A Treat a Day Keeps a Binge Away

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Finding an effective anti-binge strategy was frustrating for me. I tried so many different strategies (to be shared in a post to come) and NONE of them worked for me. After a month of trial and failure, my counsellor Karen suggested something new: why don’t I try allowing myself one treat every day? The treat had to be something I would consider a splurge – something that I typically craved. I was pretty reluctant at first to try this one out. After all, I was hell-bent on losing weight at the time, so eating an 850-calorie jumbo cinnamon bun every afternoon didn’t really make sense to me. However, this strategy is what ultimately kick-started my recovery. It helped me realize why focusing on binge reduction rather than weight loss is the right road to recovery.

One of the main challenges with this strategy was trying not to turn my daily treat into a binge. For the first while, I more often than not fell victim to all-or-nothing thinking: “I’ve already had this piece of cake, so I might as well have this pizza and that pack of cookies and these chocolate bars…I’ll just get all of these cravings out of my system today and start again tomorrow”. It took quite a while before I was able to tell myself, “Stop. You can have another tomorrow”. Once I got to that point, I was able to use this strategy effectively.

Try this one out for yourself!

  1. Don’t think about the calorie or fat content of your treat. Just make sure that it’s something you really want.
  2. Eat your treat before the time when you usually like to binge (not when you feel like binging). For example, I liked to binge first in the afternoon and then again at night, so I ate my treat around noon. You’ll feel satisfied earlier in the day, and you won’t have that mentality of “I just have to make it through two more meals, then I can have my treat”.
  3. I ate my treat on top of the three meals and snacks I had planned for the day. Even if I thought, “Maybe I can go without a treat today,” I still ate one anyway because I found that if I skipped a day, I was more likely to binge the next day.
  4. Be careful with your top trigger foods. Push yourself to try a normal-sized serving of your favourite foods and stop there, but if you find that it keeps turning into a binge, then see the next tip.
  5. Eat your treat with someone. If you’re struggling with stopping at one serving, eat your treat around your friends, significant other, or family. You’re less likely to binge when you’re around people you know. Or make it a fun group activity, like going out for ice cream sundaes or making homemade pizza. Now you can still have your favourite foods!

If the thought of eating an “unnecessary” pack of onion rings is still unconvincing, here’s something to think about. If eating a 600-calorie pack of onion rings means not binging on 3,000 calories later in the day, you’ve eaten 2,400 calories less than you would have. Sure, there’s always the possibility that you wouldn’t have binged later today, but in my case, it was almost certain.

Eventually, once you’ve taken control of your binges and are transitioning to weight loss, you can try substituting lower-calorie or healthier treats, but I don’t recommend cutting out treats completely. The cravings will return, and you may soon find yourself in the middle of the binge.

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