Out of control eating while alone is probably one of my worst problems for controlling my size. It's particularly a danger late at night when I'm tired and should be going to sleep (around 10 or 11pm). Here's an old blog post about a typically uncomfortable case:
Since this topic has come up a few times lately, I'm listing my strategies here so I can refer to them in the future. Each individual strategy may have only a small effect, but in combination they seem to work pretty well. I've certainly had my share of episodes, although they're pretty infrequent these days. These strategies also sometimes help me keep from overeating when at parties and other social events.
I realize that I'm very lucky to live alone and not have to consider a family or a partner when it comes to availability of food. I'm not sure I could do this if I did have to consider them - I have tremendous respect for those of you who do!
1) I keep almost no food in the house. It's all at work where people would see me indulging if I binged. And its not snack food. Its any food. I have watched myself binge on raw oat grains, along with carrots, apples, or whatever else is in the house. If it's just not there then I won't be able to eat it.
2) I eat a minimum of 1500 calories per day because if I go below that
for more than a few days in a row the genuine hunger will trigger a binge.
3) I rarely eat starches, grains, or added sugars. Those trigger binges later in the day. I have to limit fruit for the same reason. If I DO experience a craving for something sweet or starchy, I've found through trial and error that eating lean protein makes the feeling go away. If I eat the starchy or sweet thing I'm craving, the craving just grows stronger. Go figure.
4) I eat 150g of protein per day. That helps with satiety and thereby controls the binge trigger.
5) To push that much protein through the system I usually try to have at least 40g of fiber per day. That helps with satiety too.
6) If I get at least 20% of my calories in fat (~50g) I seem to do better, as well. Fat helps with satiety.
7) Plan ahead. I carry protein bars for emergencies.
And to get those macronutrient levels I mentioned earlier requires having the right foods on hand. If I don't plan ahead for my nutrition, I am setting myself up to fail. Real physiological, hormonal effects happen because of the food I eat. If I can make sure that what I'm taking in is along these lines, then I'm less likely to crave and thus less likely to binge.
8) No TV in the house. That is a trigger.
9) I exercise after work so the appetite suppression will kick in at night when I'm most vulnerable.
10) I rarely attend work parties where they feature snack foods. Processed foods loaded with sugar, starch, fat, and/or salt sometimes trigger binges later in the day. I do not need the temptation. The longer I'm exposed to it the more likely I'll eventually give in.
11) I rarely eat out. (Same reasons as above.)
12) I drink herbal tea when I want a treat. Sure, I still like mindlessly sipping something while reading, etc. This satisfies the urge without adding calories. It's a comfort thing. I'm partial to Good Earth Original Sweet and Spicy tea. www.amazon.com/Go
13) I weigh myself every morning. If I binge at night I see the effects immediately. I track the moving average so normal fluctuations won't bother me: docs.google.com/spreadsh
More about moving averages for weight trackers here: teams.sparkpeople
14) I try to be actively engaged in weight-based challenges; I respond well to competition and it helps suppress the urge to stray from my plan. (Here's a shout out to my buddies in the current challenges where I've managed to lose nearly 8% of my weight (13 lbs) between Halloween and now.)
15) I sometimes try to wear tighter clothes if I know I'm going to be around temptations or feel emotional or otherwise off-balance for the day. It helps provide a physical reminder of my size and that I need to pay attention.
16) I have a tattoo on my arm of a kayaker to remind me that I want to be at my peak fitness and be able to continue to fit into my boats.
17) I have put images from this hilarious blog on the back of my iPhone to remind me of where the food crazies can lead. hyperboleandahalf.blogsp
17) I try to limit consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners to the evenings. If I have them earlier in the day they sometimes trigger cravings later. If I drink diet sodas at night I'm asleep during the time a craving might happen, so it's safer.
18) I forgot to mention this earlier because it's so integral to my life - MOBYCARP's comment reminded me. I track EVERYTHING I eat. Even the binges. It's one way I can make sure I get at least 1500 calories per day.
Since I like to have a standalone app that works even where there's no internet or signal, I use Lose It! They have free apps for iPhone/iTouch and Android that sync to a website when there is signal. It's what I wish the SP tracker did, but doesn't. www.loseit.com/#Products
19) If I can stop myself in time, I sometimes track the things I WANT to eat on a separate tracker (without eating them) . www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
20) Add a negative consequence. One time I managed to avoid a binge by making an agreement with BREWMASTERBILL that I would have to send him $20 if I binged that day.
21) Stall for time. Another time I whined that I wanted to overeat and Bill suggested that I do 20 pushups. Having nothing to lose, I shut my office door and did, and it helped. So, yeah. If I can, I go for a walk. Do some crunches. Do some pushups or tricep dips. Anything to stall for time. Because if I can just hold out for about 20 minutes the feeling usually goes away. It might come back again later, but at least temporarily it goes away.
22) Get adequate rest. Things go downhill for me when I'm short on sleep, spending too much time in the car driving, trying to do to many things, etc. Some evenings I have to go to bed early and shut the cats out of the bedroom to make sure I get a decent night's sleep. The effect of sleep depletion is cumulative, at least in my case. I can handle a week or two short on rest, but if I keep it up, it eventually catches up with me - and one of the ways that happens is I find my resistance to binges is much lower; I make more unhealthy decisions.
23) Minimize alcohol consumption. Yup, it lowers my inhibitions, just like it does for the rest of humanity. And while that can be fun, it can be also dangerous if there happens to be food around...
24) Making my bed, keeping my house clean, putting away my laundry - doing the little things that help make me feel like someone loves me. Disengaging in general from self-neglectful behaviors.
Every one of those habits was discovered to help by trial and error. I've collected them from suggestions from other Spark People, articles, etc. They all add up to constructing a world where I can live reasonably safe from binge triggers most of the time.
I'm like an addict in recovery. I have found I need to remain vigilant and some days it's all I can do just to get through one hour, then another hour, then another hour, even with these strategies. Like NELLJONES says, it's One Day at a Time. But I do think they help.
Leigh Peele has posted an excellent set of podcasts about managing binges here:
Here's a general column from Spark People about controlling night eating:
And here are some teams on SparkPeople.com that address emotional eating and binging:
Living Binge Free
Binger/Snacker~ Night / Closet Eater