Binge Mentality

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Last night, my hubby went out for dinner with his PhD advisor, so I was left to my own devices. I carefully prepared and enjoyed a beautiful, healthy salad, logged it in my nutrition tracker... and then went into the kitchen and ate 6 tablespoons of Bettern PB.

Immediately, I felt ill, both because of the extra 300 calories I had consumed and because I had broken my binge-free streak. 300 calories of low fat nut butter might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of binges, but that doesn't make it ok. It's just another binge (albeit a small one) in a long line of them. For all my healthy lifestyle changes in the past few years, this is one bad habit that I haven't totally shaken yet.

As I was trying to fall asleep last night, I decided to retrace my mental steps. What made me binge? What ever makes me binge??

emoticon Step One -- I make a really good decision.
Last night, I not only made a really healthy salad for dinner, I also weighed and measured all the ingredients with my food scale. One time, I was too busy to eat lunch, so I figured I'd just have a small snack before dinner and save some calories. Another time, I decided not to go out for drinks and a late night meal after a performance.

emoticon Step Two -- I really wanted to do something other than the good thing I did.
Last night, I had really been wanting something ethnic but ate the salad instead. When I skipped lunch, I was ravenous and wanted to eat a ton of food. Even though I decided not to go out after the show, I really wanted to!

emoticon Step Three -- I get the idea to eat "just a little" of something. Sometimes I even track it!
Last night, I started with one small spoonful of Bettern PB. When I skipped lunch, I had a greek yogurt for a snack. Since I wasn't going out after the show, I went out to buy some cheese and crackers to share with my hubby.

emoticon Step Four -- Instead of stopping at "just a little", I keep going.
Last night, I went back to the kitchen 3 TIMES for giant spoonfuls of PB. The lunch time, I followed up that yogurt with a bowlful of granola and milk, chocolate chips, and then a protein bar. When I got to the store, I bought cheese and crackers... 3 kinds of cheese, that is, plus salami, olives, and soda.

emoticon Step Five -- Instant Regret
This is pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes it involves hiding the evidence. That can be literal (burying protein bar wrappers in the trash so my hubby won't see them) or figurative (consciously deciding not to track the binge). I will say that I have gotten much better about this lately; I almost always track it, even if I wait until the next day.

Aside from the obvious part when I eat a bunch of extra calories, where am I going wrong? I can see 3 big ones:

Mistake #1 -- I take a good choice too far, creating feelings of deprivation.
Mistake #2 -- I use the really good decision as an excuse for a bad decision.
Mistake #3 -- I ignore the voice in my head telling me to stop/I decide that I've already screwed up, so I might as well keep eating.

SO. I first need to learn to listen to what I really want. If I'm craving take out, there's totally a way to satisfy that without going nuts, even if that just means making something a little more exciting at home than a salad with grilled chicken. That's the first checkpoint. The second checkpoint is when things get out of control... and that's where I'm stumped.

It's really easy to say, "Oh sure, just listen to the honest part of you that knows it's a bad idea and stop! There is no justification for continuing a binge!" It's harder than that, though, if you're feeling out of control. Sometimes if I talk to myself aloud (i.e. "No, you do not need that! You're not even hungry!"), then I can keep from starting to binge. Do any of you have any good ideas for mid-binge?

One last big component of all of this -- It's ALWAYS when I am alone. Last night, my hubby was out. He was at work when I binged after skipping lunch. I went to the grocery store alone after the show to buy cheese, etc. This is no coincidence; it's because I KNOW what I'm doing is wrong! Maybe I should reach out to other people (my hubby, Spark Friends, etc.) if I am alone and I feel that restless, bored, deprived, binge-y feeling coming on. Maybe that will keep me from doing any real damage.

Oof, ok, that was long, but I feel better now. A binge may feel out of control in the moment, but it's all surprisingly simple in writing. I'm a smart, strong woman... I should be able to overcome this, right?

That said, if any of you have any insightful ideas, I would be grateful to hear them!!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Great blog. I think this is part of what makes maintenance so hard. We've developed so many healthy habits, but our old unhealthy ones are always lurking, just waiting to kick in and undo all of our hard work. In addition to the damage it can do to our physical progress, a binge really hits us mentally and can cause us to unravel. We may never really be able to rid ourselves of our binges completely, but I think the key is to forgive yourself and move on back to the healthy habits. Think of how far you've come and the fact that your binges are now really only occasional. That's real progress and what will keep you from ever going back to where you were before. I know it's hard to keep that in mind when you're maintaining and are aiming for smaller, yet seemingly much more elusive goals, but I think it's important to step back and look at the bigger picture even if you feel monumentally frustrated that your binges are what are preventing you from achieving 100% of your goals. Keep working, girl! Your progress of late may be slow, but your persistence will help you to get there!
    2240 days ago
    I am constantly plagued with the same challenges that you described in your blog. I think the more we become more mindful of our binges that better we can begin to understand them. A good SP friend of mine told me one time that is how she overcame her binging and she's lost over 190lbs. She told me when it happens think about it. Put is down on paper (or SP) how it occurred. The more we delve into our mentality as to why it happened the better we understand ourselves so that we can stop it the next time. It's a work in progress but it seems to be helping me now that I've actually starting doing it. It appears that you're already on that track. Great job!
    2245 days ago
    I agree with DOCLOVER, honesty is the first step, and the most important! It's awesome that you took the time to analyze the problem and actually spell it all out. I have the same problem too, it feels like I'm on autopilot in a plane that's crashing, if that makes sense, lol. Sometimes if I feel a binge coming on, I'll try on that dress, or whatever it may be, that's just a little too small, and it kind of guilts me out of eating. Other than that, maybe get out of the house for a run or just do something which requires all your focus so you can't think about it. But if you do binge, try and remember that 2 spoons of peanut butter have more calories than one ;)
    2250 days ago
    I love what HIPPYCAT said. This is so true for me. And I love how you've broken it down to understand your behavior. Honesty is the first step - and I have real trouble with honesty when it comes to binging! This gives me some good things to think about as I get back on track just in time for summer.
    2253 days ago
    There are so many of us fighting this same problem. Your blog is really helpful and I'm taking note of what you said because you summarized it so well.

