You tell yourself you’re only going to have a small treat.
Then you can’t stop.
You lose control and eat way more than you intended, and then you feel horrible about yourself.
You feel like you have no control over your diet.
You feel weak, powerless, and pathetic.
Binge eating sucks.
Despite what you might think, you’re not alone. Binge eating is extremely common for athletes, bodybuilders, models, and just about anyone else who likes food and needs to manage their weight (i.e. most people).
In this podcast, you’re going to learn:
- What binge eating really is.
- The three main causes of binge eating.
- 11 different strategies you can use to prevent and stop binge eating.
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Decoding Anorexia by Carrie Arnold
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**Armi Legge:** Tell me if this story sounds familiar. You’re sticking to your diet. You’re losing weight, eating lots of healthy food and generally staying sane and happy. Maybe you’re maintaining your weight, but either way you’re doing well.
Then you decide to have a treat. Maybe a brownie or even just a bowl of cereal. Maybe this treat wasn’t planned. Maybe it was. Either way, you indulge. You meant to have just a little, but then you couldn’t stop. You had a cookie, then another brownie, and then you start going through your pantry, looking for more junk food. Your small indulgence turns into a binge.
In this podcast, you’re going to learn how to stop this from happening and hopefully how to develop a healthier relationship with food while still being able to enjoy all of the foods that you love.
My name is Armi Legge and you are listening to Impruvism Radio, the podcast that gives you simple, science based tips to improve your health, fitness, and productivity without going crazy.
If you like what you hear in today’s show, here’s how to get more like it. Go to impruvism.com, enter your email address in the box in the right side of the page, and click the button below. After you do, you will get free updates from the Impruvism blog delivered to your email inbox when they’re published.
Don’t forget that if you have a question for the podcast, you can ping me on facebook and twitter or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, in what may be the most inappropriate and ironic announcement ever, I want to let you know about two new projects I’m working on. That’s spelled Chef and Labz with a “Z,” so cheflabz.com
I’m entering the world of blogging. The main goal is to help you become an independent chef so that you, if you desire to do so, cook all your own meals and even make your own recipes. There are several reasons I think you’re going to love this website and several more reasons why it’s completely different from most foody sites.
One, I go into ridiculously obsessive detail about what makes each recipe tastes so good and how you can do the same. I don’t just say, “this tasted really good.” I list exactly what makes it taste good and tell you why it’s better than other recipes.
Two, I provide lots of cool pictures. Not just food porn, but I also do some neat stuff with food that other food sites don’t. Let’s just say I like to play with my food.
Three, I provide a complete list of nutrition facts for each recipe. I actually use my own system for calculating them that is far more accurate than what recipe sites use.
Because you listen to this podcast and by default that means you’re awesome, I’ll let you know that the first recipe is for brownies, and they are the best brownies in the world. I promise.
If you want to be notified about when it’s going to launch, go to impruvism.com/cheflabz and enter your email address in the form on that page. It’s going to launch probably within the next few weeks.
And now, the second announcement. For over a year, my friend Daniel and I have been building an application that is designed to help personal trainers track and manage their clients’ fitness. It’s called Impruver. Even if you’re not a personal trainer, we’ve designed to it to be the simplest and easiest work out tracking app available for anyone.
We’ve obsessed over every detail and are literally days from launching. The starter package is free, which gives you up to three personal training clients. For a limited time, we’re also offering unlimited clients for life at $125 per month, but that’s not going to last long. Normally, you’d pay $200 per month for 15 clients, so this is a pretty good deal.
If you’re interested in signing up for that, go to impruvr.com and sign up. You can actually create an account and start using it now, but we’re not officially launching our latest updates to the app until a few days.
Before we get into this podcast, I want to mention that you will also be able to email me or Daniel about any questions you have for the app. We take your feedback extremely seriously. We’ve literally made pretty big changes to the app the same day people asked for them to be made.
One of our goals is to be one of the most responsive and supportive application companies out there. So if you’re interested, go to impruvr.com and sign up.
Now, let’s talk about how to stop binge eating.
I got a question from Tom on facebook the other day. After working hard to create a caloric deficit, Tom has reached and maintained a healthy weight after being obese. Tom had a long question so I’m going to paraphrase his comments and questions in bullet points. Here goes.
