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Beating Binges

Have you ever experienced this? You start a new diet, but find yourself having blow-outs and binges in the afternoons or evenings on a regular basis.

People often tell me that they’re “really good” all day, but in the late afternoons, or perhaps after dinner, they find themselves experiencing irresistible cravings or perhaps hunger, and they inevitably give in and eat junk. The next day they determine to do better, and start well, but find themselves repeating the same pattern over and over. They moan and beat themselves up for having no willpower.

Well, here’s news for you: willpower may have very little to do with it. In my experience, there is often a physical cause for this pattern of behaviour. When a client experiences a problem with binges, I usually ask them to record everything they eat for a few days. When I analyse their meal plan, the cause is usually glaringly obvious.

Many people’s idea of being “good” is to either severely restrict their calories or cut carbs almost entirely from their meals. Others skip meals, often in an effort to compensate for the binge they indulged in the day before. Dieters often mistakenly believe that less is better and drop their food intake to ridiculously low levels in an effort to speed up weight loss. All of this means that by the end of the day your body is seriously calorie-deprived and your glycogen stores are depleted, particularly if you’re doing some serious exercise.

Thousands of years of evolution means that your body is programmed for survival and is not going to let you starve yourself when there’s an abundance of food available right there in the kitchen….or at the nearest fast food outlet. Your muscles, all of your body’s systems, and your brain all require energy and the fastest way to get that is from sugar and/or high-GI carbohydrates. So it’s not the least bit surprising that those are the things you usually crave. Bread, chocolate, biscuits, lollies, pastries, chips, desserts – sound familiar?

After a day of eating little but vegies, fruit, and a little protein, you’re likely to find yourself in the middle of a marathon junk food binge. Your resolve to stick to your diet has been completely overridden by your body’s far more urgent need for adequate food. If you actually manage to continue this eating behaviour for several days or weeks, you could well find yourself stuck in a nasty cycle of bingeing and starving and will probably end up feeling disgusted with yourself and more than a little desperate. At this stage, most people develop a “what’s the point?” attitude and just give up and go back to their old eating habits.

So, what’s the solution? Well, a good start is eating small frequent meals, containing protein and low-GI carbohydrates that will provide you with slow-release energy all day. About 5 or 6 meals is right for most people, but we’re not talking 3 course banquets here, just 3 modest meals and 2 or 3 healthy snacks. This way, you won’t suffer from extreme hunger and will avoid the spikes and dips in blood sugar that usually trigger cravings.

A sensible approach is usually better than anything that promises a quick fix. Remember the old saying – “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Nowhere is this more applicable than in the weight loss industry – diets that promise fast results inevitably deliver little more than disappointment and a big old space in your wallet where your cash used to be.

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