Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Series on Binge Eating: Part 3 (continued)

This post is a continuation from A Series on Binge Eating: Part 3. (Make sure you read that first, if you haven't already). That third post was getting WAY too long, so I just chose to make another post for these tips. Here are the links to the previous posts in this series on binge eating:

A Series on Binge Eating: Part 1
A Series on Binge Eating: Part 2
A Series on Binge Eating: Part 3

In this post, I'm going to copy and paste tips that I've written over the years in order to make one, big compilation. These are all things that have helped me in staying binge-free at one time or another through my weight loss and maintenance journey. Many of them no longer apply to me, as I've evolved and learned more and more about myself, but maybe one of them will strike a chord with you. 




Here are the tips from my post called FAQ: How did you stop binge eating? from August 30, 2011:

#1. I ate dessert every single day.  My binge food of choice is always something sweet--ice cream, cookies, cake, candy, etc. So I made it a point to eat dessert daily, and not just a "healthy" dessert like fruit or sugar-free jello with cool whip. I made it something that I reallywanted, something that I would eat whether I was dieting or not. Things like brownie sundaes, full-size candy bars, large cookies, etc. I reserved about 200-300 calories per day for these things, which sounds like a lot to someone who is trying to lose weight! However, considering the alternative--bingeing almost daily on thousands of calories of sugar--200-300 calories isn't bad. When I was struggling with binge thoughts during the day, I would just remind myself that after dinner, I was going to have something fantastic. I ate a pretty healthy diet all day, but I would allow myself that daily indulgence.




#2.  I kept extremely busy when I was feeling a binge coming on. Leaving the house always helped, and I enjoyed going to a store and trying on clothes (not necessarily to buy them, but it was fun to see sizes drop). When I was trying on clothes, I wasn't thinking about food. I did a lot of big projects around the house--organizing my cupboards and closets, painting walls, alphabetizing DVD's, etc. Anything to keep my mind and hands really busy helped me a lot.  I made a list of things to do instead of bingeing, and when I was feeling a binge coming on, I would pick something on the list and work on it. 

#3.  I only ate foods I truly enjoyed. I don't like salad, so I didn't eat salad. I don't like yogurt, so I didn't eat yogurt. I found that I was much more satisfied with my food when I ate things I enjoyed. I found that I wanted to binge the most on the days that I ate something I didn't care for--so I learned not to do that. It's important to be satisfied mentally with food as much as physically. 

#4.  I quit "hoarding" my Weight Watchers Points for later in the day. My thoughts used to be that "If I eat my snack now, I might not have Points left for later, so I better wait..." and then later, I'd be starving, and I would usually binge. So this time around, when I was hungry, I used my Points for a snack at that moment. I usually found that once I used up all my Points for the day, I wasn't hungry after that, regardless of the time of day. It's much easier to refrain from bingeing when you're not starving.

#5.  When all else failed, and I was on the verge of bingeing, I would make myself measure out and eat ONE portion of the binge food and count the calories for it. Then I would wait 10 minutes, promising myself that if I still wanted it, I could just binge. And by eating the food, my blood sugar would go up a little and make me feel better--and in turn, I refrained from bingeing. My mind was much clearer when I wasn't hungry. While I was eating the food, I was 100% positive that after 10 minutes, I'd still want to binge... but it rarely worked out that way. I still use this trick (almost daily) when I feel a binge coming on: measure out and eat one portion, then wait 10 minutes--and I rarely lose control after that.


Here are the tips from my post "How I've stayed binge-free for six months (and counting)" from March 9, 2013:

#6. I've recognized my binge triggers. (I realize this contradicts what I wrote in A Series on Binge Eating: Part 2; this tip was written three years ago, and my thoughts have changed since then. However, I'm including it just in case there are others who can relate more to this. Three years ago, this was how I felt.) There are certain foods that, when in my house, constantly beckon me. I may have good intentions when I buy them, and maybe I'll do okay with them in the house for a little bit, but eventually, I can't get them out of my mind. Those become a problem for me, and I know that I need to get them out of the house.

A few of these things are: Nutella, Biscoff Spread, chocolate chips (except for the mini ones), certain cereals, graham crackers, Teddy Grahams, ice cream and frozen yogurt, marshmallow fluff, and nuts (except for almonds and walnuts). There are more, but those are the biggest triggers.

I've learned that I simply cannot buy those things anymore, because I eventually WILL lose control around them. Other triggers are certain places--my parents' house, the mall, the movie theater, and drug stores are the biggest triggers And certain situations are triggers as well--being home alone at night, having a date night with Jerry, and being on vacation come to mind. Finally, there are moods that may trigger a binge--feeling anxious, stressed (particularly when my kids are fighting and loud), or worried.

As you can see, there are a LOT of triggers; but I've recognized them and acknowledged them, and now I can have a plan for those triggers...

I don't buy my food triggers. I try to avoid going alone to the places that are triggers--if I'm with someone else, I won't binge. I try to have a plan for the situations that cause binge urges--for example, if I'm going to be home alone at night, I try to come up with a project or something I can work on. I can't avoid the moods that cause binge urges, but I've come up with other ways of dealing with those moods--which I'll get into below.

#7. I've learned to recognize that point where snacking is coming close to transitioning to a binge. This usually happens when I eat a snack, and even though I'm not hungry, I'll go back for another snack. I'm still in control at that point, but after I eat the second snack, I might go back for more. Even though I'm tracking my food, when I start reasoning with myself in my head why it's okay to have yet another snack, I know that I need to stop NOW, before I throw control to the wind. So I've learned that when I keep going back for more and more, even if it's controlled, I need to find something else to do--type a blog post, go for a walk, knit or sew something, clean, whatever--before it turns into a binge.

#8. I've learned that when I'm not satisfied with my food, I get binge urges. For example, if I am craving an English muffin with jelly and a bowl of cereal for lunch, I might start reasoning, "Well, you shouldn't have both of those, that's too many carbs" or whatever, and I choose to have eggs and cereal instead of the English muffin. Afterward, I will not feel satisfied at all, and I will go seeking more.