“Many people have trouble eating sweets and other kinds of junk food in moderation and often go pretty nuts after having even a small amount. Why is it that every time I go over my calories by 100 or 200 and feel guilty instead of accepting it and somehow the day turns into a cheat day or binge? How do I change this mentality? In reality, I know 100 to 200 calories would not make much difference in terms of weekly fat loss, but I still ruin things by binging.
After I go off my diet, I sometimes struggle going back on track the next day, depending on the mood I wake up in and I’m usually extremely disappointed in myself. Why do I do this? Am I just mentally weak with no self control? Do I have an eating disorder? How can I improve my relationship with food? Thanks, man, and keep doing what you’re doing. It’s amazing what you’ve done.”
There’s a lot to this question but the fundamental theme is how to indulge in the foods you enjoy in moderation without going overboard or losing control.
When I say “go nuts,” I mean two things. One, eating way more food than you need on a regular basis, thus sabotaging your process. Number two, eating more food than you need or just certain foods that you’ve labeled as unhealthy and then beating yourself about it later, even if you didn’t really eat that much.
In this podcast, we are going to tackle Tom’s questions one by one. We’re going to look at some of the psychology behind why people lose control over their eating behavior and why they feel so guilty afterward. Then we’re going to take a look at some strategies you can use to avoid those problems.
So what is binge eating? Binge eating is generally defined as a period where one loses control over the ability to stop eating. In some cases, this literally means shoving food into your mouth with barely enough time to breathe. However, in most cases, the person eats normally but just eats way too much. Even if it appears normal, they can’t stop and they just keep eating and eating and eating. One thing to understand is you don’t necessarily have to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder for this to be a problem.
A disorder is basically a condition where someone takes some normal trait to an extreme and then repeats it often enough for that extreme behavior to cause problems.
It’s normal to overeat on some occasions and eat less on other occasions. You’ve probably had some moments when you were little, when you would devour a bunch of cookies and not even think about it. However, those instances were probably pretty rare and you didn’t really think of it as a problem because it wasn’t. You ate less at other times and were still happy.
Another thing to keep in mind is that binge eating is far, far, far more common than a ton of people in the fitness and health world realize. Frankly, a lot of the people who claim they have slow metabolisms and can’t lose weight while eating 800 calories per day and doing tons of exercise are also having intermittent or even frequent food binges that offset their progress, then they selectively forget those incidents. It’s not that they’re lying and it’s not that they’re weak-willed. It’s just natural and it happens a lot. But that’s a topic for another day.
The point is that neither Tom nor you should feel bad about yourself because you sometimes lose control over your eating behaviors. It’s probably not fair to call it “normal,” but it’s more common than most people appreciate. This is even more true if you’ve lost a lot of weight or if you’re very underweight. Dieting is basically a minor degree of starvation and banging and obsessing over food is a normal response to starvation.
For instance, in the Minnesota starvation experiment, the subjects were forced to eat roughly half as many calories as they needed to maintain their weight for six months. They lost 25% of their body weight and they looked like concentration camp victims. After the study, they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted and most of them binged like nuts. Some of the men consumed up to 11,000 calories per day and over 5,000 or 6,000 in a single meal. Researchers all this “post starvation hyperphagia.”
Granted, you probably haven’t been through this kind of weight loss or extreme food deprivation, but you probably have experienced something similar on a smaller scale. After you’ve lost a lot of weight like Tom did, it’s normal to want to eat a lot of food. This is especially true if you adopt certain negative behaviors while dieting and if you don’t use some of the techniques I’m going to talk about in a moment.
Even if you haven’t lost a lot of weight, binge eating is extremely common for other reasons. Some people are ridiculously obsessed with eating healthy foods to the point they develop an emotional or moral attachment to their diet. This is called “orthorexia.” They categorize foods into good or bad with no thought to the context of the overall diet.
Some of these people will eat extremely “clean” for months or even years, but eventually they cave and they often end up binging. Even if you’re not officially orthorexic, demonizing certain foods tends to push people towards binging.
