I read something very interesting recently about the power of the mind, and how we tend to do exactly the thing that we're telling ourselves not to do. It reminded me of something I was taught on an advanced driving course a few years ago (bear with me on this, it has relevance).
When you're driving your car and you get into trouble - say someone swerves in front of you and you need to take evasive action or run into them - you have to look for an escape route. That's obvious. But what we humans have a habit of doing is looking at the thing we don't want to hit, instead of looking at the place we DO want to be heading. No matter how hard you try, if you're looking at the thing you DON'T want to crash into, you will crash into it. I actually got to test out this theory - safely, on a racetrack, at low speed and using plastic cones - and it was a real eye-opener. If I looked at the cones, I hit those damn things every time, no matter how hard I tried to steer in the opposite direction.
So...the relevance of this to cravings/binge eating, etc is this: If you tell yourself that you can't have something, you are going to find yourself thinking constantly about that thing and the cravings will become unbearable. As Tom Venuto says in Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, "…if I tell you not to think about monkeys, you're going to think about monkeys. You can't help it."
So learning to change your thinking about food is essential for long-term success. You need to develop a mindset where instead of telling yourself that you're not ALLOWED to have chocolate (or whatever), you tell yourself that you CHOOSE not to.
And having a treat every now and then - a handful of M & Ms, a single slice of toast with peanut butter, a decadent gourmet yoghurt or a bite-sized Picnic snack - is also an essential strategy. If you plan one or two treats each week, and can then eliminate the guilt, you should find that a reasonable amount satisfies you.
If you become angry and frustrated at yourself for eating the "wrong" things, then chances are you'll end up eating even more and then you'll feel more angry and guilty and the spiral continues ever downwards…….. An unplanned snack isn't likely to impede your results any, but feeling guilty afterwards can make us continue to over-indulge, and that's where the damage is done.
Having an all or nothing mentality, can lead you to think "well, I've blown it now, might as well have the whole packet!" and from there you're only a step away from the swirling toilet bowl of blowing a diet and letting it suck you down.
So go on….have a cheat meal now and then. You may find that it's the one thing that rescues you from the jaws of the dreaded binge monster.