For most of us, the impulse to reach out for something to eat when we are upset is as natural as breathing. All of us experience uncalled for stress that upsets our eating patterns and washes away our efforts to lose weight. An angry phone call, any festival or an argument can trigger the well-under-control tongue to binge eating. Bingeing seems uncontrollable and by the time you are through with it, the damage is done.

After all its not a perfect world, with calm workplaces, perfectly behaved children, and terribly understanding spouses. We are all driven towards food for solace when under stress. When your feelings are pushed to their limits, your eyes will seek and find food & there begins your binge eating. After the storm has passed away you feel terribly guilty about having blown your diet.

At this juncture it is important to know two important facts:

1) Binge eating should not be an excuse to go off your diet

2) Binge attacks happen to people who have low serotonin levels

Serotonin is a brain chemical, which has a calming effect on you. If you are stressed out there is a demand made by your body for more serotonin. A stressful condition increases the demand for serotonin & if it is in short supply in your body you will crave for foods which help boost its production. Such foods are usually rich in carbohydrates. Carbs help in producing more serotonin that sends the calming signals and the ‘feeling full’ signals to the brain. This is how one stops eating after the serotonin levels have touched an optimum level.

A drain on your emotions increases the demand for serotonin. That’s how binge eaters attack carbohydrate-rich foods to overcome emotional stress. These foods include chocolates, pastries, bread, potatoes, pizzas, burgers, and ice creams. Therefore, our emotions control the level of serotonin, which in turn controls our appetite. That is why when bad mood strikes, many of us feel the need to eat sugary snacks, which helps increase serotonin levels and makes us feel better – for a short while. Two hours after a sugary snack when the blood sugar level drops again, hunger signals are sent to the brain and the body demands more food.

The more sugar you consume the more hungry you feel and the more frequently you feel the need to eat. The body pumps out more and more insulin to take the sugar away from the blood and utilise it for energy. Whatever the body needs are used for energy and stored as glycogen, the excess is stored away as fat. Hence, every time you are binge eating, you store away some excess calories in the form of fat. So, you may be watching your diet most of the time, but over the years, with periodic attacks of binge eating, the weight creeps in and one fine day you realize that you are overweight.

Binge Eating: The Solution

  1. It is possible that intellectually you know how to prevent yourself from bingeing, but practically speaking you do not have the will or energy to avoid the binge foods. All you want to do is to sink your teeth into that chocolate or that pastry that you have been dreaming about. Don’t stock tasty snacking foods at home. As most binge eaters crave for something sweet to binge on they usually take on to chocolates, cakes & pastries. Never keep these in the house. Instead, take in 2-3 tbsp of glucose powder by itself. It is so terribly sweet that serotonin levels rise immediately & you will not be able to go through the second tablespoon & soon your brain will send you the feeling full signal that will make your binge eating come to a screeching halt without doing much damage to your calorie intake. Each tablespoon of glucose powder is equal to 40 calories. If your intake is between 2-3 tbsp of glucose powder, you have ingested about 100 calories. This is comparatively less than what you would have consumed in the form of chocolates – which could amount up to 500-800 calories. All you need is something sweet and if the sweet food is not tasty it is easier to control the binge. Eating seedless dates is also a good idea when you feel the urge to binge.
  2. There are times when there is no emotional stress. This is when you want to relax control over food soon after a weight loss program. You may want to load up on junk food soon after you have achieved your target weight. You may not want to eat sugary foods but just foods of your choice which you have been missing out on. This kind of binge eating is less damaging as the demand made by the body is not for sugary food but just about anything that you may be craving. It could be Pani-puri or a meal at your favorite Mexican restaurant or sizzler or maybe just a home-cooked meal. Well! The good news is that you can do all of this without feeling guilty. It will just stop the weight loss process which is not required anymore as you have reached your target weight. Weight gain is brought about by sugary foods & not once in a while restaurant dinners of your choice. In fact, after you have binged on the foods of your choice you will experience a return of eating control & a lessening of diet-induced tension.
  3. When you re-enter the wonderful world of food choices and a perfect weight, you are in the presence of triggers that can easily destroy your eating control.
  4. When you are in the maintenance phase of your weight-loss program, remember your hard work.
  5. Maintain meal timings.
  6. Do not go back to your pre-diet days of no breakfast, light lunch and heavy dinners.
  7. Continue eating wholesome food like whole-grain cereals, fruit & vegetables.
  8. If you couldn’t help going wrong over your food choices more than once or twice in a fortnight on your maintenance phase then substitute one of your main meal for fruits, especially dinner.
  9. Remember that the only way to increase muscle mass and in turn your metabolic rate is to exercise. Exercise has to be part of your life if you want to keep those kilos off. Do not give up on exercise as soon as you have achieved your target weight.
  10. Above all, do not give up on your maintenance diet if you binge occasionally. As long as you are exercising, eating a couple of extra oily meals during the festive season doesn’t matter. You are not going to gain weight. Soon after the binge get in control again.

(As published in Hindustan Times dated August 05, 2019)

August 5, 2019

Leave a reply