To drive this point home, I’ll tell you a little story about myself. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was about 12 years old. I’ve never been even remotely overweight, always skinny and athletic. But I’ve also been obsessive about both my health and my athletic performance since I can remember. This got to the point where I almost killed myself by not eating enough when I was 13 and 14 because of my obsessive desire to eat only the right foods.
I was taught certain foods were bad for you so I decided never to eat those foods. Most people end up caving after a few weeks or insert some cheat days or use common sense and eat what they want in moderation. I didn’t take that approach. I didn’t have anything that could be even remotely considered junk food for probably around 4 to 5 years.
I ended up in the hospital twice and the day before I was admitted on both occasions, I ate a ton of junk food. Long story short, I started dividing foods into bad and good and developed a very poor relationship with food. Honestly, I’ve only really been able to get on track for what I would call “normal eating” this past year, so don’t feel bad if this is still a problem for you.
Now let’s look at what causes this.
In my opinion, the whole issue of binge eating largely comes down to three problems:
1. Your sense of control over your diet.
2. Your attitude toward yourself after losing control over your diet.
3. Your long-term perspective for dieting.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
One, your sense of control. Usually when people have a lot of anxiety over food, it’s because they feel they are losing control or have already lost control over their eating patterns. Some psychologists say that loss of control is really the cause of pretty much all mental stress and I think they’re probably right for the most part.
Here’s how that applies to binging. When you go a few hundred calories per day over your planned calorie intake or have a food that you have labeled as “bad,” you feel like you’ve lost control. You feel like you’ve failed even if a large part of you knows that it’s really no big deal. You feel like you’ve lost control and so it’s not worth exerting any more willpower since you’ve blown it. You expect to be perfect, which always causes a lot of problems.
Your attitude after overeating or breaking your diet is also important.
Two, your attitude post-binging. After you lose control, you get even more mad at yourself and often become even more controlling. You figure, as Tom did, that the reason you lost control was because you lack willpower. You resolve to never go off your diet ever again or to never binge again. Ever.
You’re going to be good next time and stick to your diet exactly– at least that’s what you tell yourself. Basically, because you failed your previous plan, you assume that you need to be even more strict. You set even higher expectations for yourself and resolve to be even more controlling. When, not if, you go off your diet again or go over your calorie limit slightly, the situation gets even worse and you feel even more horrible about yourself. You’ve set an even higher goal and you’ve failed that, too.
After binging like this, you also probably feel like you need to be extra restrictive about the rest of your diet during the week. Instead of having a treat when you want it, you tell yourself that you’ve already had everything you should during your binge and thus you haven’t earned it. This makes the pressure even higher and you even more miserable.
Now let’s talk about how your long-term perspective on your diet influences your tendency to binge. How you view your diet in the long term is probably one of the most important and underrated aspects of weight loss or weight maintenance.
It has become a fad recently to say that you should never diet or that diets don’t work, but the truth is that any kind of eating pattern is a kind of diet. A more accurate comment would be that rigid, inflexible, unrealistic, unenjoyable, cookie cutter diets don’t work and that customized, sustainable, small, consistent behavior changes do work.
As a dieter, your goal isn’t just to lose weight or even just to lose fat. It’s to do so without giving up your life. It’s losing weight while maintaining your sanity by making simple, small changes over time so you can lose weight and keep it off for good without going insane.
In Tom’s case, he’s focusing only on his daily calorie goals, not long term results. He’s placing his self worth and dietary success on a few hundred calories difference in food intake. While on some level he realizes the small difference isn’t that important, he’s making it out to be. And please understand that I’m not criticizing Tom. He’s going through the same stuff a lot of people do and it’s important to be aware of it.
Among models and bodybuilders and athletes and other very highly motivated, somewhat obsessive people, binge eating is pretty common, as are eating disorders, but there are also things we can do to help manage those problems. Basically, Tom is being a restrained dieter. What’s that, you ask? Let’s find out.
On the one end, you have people who have literally no concept about how much they’re eating or what they’re eating and make no connection between no connection between their appearance, health, and body composition. These people are often, if not usually, overweight. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are people who tend to get way too obsessive about their diets and end up having no lives or being completely miserable. These people are generally more likely to binge.
Ideally, you want to be somewhere in between these two extremes. Where exactly depends on a lot of stuff, but mostly whether or not you’re happy with your life in terms of your fitness, health, and appearance, and if you’re able to maintain that kind of happiness while still having a social life and enjoying all of your hobbies.
