HARKIN's HEALTH KICK: How to break the binge eating cycle

Welcome Back! It seems that finally winter is gone and we’re starting to see some spring sunshine creeping back in this week, which no doubt everyone is delighted about!

Most of us are guilty over indulging at times so how can we break hat cycle?
Most of us are guilty over indulging at times so how can we break hat cycle?

It’s also always at this time of year, with the first glimpses of actual decent weather returning, that people start to think about getting back at the gym or tidying up their diet with summer on the horizon once again!

That leads me on to my topic for this week. I had a memory pop up on Facebook this week of a video I recorded five years ago about this – and it’s still just as prevalent today so I thought I’d dive back in with another five years of experience. I want to talk today about binge eating over the weekend. I’ve seen this so many times over the past 10 years. I start working with a new client, and they tell me that they’ve been trying to lose the same amount of weight for years but seem to get caught in a cycle of making a little bit of progress – and then just when the scale is moving, they’re binging and gaining it all back and just can’t figure out why it keeps happening.

First, let’s start off with common reasons why this happens. It usually starts with the vicious circle of ‘starting on Monday’. We have a particularly indulgent weekend – takeaways, meals out, alcohol, sweets and chocolate – we feel awful on the Sunday evening and swear to ourselves that from Monday on, all bad food is out the window and we’re living off salads and water.

Monday to Wednesday aren’t an issue – we’re busy, we’ve just started and motivation is still high. However the end of the week is on the horizon so we tell ourselves ‘just push on until Friday’. Then Friday arrives, and with it comes the ‘treat yo’self’ attitude approaching the weekend, and slowly but surely – we’re off the rails once again by the time Sunday rolls around.

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There are two main problems with this approach. First of all, it focuses entirely on a ‘feast/famine’ mindset where, after over-indulging, people feel the need to punish themselves and eat very little with some extreme diet. They eat in a way that’s so alien to their normal routine that once the initial motivation wears off, it’s incredibly difficult to stick to long term. It also doesn’t lend itself well to real life scenarios – actually enjoying food, eating out, etc. So ultimately, the weekend is almost seen as a target to aim towards, for a ‘wee reward’ usually, that then opens the floodgates into a three day food fest.

As I’ve mentioned many times – the best diet is never going to be the most extreme one. It’s the one that we can sustain for long enough to actually see the results we want. So, if your diet can only be sustained from Monday to a Friday afternoon, chances are it’s not setting you up for long term success.

Secondly, the approach here relies on will power alone. The thing is, will power and motivation are temporary, and totally dependant on how we’re feeling. As the week goes on, with an extremely restrictive diet, bit by bit that will power is being worn down. When it’s gone, it’s a free for all.

These are the two main issues at play here. If you’re seeing a bit of yourself in this scenario, rest assured – there are solutions.

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First thing’s first, many people when jumping into an overly restrictive diet like this, will be quick to cut out not just sweets and other treats but bread, pasta, potatoes, and generally most carbohydrate sources. The thing is, you don’t have to completely stop eating these things. Start with simply eating less of them. That may sound overly simplified but it’s true. A treat here and there will keep you sane when trying to diet but don’t eat the whole packet of Jaffa Cakes.

Also, if you stop eating carbs altogether it won’t be long before you’re lacking energy, needing a ‘pick me up’ when you’re out and about and then end up binging again. The classic ‘everything in moderation’ comes to mind here. Don’t go overboard, on both ends of the spectrum. Don’t go overboard at the weekend with your over-indulgence, and you won’t feel the need to go overboard with restriction during the week. Chances are you’ll feel much better and start losing a few pounds.

Secondly, try not to implement anything that relies solely on will power or feeling motivated because, very simply, what happens when you’re not motivated?

What we need for lasting results, is to focus on changing our habits, the things we do on a daily basis that we don’t even think about. If you’re in a position right now where you’d like to shed a few pounds, the truth is, there’s a good chance that you’ve got some habits you’ve picked up over the years that aren’t helping. Maybe an over-reliance on convenience food, sugary drinks, alcohol, whatever it may be, identify the habits and ask yourself, how can this be replaced with something more positive?

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All in all guys, if you struggle with a weekend binge, what you’re doing Monday to Friday needs addressed just as much as the weekend’s antics for smooth, sustainable results. I hope that helps especially as we approach the season of getting in shape!

See you next week!