What are YOUR binge foods?

"Binge foods" (also called "trigger foods") are those items that make us want them too much — either by eating it too quickly, in too much quantity at one sitting, or by eating it too often. Not only do these foods take our control away from us, they can "trigger" us into eating other unhealthy foods also, completely upsetting our healthy eating plans.

Signs it may be a trigger food for you:

  • You want more immediately after eating it
  • You go through your supply faster than you'd like (it's a binge)
  • You feel a little ashamed after eating it
  • You want to hide that you've eaten it, or you eat it when you're alone
  • Your body doesn't respond well to it (gives you gas or it makes you tired, for example)
  • You want to eat it even when you're not hungry
  • You think about it often
  • It's NEVER enough

Sometimes it's about the texture — its creamy goodness or its satisfying crunch. Or the flavor, like sweetness or saltiness. Sometimes it's about its flavor intensity - like the deep richness of a pure dark chocolate. Other times, it's that we have a strong sentimental association with the food — we always ate it at grandma's house on warm summer days, or it's what we shared with our mom when we were little. Usually it's a combination of things, things we may not even be consciously aware of. But at some level, it's about comfort. Something in that food soothes us, makes us feel more peaceful, calmer, safe, loved. Something in the food sedates us or amps us up and makes us feel good.

Foods that make us want to binge vary between people. For example, I could care less about ice cream and chocolate. But with yogurt, once I eat it once a day, then twice a day, then three times a day — despite the fact that it is constipating, high in calories and sugar, and I'm allergic to dairy (!). Hunger has nothing to do with it.

Binge foods may start off innocently enough, but within a week or two (or less) quickly become habits - foods we HAVE to have handy or else we feel deprived, denied, frustrated, unsatisfied. Not only are they usually NOT nutritious enough for us, they often are calorie-rich which means a lot of EMPTY calories. It is NOT food we need to eat to live happily and healthily.

Plus, there is a second dark side to these foods. These binge foods can "trigger" us into eating on other bad things, too. We start eating one, then quickly start to eat other unhealthy things and before we know it all of our good efforts of eating whole fruits and veggies fall by the wayside, and then we're back to where we started; eating junk foods, feeling low energy, and gaining back the fat we worked hard to lose. Binge foods are like the start of an avalanche - an avalanche of bad habits (like eating junk and not exercising).

Remember, just because you don't eat three pounds of it in one sitting doesn't mean it's not a binge food. If it triggers you into eating it too often or if it's a "slippery slope" food that lures you into eating other bad foods, consider it armed and dangerous — a very bad influence on your healthy eating and dream body goals.

So what can I do about my binge foods?

  1. Being AWARE of what foods trigger you is a huge first step. Look at them as you would a heartless con artist. They seem to be your friend, but they will always hurt you in the end as they undermine your good intentions, thwart your goals, and leave you needing them. Respect their insidious power and recognize that they are not harmless. "Oh but it's just a little chocolate," you say. Or, "oh, it's just a few potato chips." Is it REALLY? Or is it a powerfully addictive drug that will lead your body, mind, and healthy plans to ruin? I know it sounds dramatic, but unfortunately, it's the latter. There are chemicals in these foods that do "addict" us in ways (the dopamine connection) and that for whatever reason, makes our bodies want more and more of them. Make a list of your potential trigger foods and keep a wary eye on these foods from now on.
  2. Look for the patterns in your eating. Keep a food diary - it can be a HUGE help in seeing the connections between your actions, what you eat, and how you feel. Only by tracking the fallout from eating trigger foods will you see the true effects they have on you.
  3. Choose NOT eat your binge foods - if you stop eating it, it WILL eventually lose its grip on you. At the very least, take a break from it for a while to see if you can find and get used to healthier substitutes and to get away from its grip on you. When an addict has trouble with a substance, we don't recommend that they "use it in moderation," we recommend quitting it completely, right? Think about it.
  4. You can also begin to change your association with the food. Creating a negative link between this food and your thoughts can help you avoid it more easily.
  5. If you DO choose to keep eating a binge food, or to start eating it again, force yourself to keep portions and frequency under control. Buy the smallest size possible. Buy one, not three. Break it up into small amounts and put it in small plastic baggies. Stick part of it in the freezer or anywhere inconvenient. It's amazing how lazy we get when we are out of something — going ALL the way to the store (or up from the couch) is enough work sometimes to make us not bother. Either way, notice what happens when you begin eating it again. If you don't like the effect it has on you and your life, stop eating it.
  6. Be realistic. If you are just starting a new habit of healthy eating and exercise, don't undermine yourself by having to deal with temptations like your binge foods. Give yourself the best fighting chance by trying out new good foods for a while so you can look for foods that make you feel good AND that are nutritious. Give yourself some time to get a consistent routine going with your exercise. Wait until you are feeling stronger and more established with your healthy confident living plan before you "test" yourself with your old habits. Maybe you will never feel the need to eat them again.

YOU control your life. If a binge food —or anything— starts controlling you (person, situation, food, environment), get rid of it! Choose to include things in your life that make you stronger, freer, healthier, and happier. Look at your goals and see if the things in your life support those things. A binge food may make you happy for a few moments, but the price you pay may be the cost of your dreams .

If you think you may have an eating disorder, PLEASE seek professional help. There are wonderful organizations available to help you in your area.

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