Binge Eating according to Wikipedia is a pattern of disordered eating which consists of episodes of uncontrollable overeating.
Binge eating is a fairly common issue in the bodybuilding and fitness circle. I myself have experienced the woes of this disorder as have many others I know and have worked with personally. Now I believe there to be two different scenarios to Binge Eating. First you have the small group of fitness enthusiasts who have mini binges and then you have people who experience severe psychological issues with food. The latter group typically will struggle with the disorder for a prolonged period of time and often take drastic measures to compensate for their actions. If you are reading this and you are in the second group, I highly recommend seeking professional help.
This article is mainly for the fitness enthusiast who, like myself has struggled with binge eating in the past.
How I Got Into Trouble
It all started about four years ago when I began counting calories. I was brainwashed into the whole “clean” food phenomenon as I was reading every bodybuilding and fitness related magazine I could get my meat hooks on. I was so obsessed with the “you gotta eat clean, bro!” mentality that I threw all other sanity to the wind. I was immediately obsessed with brown rice, oatmeal, natural peanut butter, lean chicken breast etc. I was basically consuming most of the foods deemed “clean” by the infamous, dogma laden health and fitness community. I somehow adopted the assumption that pizza, burgers, pasta, white bread and any other fast or “dirty” food would only be stored as fat and would be suboptimal in terms of energy needs.
This wasn’t so bad when on a bulking diet because I was eating plenty of food and keeping full most of the time. However I was developing a really sour relationship with food. I began to look down on others who ate out and those who ordered pizza instead of cooking a chicken breast and brown rice. I found myself constantly craving the food I was restricting. The main reasons were because I could not count the calories and because I assumed it would go straight to my gut. I also began to feel superior to my peers for my abstinence of unhealthy food.
It Only Got Worse
As I said the bingeing wasn’t too much of a problem when on a bulking diet. On a fat loss diet though, it was my worst nightmare. While I found myself severely restricting my intake, I decided to allow one cheat meal per week. This was an absolute disaster. I would eat “clean” all week long and end up almost completely reversing my previous weeks efforts on Sunday. It would start with a breakfast of lots and lots of bacon, eggs and hash browns soaked in grease. Then for lunch I would pig out on whatever was around. May be some peanut butter and jelly, cookies or whatever I could find that was “dirty.” Then for dinner it was usually a race to see how sick I could make myself. I would eat an entire pizza, then I would top it off with ice cream, brownies, cookies and anything else sugary I could get my paws on. I literally ate myself sick on many occasions. The next few days were often filled with overexercising, calorie restriction and feelings of guilt and anxiety. The mirror wasn’t flattering as I usually was holding a ton of water and the scale always revealed an 8-10lb weight swing.
What Did I Do?
I went to a therapist, got religion and joined a convent. I kid. I did however seek help, although not through traditional methods. I sought help through self-study and personal research. I knew that what I was doing was unhealthy and could not be maintained long term. I began seeking out those in the field who were smarter and more experienced than I. I looked to Lyle McDonald for the science behind nutrition and macro composition. Everything I could read about science based nutrition, I read. I soon found that in theory, a calorie is just a calorie. If calories can be controlled, it doesn’t make an iota of difference as to what effects they will have on body composition. When I say calories I am more so referring to energy calories such as carbohydrates and fat. Of course protein is required to maintain lean body mass, but once a certain minimum of protein is met, the other calories are simply used for energy.
So I had to make a decision. I could believe all the old school dogma that was leading to my bingeing or I could adopt a new mindset and belief system around food and change my life for the better.
I began controlling my calories but allowing myself to eat the foods I was craving more often. For instance instead of a boring chicken breast and brown rice I had a few slices of pizza and then a protein shake to meet my protein requirements. For breakfast I would eat the same amount of carbs in the form of sugary cereal as opposed to plain oatmeal. I did this for a couple of months to gather my thoughts and collect data. What did I discover? Food choices do not make a difference at all as long as calories are controlled. A calorie is a calorie. I also lowered my meal frequency to about 2-3 meals a day instead of 6-8. This allowed for better satiety with each meal. I found that I no longer had the urge to binge anymore.
How To Eliminate Binge Eating in 3 Easy Steps
Make A Choice – Decide you want to stop this behavior and make a plan to do so.
- Decide the route you are going to take. Plan your work and work your plan.
- Do not give up if you fail at first. You will not conquer this habit over night.
Experiment – Try new approaches until you find something that works for you.
- Experiment with Intermittent Fasting and place most of your food around workouts or later in the evening. This will provide more satiety and I have had great success with IFing.
- Manipulate your energy macros. If carbs tend to make you ravenous, switch to a lower carb diet and eat more fat as fat is known to be a bit more satiating. If you like to pig out on fatty foods, switch to a higher carb diet with most of the energy coming from fruits and veggies.
- Try different strategies until one sticks.
Seek Accountability – Make sure others know what you are doing and what your goals are.
- Tell your friends that you are committing to this. Ask them to check up on you every so often.
- Write in a journal daily or start a blog to document your progress. Many have started weight loss blogs for nothing else but accountability. John from JohnIsFit is a perfect example. He recently wrote a piece on Binge Eating as well.
- If all else fails, get help. There is no shame in asking for help.
If there is anything I can do to assist you, feel free to contact me directly. I am always open to helping in any way that I can. If you have conquered binge eating, how did you go about it?