How to Overcome the Binge Cycle
Do you wake up some days and think ‘That’s it, TODAY IS THE DAY! No more unhealthy food, I am a changed person.’ Then before you know it, you have gobbled down a whole chocolate bar and washed it down with an energy drink, ultimately feeling ashamed and disappointed in your lack of self-control.
Why is that? How is it that you can be so determined one moment and completely give in to your cravings the next? Is it really that you have no self-control? Will this mind-numbing battle continue on a daily basis?
I have great news for you; it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s all about learning. Knowledge is Power, it’s time to learn how and why you’re feeling these urges, learn solutions and coping strategies too.
It’s important to understand that cravings are both biochemical and psychological; meaning mind over matter can only go so far if your brain is subconsciously telling you to eat processed unhealthy foods!
A Psychological View of Cravings:
You’re upset, tired and moody – we have all been there at some point or another. So we head to the cupboard to pull out the chocolate cookies or the freezer to binge on some ice-cream. Emotional eating is a big part of our lives. Food is not just to give energy. It is also comforting, social, and protective. Food can conveniently provide that big warm hug that will always be there when no one else is.
Food has been working psychologically on you without you even realizing it since the day you were born. Do you remember bonding with Mum by drinking her milk? Nowadays we are completely bombarded with food advertising; magazines, Facebook, Instagram, television shows, movies, billboards – it's EVERYWHERE! The problem is the ones with the big advertising bucks are generally the long shelf life, unhealthy and highly processed foods.
When we eat these high sugar or fat foods our body literally undergoes neurological stimulation of the pleasure and touch centers of the brain, predominantly synthesizing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the same rewards system that is excited with sex, social gatherings, cigarettes, hugs, and cocaine.
The desire of craving is closely linked to the prefrontal cortex of the brain which facilitates executive decision making e.g. self-control. When overstimulated or damaged this can cause behavioral disinhibition and failure to assess the consequences of our actions.
Know the times when you might crave the most:
In a stressful or depressive state of mind positive associations linking back to a particular memory
Your environment e.g. social gatherings, movie nights, shopping centers
Watching television or boredom
A repetitive or restrictive diet
Previous episodes of binge eating
Malabsorption and dehydrationInsufficient nutrient intake
Depleted areas of the body requiring high amounts of nutrients
Imbalanced hormonal and blood glucose levels
A brief anatomical view of hunger:
Before we move on, you need a general idea of how intelligent your digestion system actually is. This might be new to you but nevertheless, will initiate some thought and appreciation of your body.
Our bodies are controlled by an array of complex hormonal and neuronal signals influencing satiety and hunger. These are intricately designed biochemical systems that ensure our body refuels to maintain energy and nutrient levels. The gut, brain, microbiota, adipose tissue and nervous system all play a major role in regulating our food intake for homeostasis, (Crespo, 2014).
Primarily, the hypothalamus is key in controlling food intake regulation. Hormones, eating patterns, climate, exercise and the levels of nutrients that are already present in your blood plasma, are all influenced by the hypothalamus. Within the hypothalamus lies appetite regulatory neurons; these neurons secrete neuropeptide Y (appetite stimulators) and neurons that secrete melanocortins (appetite suppressants) (Paternostro, 2016).
20 Strategies to help overcome food cravings:
Build a support network, get involved with your friends and family to cook and swap healthy meals, plan to go to a health-food café for lunch. The more you can convinece your friends to be healthy, the better chances you have of sticking to the plan!
Plan ahead – this is always the key to huge success, get in control! Don’t let yourself drown in takeaway or convenience shop. Try meal prepping or organizing a home delivery service. Maybe you could do a big healthy cook-up with your friends on a Sunday afternoon.
Pack your own snacks; ensure that your snacks and meals have healthy fats, carbs and proteins to lower insulin spikes and provide satiety. What goes up must come down which will only leave you wanting more bad stuff!
Try to cut down the processed foods, the more that you continue eating them, the more you will crave. Make realistic weekly goals – eventually, you will make new healthy habits. If you're a daily processed foodie, aim to have it once every 3 days instead, then work your way down. Big changes aren't always the right way to go and can sometimes lead to you giving up, feeling deprived and starting another big ol' binge sesh!
