**DISCLAIMER: I am not a therapist, counselor, or doctor, so please consult a medical professional if you find yourself in need of help**
Thinking back, I’ve had a pretty fucked up relationship with food for most of my life. Not necessarily to the extent of an eating disorder*, but “stopping when I’m full” has never come as easily to me as it seems to for others. Thanks to good genes I’ve always been relatively slender, but I’ve gone through different extremes along the way, especially while transitioning into adulthood and the food freedom that it offers.
My senior year of college was the first time that my roommate and I had ever really experimented with pot, and MAN OH MAN did the munchies hit hard. Fueling each others’ cravings, it wasn’t unusual for us to order a large pizza, go out for cheese fries and milkshakes, or pound a loaf of bread with parmesan cheese and olive oil. All in one week. I was in denial for a long time about the weight I gained that year.
Fast forward a few years and you’ll find me on the opposite end of the spectrum. I had just broken up with my long term boyfriend and rather than sit alone in an empty apartment, I gravitated toward the small gym in my complex and watched The Bachelor while I did cardio. Sometimes for 2 hours… When I would return to my apartment exhausted, I was usually too tired to deal with cooking a meal and then cleaning up after myself, so I just… wouldn’t eat… On top of that, I was invited on a trip to Belize and staved off hunger with the dream of my future bikini body. When I showed up for a family wedding a couple of months later, my considerable weight loss was the main topic of conversation with my entire family.
Currently, I’m struggling to find the right balance. I’m back home, living with my family, which means I no longer control what food comes into the house. On top of that, I work at not one but two Italian restaurants 6 days a week so it’s carb-o-clock all the time. Despite my best intentions, when I get home at 10:00 after a long day, all I want to do is sit in bed and snaaaaaack. A few months ago it was getting out of control, and I found myself turning to the internet for help. I found a lot of resources to help long term, but came up empty when looking for tips to help in the moment. I’m by no means a professional, but some of the below tips have worked for me and I thought they just might help someone else.
Stop in the middle of whatever you’re eating and do something else, knowing that it will still be there when you come back for it. Walk outside for a minute, drink a glass of water, grab something from another room. Anything to help you break the binge trance. Once you’re distracted, it gives you a minute to actually taste what you were eating, and also gives your brain a second to catch up with your body’s hunger signals. You can still enjoy the rest of what you decided to eat, but you’ll hopefully do so more mindfully and feel more satiated as a result.
Make it really hard for yourself to go back for more without giving it a second thought. Everyone’s heard the rule about pouring a bowl for yourself before sitting down in front of the TV. I for one, never sit down on the couch with a big bag of chips. Instead, I stand in the dark kitchen, alone, and hover over the counter with the bag of chips, muttering this is my last one to myself over and over until the bag is somehow empty.
But I digress.
Let’s say you’re making a frozen pizza. Consider making a smaller personal size pizza, or even cut the frozen pizza down the middle. Put the other half in the freezer for another night, rather than futilely promising yourself that you won’t eat the whole thing (again). When you finish the last slice, your binge brain is telling you that you want more, but you’ll have to ask yourself if you want it bad enough to get out of bed**, go to the kitchen, reheat the oven, wait for the pizza to cook, and then enjoy it. 9/10 that’s too much work for me.
**come on, where else do you eat frozen pizza by yourself
For me, the salty/sweet cycle is my worst enemy. If I have something salty, I will almost go nuts if I don’t have something sweet to follow it and “balance it out.” Alas, the same goes for sweet>salty, so you see my dilemma. Something that helps to reduce overeating for me is to anticipate this and make something that is both salty AND sweet. If I’m making a buttery, garlicky english muffin, I’ll put a little jelly on the other half. If I’m having some hummus and crackers, I’ll pair it with a handful of grapes. By having both the salty and sweet together, I’m not as likely to go back for more.
If you can, it also helps to avoid bringing the junk in the house in the first place. If there’s nothing in the fridge or cabinet when you’re searching for your fix, you can stop the binge before it starts. If you’re like me and share a kitchen with roommates or family, that’s not always possible.
This one is the most obvious tips and may elicit an eye roll, but it has the potential to be the most powerful. In the moment of that binge-induced serotonin euphoria, try to tell yourself to slow down and enjoy this food while you eat it, rather than thinking about what you’re going to eat next. Remember that you will get to enjoy this food again in the future, and it’s ok if you don’t eat every last bite and then swear it off for good.
If you try any of the above, or have any tips of your own, please leave a comment!
*after writing this post, I’ve realized that might be debatable. What can you do, hindsight is 20/20