How to Control Binge Eating, Yoyo Dieting and Emotional Cravings.
When you have a bad day you binge on McDonalds and spoonful’s of Nutella. I was once that person. My bad day at work would ultimately end in a drive-through experience or an empty box of chocolates. It was fine because I have always been thin, always been very active, always ate healthy 99% of the time. People would always comment on how healthy I was, I didn’t realise how much better I could be treating my body until I found Paleo.
Now when I have a bad day I binge on cuddles, find laughter and fun in random places, soak my body in sea water and indulge in my gratitude ritual to bring me some perspective. I’ll greedily grab healing antioxidants and nutrients from the grass on my bare feet, sun on my bare skin, natural salts through my pores, oxytocin from hugs, endorphins from walking and laughing. The body doesn’t fuel itself exclusively with food.
If that doesn’t work and I turn to food…I eat organic potato chips in healthy palm oil, raspberries and blueberries, almond butter and coconut cream ice-cream with frozen banana. I eat them mindfully, consciously choosing to indulge my emotional self and enjoy it without guilt. A shift in perspective can mean the difference between a Big Mac burger with fries and that healthful bowl of sweet berries.
The difference may be in adding nutrient-dense foods to your diet to fuel your body for health and vitality (colourful whole foods) rather than removing foods from your diet to get weight loss (processed foods in wrappers). Eventually you will crowd out the junk in the boxes and packets by adding so many fruits, veggies and good quality meats that you won’t have room for anything else. Adding foods to your life will lessen the feelings of restriction and emotional effort.
Paleo and clean eating lets you eat an abundance of whole, clean foods that taste amazing. The power of Paleo is in never feeling restricted. Indulging in healthy starches like root vegetables and copious fruit is a good option to satisfy cravings without damaging your internal organs. It is a much better option than anything you’ll find in a drive-through (and please don’t tell me “but I picked from the healthy choice menu” because that flimsy bit of lettuce, slice of cucumber and two chunks of tomato are covered in dangerous pesticides and the dressing is a sugar bomb waiting to explode in your unsuspecting gut). I fill my plate with so many coloured vegetables (majority green) and healthy fats like animal lard, coconut oil and avocado that I don’t have much need to indulge in fruit and root veg every day. I’m too full! That leaves lots of room to have these things as treats. And boy are they amazingly tasty once your taste buds have transformed. 21 days to break a habit and only days to transform your tastebuds. The problem is this: people won’t persist to the edge of discomfort, where just beyond they will find freedom in food and an appreciation for the sweetness of carrots – yep this will happen! Push past the rough stuff and your relationship with food will change forever.
If your diet includes a “cheat day” you are setting yourself up for a long emotional struggle with your food. Having a cheat day is saying to yourself “I have restricted and punished myself all week and now I can finally let loose”. Eating clean all week says “I love the food I eat, I enjoy fuelling my body this way and I can sustain this every day for the rest of my life!” If you want more info on the psychological impact of a cheat day let me know in the comments, on Facebook or Instagram (click on the photos on the sidebar ->), wherever you want to hang out with me in the cybersphere!
My go to foods for “hitting the spot” when the soul-searching activities have fallen flat:
~ Raw cacao and maca chocolate that I make with coconut oil, goji berries and almonds (I’m creating a raw orange chocolate tonight for Christmas presents – subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on the recipe). Cacao satisfies cravings due to the hit of magnesium you get – magnesium is lacking during stress, that is why I try an Epsom salts bath, Magnesium oil self-massage (subscribe to get the recipe for this incredible oil) or an ocean swim before heading to the chocolate cupboard. I also don’t buy chocolate (some Loving Earth or Pana raw cacao on special occasions) because it doesn’t take long to whip up my own by melting the ingredients together and freezing the mixture. Cravings hit a peak and then drop after about 20 minutes. So if I am heading into the dungeon of emotional bingeing, by the time my chocolate has set in the fridge or freezer the urge has past and I can choose to mindfully eat a piece or save it for later. Calm as the cucumber in my water bottle.
~ Healthy ice-cream: blend up coconut milk, cream or oil with frozen organic berries (always handy in my freezer) or two frozen bananas. Amazing.
~ Organic potato chips with sea salt and olien palm oil – these satisfy both the salt and sugar cravings but are full of healthy fat.
~ Almond butter and fresh fruit. I don’t eat nut butter every day so when I do I enjoy every damn bit of it. Usually spread on banana slices, kiwi slices or grapefruit halves and sometimes used to dip berries in.
~ Pumpkin mashed with coconut oil and sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon. The spices trick the mind into thinking it is having a treat…without the sugar spike in your bloodstream. Winning.
~ Pumpkin or sweet potato chips in coconut oil or lard, sprinkled with seaweed salt.
In order to get my autoimmunity under control I started a journey into a combo of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, low FODMAP, GAPS, and Sugar Detox. With such a strict regime all snacks were pretty well out of the equation. This was tough but I stuck to it, knowing that it was short-term pain for long-term benefit. Once I started to prepare my meals at the start of the week, it became a breeze.