Now, I think about what it is that I really want, and I eat it. Even if it's not balanced, or it's too "whatever" in the eyes of everyone else, I choose what will satisfy ME--because that will stop me from binge eating.

#9. Something that helps me to be more satisfied with each meal is that I eat a variety of foods within that meal. Rather than, say, a bowl of pasta with sauce for lunch, I would choose to have soup, AND toast with peanut butter, AND grapes, AND an orange. Having that variety of tastes and textures appeals to my senses more, and makes me feel very satisfied.





#10. I eat treats very frequently--but I don't have leftovers. If I want ice cream, I'll go to McDonald's and get a vanilla cone and eat it on the way home. I feel totally happy with it! But if I were to buy ice cream from the grocery store and have a small portion at home, that container of ice cream would start beckoning me constantly until the whole thing was gone. I can't bake a batch of cookies at home, because I will binge on the batch--but I can go to Mrs. Fields and buy a really indulgent cookie and fit it into my plan. Once it's gone, it's gone, and I am satisfied.

I've also found a few treats that I AM okay with keeping in the house, and they don't beckon me. For example, dark chocolate Dove Promises. I eat one of those every single night with a glass of red wine, and I look forward to that all day. But for some reason, they don't beckon me from the pantry, so I'm fine with having them in the house.  


#11. I quit worrying about what "everyone else" says is the right diet--"don't eat too many carbs", "eat tons of protein", "don't eat processed foods", "eat vegetables with every meal", "don't eat anything with corn syrup", etc, etc, etc. Sure, I would love to eat an "ideal" diet--but that's not realistic for me, and it would surely lead to a binge (as it has dozens of times in the past).

I do what works for ME--I eat the healthy foods that I enjoy, and skip the ones I don't. If certain processed foods help me to stay in control of my binge eating, then I have made peace with eating them (Fiber One bars, for example, help curb a chocolate craving--they're very processed, but I don't care, because they help keep me from binge eating). I know that eating a Fiber One bar is much better than a binge of pizza, ice cream, and Oreos (a common binge for me in the past). 

#12. I work for my "big" indulgences. I can fit a McD's ice cream cone into my daily diet without problem. But some treats are very caloric, and I have to work for them! So on my long run days, I'll get something that I've really been craving. Lately, it's been a cookie sandwich from Mrs. Fields--it's 23 PointsPlus, which is a LOT to spend on one small item. So when I run 12 miles, I've earned it--and I eat it, savoring every bite, and I don't feel one bit guilty for it. 

Sometimes during the week, when I feel a binge urge, I make a mental note that I can have something really indulgent on Friday--my long run day--and it helps me to make it through the week.



Not at all surprising how many photos
I have of me with ice cream 

#13. I've learned that I used to use one little sentence to give up control and binge in the past--and that sentence was, "Just this once, and then I'll get back on track for good." I used to tell myself that ALL the time. If I had Nutella in the house, for example, I would say, "I'll just eat it all now and get it out of the house, then I'll never buy it again and I'll get back on track tomorrow."

THAT IS A LIE. I know that now. I've learned that if I try to reason with myself over a food item, then I have to get rid of it, or it will inevitably lead to a binge. That happened to me recently with a jar of Nutella. I thought I could stay in control with it, and have it around. But one day, I found myself taking more and more spoonfuls (counting the PP's, and still maintaining control), and soon I thought, "I should just eat the rest now, and then it will be gone. I won't have to think about it anymore." As soon as I found myself saying those words, I realized that I was dangerously close to a binge. I allowed myself to take one more spoonful, and before I ate that spoonful, I put dish soap in the rest of the jar and threw it away.




#14. I eat all of my weekly PointsPlus and all of my activity PointsPlus, which makes Weight Watchers work for ME. If I tried to eat just my target PP every day, I would have quit and binged a long time ago. Having those extra PP gives me leniency to be able to eat treats and things that make eating enjoyable for me.

#15. I've built a routine, and having a routine has helped tremendously with staying binge-free. I eat breakfast at around 7:00, lunch at around 11:00, snack at 2 or 3:00, dinner at 4:00, snack at 6 or 7:00 and my wine/chocolate at 8:00. Sometimes, just knowing that I'm going to have my next meal or snack soon helps me to make it through a binge urge. I tell myself, "I just have to make it another hour--what can I do for an hour?" and I might go for a walk, or read blogs, or clean out a closet, or something like that.

I've found that if I stray from my routine too much, I start getting binge urges. For example, if I'm out running errands in the morning and don't get home until 12:30, I'm STARVING for lunch by then. So it's hard not to shovel in food as soon as I get home, and the rest of the day feels "off" for me.

#16. I have a go-to snack for when I'm not hungry, but I just feel like snacking. For me, this happens to be grapes. I adore grapes, and they are 0 PointsPlus. I eat them every day, at least once or twice a day. I think having this go-to snack helps me to stay on plan when I'm feeling binge-y.




#17. Tea has been a lifesaver. I like to make a big mug of hot tea after breakfast and again in the afternoon. It just kind of reminds me that I've already eaten, so I know I'm not hungry, and there is no need for me to think about eating at the moment. Sipping the tea makes it last for a while, and the dessert teas that I bought from David's Tea are amazing!

#18. I discovered La Croix sparkling water, and I drink that once in a while when I'm feeling like I want to eat something but I'm not hungry. It's 0 calories, and it doesn't have any sort of sweetener--it's simply just sparkling water with a little flavor to it. Also, I happen to love Vodka Tonics, so sometimes I'll sip on diet tonic water with lime. I feel like it's indulgent, but it's zero calories.

#19. Here is a tip I learned from my sister. She said that when you buy a trigger food, you have to make the decision several (or even dozens) of times a day whether or not to eat it. And if you do eat it, you have to decide how much. It takes up so much head space! But, when you are grocery shopping, you only have to make the decision ONCE--whether or not to buy it. So, if you don't buy it, your decision is made and you don't have to think about it each day that it's at your house. If you do, then you're constantly having to make that decisions. Hearing it this way made a lot of sense to me!


