There’s nothing like diet deprivation to make you crave the foods you’ve had to cut out, but binging on them can wreak havoc with your weight control and carefully counted calories.
Binging simply means you have temporarily lost control over the amount and type of food you planned to eat. So if you’re rocking along with your fruit- and veggie-rich diet, but hear your child’s birthday cake calling to you from the fridge, you’re probably on your way to a binge breakdown. Here’s what you can do to help protect your weight loss plan.
Better Weight Control: Budget Calories
Even occasional binging adds unwanted calories to your diet. The key to weight-loss success is to be aware of your weaknesses and actually make room for them in your diet.
“I don’t think you should give up everything. That’s the key. I have a sweet tooth so I budget in some sweets every day or else I would really be crabby,” says Donna L. Weihofen, RD, MS, health nutritionist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
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Weihofen says she once calculated that a generous slice of gourmet carrot cake could contain as many as 1,400 calories, an entire day’s worth of calories for many women. The desire to binge on such a treat would be lessened if you allowed yourself a smaller indulgence. Weihofen, for example, budgets a post-lunch square of chocolate into her daily calories.
Smart dieters find ways to adapt this strategy to their diet plan and achieve the right balance of calories. Andrea Carlton of Jacksonville, Fla., says, “I end up having a sliver of what it is I am craving or, if I am really dedicated during the week, then I make unday my cheat day.” The cheat day isn’t a binge, but more of a maintenance day — no calorie reduction, but no excess calories taken in either.
Better Weight Control: Managing Temptation
Another balancing option is to avoid temptation entirely when you’re at home, and have strategies for when you eat out. In other words, simply don’t buy food that will sabotage your weight-loss strategy. “I make sure my children have healthy snacks available, and the not-so-healthy ones are snacks I don’t like,” explains Charlene Gonzales, a mother of three in Houston.
An approach recommended by Weihofen is to find “calorie bargains” that are similar to the treats you crave. Look for healthier alternatives or “light” versions of favorite snacks. But be sure to read food labels carefully — some reduced-fat treats have more added sugar and are not lower in calories.
Gonzales says that eating out poses the biggest binging threat to her weight-loss success. “I know some women can eat salads when faced with better tasting options at a restaurant, but that’s not me,” she admits. So she opts for restaurants that she knows have tasty salad and healthy plate options.
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Better Weight Control: When You Need Outside Help
Even though the occasional binge adds calories to your day and is a threat to your weight-loss goals, it isn’t usually unhealthy. However, when binging becomes a way of life, it may signal an eating disorderthat requires professional help to overcome:
These eating disorders are more common in women, but can also be a problem for men and boys. If you are binging frequently and feel anxious or ashamed, seek help from your doctor.
For the occasional binger who wants to stop the overeating-dieting cycle, you should be able to avoid binging by budgeting calories to include the treats you love. When you find a way to balance these calorie-dense foods with better nutritional choices, you won’t be as tempted to overindulge.