult. We fall into a death spiral of black and white, all or nothing thinking that makes what could have been a small overindulgence of unhealthy foods turn into a binge that can last hours, days, weeks, months. I have been down that rabbit hole more times than I care to remember. Once you are down there deep, you can find yourself thinking, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
So, what have I done to stop a binge episode already in progress? I have four strategies that have helped me. As with all of my advice, take what works for you and ignore what doesn’t. We are all unique and one size certainly DOES NOT fit all. So, here it goes…
- Plan your meals for two or three days of healthier eating. Choose your favorite healthy foods (no going uber restrictive, you need to look forward to eating your food). Don’t worry about macros, calories, carbs, portions, etc. (that just triggers the binge/restrict diet cycle). Instead, just plan generous meals and snacks and then eat them guilt free. This isn’t about losing weight, getting into ketosis, trying to ‘undo’ the damage on the scale or anything like that. This enjoyable meal plan is ONLY about stopping the binge (ha! only!) During one of my recovery food plans, I included a slice of healthy pumpkin pie and Enlightened brand ice cream each day. I needed my head to see there was an enjoyable gray area between black (binging) and white (dieting).
- Choose a mantra. Really think about what it is that motivates you to be healthy. It can either be words or a visual (or both). The binge urge will challenge you during the first few days of a recovery and you will need to have an automatic response. Literally, when you feel that twinge to binge, immediately repeat or visualize your motivation. During my last recovery, my strong motivation was a goal to reach an all new low for an upcoming birthday. I would picture myself getting on the scale and reading the numbers 159. I visualized it clearly and asked myself out loud, “What do you want for your birthday Trish?” to which I replied out loud, “159. 159. I want to see 159 on the scale.” It was (still is) helpful when temptations arise (that birthday is a month away!)
- This may be controversial, but… Plan your next binge. Sometimes it helps me to stop a current binge cycle if I can delay it to another day. It’s like I am able to know that the ‘fun’ can continue; yeah… I know a binge isn’t really fun, but addiction isn’t rational, so talking to it logically doesn’t always work. Food addiction manipulates you, so you can manipulate it right back! I tell my binging-food addicted self that I can eat whatever I want on a chosen date that is a month or so away. Anytime I feel the binge twinge (and say my mantra), if the craving really lingers I tell myself I can put that item ‘on the list’ of things I will eat on the day I have chosen as my next day to indulge. People who diet might call it a cheat day, but since I don’t diet, it isn’t cheating. It is simply a day in the future I am planning to enjoy some of my favorite foods that don’t have a place in my day to day nutritional plan as I work to meet my current goals. Semantics, but on a deeper psychological level, it works for me. I’m neurotic; I need to play mind games with myself.
- Finally, when I’m trying to end a binge that has spilled over into multiple days, I wake up each morning and visualize being on a stage and the curtains closing… “aaaaaand scene!” Each day is an opportunity for the next act in the play. Yesterday’s drama, obsession, compulsion, behaviors, food related plotting and planning are OVER. The curtains have closed. You can flip the script today. Start each day with this visualization and attitude and it will help stifle the life out a binge episode that has you in its grip. This little technique is my take on the 12 steps motto of ‘one day at a time.’
So back to that cringe-worthy statistic of a 95% recidivism rate for us losers (weight losers, of course). The key to being a five percent-er is not to have the willpower to never fall down or relapse; in my opinion that is not realistic. Abstinence for life? Good for you if you can pull that off, but that ain’t this girl’s path.
For me, the key to being a fiver percent-er is learning how to get back up and recover. It’s about sticking the landing after a shaky dismount. If we can do that each time we stumble, will can and will maintain a healthier weight for life.