In addition to the tips above, I want to share a couple of books that really helped me to think about my binge eating, and some of the tips I learned are continuing to help me today (these are Amazon affiliate links, so if you buy them through these links, I get a small commission; I would recommend them either way, but I like to be up front about that):

Brain over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn't Work, and How I Recovered for Good by Kathryn Hansen

This book, despite being written by a woman who overcame bulimia, was VERY eye-opening and just as relevant to someone suffering from binge eating disorder. A great read!

How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too: Stop Binge Eating, Overeating and Dieting For Good Get the Naturally Thin Body You Crave From the Inside Out by Josi Spinardi

This book explains intuitive eating in a way that I'd never heard before, and it really helped me to understand a lot about my binge habits. I was able to stop binge eating after reading this book, but I wasn't losing weight, so I started Weight Watchers again. However, the information I learned was invaluable, and I still use some of the methods today (like eating whatever I want). Reading this book helped me really to get in tune with my body.


This concludes the (very, very long) Part 3 of the Binge Eating Series. On the next post, I will write about how to move past a binge episode and get back on track, as well as my "balanced" approach to eating that has helped me to stay binge-free (something I learned from a friend over the summer). 

If you have any tips of your own to add to this list above, please feel free to share in the comments! You never know who may find it helpful. Thanks for reading! :)

Click here to go to A Series on Binge Eating: Part 4.

A Series on Binge Eating, Part 3

In case you missed it, here is A Series on Binge Eating, Part 1; and A Series on Binge Eating, Part 2. The first post describes exactly what binge eating is, and how it differs from overeating. The second post is about emotional eating, and how it relates to binge eating, as well as "triggers" for binge eating. In this third post, I'm going to get to the heart of preventing binge eating. 



As with all of my "tips" posts, I want to stress that what works for me may not work for you. I've discovered these things through trial and error. I've lost 125 pounds, and I've been very candid on my blog when sharing about my journey. You've seen as I've gained back a couple dozen pounds, and you've seen me lose them again. You've all read about plans I've made, goals I've set, different ways of eating that I've tried, and seen me change my mind about these things dozens of times. Some work, some don't, but I actually learn from them ALL. 

The way I do things is not the "right" way--I don't believe there is a right way for everybody. It's just the way that works for me. That said, hopefully this post will at least trigger some ideas for those of you that are trying to overcome binge eating right along with me!


In this post, I'll share the two major things I've been doing that I believe have helped me to stay binge-free for 180 days and counting. Let me just back track to early 2015 first, though. Late 2014 and early 2015 were bad times for me. I didn't write too much about it on my blog, because it was so personal, but I was having severe issues with depression and anxiety. My anxiety was the worst it's ever been, and as I explained in the last post, anxiety is a big binge-trigger for me.

I avoided the scale often, but I felt like I just blinked and my weight was at 160 pounds. I was in shock when I saw that, in about a year's time, I had somehow managed to become 27 pounds over my goal weight. Even though the number shocked me, I really shouldn't haven't been surprised. I knew why my weight was up, and if anything, I should have been surprised that it wasn't even higher. I had been binge eating more and more frequently, until I felt so out-of-control that I basically said to myself, "Screw it! This is the start of gaining back every last pound, and I'll just be another statistic that can't keep the weight off."


This photo from May 2015 was a HUGE shock to me...
it was the heaviest I'd been since 2010
My husband, Jerry, deserves so much credit for helping me through the rough time I was having. He was so patient with me, when I really didn't deserve it. I know I was difficult to live with. One day, I was sitting down and trying very hard to think about what it was that was causing the problem. I've always had depression and anxiety, but why was it so bad? 

Then it hit me (although it should have been blindingly obvious). I had quit taking my antidepressant for a while, because I had started thinking, "I bet this doesn't even work--I'm paying to take this pill every day, and I wonder if I'd even notice if I didn't take it?" A very stupid move on my part, but I stopped taking it. And the next couple of months were the worst--I was getting emotional all the time at the drop of a dime. 

I went to the doctor in August, and started taking my antidepressant again. It was like magic. I felt a million times better, and before I knew it, I had started a binge-free streak. That was 180 days ago. (This was also when I decided to start calorie counting). Antidepressants aren't always the solution for people with depression and/or anxiety, but I now know that they really do work for me. My anxiety is still at a higher level than normal, but the depression is very much under control now. Several readers have even said they can "hear" the difference in the way I write that I am happier. And it's true!



Anyways, that was a lot of rambling... let's get to the good stuff! The two things I've been doing since I started calorie counting that have helped me the most to avoid binge eating:

#1. Eating whatever I want
I know there are going to be a lot of people who disagree with this, but here is the number one way that I have successfully stayed binge-free for 180 days and counting: I eat whatever I want. I count calories to maintain my weight loss, so I do keep control of my portions; but I literally eat ANYTHING that I want. 


Birthday dinner at El Camino Real in Toledo

I don't pay any attention to carbs, or protein, or fat (or what anonymous people on the internet tell me I should or should not be eating). If I am craving ice cream for lunch, I'll figure out how many calories I want to spend on it, and then I'll buy it and eat it. On the flip side, I even went through a vegetable phase where I ate pretty much nothing but vegetables for two days--because I was craving them, not because I was forcing myself to eat them. In this way, I am listening to my body and my mind--whatever I am craving is what I choose to eat. And I do believe that my body will guide me to not go completely off the deep and and eat nothing but junk food ;)

When I first started counting calories and eating whatever I wanted, I ate a LOT of junk food. I felt so much freedom! That phase lasted several weeks, and then once I got that out of my system, I started craving more "normal" meals. Now, I eat some junk and some healthy stuff, but most of it falls somewhere in between. But the key is, since nothing is forbidden, I don't feel the urge to binge when I'm having an "off" day.