    I would add that, for me, the binge always happens when I'm craving something...but it's not always food. Often it's free time, rest, or affection. Or, as you document, it might be a food I really want, but nobly gave up. Whatever it is, I use the binge to "reward" myself for not having the thing I really want. And obviously, at the end of it, I feel crappy and I still haven't had the thing I really want!

    I'm not always successful in stopping the binging, but there are a few things that have helped: brushing my teeth, drinking a big glass of water to cleanse the palate, going for a walk, or even just going to bed with a good book (usually I'm too cozy, warm, and sleepy to get out of bed for food!)

    Best wishes as we keep working on figuring this's great that you're doing it at 25 instead of my 45!
    2253 days ago
    I have the same challenges I can totally try to rationalize it I can star with the first serving of whatever I choose to eat and log it down in my spark page but then I think maybe a second serving is not so bad still in range but don't log it right away then comes the third and then what ever is on hand I mean if I already screw up might as well go for it all the way. I have try talking to my self but that definitely doesn't work.
    When I get the feeling of restlessness (before I start to eat) I call some one or try to engage in something productive that definitely helps but that is only before I star eating. I guess If I have that first bite and want a second when I know I'm not hungry I'll get in the down dog and hold it as long as I can. It was good to read your blog but painful to know how many of us go to the same and how hard it is to break the habits or impulses.
    I guess just take a step back take a deep breath and try to relax.
    2255 days ago
    i too have learned that if im craving something, i just need to eat it! even if just a small bit of it, or else i eat other things, trying to fill that void, and i end up eating wayyy more calories than i ever would have, if i had just eaten what i wanted!

    mine is chocolate. i eat the stuff at least once a day! i tried going cold turkey and not buying any anymore, thinking id be doing my self some good, and i started craving it REAL bad. i ate chips (which i NEVER EAT) among other little things that i could find in the pantry like cashews or cereal, ect. and even after eating all those things, i still felt like i needed something. Now, had i just had my little square of dark chocolate, i wouldnt have eaten all those extra things trying to fill that craving!

    so now i always have dark chocolate at hand, and my binges have been non existant =)
    2255 days ago
  • SALLY212
    Me too me too, only ever when alone. If I stop myself, it's because I try to use the mantra of 'If he/she was around would I be doing this? No? THEN STOP IT!!!' Kinda talking to myself like a naughty kid in a classroom!! The glass of water and the downward dog ideas are good, I'll try those.

    Maybe if we were to say 'ok I can have this extra food, but only after I've done ...... (downward dog, etc)' because then you'll likely realise that you don't want it or recognise the behaviour. Or if you end up doing the action, you'll come to realise the behaviour and probably want to stop it because you'll feel silly.

    Actually I'm gonna try the downward dog one - I honestly can't see myself still wanting that snack after doing that as it will remind me of my difficulties in balance in yoga and what I'm working for. SO MAYBEEEEEE you need to find something you find really hard still (I dunno, press ups or a yoga move or something) and have to do that before the snack, cos that will remind you of the hours of work you've put in etc

    Oooo sorry about the essay, I'll let you know how the downward dog idea works for me!! Thanks for the thought process, and the ideas from Monica_W!!

    Good luck!
    2255 days ago
    Way to go for re-tracing those steps... next time I fall into the same trap, I'm gonna have to remember that one. It sounds like we have a lot of the same patterns - from the one "small" bite, to stepping back into the kitchen again and again, to knowing it's a mistake the whole time... and of course, it's always during alone time.

    There have been times where I've actually been eager for my roommate to leave so I could tear into the jar of PB... obviously that's a huge red flag and I totally don't understand it, but yeah, binges are so related to shame and control. It's crazy how much we as a culture try to compartmentalize areas of our lives, not realizing it allllllll goes together.

    Tips for mid-binge though... I know I HAVE nipped binges in the bud before, but I can't think of any specific examples. Maybe drink a bigggg glass of water (slowly) and get yourself out of whatever situation you're in - like, if you're alone, call someone. Or do something that'll make it so you can't eat for a while - paint your nails, take a shower...something like that?
    2256 days ago
    I could have totally written this .. Thanx for analysing the actions .... It is ditto in my case ... Now I have loads to think about ... Thanx for the clarity !
    2256 days ago
    AWESOME blog post! Huge winner! Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!!! Quarters falling out of the machine! Lights flashing! Streamers falling! This is fantastic.

    You've taken a behaviour that you know is unhealthy, taken notes, reflected, and come up with a plan to do better in the future. This is progress!

    Somebody told me (was it you?) that they had a rescue action that they'd do when they needed a quick mental reboot or to break a cycle of bad behaviour... and that the recommended action was doing downward dog because you get a nice bit of blood to the head. Would that be worth considering? Can't hold a spoon in down dog, that's for sure...

    Bravo Amanda! Six tablespoons of low fat PB (what's in it as filler to make it lower fat??) as payment for a huge lesson learned and big leaps forward. Worth it!
    2256 days ago
    One thing - I doubt it will come as a shock, I'm sure you've thought of it before - You binge ALONE. That is the behavior of an addict. Just something to add to the list of things to think about.
    2256 days ago
    It is good that you learned from your mistake. Good luck to you.
    2256 days ago
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