Studies have consistently shown that restrained dieters have a harder time losing weight and are more likely to underestimate their calorie intake. They also tend to have greater disinhibition around food, which basically means they lose control over their eating behavior and their ability to stop eating.
So here’s a summary of the three main reason I think people binge.
1. A feeling of lack of control over one’s diet, which leads to the “oh shit” effect, where you feel like you’ve blown your diet and thus should just eat whatever.
2. How you assign your self worth to your ability to stick to your diet or how you view yourself after binging.
3. Your long term perspective of how you’re going to diet and what you want to get out of your diet.
Now that we’ve defined why people binge, let’s look at what to do about it. I’m going to give you 10 strategies you can use to help avoid binging in the first place and two strategies you can use to stop banging if you feel like you’re about to do so or have already started.
1. Don’t divide foods into “good” and “bad.”
Perhaps the biggest reason people binge is because they divide foods into good and bad or healthy and unhealthy or clean and unclean or whatever. Not only is this incorrect and irrational and unscientific, it also usually causes people to binge.
Imagine if someone told you that you could never have another food for the rest of your life. Not just a little bit, but ever. You’d probably want it eventually. And if you wanted it often enough, you would probably binge or just go insane at some point. You certainly wouldn’t be very happy and you would be very socially isolated, too.
So step one is to forget about unhealthy and healthy foods. There is food and whether or not it’s bad depends on the context and the dose. Listen to the last podcast for more information on that topic.
The first step is to adopt a more flexible attitude towards food. You want to be able to have some treats every now and then and be OK with it because they’re not really treats. They’re just part of your diet. If you don’t assign a good or bad value to food, you are less likely to binge since you don’t feel like you’ve cheated yourself.
Even if you’re on a diet that helps create a caloric deficit by restricting your food choices such as low carb or low fat or vegetarian or paleo or whatever, you should never develop a moral attachment to your diet. Look at those dietary restrictions as tools to ensure you’re maintaining a healthy weight, not as hard and fast rules. There are no good and bad foods.
Now, I’m going to contradict myself and tell you not to eat junk food– for a little while.
2. Prove to yourself that you can go without junk food.
I don’t like the term “junk food.” What I mean is stuff you would normally not eat a lot of like sweets, treats, brownies, cookies, candy, etc. You might also throw in sugary cereal and some other things like pancakes or what have you in this category, too. Either way, these foods tend to be the ones people overeat. Often, it’s because people feel like they really can’t help themselves. They tell themselves that they “need” that brownie or cookie and then they follow through on that belief.
So I think it’s a good idea for most people to go about one to two weeks without any junk food if they have a problem with binge eating or dietary disinhibition.
Basically, think of the foods you tend to overeat and don’t eat them for one to two weeks. This often gives you enough time to prove to yourself that you can go without these foods for a little while and helps you look at other options to get your calories. Plus, you appreciate these sweets more when they’re added back into your diet, and that’s the key here. You aren’t eliminating these foods forever, just long enough to lose your taste for some of these foods so you’re not thinking about them all the time. After that, you can start playing with the following strategies.
Plan ahead. The next several strategies I’m going to outline all involve planning and control. Basically, these are all different ways to help you gain control over your indulgences so that you still have small amounts of what you love without going overboard. Which of these strategies you use is mostly a matter of personal preference. However, I suggest you generally move through these sequentially as they range from most controlled to least controlled.
One, treat yourself to free foods. When you get a craving, it’s OK to to indulge sometimes. Eat the food and enjoy and don’t worry about it. Even if you go slightly over your calorie limits, it’s just not a big deal. Eventually, you can probably get to the point where you don’t need to plan free foods into your diets, but many people do need to think ahead at least at first. If you’re on a low carb diet, you might have a bagel. If you’re on a low fat diet, it might be bacon. If you’re on a really restrictive diet with no sweets, then you might have a brownie, but only if it comes from my brownie recipe. Just kidding.
Whatever your preference, let yourself have a free food. A good place to start is one to two free foods per week. Then increase it from there. Plan your free food ahead of time, eat it, and then move on.