A small sampling of the foods that I eat

First, let me explain how the thought process worked on one of those "off" days: Let's say Jerry brought home doughnuts for breakfast (yum!), and I ate one, counting the calories for it--no big deal. Later, a friend asks me to lunch, so I go out--and wind up eating a full day's worth of calories by 1:00 pm. In the past, I would have said, "Screw it, I've already done bad today, I'm just going to eat whatever I want and then start fresh tomorrow." From that point, I would binge on all of the things I'd been craving (but denying myself) until I was stuffed and felt sick. My day would likely have ended at a total of about 7,000 calories.

It doesn't make any sense logically, and I think we all know that; but we still use that all-or-nothing mentality. Either we are 100% on track or we are binge eating. Calorie counting, and not having a target calorie limit, has helped me to find the in-between... and that has been life-changing. 

Side note: What I mean by not having a target calorie limit is that I don't try to squeeze my calories under any particular number. I just try to keep it "reasonable"--which, to me, is usually somewhere between 1200 and 1800 calories, depending on what I eat that day and how hungry I am. Average is usually 1500-1600, but I don't limit myself to that number. By setting a limit, I would feel like I am on Weight Watchers again, and if I should hit that limit, I would get the "Well, I've blown it. Might as well just keep eating" mentality. By not having a limit, I never actually "blow it" unless I binge. 

Now, since I'm eating whatever I want, I don't feel deprived of anything. If I eat a full day's worth of calories by 1:00 pm, I just try to come up with a lighter dinner and snack that I could have, and end my day at minimal damage--a little more than ideal, but still much less than a binge! Since I eat the things I crave all along, I don't feel that desperation to binge on them the first chance I get (like in the example above). 


In that example, with the doughnut and lunch out, let's say that by 1:00 pm I've eaten about 1,500 calories. In that situation, I would probably choose to have a can of chicken noodle soup for dinner (two cups of it is 140 calories) and some crackers (70 calories). Then, for my treat at night, I would probably have a York Peppermint Patty (140 calories). So, when the day is said and done, I would have had 1,850 calories--far from the end of the world ;)

This method of eating may not work for everybody, and we all need to do what works for US. This has just worked very well for me, so I thought I'd share the details. I will write more about those sorts of scenarios on the next part of this series. 

*A few people have asked how I keep from bingeing on junk food once its in my house. There are certain foods that I enjoy for my daily treat that don't trigger me; but, I have used my "Kitchen Safe" to lock up a few items that may be tempting. I'll leave one item out (whatever I plan to eat that day) and then lock the safe until the next day. Also, the "out of sight, out of mind" concept really does work--I have actually bought things like candy bars and have completely forgotten that I had them! They were just tucked somewhere out of sight.

As far as foods that my family enjoys, but are triggers for me--I use the same sort of "rule". I'll use ice cream as an example again. Since everyone in my family loves ice cream, once in a while, I'll buy a container of it for ALL of us to have for dessert that day. That way, none of us is deprived of our favorite foods. My kids don't need to be eating ice cream every day, so I don't feel bad about not having it available 24/7. Luckily, I have a super supportive husband, and I know that's not the case for some people. If your spouse isn't really on board with your plan, and/or likes to keep an arsenal of your trigger foods in the house, I would suggest giving him or her a cupboard of his/her own. Again, out of sight, out of mind. Not a perfect scenario, but we have to do what we can in those situations. 

#2. Eating on a Schedule
While eating whatever I want is actually a big principle I learned from "intuitive eating", this next one is the exact opposite. This has been a HUGE help in preventing binge eating, however. I didn't plan it that way when I started counting calories, but it just sort of worked itself out--I eat three meals and one "treat" per day--breakfast at 7:30 or 8:00, lunch at 11:00 or 12:00, dinner at 4:00, and treat at 8:00. 

Side note: To me, the difference between a "treat" and a "snack" is that a treat has no real nutritional value, where a snack is something nutritious to get you from one meal to another.


Insanely delicious cookie recipe I found on Pinterest.
The perfect amount of calories for my treat.

I have found over the years that once I have eaten the majority of my calories for the day (after dinner), I'm not very hungry at all for the rest of the evening. It's almost like my body is telling me that I've had enough, and physically, I don't need anything else. That is the reason I eat dinner so early! If I try to hold off on eating dinner until 6:00 or 6:30, I would be fighting off a binge the entire afternoon. After dinner at 4:00, I feel very satisfied physically, and I get to look forward to my treat later. 

Because I eat on this schedule, there is no grabbing a little of this here, and a little of that there--which could turn into a binge under certain circumstances. This is one of the few situations where "all or nothing" mentality works for me. I simply choose not to have ANY snacks during the day. I prefer to spend my calories on my meals and a treat rather than snacks. I know this way of eating isn't desirable for everyone, but it's how I enjoy eating.

I very rarely get hungry between meals, because I eat enough at each meal to get me through the next four hours or so; but if I do, I still choose not to snack. I actually want to be hungry when I eat a meal, because food tastes so much better when I'm hungry! There have been a couple of instances that I've had a snack before a meal, and it turned off my appetite for the meal completely. 

This happened most recently when my mom invited us over for Christmas dinner. I had already planned out my calories and was looking forward to eating dinner with the family. She had some appetizers out, and everyone was raving about a jalapeño dip--finally, I decided to try some. It was delicious, and I ended up eating about an ounce and a half of chips with the dip. By the time we sat down for dinner, I wasn't the slightest big hungry, and the food didn't even sound good anymore, so I just chose not to eat dinner. I was disappointed, because I had been looking forward to the meal; but there was no reason to stuff myself when the food wouldn't have tasted half as good as it would if I was hungry. 

Eating on a schedule without snacking is very cut and dry, which is something that works well for me. By not snacking, I also get to eat higher quality foods for my meals, because I don't have to skimp on calories--I've started using real butter, whole milk, even heavy cream in some pasta dishes, which is absolutely delicious. If I was snacking, I'd have to reduce the calories in my meals, which would mean using skim milk and avoiding anything at all with the word "cream". On the rare occasion that I eat a salad, I love that I can use full fat dressing and cheese (I happen to love caesar salad, which is fairly high in calories). When I cook recipes, I no longer try to swap out ingredients for lower calorie options, and the result is that the food tastes amazing and still fits into my plan. 

