What’s the problem?
When you binge on food, chances are you don’t binge on salad. You binge on muffins, pies, sweets, fizzy drinks, donuts – or, in other words, refined carbohydrates.
Why does that happen?
Well, first and foremost, refined carbohydrates are a very appealing source of energy, so your body is naturally drawn towards them.
However, what perpetuates the cycle of bingeing is the ability of refined carbohydrates to cause a sudden rise in your blood sugar levels.
Here’s how it works:
- After being consumed, refined carbohydrates are quickly broken down into simple sugars, which cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
- High levels of sugar are toxic to your cells, so in an attempt to help you, your body releases insulin, which pulls this sugar from your blood.
- However, insulin is too good at its job: instead of helping your blood sugar levels to go back to normal, it sends them plummeting to levels that are too low.
- When there’s not enough sugar in your blood, your brain sends out powerful signals that direct you to binge on huge quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods.
- As you give in to these natural cravings, a new binge leads to a new blood sugar crash – which leads to another binge, which leads to another crash… Soon enough you find yourself trapped in a seemingly never-ending roller coaster of sugar highs and sugar lows.
This natural survival mechanism is biologically predetermined.
So how do you know if your blood sugar levels are unstable?
Here are some of the symptoms:
- Intense sugar cravings.
- Energy dips (especially after meals or late in the afternoon).
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, being jittery or shaky.
- Anxiety or agitation.
- Brain fog and having difficulty concentrating.
- Extreme hunger.
Okay, what’s the solution?
The best way to stabilise your blood sugar levels is to ensure that each meal (and preferably each snack) has a balanced combination of the three primary macronutrients. These macronutrients are complex carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Balancing your meals in this way will help your body to:
- slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream;
- prevent intense sugar highs and rapid crashes;
- slow down the process of digestion, so that you can feel fuller for longer and absorb more nutrition from food.
The sooner you commit to eating regular, balanced meals, the sooner you’re going to experience the amazing benefits that this approach to food can bring you. A constant balance of macronutrients is absolutely key to breaking free from binge cravings and food obsession.
Science & Studies
Numerous studies have shown that a balanced diet can have a huge impact on problem eaters who are trying to get better.
In one of these studies, 20 bulimic women were put on a sugar-stabilising diet to see if it would help with their urges to binge and purge.
Within three weeks, all of the women stopped bingeing – and even more importantly, they remained free from binges in the long run too (Dalvit-McPhillips, 1984).
You need to balance your food intake to ensure that your body is no longer deprived. A great way to do this is to have at least one serving of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat in each meal.
How to do it
You should begin the process of learning how to eat in a balanced way by ensuring that each of your meals is made up of 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat (in terms of calories, not volume).
Think of it as a simple 2/1/1 ratio.
Let’s keep this really simple. Roughly half of your plate must be dedicated to carbs, a quarter dedicated to protein and a quarter dedicated to fat. That’s it.However, keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science. You don’t have to portion out your plate perfectly. Treat this ratio simply as a rough ballpark. ♥
Here are some examples of balanced meals that contain all of the three macronutrients:
- Half a plate of rice and broccoli, one quarter of chicken and one quarter of avocado.
- Half a plate of whole-grain pasta, one quarter of fish and one quarter of cream-based sauce.
- Half a plate of baked potato and vegetables, and half of roasted meat with gravy.
- Half a plate of fresh salad and half of cheese omelette.
I know all about it from personal experience. If I eat toast or cereal for breakfast, I get hungry by mid-morning. On the other hand, eating scrambled eggs, porridge or kippers (even if these amount to the same number of calories that can be found in a bowl of cereal) keeps me going well into the afternoon. ♥
Pick a new habit
Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.
Include more complex carbohydrates in each meal
Complex carbohydrates are extremely important for recovering problem eaters, so making sure that you’re eating enough of them is a great start. These macronutrients will not only help you to feel energised, but they will also considerably weaken your binge urges.
Add a serving of complex carbohydrates to all of your main meals.
Here are some ideas that can help you do that:
- Add some vegetables.
- Add a portion of beans.
- Add some whole grains.
Include more fat in each meal
Forget about the old maxim which states that “eating fat makes you fat”. As it turns out, it couldn’t be further from the truth!
There are three different types of fat – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Eating these three kinds of fat in moderation can drastically improve your health. Because consuming enough fat induces a satiety response in the brain, it can even help you to shed some unneeded weight!
If you feel like you’re not eating enough fat throughout the day, make sure to include a portion of fat in each of your meals. Some ideas of how you can do that include:
- Cooking your meals in butter or coconut oil.
- Adding a portion of mixed nuts.
- Adding a splash of olive oil to your salad.
- Adding an avocado to your meals.
Include more protein in each meal
You’ve probably heard that eating enough protein is extremely important – however, it’s very easy to consume too little of it if you’re not actively monitoring your protein intake.
Protein will help you to restore lost muscle mass and will aid in repairing damaged tissue. It will also make you feel fuller for longer, balance your blood sugar levels and reduce your binge cravings. All of this is absolutely essential for anybody who is recovering from problem eating.
If you think that your protein intake is too low, start adding more protein to each of your daily meals. That includes breakfast too!
The best sources of protein are soft and easy to digest. Examples of such products include:
- Stewed meat or poultry.
- Cooked fish.
- Scrambled eggs.
- High-quality protein powders.
Take it to the next level by balancing your snacks
If you can balance your main meals, you should also try and apply the same guidelines to your snacks. Even the tiniest snack can combine all of the three macronutrients and provide your body with the nourishment that it so desperately craves.
Simply think of some foods that can be prepared quickly, are easy to carry around with you and, most importantly, contain some proper nutrition. Here are a few suggestions that you might find useful:
- Homemade protein bars.
- Protein shakes.
- Green smoothies.
- Vegetables with hummus.
- Eggs are a great source of protein. Try adding some eggs to your breakfast or other main meals.
- Have some balanced snacks on hand in case you encounter an unexpected binge urge or can’t have your main meal on time.
- Don’t obsess over these macronutrients. You may be tempted to measure out and weigh your food, you may want to count calories or try and find out the exact amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat in your meals, but this is simply not necessary. On the contrary, it can do more harm than good! All you need to do is be aware of an approximate ratio of these macronutrients in your meals to be able to move forward.
Ready to move on?
Once you feel like you’ve mastered the ratio of macronutrients in your 3 daily meals and 3 snacks, you can step forward and into our next module.