I would stack 12 big containers in the fridge that I filled with chopped veg and healing herbs: pak choy, bok choy, zucchini, quarter to half a carrot, stick of celery, bunch of parsley, bunch of coriander, green beans, bean shoots, wakame seaweed chunks, fresh ginger, rosemary leaves, basil leaves, thyme leaves, chunks of lemon grass, chunk of animal lard, kelp noodles, and a sprinkle of Himalayan salt.
In between meals I’d have bone broth, lemon grass and ginger tea, peppermint tea or every few days some pumpkin chips baked in lard or coconut oil and covered in dulse seaweed salt, or a tin of sardines covered in extra virgin olive oil.
For breakfast, lunch and tea I would grab out a container, chuck it on the stove top (not in a Teflon pan of course!), leave it there for a minute on low heat while the lard melted and voila! Tasty, crunchy and filling. Yes, my breakfast, lunch and tea all had this mountain of veg in it and no, I never got sick of the same pile of goodness. The oily fat covering the crunchy veg is something I can never get enough of. I’d serve it with duck breast covered in a thick fatty skin, or a kangaroo steak, or a piece of wild-caught salmon, or some oysters and squid, or organ meatloaf, or beef liver. Check out my Instagram @lauragreenpsychology for pics and follow me for daily meal ideas and inspiration. Because the containers were in the fridge ready to go, I was always full and always had a meal at my fingertips.
The only time I ever felt the urge to snack was during high stress. I would check in with my belly – if it was full, I would check in with my mind. What was it saying to me? Usually it would be “holy hell, I need a pack of organic potato chips. Now. Now now now.” Sometimes the sappy old excuses would come trundling along behind the little bitch that was yelling at me “You’ve been so good. Just one pack won’t hurt. You’ll make up for it next week.” Then I would know that the salty, starchy craving definitely meant I was feeling stressed. This is when I would check in with my heart. I would search for some other way to satisfy me – cuddles from my baby niece always work. A walk with my man and my puppy Max on the beach is a good choice too. Choosing to be around people who make me laugh. A session of meditation with Omm or Calm. While engaging in these things, food is far from my mind and the craving passes.
Cravings generally indicate micronutrient deficiency or an emotional hole. If you try to fill an emotional need with food, you will keep filling and filling and never satisfy it. If you try to fuel your body with junk you will continue to “feel” hungry for more food. Physically you are bursting at the seams. But physiologically, at that minute level where your tiny mitochondria are busting their guts, you are lacking the nutrients that your body needs to run optimally. So it will keep asking for more. And because you are in the habit of reaching for junk it will ask for more even once you’ve put that next Snickers bar in your mouth.
Salt and sugar cravings can indicate calcium and magnesium deficiency. Chuck your daily foods into the FitDay.com app to see what you might be missing. Micronutrient deficiency can lead to a whole host of awful outcomes (think arthritis, osteoporosis, cancers, emotional disorders, low immunity, intellectual disability, goiter, anaemia, stroke, and cardiovascular disease). Check out Rich Food Poor Food for a must-have resource.
Another technique that works well is to clean your teeth straight after a meal. I get the urge to eat something sugary (usually chocolate) after every big meal. Cleaning your teeth leaves a fresh minty taste that is satisfying and we don’t like to eat something sweet afterwards because it would taste disgusting! I use an Aloe Vera paste from Organics Australia. If your toothpaste is from the supermarket you can guarantee it is not good for the long-term health of your gut and gums.
I eat straight after work and then not again until morning. My dinner is so big that it needs a long time to digest before bed and it keeps me full all night, allowing me to do a kind of intermittent fast which gives the digestion system time to recharge. Then I fill my night with adventures not TV. TV makes you bored and what do we do when we get bored? We look for snacks. Plus it stimulates your brain in an unhealthy way, killing off your poor brain cells. Beach walk, reading, meditation, Epsom salts bath, writing, drawing, yoga, riding bikes, visiting friends, fishing…these take up all my time after tea so I don’t have to endure the frantic cupboard searching that accompanies urge hour.
Your best strategy may be to never shop hungry. Always plan to eat a meal heavy on healthy fats before going to the supermarket and NEVER go on your way home from work – this will be your most vulnerable time where you probably feel the highest stress and most emotional salient moments (we are taught from very young that the end of a workday should be rewarded – most often with beer and snacks!)
This is just a quick one today to entice you into my world of clean eating. If you want more about controlling urges, please subscribe to the blog (on the right hand side of the website, press “view full site” at the bottom of the page if you’re on your mobile) or let me know in the comments x
With love, light and mindful eating.
You might also like: Why I Did a Sugar Detox
And others under Nutrition on my website x
McDonald’s photo from: http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/a-whole-nation-rejects-mcdonalds
Berry image from: www.health.com