Once again, this method of eating may not be right someone who enjoys snacking or eating every couple of hours, but for me, it's very satisfying! 


This post ended up being much longer than I anticipated, and I haven't even started recapping other tips that have helped me in the past! I'm going to continue this on another post ("Part 3 continued"--I'll publish them both at the same time).

There are so many different ways of doing things, and I encourage everyone to try out different things to see what works best. I'd love to hear the thoughts of anyone else who uses either of these methods of eating (eating whatever you want and/or eating on a schedule) and how it works out for you!


Click here to go to A Series on Binge Eating, Part 3 continued.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Series on Binge Eating, Part 2

If you missed it, here is A Series on Binge Eating, Part 1. On that post, I wrote about what binge eating actually is, and how it differs from overeating. I also explained a little of my own thought process through a binge episode.

On Part 2, I'll write about emotional eating and how it contributes to binge eating, as well as triggers for bingeing.



When I gained nearly 30 pounds in 2014, I got a lot of anonymous comments saying things like, "If you would just eat a healthy diet, and stop eating so much sugar, you wouldn't have a problem with weight gain!" Maybe they were trying to be helpful, but what I write on my blog is actually a very tiny portion of my life. My weight gain was not caused from an unhealthy diet. It was caused from the result of emotional eating.


I don't know exactly when I started emotional eating, but it probably goes back into my childhood, just like the binge eating. Emotional eating is not technically an eating disorder--but basically, it means to eat for reasons other than hunger. Some people eat out of anger, or sadness, some out of frustration, some out of anxiety, or even happiness. So many emotions that affect people differently.

Through the years, as I tried to figure out the cause of my binge eating, I realized that I almost always binged after a particular emotion. The number one emotion that makes me want to binge? Anxiety. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and it got really bad in mid 2014 to mid 2015. My mind is always worrying about things (or nothing at all, but I still have that same pit in my stomach nonetheless), and eating helped me to shut off that worry for the moment. The longer I ate, the longer I could shut it off.

While the after-effects of a binge episode are shame and regret, the actual eating made me feel so much better. Other people have healthier ways of coping with emotions, but I happen to use food. As cliché as it sounds, it's very helpful to identify the emotions that cause you to binge by keeping a journal. After each binge episode, just take a minute to write down exactly what was happening before you binged. Eventually, you should see a pattern and you can figure out a different way to deal with that emotion than by eating. That's exactly how I identified the anxiety-induced binges.

This actually leads me into binge eating triggers. When you read about "triggers" on any sort of weight loss website, usually it's referring to particular foods that are problematic--that cause one to binge or overeat. I actually disagree with this, for the most part. Chances are, it's not the actual food itself that causes you to binge. If food equals binge, then everybody would be a binge eater. More likely, it's some sort of emotion that is the trigger, and once triggered, you think of the foods you want to binge on. Does that make sense? 

I have certain foods that I "prefer" to binge on (sweets, mostly); but even if I took all of those so-called "triggers" out of my house, I would still find SOMETHING to binge on (like the example of the Goldfish on my previous post). If the binge urge takes over my mind, it doesn't matter what foods are or are not in the house. The only way my house would be binge-proof would be to remove every last morsel of food.

That said, however, there are certain foods that are dangerous territory for me. Ice cream is the perfect example--I love ice cream, and I have a terrible time trying to eat just one or two servings. If I have a container of ice cream in my freezer, and something triggers my urge to binge (like anxiety), my mind immediately goes to the ice cream. Then, it's all I can think about, and the urge gets stronger and stronger. For that reason, I choose to keep ice cream out of my house (unless it's a small container that I plan ahead of time to eat that day). It's not the ice cream that triggers the binge; but the ice cream makes it harder to ignore the binge urge when it happens. Hopefully that makes sense!



It's helpful to identify what your binge triggers are--for me, it's anxiety/stress/irritability--and find other ways of coping with them. One of the biggest triggers for me is when my kids are arguing and the house is loud and chaotic. It makes me want to go into the pantry and eat everything in sight. 

When I am staying binge-free, I have to find other ways to cope. For me, the key is to relax and find some quiet space to bring my anxiety level down. I might go in my bedroom and close the door for a few minutes, or take Joey for a walk around the block, or send the kids outside to play. Right now, my favorite way to relax is by working on a jigsaw puzzle. I turn a show on Netflix (Gilmore Girls!!) to listen to while I work, and before I know it, I've made some serious progress on my puzzle.

I wrote in a journal a list of things that I could do when I'm feeling anxious and wanting to eat. Even if I don't refer to it, writing the list helped me to store some of it in my memory, so when I'm in a situation like that, I can try to prevent emotional eating. These will differ for everybody, but here are some suggestions:

Go for a walk outside (when it's nice outside, it's impossible not to feel better!); play a game (either solo on your smart phone, or a board game with the family); meal plan for the next day; work on a jigsaw puzzle; color in an adult coloring book (I see these everywhere now); read a good book; catch up on blogs; call or text a friend; browse Amazon; etc.

Emotional eating is something that nearly everyone deals with now and then (some of us more than others). Sometimes it's problematic, and sometimes it's harmless. But if it bothers you, I would suggest keeping a journal of what was going on right before you ate for emotional reasons, and see if you can find the triggering emotion. Then come up with alternatives to eating in those situations.

Well, that concludes Part 2! On the next post, I'll finally get to the good stuff--the two major things I've started doing since I began counting calories that have helped me to stay binge-free for 179 days and counting :)  I'll also recap some other tips for staying binge-free (things I've written before, but wouldn't hurt to share again). If you have suggestions to add as far as things to do instead of eating when feeling emotional, please share! The list is endless.

Click here to go to A Series on Binge Eating, Part 3.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Series on Binge Eating, Part 1

Over the past several years, I've gotten so many different questions about my weight loss, gain, maintenance, loose skin, running, blogging, etc. Out of all the questions that I get, the number one most frequently asked topic is about binge eating. If nothing else, getting asked questions about it (namely, how to prevent it) has made me realize that there are SO many of us out there! I always felt so ashamed of binge eating, but once I wrote publicly about it, I realized that I am certainly not alone.

