Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Last Hurrah - Binge Eating & Diet Sabotage

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Hi- it's Julie again. You've been getting a lot of me, but I promise, I haven't shoved Emily in a closet or anything. You will be hearing more from her soon! 

I've been thinking about how our brains play into our fitness a lot latley.

Mostly I've been thinking about the idea of the 'last hurrah'.  You know what that is-- the 'I ate really poorly this yesterday/today/this week so I might as well call this my 'last hurrah' and eat junk until __________ when I start over for real,' reaction to eating poorly.  Or, even on a smaller level, 'I already ate the _________ today, I might as well eat the ___________." (If you are me, both those blanks are probably filled with the world 'cake').

The first time I was ever put on a diet I was ten years old, and in the almost two decades since then, I still can't figure out exactly why our brains work in this self destructive way.  For most of us, we know that what we are eating at the time is not good for us, and, for most of us, we know the consequences. And yet, I have the 'last hurrah' dialogue in my head at least once every two months.

I wish I had a some magic answer to put here right now regarding how to avoid this, but the truth is, I don't.  But, I have learned a few things over the years that help.
  • Avoid people who want to sabotage you, especially during the first month of your healthy eating. I find that if I can get a good month of good eating under my belt, I'm less likely to go on a junk food binge.  Partly, this is because I'm doing well and don't want to mess it up, and partly because once I've put good food in my body for a month, junk food just makes me feel gross and sluggish and I don't really want it. Avoiding our saboteurs is sometimes easier than others.   For me, my saboteurs are mostly a few of my close friends who have never had to diet and are magically thin without really trying.  They find people who count calories or who have to choose their foods/beverages carefully irritating because they don't understand how one glass of wine or one scoop of ice-cream can really make a difference between success and stagnation for someone struggling with weight. They are the chief advocates of, "Come on, enjoy it now, start tomorrow...." Trying to have a heart-to-heart with them about how and why you choose the foods you do can sometimes help, but sometimes, I have to chose to not see them. This is more difficult if your saboteur is a spouse or significant other. Maybe I'll do a whole post about diet sabotage soon and we can all discuss this together. 
  • DO hang around people who support your eating! Friends and family who know you are trying and very quietly, without being nosy jerks, support you are the greatest asset in avoiding junk food binges. Like, the friend who will make a healthy dinner the night you come over, or the co-worker who makes sure the cookie plate is not in front of your desk.  Last week, my coworkers were amazing in this respect-- there are constantly cookies/treats on the end of my desk for people to munch on when they enter our suite. They know I try not to eat them, and last week there was a strawberry on the cookie platter. One of my co-workers dabbed the strawberry on every cookie so I couldn't eat them. (I did warn others, don't worry. I didn't let any other possible allergics fall victim to the strawberry venom.) :-)
    • Don't let your diet kill your social life. This is hard, especially considering I just said that part of my method of avoiding mass junk consumption is to avoid certain people at certain times. And, honestly, I usually do have to go a little under the radar socially for the first month or so of my diet to get things started. Once I'm doing well, I'm far less likely to make poor food choices.  Also, make sure you are on a plan that lets you be social. Even if you lose weight a little slower than with a really strict plan, you have to be able to function in all areas of your life or else you will not be able to maintain the weight loss.  I've dropped a lot of weight fast on a few occasions, but as soon as I resumed my life, it all came back 
    • Food is Medicine, Not Fun. This sounds lame, and it's only partly true, as, especially us Americans, love to use food as recreation.  BUT-- it is a mindset that can lead to better food choices while being social. If you can look at a menu in a restaurant and choose with that mantra in your head, you are less likely to be tempted by the delicious mac-n-cheese or other diet-destroying dish.  Also, it is a phrase I throw out at some of my saboteurs.  They know when I say it, they are starting to push the line between being nice and being a jerk.  They may not understand how they are being jerks, but they know enough to change the subject once I say it. Thinking of food as medicine also helps me focus on letting the situation be fun and not the food itself. As great as great food can be, the fun part of going out or being with friends should be the friends part.  
    • If you are going to hurrah, hurrah on something that is worth it.  Sometimes, we all need the day or meal where we eat what we want, even it if sets us back a little. Make sure you pack that day or meal with things you really love so that you feel satisfied, not just whatever junk is around. Even better is if you can plan for it-- like, a two weeks ago I had a birthday dinner  for a friend. I ordered a delicious, DELICIOUS cake from one of my favorite bakeries for this event, and I did not want refrain for having some.  Knowing that, I planned to eat really well the day before and after to make room for some of my caloric transgressions at the celebration. I also pregamed for the event by reading the online menu for the restaurant and noted a few of the less-horrible for me options so that I was not sucked in by the cheeseburger, but still ate something delicious. Something else I've learned to do when I know I'm going to eat poorly for a day/meal is to go grocery shopping the day before so that the next day, my fridge is full of healthy things and I won't be tempted to make one night of bad eating into a week of bad eating. 
    What are some of your tricks to avoid the junk-food-binge??


      1. I'm surprised your friends aren't more supportive of your efforts!

        Looking at the menu before you head to a restaurant is a great plan and one of my tricks. Having a "game plan" of what you are going to order will help you make better decisions at the restaurant, so long as you stick to it! That, and looking out for hidden calories that won't drastically change your experience in beverages, appetizers, salad dressings (skip altogether or get on side), sauces (get on side), and how food is prepared (ask, and get it without butter if possible). I'm going to email you an article I wrote for a newsletter about this very topic! I hope it helps!

      2. This is why I love the slimming world plan as almost nothing is off limits so long as you plan for it. Really, it's the best weight loss programme I've ever done. Typical day today - breakfast - porridge and banana. Lunch Quorn chilli with rice, spinach and poached egg. Snack just now - sandwich made with chicken tikka fillets, salad and a cheese triangle to moisten the bread (weight watchers bread)Dinner will be Quorn curry (made with jarred sauce - I made the mistake of tidying the cupboard yesterday and found about 6 curry sauces!) and rice. Snack tonight will be a large jaffa orange and fat free yogurt. I'm never hungry and if I am there is always something that's 'free' that I can eat.

        I'm lucky in that my partner supports me and so do my family and friends, in fact a few of my family and friends are doing their own weightloss things so it all helps. I have one day a week, the day I get weighed where I have whatever dinner I want... last week it was cheese & onion pasty with chip shop chips. This week it will be my favourite chicken curry with a couple of sides. That so far has stopped me straying off track the rest of the week - even that day I eat healthily up until dinner and then I don't stress what I'm about to eat, I really savour it and enjoy it with the family and then back to the plan straight away after. So far, with this mind set - it's working. If it stops, I'll stop and reasess.