During my weight loss journey, I have realised that my relationship with food is far more complex than any other relationship in my life. Periodically, I go from loving food to hating food and I have even found myself wishing that I could numb my taste buds. In previous posts, I have opened up about my crackhead-like cravings for chocolate, my prior dependence on mountain dew, my at-times distorted perception of myself and my eating, and my overall struggle with my weight and food. There have been times when I have felt completely alone and have felt like I am fighting a losing battle. Then there have been days when I have felt powerful, unstoppable, and have nailed my goals. All in all, it feels like a bit of a roller-coaster. But one thing I have learned is that I am not alone. There are so many people who have struggled with food-related issues of their own, and if the internet and social media has given us one gift, it is that sense of community for people like myself who at times, have felt very isolated. If you are reading this and you have struggled with food or your weight or your health, know that you are NEVER alone! There are people like me who have been through some tough times and are here to give you as much support and advice as we can. If I can help just one person make a positive change, then everything I have invested in this blog has been worth it.
One thing I have discovered is that food can become pretty dangerous when a ‘treat’ or a ‘cheat meal’ turns into a binge. Eating a diet that is too restrictive leads to ‘binge-ing’, which is essentially when a treat gets completely out of control, and someone over-consumes foods that they would not typically eat. This could be an entire tub of ice-cream, a family-size packet of cookies, candy, or a large pizza. A binge is different for every person. It is important to recognise that the term ‘binge’ should not be used loosely. Eating a packet of M&Ms is not a ‘binge’ in my opinion. Eating four or five packets of M&Ms could be classified as a binge. Why do these slip-ups happen? Why do we attack ‘naughty’ foods like a bear that has just come out of hibernation? Or a lion attacking it’s prey? There is something missing from our diet. Not eating enough calories, or carbs, or sleep, or lacking certain nutrients, can cause the body to crave what it is not getting. Stress, lack of sleep, and under-eating can all wreak havoc on our body and for those of us who live a fairly active lifestyle, the cravings can be pretty intense. There have been afternoons where I have wandered up and down the candy aisle at Tesco, staring and drooling over all the sweets like some insane drug addict that just escaped from rehab. Honestly, I have spent far too many minutes, and possibly even hours, of my life in that damn candy aisle.
It is scientifically proven that if you do not get enough sleep, your body craves ‘energy foods’ to keep it fuelled for a day of activity. People who have under-slept gravitate towards foods that are high in fat and sugar because their body needs extra energy to get through the day. It is also proven that hormonal imbalance, caused by poor diet or stress, can result in over-eating or eating high-sugar, high-fat foods. Now, I am not an expert, but I do have experience in the struggles of weight loss. It is so important to recognise WHY your body is craving, and try to figure out what it needs to get back to normal. Sometimes, a cup of tea will do the trick, or a tall glass of water, or even some raw nuts or berries. Know when your body is hungry, and when it is just suffering the dreaded ‘cravings’. Tonight, for example, I began craving chocolate and started day-dreaming about Cadbury’s. Now, I am convinced that it is largely psychological and that my brain is playing tricks on me. But I thought to myself, “hmm… I must be craving sugar” so I ate about 300g of watermelon and it did the trick. Watermelon has naturally occurring sugars in it but in 300g of this delicious fruit, there are only 90 calories and 6g of sugar, as opposed to the 1500 calories and god-only-knows-how-many grams of sugar in 300g of chocolate.
For people who are conscious of their weight or their body fat, binge eating can lead to distress, guilt, shame, and anxiety. If the cycle continues of restricting and bingeing, it can then lead to a fear of food or major food anxiety. And if it gets completely out of hand, it can lead to purging and sadly, eating disorders. Before it gets past that first stage, make a conscious decision to keep it under control. Step 1: Make sure you are eating enough (please- STOP restricting your calories; find out what is recommended for your weight and your activity level, and get your calories from heaps of vegetables, healthy starches, eggs, meat, and high-protein dairy). Step 2: Make sure you are getting enough sleep (minimum 7 hours per night, or 8 if you can manage it). Step 3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (at least one tall glass of water in the morning, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, and dinner; dehydration leads to false feelings of hunger). Step 4: Manage your treats (decide if you are going to have one small treat a day or a big treat at the end of the week and stick to it; don’t restrict yourself to the point where you are clawing at the doors of Krispy Kreme, and make sure you don’t go into your cheat meal or weekly treat hungry or you will overdo it).
Keep yourself busy. The times when we snack the most are when we are sat in front of the TV or on the sofa. The hit TV show ‘Gogglebox’ illustrates just how much we Brits love our sofa time. I mean, seriously, a nation of people sitting on the sofa watching a TV show about people sitting on their sofas watching TV shows? That is insane. Instead of watching TV every evening, pick activities to do a couple of nights a week. This could be a hill walk or a hike, a trip to the park, a pole-dancing class (I have tried it!), yoga, a swim, an art class (still life anyone?), or a trip to the adventure golf course. When you are active and busy, you aren’t thinking about food, and the temptation to snack or binge won’t even cross your mind. Recognise that binge eating never makes you feel good and that you are undoing all the hard work you put in at the gym; all that sweat and all those blisters are worth more than some junk food. One quote I saw on Instagram that really stuck with me was: “Love yourself more than you love food.” To you the reader, you are beautiful, inside and out, and you do not deserve to treat yourself or your body with harm. Treat yourself and your body with the love and care that you deserve, and please know and believe that you DO deserve it.