Binge Eating Meal Plan

The Binge Restrict Cycle

The binge restrict cycle can often feel insurmountable, exhausting and never ending. This struggle is particularly intense when discipline, the very goal you’re striving for, feels like your biggest failure. The situation becomes even more complex when coupled with body dissatisfaction, creating a maze of emotional and physical hurdles.

There are any number of reasons why we might restrict, including:

  1. On a diet / trying to lose weight
  2. Restricting intake in the morning to “save” calories
  3. Wanting to be healthy
  4. Emotional triggers

Wanting to lose weight can be really challenging as we want to see an immediate change. The inclination towards quick changes can lead us towards a highly restrictive diet, which, while initially appealing, can prove difficult to maintain over time. This approach typically fosters an all-or-nothing mindset: when we’re being “good,” we might limit ourselves to low-energy foods, avoid snacks considered “junk,” become hyper-aware of calories, and potentially cut down on carbohydrates to intensify the calorie deficit.

However, this level of restriction can be counterproductive, often leading to binge eating either on the same day or later in the week. It’s crucial to understand that succumbing to a binge is not a failure of willpower but a signal from our body indicating a need for more sustenance. The challenge lies not in our self-discipline but in finding a balance that satisfies our body’s needs while still aligning with our weight loss goals. Recognising and responding to these signals with a more balanced approach can pave the way for a healthier and more sustainable weight loss journey.

The binge restrict cycle
Binge Restrict cycle

4 Strategies to help prevent the binge restrict cycle

1. The binge restrict cycle and weight loss

To avoid the restrict binge cycle, it is important to first normalise eating patterns before starting any form of restriction/diet again. A diet is all about creating a deficit but this deficit is potentially also causing the binge, so a reset is required. Once that has been established and you feel comfortable that you are not bingeing and your weight has stabilised, then you can look to make small changes to create a small deficit.

2. The binge restrict cycle and calorie counting

As you have already noticed, cutting calories in the morning, avoiding breakfast and eating lunch late does not stop the restrict binge cycle and is very likely a potential cause. It is important to spread our intake across the day and to provide our body with energy while it is expending energy. This will further allow a reset and hopefully avoid any binges during the week.

3. Rephrasing “healthy eating” to avoid the binge restrict cycle

The concept that all food, when consumed in moderation, can be beneficial is a cornerstone of a balanced diet. Embracing moderation, especially with foods that are often the subject of binge eating, can significantly diminish the urge to overindulge. It’s not uncommon for individuals to outline an “ideal” daily food intake that rigidly excludes treats like chocolate, cake, or crisps. However, part of my role involves reintegrating these foods into one’s diet. After all, life is too short to consistently deny ourselves the simple pleasures that treats offer. Treats earn their name because they provide enjoyment and a sense of satisfaction that differs from what we gain from more traditionally “healthy” foods.

Moreover, it’s vital to reconsider and redefine what “healthy eating” means. If adhering strictly to what is conventionally considered healthy eating leads to binge eating, its healthfulness is worth questioning. To me, healthy eating is synonymous with balance and variety. It’s about creating a diet that includes a wide range of foods, allowing for both nourishment and enjoyment. This approach not only supports physical health but also fosters a healthier relationship with food, where the occasional indulgence is not only permitted but embraced as part of a well-rounded diet.

4. Emotional triggers that can cause the binge restrict cycle

Food serves multiple roles in our lives beyond just satisfying our energy needs; it can be a source of comfort, joy, and is often central to many of our cherished childhood memories and traditions. Given this deep-seated connection, it’s understandable that our emotions can significantly influence our eating behaviors, leading us to either binge or restrict food intake. Recognizing the emotional catalysts behind these behaviors is crucial in maintaining progress towards a healthier relationship with food.

Understanding and acknowledging these triggers is a vital step towards breaking free from the cycle of emotional eating. Learning not to act impulsively on these emotional cues, but rather addressing the underlying feelings, can help in developing healthier coping mechanisms. This awareness allows us to navigate our emotional landscape without letting it dictate our eating behaviors, paving the way for a more balanced and fulfilling relationship with food.

Implementing Strategies

Start by giving yourself some non-negotiables. These could include:

  • Always having three meals each day
  • Always including a carb with each meal
  • Always including at least two snacks each day
  • Include 3 treat foods per week

It might be that you need to start with one non-negotiable and work your way towards a sustainable plan.

If you are finding it hard to get going, we have created a step-by-step guide, which you can purchase here. We also offer a variety of 1:1 packages on our website that you can book to help you get started. Further tips and guidance is also provided via our regular newsletter, which you are welcome to subscribe to. The NHS provides useful contact information here, with the BEAT online support group being especially useful.

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