I decided to address some of the recently asked questions about it in an updated post. I started writing, and writing... and before I knew it, I realized I needed two posts. And then three. And then I figured, what the hell, let's just write a whole series! ;) So, here is the first of four posts on binge eating. This is a rough outline of what the posts will cover:

Part 1
My history with binge eating
Definition of binge eating
Binge eating vs. overeating
The thought process of a binge

Part 2
Binge "triggers"
Emotional eating

Part 3
The two main things that have helped me stay binge-free for 178 days and counting
And other tips that may (or may not) help others

Part 4
Getting back on track after a binge
Preventing binges through balance


It's no secret that I have struggled with binge eating disorder (BED) since I was a kid. I remember getting home from school and making an enormous bowl of popcorn loaded with butter. After polishing that off, I would chase it with a huge bowl (or, more likely, two or three bowls) of ice cream with chocolate syrup and peanuts. And later, I would eat dinner with my family.


Starting young ;)

I remember sneaking food to binge eat when I was at my grandma's house, too. She used to have boxes of Kudos bars, which is what started my love affair with chocolate and peanut butter. I would sneak them one by one, eating them as quickly as possible so nobody would see, until they were gone. She also had fruit snacks (the original ones that tasted so good!) and I would eat several packs of those.

I always felt ashamed of my eating habits. At the time, I didn't know that I had the classic signs of binge eating disorder (actually, back then, it wasn't even a labeled eating disorder). My parents were never strict about what I ate, so the bingeing wasn't a rebellious thing. I just somehow sensed that what I was doing was wrong in some way.

The bingeing became its worst when my kids were both very young. Bedtime for them meant binge-time for me. As soon as their heads hit their pillows, I was in the pantry, pulling out anything that sounded good. It was my way of relaxing after a day of looking after two young kids. I would sit on the couch, watching TV, and eating until I was stuffed. Then I would go to bed miserable with myself, vowing that I wouldn't do it the next day. My weight climbed higher and higher, until I found myself weighing 253 pounds and unable to be an active parent. 



ETA: I wish I'd thought to include this when I first published this post, but I had forgotten about it. Here is a very candid journal entry I wrote in 2008. My binge eating had gotten so out of control, and I was horribly ashamed of myself. Here are my thoughts from that day:

April 14, 2008 
Every single night that I go to bed feeling full, I make promises to myself that I'm going to "do good" on the diet tomorrow and lose weight. I plan in my head how I'm going to do it--counting points or calories, or eating only when I'm hungry, or just eating healthy.  I go to bed disgusted with myself for being such a pig.

Lately I've noticed just how bad my food addiction has gotten. And it truly is an addiction. It has interfered with my life in ways that are totally embarrassing. I probably think about food 99% of the day. I even dream about it. When I wake up, I think about what I'm going to eat first. When I'm eating, I'm thinking about what I'm going to eat next.
And the worst part is (this is the embarrassing part that I've never told anyone) that this affects the type of mom I am. I honestly LOOK FORWARD to my kids going to bed (naptime and bedtime) so that I can binge. I even rush them into napping and the second they lie down, I rush to the kitchen to grab food to binge on in front of the TV. I even find myself getting mad at my kids if they don't fall asleep right away or if they wake up early, because it ends my binge.

I've also been hiding food lately. I know that I can "safely" binge in front of my husband, but I'm embarrassed about it now. If I think I hear him wake up while I'm eating (he works nights, so he sleeps during the day), then I'll hurry up and hide the food I'm eating.  I'll hide wrappers in the bottom of the trash so that he doesn't see it.  


I've been using my kids as an excuse to binge, too. I'll tell my husband that the kids want pizza for dinner or something, which is a big binge food for me. Or fast food. Or I'll make cookies "to spend time with the kids" and then eat the whole batch.
 

I wish I could be satisfied with just a small amount of something, but I get this urge to fill my mouth, chew really fast and swallow over and over again. And as much as my stomach hurts afterwards, I crave that full feeling in my stomach. When I even think about restricting food, I get very anxious.
Another thing I do is plan out binges in my head. I'll think about what I'm going to eat and then I just have to wait for the appropriate time (usually when the kids are asleep).  Once I've decided when I'm going to binge and on what, I get anxious--wanting to just do it now. It's like I can't do it fast enough.

During the binge itself, I just keep thinking, "Okay, what else can I eat?" and I eat until I'm so full I can't stand it. Afterwards, I get pissed at myself for doing it, and make promises to myself not to do it again. Then later, I think "Well, I already binged once today, I might as well do it again". I know what I'm doing could have serious consequences for me and my family, and I want to fix this. I just don't know how.
Pretty raw stuff, right? I still feel ashamed reading that! On August 19, 2009, I started a binge-free streak that lasted an entire year. And I managed to lose 125 pounds over 16 months. You all know the rest of the story, which is on my blog :)






First, I want to set something straight from the beginning. Binge eating is not the same as overeating. A lot of people use the terms interchangeably, but they are different. To be considered a binge, the DSM-V has the following criteria:
  • An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
    • eating, in a discrete period of time (for example, within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
    • a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
  • Also, the binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
    • eating much more rapidly than normal
    • eating until feeling uncomfortably full 
    • eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry 
    • eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating 
    • feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterwards 
  • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present. 
There is also a difference between a binge episode and a Binge Eating Disorder (BED). To be considered BED, the following criteria must be met as well:
  • The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months. 
  • The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (for example, purging) and does not occur exclusively during the course Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.

Most people have episodes of overeating now and then (think Thanksgiving, for example). But overeating is not the same as binge eating. Overeating every now and then is normal, and in most cases, not harmful to one's health. Binge eating, on the other hand, can contribute to obesity and all the related conditions resulting from it; it also can cause psychological issues such as depression. 

