To Binge or Not to Binge: Weathering a Junk-Food Storm

by Dr. Christopher on September 27, 2010

Courtesy of Shawn Allen

We’ve all been there.  

You know you’re off to a bad start when you have to throw yourself out of bed just to get the day started.  

You go to your job.  It’s raining and you’re stuck in traffic.   

At work, things are not going your way.  Maybe your boss yells at you or you’re not doing well on a project.  

You’re stressed out.   

The day’s going horribly and you just want it to end.   

You start driving home and your mind wanders onto the food in your fridge.   

“Well, I have the ingredients for a salad in the crisper and there’s that leftover chicken.  ORRRRRRR… I saw someone hide a box of donuts in the back of the closet and there are some twizzlers next to the sink!”   

You told yourself you would eat healthy until Saturday (or whatever your cheat day) might be.    

But the donuts and twizzlers are calling you.  They know the path to your brain and they sit there and drop anchor, ruling your thoughts until there’s nothing you can do but succumb to their overwhelming power.  

Three donuts and a pack of twizzlers later, any happiness you experienced while eating is gone, only leaving you sad, angry at yourself, and with a bloated stomach and inevitable gas on its way.  (I don’t know about you, but sugar does that to me!).  The bloating goes away after a few hours, but the brain fog usually lasts a few days.   

Plus, you’ve lost the momentum that comes with eating your normal diet.  

The Key is Preparation

Stress happens.  It would be foolish to expect a stress-free life.  

Stress is what allows us to adapt and grow back stronger.  

But we have to know how to deal with it.   

Lucky for you, I happen to have a decent amount of experience on binging on anything imaginable.   

I don’t always beat stress and my cravings, but when I do, here’s how I do it:  

  • Shop: Buying healthy foods to stock my food supply forces me to eat them.  Also, buying health snacks such as nuts and berries that don’t require preparation is important so you don’t reach for some other quick fix!  The best way to make sure you’re getting your fruits and veggies is to get a CSA share (find a farm near you at localharvest.org).  Community-supported agriculture usually delivers vegetable boxes on a weekly or biweekly basis, so you are forced to eat your veggies!  If you live in the North Jersey area, I use both Purple Dragon Co-op and Mini-Mac Farm.
  • Prepare foods: During weekends, prepare a few meals that you’ll have for the rest of the week.   I like to make the world’s manliest salad (more to come on that) with every ingredient you could imagine and put it in a giant pyrex bowl or into separate containers.  I’ll also sautee a bunch of vegetables and cook some meat so it’s readily available.  Then, I’ll bring my cloth bag filled with an apple, a banana, almonds, raisins, dried fruit, and water into work with me.
  • Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper: Whenever I eat a large breakfast and a fairly large lunch, I’m not hungry at dinner time.  If I eat a small breakfast and small lunch, I crave the world at dinner time.  I find that this axiom holds true to how our metabolism corresponds with our circadian rhythms (our hormones are more active at specific times of the day; for example, we don’t digest food as well at night time).
  • Healthy stress relief: exercise, listening to music, talking with loved ones are healthy ways to deal with stress.  Binging on food or alcohol, negative self-talk, hurting yourself, or becoming a zombie (mindlessly watching excess television) are not. 

Eating Well

It’s normal to not eat well on an occasional basis if we do eat well most of the time, especially when we plan it.  It’s not normal to binge on junk food on a regular basis.  While I am guilty of binging occasionally, I do eat well, especially when no one is around to corrupt my habits.  Planning our cheat days can save us a lot of stress about food and prevent us from going overboard too often.  

What tips do you have for preventing the food storm that comes after stressful days?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie Marsh September 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm

This was of course, great advice. I love to work out, eat healthy, binge rarely, but I have a problem you may or may not be able to help me with. I started a job six months ago waiting tables where the hours are impossible to do the breakfast, lunch, dinner appropriately. I come in on Saturday mornings, and as big as a meal as I eat, I can not get away from the fact, even after packing small baggies of nuts and putting them in my apron, we DO NOT SLOW DOWN until 8 or 9 at night. Then, we are all stuffing down huge plates of food, and even though I am eating lean meat and vegetables, it really throws me off.
Three or Four nights are this way, throwing off my week, and it is really frustrating.
I have lost weight, but not in a healthy way, my energy is off balance, and I have accepted that until this part of life ends, I just have to do my best.
Any thoughts?
Katie Marsh recently posted..Forrest- the Ultimate Spiritual Leader

Christopher September 29, 2010 at 9:23 am

Hi Katie – Glad to hear you enjoy the advice. A few thoughts: I’m assuming that you are working hard and burning calories as the day goes along, which will only stimulate your hunger even more.

1) How big of a breakfast do you eat? When I know I’m going to work a long day, I will eat what others look at as three different breakfast meals. I’ll make a vegetables and eggs dish + left-overs from another night + a banana, apple, almond butter, with raisins. This really allows me to front-load my calories so I eat less at the end of the day. It also allows me to stick to the intermittent fasting concept (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting/), which makes me feel good on and doesn’t cause me to stress over meals.

2) Could you spare 15 minutes in the early afternoon to get a meal in? Again, you’d be able to front-load your meal in the day.

3) Are you eating enough protein? Protein satiates better than carbohydrates or fat. Plus, any bad talk or research on red meat is based off of the S.A.D. (standard American diet) and grain-fed animals. More and more information and research is coming out on how meat is NOT the problem. I would attempt to get health protein and eat a large amount of it for breakfast. Than I would either bring tupperware of it to work or make a decent choice off of your menu. Is there any wild-caught fish?

I hope this helps! Let me know what you decide to do.

household food supply March 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Nice post !
I learned a lot of information from this post. Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this post so thoroughly. I look forward to your future post.

Dr. Christopher March 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I’m glad you liked it! Let me know if I can help in any other way.

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