The binge eating monster inside was dealt a serious blow when
I switched to low-carb eating. But it's not actually dead.
Hello, my name is Sue, and I'm a binge eater. Like an alcoholic, I will probably never be
completely free and "normal" around my substance. My particular "abuse substance" is sugar. Only
by staying away from it do I have self-control in my eating behavior.
What is bingeing, and why do we do it?
Don't the low-carb books (for that matter, don't all diet books) tell us that their
way of eating will take care of this problem? Well, along with many others I have met
online, eating this way hasn't completely dealt with the issue for me. True, I never
have to go hungry — but for how many of us is being hungry actually the reason to "pig
out"? If you have been mystified or even ashamed at your own continuing eating pattern,
let me tell you: you're not alone.
For some of us, it's not hunger that propels us toward the fridge or the store. Looking into
the refrigerator, we may have lots of acceptable and
healthy food in there. But that's not enough, not good enough. There's this little
voice, Tucked away in the hidden parts of our minds... and it's persistent! It gets us to
Now stress is definitely a factor that can lead to eating. And for that, here's a handy little acronym
to memorize: HALT. It means that we are most vulnerable to eating when we are Hungry, Angry,
Lonely or Tired. When the munchies come, and you can identify one of them, try to go and
deal with this root problem. Quite often, that will save you from going down the food road.
Personally, I would add "Bored" to the list of trigger moods. But that, too, can be fixed
However, it's not just stress — whether due to hunger, anger, loneliness or tiredness — that
brings on cravings. We'll sometimes do very well in a distressing situation. Once we relax,
though, in comes this picture of (you name it: any unacceptable food), and it won't let go.
For me, there are two courses of action: thinking "what the heck" and going for it, or trying
to delay. I suppose that most serious dieters would go for option #2. I delay by eating
low-carb food, in order to fill myself up; sometimes that works. I delay by getting out of
the situation, taking a bath, calling a friend — but sometimes, that's just delaying the
Why is there such a power, such a calling, and why are we so helpless about it?
We can philosophize about the origins of this problem as much as we want to - is it from too
much dieting, in other words, defining some foods as off-limits and thereby making them more
attractive? Is it something in our childhood? Were we just born that way? - but whatever the
root, there's now an oak tree in our carefully planned flower garden, and we can't reach into
the past and take away the seed. What we can do is deal with the problem: cut the tree down,
so to speak. But how?
Most of you reading this have already taken that first step: low-carb eating. We're so much more
vulnerable to that little voice when we're hungry (there's a reason your mother told you never
to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach). Eating the low-carb way takes the edge off that
hunger, and freedom from sugar highs and lows means stability in your eating, too. But quite
apart from hunger, there's the drive to just go for it, "I'll eat well tomorrow" — that's tougher
After much experimenting, I've come to the conclusion that getting back on the wagon after
an off-day isn't that easy: bingeing today may turn into bingeing tomorrow, and the rest of
the week, and the rest of the month. That spells disaster! Besides, even before that first
bite you are perfectly aware of how bad you will feel afterwards. Anyone who ever experienced
"food coma" — no need to describe it any further — knows that isn't an experience anyone would
want to repeat. Yet, if knowing these things would prevent us from taking that first bite,
we'd be infallible in our eating - but it doesn't.
So, if knowing the consequences doesn't stop us, and delaying doesn't work, and we're just
thinking "so what" to ourselves: we need a strategy for that kind of situation. Cravings
like this aren't reasonable, but they're very strong, so we need an equally strong motivational
shield. Ever note how when you first start a diet, you don't cheat for a few days? No binges?
It can be done then, so it should be possible for as long as you can hold on to that excitement
of the new diet. Of course, any diet becomes routine after a while, as it should.
So here's one piece of wisdom — maybe it sounds too easy, too simple, but it can make a world
of difference when you really apply it. Take it one day at a time. That's old advice, perhaps;
but think it through. When you wake up in the morning, as you eat your (low-carb) breakfast,
think through your day and honestly ask yourself if you can get through it without cheating.
Don't think about tomorrow. Don't think about eating this way (or any other) for the rest of
the week, the month, your life. Tomorrow will take care of itself, and you can worry about it
later. Consciously limit your outlook, in terms of food, to nothing but today. You are strong
enough to withstand those cookies if it's just for today, aren't you? No big deal, they'll
still be there tomorrow if you really want them. (And tomorrow, will you really want them
still? Especially after you've looked yourself in the eyes in the evening, with pride and
happiness at having kept your promise?)
Nothing can shake you today, if you make that commitment in the morning. So if there's a party
at the end of the week, there's no need to fret and worry and possibly start eating even before
the situation actually arises. When the big day comes, in the morning, be honest: can you make
it through this one party, this one day, without losing it? If you think you can, go for it - if
you think you can't, take precautions. The trick with all of this is to do it in the morning,
while you have breakfast, because your head is clear then.
So, tomorrow morning, let's do it. Can you do it, just for today?
Copyright © July 2004 Susanne Koch and Low Carb Luxury
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