For someone who may not experience binge eating, but wants to understand it, I thought I would give an example of the thought process that may cause/contribute to a binge. It's not rational thinking, but our minds are not always rational, I guess ;) Here is an example of a nighttime binge (I'm going to refer to Weight Watchers Points here, because I haven't binged since I started counting calories):
I eat well all day long, measuring my portions, counting my Points. Getting dinner ready is a little stressful--I'm hungry; the kids are looking for something to eat and asking when dinner will be ready; Joey is waiting to be fed; Jerry gets home from work; and I haven't figured out exactly what to make for dinner yet. I'm really tempted to just order a pizza, but I grab a few ingredients to throw together a quick meal.  
We sit down to eat, and I don't like what I've put together, but I eat it anyways because I'm starving. After dinner, I'm just not feeling satisfied, so I decide to have a small sweet treat to end the meal. We don't have any real sweets in the house, so I grab about a tablespoon of chocolate chips and eat those while I'm standing in the pantry. I take a load of laundry from the dryer to put it away, and the chocolate was so good that I decide to take another tablespoon as I pass by the pantry again.  
One more time won't hurt. After I put away the laundry, I decide I better add the chocolate chips to my food log. I realize that I had eaten over 6 Points of chocolate chips, but I still wasn't satisfied. I look for something with more substance, that I can actually sit down and enjoy eating. I don't find anything that really sounds satisfying, so I grab the only snacky food that I can find--Goldfish. I pour some into a bowl, measuring them out so that I can log my Points, and sit down to eat them. I forgot how much I like Goldfish!  
They were so good that I decide to eat some more. Going over my Points for the day won't really hurt that bad, right? I ran this morning, so I'll just use the Activity Points that I earned. A glass of wine sounds good, too. I pour a glass of wine and a larger portion of Goldfish. About halfway through my wine, the Goldfish are gone, so I refill my bowl. The wine made me feel more relaxed, and I think I shouldn't worry about eating too much now and then--everybody does it! I was already over my allotted Points for the day, so a little more won't hurt. 
By now, the salty Goldfish made me want something sweet again, so I have more chocolate chips--this time taking a small handful at a time. I decide to just skip trying to log my food, because I've already blown my Points, so what does it matter? And since I'm not logging my food, I might as well finish off the chocolate chips so they aren't there to screw me up tomorrow.  
While I get the chocolate chips, I notice the peanut butter, and decide to throw together a make-shift "cookie dough"--I mix a big blob of peanut butter with a couple of handfuls of dry oats, and then stir in some chocolate chips. It tastes SO good that I decide to have some more. At this point, I'm starting to feel full, but starting tomorrow, I am never going to binge again--so I might as well just get it all out of my system now....

...and so on. Maybe the above wasn't the greatest example, but it just shows how irrational our thoughts can be sometimes. "I've already blown it, so I might as well just keep eating" is something that I used to tell myself all the time! 

Over the last few years, I've learned ways to manage my binge eating, and have had several very long streaks of being binge-free. In the next post, I'll write about binge triggers and how emotional eating plays a role in binge eating. Hopefully this post has helped give some insight into binge eating! (If you'd like to share any of your own experience or ask any questions in the comments, feel free!)

Click here to go to A Series on Binge Eating, Part 2.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Week 24 Weigh-in

I just posted the results from the Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K, so if you want to check them out, you can see that post here. Congrats to everyone who finished! And a huge thanks for celebrating my birthday with me by completing a 5K :)


I had another good weigh-in today...


I was at 128 even again--this makes three weeks in a row!

This week, my average daily calorie intake was 1,983. Usually, I just have one high-calorie day, but this week I ended up with three days that were over 2,000 calories. I didn't plan it that way, but maybe the extra running I've been doing has increased my appetite a little. Regardless, I didn't gain, so I'm happy with it! Especially considering it was my birthday week, and I had a delicious Mexican dinner--complete with two very strong margaritas--on Monday with Jerry. ;)

As for my long-term goals:

7,000+ steps six days a week: I actually hit 7,000+ steps all seven days this week! In fact, I actually hit over 10,000 steps every day except for last Wednesday.

Stay binge-free: Success! Today marks Day 176. This was a challenging week for me. Like I said, I went over 2,000 calories three days this week, and those days could have easily turned into binges. But I kept control, and I logged everything I ate. I really don't want to break the streak I have going!

Try one new recipe each week: This week, I did a super simple crock pot recipe for French Onion Meatballs. I know that the "cream of" soups have a bad rap, but I happen to like them. This recipe only had four ingredients--cream of mushroom, cream of onion, French onion soup mix, and frozen meatballs. The whole family liked them, and Jerry said it would be the perfect thing to bring to work when they do potlucks.


So, I'm happy to say that I hit all three of my goals this week:


My 10K training also went well. I completed all of my runs, and I didn't have any more issues with the muscle spasm in my abdomen. I started doing the 80/20 running on Saturday, so I've been getting in a lot of slow, easy miles, but I've really enjoyed it.


Overall, it's been a great week in maintenance!

2016 Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K Results

Congratulations to everyone who completed the Virtual 5K on Monday! When I first thought of the idea for a virtual race on my 31st birthday, I never imagined it would turn into an annual thing. It's been so fun to see people from all over the globe running 5K on the same day. Here are some fun stats:

A whopping 50+% of participants completed the race on a treadmill! I'm not sure why this surprised me so much. This was actually the first year that I did my race outside--in the past, I've used the treadmill. The weather has been very wacky this year!


Over 80% of participants reached the goal they'd set when they signed up.


Here is how the age groups broke down. Not surprisingly, there was an overwhelming ratio of female to male participants. Only six were male, and two of those were my own children ;)


And finally, here are the individual results (as of 1:00 pm today... if you submitted your result after that, it won't be on here). Because of the large size of this chart, I had to truncate this post, so you'll have to click through to see the individual results...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Starting the 80/20 plan

My birthday yesterday was fantastic--thanks for all the birthday wishes! And for those of you that participated in the fourth annual virtual 5K, thank you for that as well :) It's been super fun to see the pictures and read about the experiences from the runners/walkers.