Fill yourself up on lots of nourishing vegetables; you won’t have room for the bad. Eat your greens! Try a salad before the main meal. Greens, in particular, are super packed with nutrients that will help fill the void without. I'm talking vegetables with EVERY meal. You can eat all you want of greens, feel full and don't have the guilt trip. YAY! Hello, zucchini pasta.
Stop dieting. It’s so 1980’s. Don’t deny yourself the foods you enjoy, limit them. Enjoy ALL foods in moderation, so you’re not thinking about it every moment of every day. We don’t recommend eating the same foods every day either. Variety is the spice of life.
Buy a smaller plate this will help regulate your consumption, subsequently reducing stretch receptors in your gut, eventually, you won’t need to binge for satiety.
Try a food diary, when do you crave? What emotions do you feel? How often do they occur? What types of foods? Are they similar? How often do you give in? It’s also a great way to start regulating and being mindful of your daily intakes.
Try watching interesting health documentaries at night to keep you inspired and motivated after a long day.
Try mindful eating – allow yourself to sit for at least 1 meal per day, enjoy your food, eat slowly and chew properly, it takes around 20 minutes for your body to feel full.
Get moving! Exercise releases endorphins stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain, so instead of ice cream after dinner – drop and give yourself 20! Or simply go for a walk. After that you may not feel like you need to snack, potentially you may be motivated to do even more.
Keep hydrated, drink plenty of water – you might be craving or overeating simply because you are thirsty.
Don’t starve yourself, this is one of the worst things you can do! You will be low on energy and weakened to the point of caving in and making poor choices when you actually do eat food.Endeavour to reduce stress – mindfulness, meditation, yoga, running, whatever it is that helps you cope. Do that.
Sleeeeeeep! Glorious sleep! Statistics show that sleep deprivation can lead to hormonal fluctuations and cravings.
Reset your body and detoxify – It’s the perfect way to teach your body what it needs and makes a wonderful short term solution to set you on the pathway to perfect health. Try a 2-week detox plan or get a group of the girls together to do a cleanse together.
Ask for help – you are not alone. You don't have to feel isolated and guilty every single day, there are reasons why your body starts to binge and feel like you need to overeat. Working with a trained health professional can really make a huge difference. Nutritionists and Naturopaths aim to educate WHY and HOW your body changes biochemically, and work individually on how to nourish back to optimal health.
Do a cupboard cleanout; get rid of your trigger foods to avoid temptation.
Always be mindful and listen to your body. Stop, listen to your body try to understand what that craving is all about.
Remember no-one is perfect (in fact that’s a whole other blog topic), you will have birthday cake one of these days and that’s ok. Get right back up and don’t dwell on it.
Being healthy and becoming the best possible version of yourself is a journey. It certainly won’t happen overnight but it’s your journey. You have the power to change your life; you have the power to get control back. No-one else can make the decision for you, so get inspired and never give up!
If you have any questions please contact me, I would love to hear from you.
If you think this post could help someone you know, don’t forget to like and share to inspire others!
Crespo, S. C. (2014, April 24). Peptides and food intake. PubMed. doi:doi: 10.3389/fendo.2014.00058.
Inutsuka, A. a. (2013, March 06). The physiological role of orexin/hypocretin neurons in the regulation of sleep/wakefulness and neuroendocrine functions. Frontiers in Endocrinology. doi:2013.00018
Lobera, I. J. (2012, October 3). Neurophysiological Basis of Food Craving. InTech. doi:DOI: 10.5772/48717
MedScape. [image] of appetite control circuitory system. Unknown. Retrieved July 23, 2016, from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/581204
Nakayama, S. (2011). Orexins stimulate the ‘appetite’ of the gut. PubMed. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.220962
Paternostro, M. A. (2016). Energy Balance. Lesson 5 - Anatomy & Physiology 3. West Virginia, USA. Retrieved 23 07, 2016
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[image]. Dreamworks. Retrieved August, 26 from:https://au.pinterest.com/alltimemusic15/dreamworks/