Two, free meals. The next step up is a free meal. You eat a reasonably sized meal that includes some foods you normally wouldn’t eat on your diet. The goal isn’t to eat a bunch of junk but to satisfy some of your cravings. Maybe have some pizza and a sailed– that kind of thing. These are especially useful if you’re going out with friends. One to two free meals per week is a good starting place. I often suggest having a free meal as dinner. This is because it can be hard to go back to your normal diet if you eat a free meal at breakfast or lunch. However, that’s just a suggestion and it’s not a necessity. As usual, find what works for you.
Three, free days. I don’t like calling these “cheat days” as that term usually just means eating as much junk as possible, at least to many people. Instead, think of it as a day where you’re allowed to eat whatever you want within reason. Keep eating generally whole and nutritious foods but allow yourself some foods you would normally not have on your diet. Just relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t go nuts but feel free to indulge as well. If you’re counting calories or something like that, maybe take a day off and just not do it. Relax.
Four, diet breaks. In this case, you would go several days or even up to around two weeks where you eat roughly at maintenance calories. You eat until you’re full and then you stop. This is just an extended version of the free day. So you’re still allowed to eat pretty much anything you want within reason. I recommend you keep weighing yourself while on a diet break to make sure you’re not going too nuts on your food intake and to stay motivated and conscious of your diet. Keep exercising, keep going out with your friends, and keep eating an overall healthy diet. Just eat roughly around at maintenance and enjoy yourself.
Also keep in mind that if your scale weight bumps up during this period, a lot of that is probably going to be from water weight, so don’t get too obsessed about the scale weight, either.
There’s also a reason I put diet breaks at the end of this list, and that’s because it’s not a good idea for someone with food control to start out with a full diet break. It generally just ends up being a binge.
Five, counting calories, “If It Fits Your Macros,” and the 80/20 rule. With this system, you count calories and/or macronutrients like carbs, protein, and fat and generally consume 80% of your calories from whole, nutritious foods. You might get anxious or annoyed from the idea of counting calories, but the idea is if you eat right, it works very well. This is how I eat and it has given me more flexibility, control, and peace of mind than any other eating pattern. You can eat whatever you want as long as it fits your micronutrient and calorie goals, which gives you virtually limitless options. It works when you’re at parties, traveling, camping, whatever. It just works.
I’ll talk more about how to make calorie counting work without going insane in later podcasts, but here is one tip that should help prevent binge eating specifically. Many people will wait until the end of the day to add up their food intake and they often find they have gone over their calorie limits. Then they binge. To help prevent this from happening, make sure you see how your calories are adding up throughout the day. So after breakfast, maybe check how many you’ve eaten. After lunch, see how many you have left. That way, you have more immediate feedback on how much you are eating throughout the day.
There are a lot of great apps out there that help you with this kind of thing like FitDay and MyFitnessPal. And, full disclosure, I’m working on another application that also helps you track your food intake in a way that’s easier to use than pretty much every other app out there.
A lot of people say you should stop counting calories after awhile and most people probably can eventually. However, there is also nothing wrong with counting them as a long term strategy. It works very well for some and it doesn’t work for others. It’s just one more option that you can use. I personally prefer it.
Finally, we have what some people call “intuitive eating,” where you eat until you’re full and stop while still having a few treats every now and then as cravings arise. This can work well for many people but I generally don’t think it’s necessarily optimal for everyone.
For people going for the extremes of fat loss or muscle gain, it usually doesn’t work at all. For people who have problems with binge eating or, like in my case, just enjoy having more control over their diets, this also doesn’t tend to work very well.
Whether or not you make it your goal to develop more natural, intuitive eating patterns is up to you and it’s not necessarily better or worse than counting calories or sticking to a certain kind of diet. If you do pursue this method, just keep in mind that it might take awhile before you’re ready to make it work.
Also keep in mind that there is actually a lot of biology and genetics behind all of this stuff. Some people are definitely more wired to binge eat than others. Some people are much better at intuitive eating than others. Scientists are actually coming to a lot of really cool conclusions recently about the neurobiology behind that and I hope to write about that soon. But in the mean time there’s a good book about this called “Decoding Anorexia” by Carrie Arnold that talks a lot about this.
