You’ve eaten a few scoops of ice cream, and now your one indulgence is making you want to finish up the whole container. Ashamed of it? Don’t be—most of us have similar urges! We all have times when we take seconds when we shouldn’t, or we plow through a bag of chips by ourselves. But if you are concerned that you are starting to binge eat too much or too often, there are some things you can do to curb your desire. Your urge to binge may result from crash diets that force your body to starve, or from emotional distress. Sometimes emotions like anger or sadness can cause us to seek comfort in food. Other times we overeat because we are bored, the food tastes so good or it’s fun to snack and zone out in front of the TV. More prevalent in women than men, regular bouts with overeating can result in weight gain and put you at risk for many health ailments including diabetes and heart disease. Work to curb your impulse to binge eat with these five tips:
(Note: This article is intended for people who occasionally binge eat on their favorite food or indulgence. If you think you or someone you know suffers from a serious eating disorder and needs professional medical help, please contact the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.)
1) Plan Out Your Meals
Plan ahead. Once you have chalked out your meal plans, it is easier to follow and keep a check on binging. Try and plan three meals and two to three snack times with a gap of no more than three hours between each meal. This way you you can keep your appetite satiated and your hunger won’t make impulsive decisions. Have a strategy by knowing when you will eat next and what you will eat. Soon you find yourself in a routine and structure is always helpful for curbing unhealthy habits.
2) Exercise or Move Daily
Exercise builds muscles and burns calories, but it also has a psychological component that boosts your mood and improves your outlook. The psychological benefits of exercise alone can curb your desire to binge. Don’t feel like you have to go to the gym every day if that’s not your thing. Aspire to move your body most days of the week. Try to find a heart-pumping activity that you love like jogging or HIIT training. If that’s too much for you, try brisk walking. If you have an injury or joint pain, take up swimming which is easy on your joints. Also, everyone should add some sort of strength training to their weekly exercise routine to keep their muscles strong and metabolism fired up. When you know you are making a daily commitment to take care of your body with exercise, you are less likely to work against yourself with food.
Related: 7 Foods That Help Ease Anxiety
3) Learn Smart Eating
Learn about foods that not only have nutritional benefits, but also keep you full for a longer period of time. Green leafy vegetables are rich sources of fiber that make you feel full easily. Make more clean eating choices, eating, you know, those foods you find in the produce aisle. Get creative with your salads and add lean proteins to keep you full longer. (I love having a salad of baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, asparagus and vinaigrette of lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning.) Stay hydrated by drinking 8-10 glasses of water through the day. Water keeps your body working well. Chris Freytag also has a great tip about starting your day with lemon water. Check that out too!
4) Do Not Be Hard On Yourself
Your objective should be to become healthier and fit, not to live at the gym or starve yourself till you lose those extra pounds. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Take one day at a time and try to make the best choices you can within that day. If you are always being critical about your body or those times when you slip up and overeat, you will just be piling on the negativity and that won’t help you one bit. Be kinder to yourself and love yourself through healthy change. Be your own best friend instead of being your worst critic.
Related: 5 Ways To Stop Emotional Eating
5) Give Up On Dieting
Intense crash dieting has a yo-yo effect on your body. You lose weight, only to regain it later on when you are not on the diet. Also, crash dieting causes your heart to exert too much pressure and takes a psychological toll on you too. Nutrient deficiency and starvation from crash dieting can cause moodiness, depression and irritability. Crash dieting increases the risks of a heart attack since it damages your blood vessels. Is your low-calorie diet refusing your body its required nutrients? Do you always feel hungry when you are on the diet? When you starve your body of fuel, your hunger can make the decisions for you. Give up on dieting for good and just eat healthy foods. Plan indulgences and portion them out. Consider not buying the foods (trigger foods) that cause you to lose control. (That’s why you should never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.) Some people can’t stay away from a bag of salty chips in the pantry, others can’t just have one cookie. Not purchasing your trigger foods can be extremely helpful in keeping your urge to binge at bay. Try to maintain a balanced diet that includes adequate carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Even your snacking options can include foods that benefit your body and keep you fueled. Eating food with high nutritional value and fiber content will keep cravings away, even when you are having a bad day.
Planning ahead, ditching diets, taking up clean eating, exercising and having a positive attitude can all help curb your urge to overeat. The best part? Healthy living has no negative side effects.