I posted recently about the 80/20 running plan, and decided to go ahead and officially start doing it over the weekend. And since I have such an ambitious goal (to PR my 10K on April 10th), I figured I might as well do the "level 3" training plan (the most advanced). It's not a very difficult plan in terms of the workouts, but it is high in mileage. There are even days where I am scheduled for two runs in a day! I've never done plans like that before, and I'm actually looking forward to doing something new. Since 80% or more of the running is done at a low heart rate, the chances of overtraining/getting injured are slim.

I can't post the whole plan here, because it's not a free plan--it's in the 80/20 Running book. But here is a sample week (you'll have to click to make it bigger):


This is actually my schedule for this week. I typed it all out and color coded it, so I could see at a glance what I was getting myself into. The orange runs are all done at a low heart rate (very light, easy running). The green one adds in Zone 3, which is a tempo pace; and the purple adds in Zone 4, which is about 90-95% of my maximum heart rate (there are also Zone 5 runs, which are short sprints). Some of the orange runs can be subbed with cross-training, so I'll probably do that once in a while too (especially when it gets nice enough to ride my bike outside).

At my current fitness level, my "zones" are like this:

Zone 1: HR 125-135 bpm
Zone 2: HR 135-147 bpm
Zone 3: HR 160-167 bpm (about the pace I can hold for an hour--8:20 ish?)
Zone 4: HR 170-175 bpm (about 7:25-7:45 pace)
Zone 5: HR 177+ bpm (sprints--basically as fast as I can do those segments)

The book says that for runs in Zones 1 and 2, you should use your heart rate as your guide. For Zone 3, you should use a combination of heart rate and pace. For Zones 4-5, the intervals are so short that you can't really use HR as a good guide, because of the lag (it takes 30 seconds or so for your heart to get up there). In that case, you should use perceived exertion and pace.

Anyway, yesterday, I had a 45-minute run on the schedule: 5 minutes at Zone 1, 35 minutes at Zone 2, and 5 minutes at Zone 1. It went really well! At Zone 1, I just ran as slowly as I could without looking at my heart rate every second, and it's super comfortable to run in that zone. After five minutes, I bumped up the pace just slightly, in order to get my heart rate over 135, but under 147. I've been getting pretty good at running this pace by feel and not having to constantly speed up or slow down. Again, it's comfortable, and as much as my legs want to go faster, I just fully enjoy taking it easy.

It's interesting, because when I started the lower heart rate training (about five weeks ago), my pace was in the mid-11:00's when my heart rate was about 145. For the past week or so, my pace has been in the mid-10:00's for the same heart rate. That's a good thing--it's exactly what is supposed to happen with enough patience ;)

I tried doing HR training (MAF training) in summer 2014, but that plan was different because you could NEVER run at a higher heart rate unless it was during a race. My pace was ridiculously slower than what I was used to, and I just didn't have the patience to keep doing it. Now, I feel like I'm in a much better place mentally to give this training my full attention.

Here is a comparison of two similar easy runs--one from yesterday and one from January 3rd:


The only reason that the pace was slower in the first and fourth miles of the run yesterday was because of my Zone 1 warm-up and cool down. But if you compare the middle miles of each run, the pace was at 11:29-11:40 on Jan. 3rd; and yesterday, it was 10:18-10:33. My heart rate was the same for each run. It's fun to see the numbers as proof that it's working!

I got a few questions about the 80/20 Running plan (the book by Matt Fitzgerald), so I thought I'd address them here in case anyone else was wondering the same thing:

1) Is this good for a beginner?
*Yes! Running with 80% at easy pace and 20% at moderate to difficult pace is ideal for 99% of the population. This information was nothing new to me when I read the book, but the book explained the WHY so well that it made me want to actually commit to doing it. For beginners, you are still supposed to keep your heart rate low on the 80% runs, and for some people, that may mean walking. Even a very slow jog might make your heart rate too high--so in that case, you just walk and keep your heart rate in the zone, and over time, you'll have to push yourself more to get your heart rate into that zone (like you see from my example above).

The book has several plans for distances from 5K to marathon, but it also explains how to create your own plan so that you're doing the 80/20 principle. Don't let my sample week scare you off! That's from the advanced 10K plan, so it's certainly a lot of running. When I was doing the Hansons training, though, I felt amazing while running six days a week; so I think I will do well with this plan.

2) Is the 80/20 plan good for someone who only plans to run shorter distances, like a 5K?
*Yes! It doesn't matter the distance you plan to race--the ratio in training should still be 80/20. Obviously, you don't need to run as many miles per week to prepare for a 5K as you would for a marathon, but the ratio will still be the same.

3) Is reading the book necessary? Can't I just work on fitting my runs into that ratio?
*I highly recommend reading the book, because it explains WHY 80/20 works so well. When you learn why it works, it makes you much more motivated to do it. When I got my coaching certification, we learned all about how to put together ideal running plans, but we didn't get very much into the details of WHY those plans are ideal. The "why" is the most important part! The book is also very motivating in terms of helping runners to slow down. Most recreational runners are running their easy runs too fast, and slowing down is actually really difficult to do (mentally). You feel like you're taking a step backwards in your training, but the book details just how important it is.

4) Do you have to use a heart rate monitor to train?
*Technically, no--the book gives you alternatives. However, since most runners do their easy runs too fast, the heart rate monitor will give a definitive "cap" on how fast you go. You just run at the pace you want, as long as your heart rate doesn't go over a certain number (for the easy runs). Without using the monitor, there is a good chance you'll still run your easy runs too fast--but it's not completely necessary to have the monitor.

So far, I'm really enjoying doing the lower heart rate training. I didn't "officially" start the 80/20 plan until this weekend, but the plan I was following before was very similar and it fit into the 80/20 principle. The best part about it, for me, is that I am really enjoying my runs! I no longer dread going for a run in the morning :)


If you did the 5K yesterday, and haven't already, make sure you fill out the Finisher's Form. I'm going to compile the results and post them tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed the "race"!