Now I’ll talk to you about what I do personally. I count calories and macronutrients and make sure I get at least 80% of my calories from whole, nutritious, nutrient-dense foods. I also weigh my food, but that’s mostly to make sure I am eating enough. I have a tendency to undereat and I’m actually trying to gain weight right now. And I’m a little OCD. However, I’m still pretty flexible overall. I still eat at restaurants. I still go out with friends. And I still enjoy myself.
For instance, I went to a cupcake shop last week with a friend of mine and sampled an Oreo cupcake. It still filled my macronutrient goals but I didn’t weigh it. Like anyone else who’s smart about calorie counting, I didn’t obsess over it. I enjoyed it. I also learned all the cupcake shop’s secrets and plan on replicating their stuff at home. Then I’m going to give you the recipes, but that’s a topic for another time.
I don’t do cheat days per say since I really never feel deprived. If I have a craving of some sort, I plan it into my diet and I enjoy it. If I go over my calories when I’m trying to lose fat, I don’t worry about it since I can quantify the degree of the mistake, if you want to call it that. This is what works for me right now and I’m not saying it’s the best method for everyone, or that I’ll always eat this way. But for me, it’s simple, flexible, and structured and it keeps me happy, healthy, and sane.
And now, I’m going to share two more tips for how to prevent binge eating in the moment when you’re reaching for that cookie.
One, go for a walk. Get out of the house and go outside. Walk for a few minutes. I guarantee you that you will feel better and think less about food. Going for a walk gives you a way to click pause on your thoughts and you can reconsider your actions before you do something you regret, like eat an entire box of cookies. Obviously, this may not be 100% effective but it helps me whenever I get anxious about just about anything, including food.
If you can’t go outside, then go to another room. Get out of the kitchen or go somewhere else where you can be away from it and stop thinking about it and take a break.
Two, talk to a friend. Friends provide accountability and perspective. If you feel like you’re losing control or are about to go on a huge binge, just talk to someone. You don’t even have to talk about food. Just talk about the weather or plan a date or something. You might even forget you were even hungry and you almost certainly will feel better about yourself. This is just another productive destruction from food. Even if you can’t talk to a friend, message someone on facebook or try to interact with someone else somehow.
So those are my two tips for how to stop binge eating when you’re really in the moment and you feel like you’re about to binge. Go for a walk or at least get out of the house and talk to a friend.
Binge eating can be a horribly unpleasant experience and it’s even worse for people who are the most likely to do it– that is, athletes, models, bodybuilders, people who are really obsessive and controlling for the most part. They feel like they’ve lost it. It sucks. I’ve been there. Here is my summary of techniques to be able to keep eating what you love without overindulging and feeling like you have no control over your diet.
1. Don’t divide foods into good or bad or develop an emotional or moral attachment to your diet.
2. Prove to yourself that you can go without sweets or treats or junk food for a few weeks to let your taste buds adapt and develop a sense of greater self control.
3. Plan ahead. Include structured indulgences such as . . .
4. Free foods.
5. Free meals.
6. Free days.
7. Diet breaks.
8. You can also count calories and macronutrients and fit whatever it is you want into your macronutrient and calorie targets.
9. If you feel like you have a much better sense of control over your eating habits and are very mindful over your eating cues, then you may want to also experiment with intuitive eating, where you trust your body, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and enjoy treats and moderation.
10 and 11. OK, so I’m giving you an extra one. If you feel like you’re about to binge, go for a walk and contact a friend.
Before we finish up, I want to mention one more thing. As someone who is probably pretty obsessed with your health as I am, and fitness and just about everything else, you are probably thinking these techniques are more for people who are going for average healthiness or just want to be normal weight. And that’s bullshit. There are tons of bodybuilders who get to 3% or 4% body fat for males or 7% to 9% for women who still use all of these techniques. In fact, the most successful ones are usually the ones who do include these subtracted indulgences and let themselves eat these treats.
It’s the people who completely restrict these things who just screw themselves in the long run.
One, they usually end up binging.
Two, they usually just end up being not very happy.
Think of it this way. Baking and candy and all this other stuff is engineered to taste good. A lot of people make that sound like it’s a horrible thing but when you think about it, you’re just making food taste better than it would naturally, which I think is really cool, that we’re able to make this stuff taste really good and get more enjoyment out of the same stuff.
