Eating disorders and dieting are nothing new. I was a teenager during the Kate Moss time period when anorexia and bulimia were a huge cause for concern. It seemed like being thin was something everyone craved.
During this strive for weight loss, we sought quick fixes and lost site of naturally healthy food. Now we are in the dawn of a new eating disorder, binge eating. Binge eating is now even more common than breast cancer.
It’s as if the stress of striving for an unrealistic body type, combine with all the new sugar laden diet foods spun us in a different direction entirely.
To accommodate this new worrisome disorder, a new form of diet has presented itself. The new craze now sweeping called intuitive eating. As a woman who struggled most of her adolescence with unhealthy eating and body image, I think getting to that place where we can eat intuitively and still maintain our health, can be a struggle.
Intuitive eating’s basic concept is just listening to your body without following any specific diet. No guilt and no body shaming are required essentials. While this concept is great, it can be tough for those who are already controlled by food. For example, sometimes my body tells me to eat an entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, usually during times of high stress. Does this mean it’s a wise choice? Definitely not, because it doesn’t take long before my body turns against me and I’m achy the entire next day. When my entire body responds in a negative way, it’s pretty tough not to feel guilty. Especially when one of those responses is bloat, it makes it harder to love my body and feel comfortable in my own skin.
Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I love the basic concepts of intuitive eating, I just think it can be quick to slip up and fall into bad, self defeating habits. Especially for those who are already having a tough time keeping eating under control.
As I said, the disorder called binge eating is currently on the rise. So much so that 3.5% of women and 2% of men struggle with it.
Where trouble really sets in is that these binge sessions are often set off by stress, depression or other unresolved inner issues. Instinctively their bodies are telling them they want cake, or ice cream.
Another thing that can lead to binge eating is going without eating for too long. If we leave too long of a time period between meals, instinctively our bodies tell us to get as many calories as possible. This is what leads to busting open that bag of chips or devouring that cookie that’s been eyeballing you at work. Our bodies recognize this is at the quickest way to the most calories and we give in.
Then there’s sugar, a topic I feel like I’ve been touching on a lot lately. You can read more about sugar here. The basic summary is that sugar can trick your brain into thinking you’re hungry.
These things can really “throw off the scent” to intuitively listening to what we should be eating.
The best way to go about it is getting yourself started on a better, healthier way of eating and learning to listen to those clean eating intuitions.
The best way to get a good grip on intuitive eating is by cleaning up your system. This way your body can start to pay attention to what it’s really saying. Instead of listening to tricks of the brain, your body will be more finely tuned to itself and what it needs.
When you begin working on healthier eating, stick with a realistic approach. Take the time to set goals for yourself that are short term and easily obtainable. Often times, if you choose a big goal and say something like, “I want to lose 50 pounds.” You can instantly begin to feel overwhelmed. The first sign of failure can discourage you permanently.
Instead try keeping track of all the healthy habits and set goals for yourself that way. If you only drink 1 glass of water in a day, make a goal of getting 3. This is an incredibly reasonable and stress free goal. To start setting these short term, stress free goals download the 4 weeks of health goal setting work sheet.
Allow yourself those reasonable treats during the day and plan out exactly when that moment of ecstasy is going to happen. This can go for a piece of cake at your office party, or a Friday night out.
Taking the time to plan out a specific time for a tempting snack can take a lot of the temptation away. It’s when people deprive themselves for so long that they wind up flipping out and eating everything in site.
Setting aside time each day to have a little no-no treat can also make a long day a lot more bearable. It can even give you the motivation to keep going through the rest of your day.
If binge eating is something you have struggled with in any form, then you probably know the times that hit you the hardest. Mine is Saturday night. Tom isn’t home nights during the week until after I’m asleep. It never fails, every Saturday we plop down on the couch with Netflix and a snack. Usually night time snacking is something I avoid, but Saturday night’s I just can’t seem to give into temptations.
Night time is a key time for most people, I think. Maybe it’s Friday’s for you, or just times of high stress.
It’s not always easy, but finding a way to do something different during will make for a great distraction. Saturday nights when Tom and I have finally put the kids to bed and can sit down, we’ll take out our Cribbage board and play a game or two. This keeps our hands and minds busy. Plus we’re actually spending more time together than if we were just sitting on the couch mindlessly eating microwavable popcorn.
Times of high stress are also a BIG TIME trigger for me. So many times I have bought and eaten an entire bag of chips in one sitting. No joke. Lately I have found myself stressed and I forced myself to get to the gym. I started an uphill walk on the treadmill and my mind was absolutely racing. Then this crazy (and I mean crazy) urge came over me. That’s when it happened; I started running…up-hill! Miracle of miracles.
To make matters even more bizarre, I didn’t get tired, I just kept going. For 2 minutes. That might make some people laugh, but 2 minutes of running is far more than my personality can usually tolerate. When I was done, the best thing happened: I felt calm. My racing mind had halted and I was starting to think clearly again. I felt great. Had I stuck with my normal habits and just chowed down on processed snacks, I know those great results would not have been the same.
Planning for a “cheat snack” is one thing, giving into an entire meal can really weigh you down. This is why it is a great idea to plan for these trips on days when you’re going to be more active than you normally are. If you normally work at a desk job, a 3 hour Sunday trip to an outdoor mall is clearly a lot more exercise than your body is used to. This is when it would be a good time to add dinner to your shopping spree.
It’s especially great if your meal out falls in the middle of your day. Walking before and after your meal will help your metabolism and digestion.
You get one life and you should absolutely enjoy it. That means eating the best foods so you feel your best. It also means eating meals with amazing flavors, colors and textures. Eating should always be a highly enjoyable experience. This is a main reason why I started the recipe part of my page. I want everyone to know that eating well does not have to mean you no longer get to enjoy the experience of eating.
Once you take the steps to get your eating under control, intuitive eating becomes second nature. You start to eat when you’re hungry and almost instinctively you know what you need.
Most nights I make meals that are high in veggies. One night I couldn’t shake the craving for eggs and turkey bacon. My brain told me “no,” that I should have a more nutritiously balanced meal. Then I thought for a moment, “What if my body is telling me what I need?” Egg and turkey bacon is by no meals a major junk food craving. So, despite what my brain had to say, I listened to my body. Of course, I felt completely satisfied afterward. There was no feelings over over-doing-it regret.
Your health is of the utmost importance. Quality of life is key. If eating is something you have struggled with previously and right now you are striving toward making better choices toward better health, give these 5 steps a try. Also, check out some similar links below that you might find helpful.
No matter what, like I always say, be gracious with yourself. Don’t let set backs get you down. If you do, then they win. You can conquer any problem you set out to face. You got this.