We all know that feeling, the insatiable cravings and appetite that come our way once 3pm hits. You sit and wonder, why am I always hungry?! Or maybe, it doesn’t creep up until late at night? Either way, the situation is the same and it sucks! But, it doesn’t need to be this way. You can learn to understand what this all means and more than that, stop that shit from happening in the first place. Read on to find out what you can do to stop the bingeing.
A Day in The Life…
So this used to be me:
Breakfast used to look like any of the following:
- either skip entirely
- bagel with cheese
- a “healthy” cereal
- a “healthy” granola bar
- a banana
- toast/english muffin with peanut butter
Lunch would consist of:
- takeout of some sort (McDonalds etc…)
- a sandwich (cold cuts/cheese)
- leftovers from dinner
- a salad with mixed greens, olive oil/balsamic dressing and tuna (barely any olive oil becasue #calories and #fat)
- grilled cheese
Dinner would be:
- Kraft dinner
- pasta with a red tomato sauce and parm
- chicken breast and a packaged side dish (Sidekicks anyone?)
- fish (usually salmon/white fish like tilapia) and maybe some veggies
- frozen pizza/lasagna
Why am I Always Hungry?!
There are some glaringly obvious problems with this type of food for sure. But the main problem was that I was so consumed with calories and fat, I didn’t have very much. The fat I did include was almost always the not so good kind, like trans fat or inflammatory cooking oils. I was left wondering why am I always hungry? Well, one of the reasons was that I was eating a lot of carbs and not enough protein. More on this later.
Enter food bingeing…
This led to insane afternoon or night time bingeing. As in, spoon-all-the-way-in-the-nutella-jar, shoveling it in my mouth as fast as I could. Or making a bowl of microwave popcorn and feeling like I had no control and would eat the whole bag. You can basically insert any other food instead of popcorn and it wouldn’t matter. I felt like I had no control around food, at all. When I tried to control myself, I couldn’t and then would end up feeling awful after. I felt out of control in my own body and so I would punish myself with exercise or restriction the next day. It was a never ending cycle of shame, remorse and bingeing.
So why does bingeing and hunger happen?
There can be several reasons this happens, here are some of the most common ones plus what you can do about it:
- Not enough calories: often times, especially as women, we are still consumed by calorie counting. Truthfully, I thought this way of thinking and living was on its way out, but nope it is still around. If you aren’t getting enough calories/energy then you can expect to binge later on. Maybe not at first, but eventually, you will just be so damn hungry that you binge on a big bag of chips, followed by ice cream and chocolate. My best advice is to stop focusing so much on calories and rather look at the quality of the food you are eating and ensure you are getting enough. You should eat until almost full and satisfied.
- Not enough fat: fat is what satiates you, meaning it helps to keep you full. Plus fat tastes amazing, right!? So be sure that your plate/meal/smoothie has some kind of fat with it. This will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you from needing to binge on cookies later.
- Not enough protein: Whether it is plant based protein or animal protein, make sure that you are getting protein with every meal. It doesn’t need to be a ton of protein, but ensuring that you have some will help to keep you feeling full and energized. How much you need is dependent on various factors, such as your exercise/lifestyle and body composition. One of the most important times to include protein is with breakfast as this starts your day off right and ensures you are not setting yourself up for a crash later on.
- Not enough fibre: Fiber is your friend! It helps to fill you up and keep you going. Try and incorporate some kind of veg with EVERY meal you have. You will notice a huge difference in how full you feel when you start having more fibre rich foods, like nuts, seeds (chia/flax/psyillium husk) and fresh veggies and fruits.
- Not enough water: Sometimes we aren’t really hungry at all, we are simply thirsty and need some good old water instead. Make sure that you are trying to get in 2-3L of water daily. Make it fun for you, by adding in some fresh ingredients like cucumber, mint, lemon or other herb or veggie. Aim to drink most of your water in between your meals rather than with them as this can cause some digestive issues.
- Psychological reasons: Often times when we do binge, we are doing so mindlessly. Such as when you are sitting in front of the TV, bingeing on food and Netflix. If you find that this is the case, try getting in tune with yourself first and asking you what it is that you are really craving. When we are sad or depressed, we often turn to alcohol or food to soothe our pain. Because we are not in a positive state, we can also make decisions that are not the best at the time, especially with food. Try to get out and do something instead, like go for a walk, or volunteer somewhere, or journal. I often times find that doing these things helps me get out of my on head and forgo the full out pity party with all the food. Here is a pic of me doing just that, journaling outside.
- Certain foods are highly addictive: A lot of processed foods are highly addictive and were designed to be this way. Things that are loaded with salt and sugar especially turn on a part of our brain that makes it hard for us to stop because it feels/tastes so good. My suggestion is to not have these types of food in your house in the first place. But, if you are really craving for something, have it, but only put a certain amount in a bowl rather than eating out of the package. If that still doesn’t work for you, try to make sure you drink a lot of water first to help fill you up. This can at least help lessen the amount of food you will eat.
What can you do about it?
Willpower is BS, but you can come up with some pretty clever ways to avoid overeating to happen in the first place. Here are my top tips to help you stop bingeing on all the foods:
- Ensure you are getting enough protein, fibre and fat: as per above, it is essential to be sure that you are getting in some sort of protein and good quality fat with your meals and snacks. If you want to see how I structure my plate, have a read through my blood sugar balancing post here.
- Slow down: before you start eating, slow down, eat with intention and chew your food. So often we just eat out of boredom, emotion or depression. If we take a few minutes before we reach for some kind of food and check in with ourselves, this can help us avoid overeating.
- Get enough sleep: Aim for eight hours of sleep every night. When you get adequate sleep you will reduce cravings and normalize our fat-regulating hormones. One study found even a partial night’s sleep deprivation contributes to insulin resistance which could lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
- Control stress: I think that by now, we are all well aware of the damaging effects of stress and when it comes to overeating, reducing stress will help in a big way. Learn to relax in whatever way helps you, such as: going for a walk, getting in nature, meditation, yoga, exercise (low impact if you are stressed out) or journalling.
- Eat real food: when we eat real food and limit processed/convenience foods, we naturally are eating foods higher in good fat, protein and fibre. This will help fill you up so that you avoid overeating. Life happens, so don’t beat yourself up if you slip up in some way, just get back on track with your eating the next day. Remember how amazing you feel when you fuel your body with the right mindset, foods and movement.
Willpower is BS
My goal in writing this is to show you that overeating/binge eating is not your fault. It is NOT a problem with your willpower. There are various reasons for why it happens and understanding why it is happening is the first step. From there, then you can find ways to deal with it in a healthy and holistic perspective.
Do you find yourself binge eating? What have you found to be successful in helping you break the cycle?