Life is pretty short, so if you want to get more enjoyment out of it, enjoy some of these foods like brownies or cookies or whatever. And if you can reach your desired state of leanness or fitness or health or happiness or whatever while still enjoying these foods, then there is no reason not to.
This is not something for your average person just trying to be generally healthy or fit. It’s something that everyone can and probably should try. I’m not saying you need to eat junk food or sweets or always indulge in your cravings. What I’m saying is if you do so, there is no evidence at all that it will decrease your health, athletic performance, appearance, or anything, as long as it’s within your calorie and macronutrient goals over time. Even if you overeat one day, that’s one day. Nobody gets fat or loses their figure or physique or performance from one day of overeating. They lose it by doing it consistently over time.
So instead of losing control like most people or just being f’ing miserable like I was for a long time, include some of these foods. It’s OK and it’s not going to hurt anything. You can still reach all of your goals while still using all of these techniques and enjoying the foods that you love. So that’s my last piece of advice. It’s not just for average people. It’s for elite athletes, models, bodybuilders. It’s for everyone.
As one last closing reminder, I want to drive home how common this problem is of binged eating and disordered eating in general– not just among average people but among athletes and everyone else. It’s just very, very common.
A friend shard this interesting article last night on facebook. It looked at some of the perceptions of the lifestyle, eating, psychology, and everything else of elite triathletes. These are all anonymous athletes. One of the people they interviewed talked a little bit about eating.
I’m going to quote some of what they said. “Oh my God, eating is a nightmare. There are so many issues. Being lean and the vision of what that means. Also, it does improve performance, so you always have to be conscious of what you’re eating. As a girl and as someone with an eating disorder when I was younger, it’s always there. But just the same as someone who wouldn’t put the wrong program on their computer, I can’t put the wrong stuff in my body, and most people don’t get that.”
See, that’s part of the problem right there, is that yes, you don’t want to eat junk food all the time or only eat junk food. That’s common sense. There is also no evidence that having a brownie every now and then, even when you’re preparing for a competition, even the day before you’re getting on stage for a bodybuilding competition, even the day before a photo shoot if you’re a model, whatever. There is no evidence that’s going to hurt you. It’s not going to do anything. If it’s within your calorie goals and even if it’s a little over, so the frick what? It doesn’t matter. So this idea that, “oh, I’m a sports car and I can’t put bad gasoline in my car,” it’s just crap. It’s a stupid example. Forget it.
Here’s another quote, and this is, again, from a professional triathlete. “Do we eat a lot or train a lot for a 70.3 or Ironman? [Those are different distances for triathlons.] Yes, we do. But does that mean it’s not without sacrifice? No, it doesn’t. And for that reason, I do think our eating patterns can be viewed as disordered.” A lot of athletes admit they do have eating disorders or very disordered patterns of eating. That’s not a horrible thing. It’s just something to keep in mind.
Here’s again from that same person. “We all suffer from disordered eating. I try to eat a balanced and healthy diet, but in races, I do restrict myself from indulging too much or too frequently, and when I look at my bodyweight fluctuations in the post season, I completely indulge in pizza, burgers, beer, ice cream, whatever I want whenever I want. I gain weight. I bloat. But it’s all part of a mental, emotional, and physical release for me. Then when I start training again, I go back onto a much healthier, cleaner, and regimented diet and I lose that. I eat a lot, but it’s just very clean and not processed. I take out all of the fluff.”
I feel like this cycle isn’t necessarily as healthy as a constant, steady balanced system, but it’s also part of being a pro. Being as lean as possible without compromising power and speed is key, and focusing on eating foods that benefit us and help us in our training and racing is part of our job.”
Again, I think there is definitely, in some cases, a psychological benefit for athletes who are getting ready for a race. They want to feel like they are doing everything they can. But I think it’s even healthier to adopt a mindset where it’s OK to have that junk food and still believe you’re doing everything you can. You will be healthier and happier if you can adopt that kind of mindset.
And it may take awhile. You may be thinking I’m a complete idiot and if I had heard someone say this five years ago, I would have told them to go screw themselves, because that’s how I was. You don’t need to take my word for it now. Just think about this stuff. Mmmkay?
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