Indulgence and Binging
At one point or another we’ve all indulged in some less than ideal food choices, or in some cases gone on an all-out food binge devouring everything insight until a state of food coma is reached. The food we indulge in will vary between individuals it may be massive curry, a slab of cheese cake or anything in between. Unfortunately what follows is often an overwhelming feeling of guilt, reinforced by some physiological “symptoms” of overindulgence water retention, lethargy, mind fog etc. can all occur. My opinion is we should be able to treat ourselves every now and then and not have to feel this way, it’s about maintaining balance and viewing food as an experience. So here are some insights and tips from me when it comes to treating ourselves.
Be Mindful of What You’re Doing
This article isn’t designed to be an all access pass to the Chinese buffet, it’s about making conscious decisions on what we are doing and if it’s constructive towards our goals. If your goal is fat loss and you overindulge therefore going above you calorie threshold, it’s important to be aware that what you’re doing isn’t constructive in terms of your individual goal. However fat loss doesn’t boil down to individual days it’s about consistency over weeks, months or even years. So going out with friends and having a burger with fries and milkshake on occasion won’t suddenly make you pile on the pounds, as long as you are consistent throughout the rest of your diet. Just because you are dieting doesn’t mean you should miss out on social experiences and good food. The problem tends to arise when this becomes and all too regular occurrence, this is when progress starts to slow down or regression occurs. To wrap up this point be conscious of your decisions to indulge, how often it’s occurring and if it’s constructive, but don’t feel guilty about experiencing food and being social when the time comes.
Pre Plan and Really Make the Most of it
This is a fairly subjective point, what you chose to indulge in is your own provocative but this is what I like to do. If I’m going to indulge I usually try and plan to do so on social occasions whether it’s a family meal, a celebration or something of that nature. These occasions are meant to be enjoyed and I don’t want to take away from the experience by worrying too much about my calories or macros. Another time you may want to consider pre-panning your indulgence is scheduling re-feeds whilst dieting. There is evidence that occasionally increasing calories whilst dieting can actually be helpful in terms of preserving lean tissue and losing fat. The degree to which these are necessary, the frequency and the caloric intake will vary depending on individual psychology, physiology and goals. For example someone who has had previous issues with food binging probably should be careful regarding the use of these days, or for someone who has a degree of insulin resistance or issues managing blood sugar it may not be optimal for them to include re-feeds too often.
If you are going to indulge I think it’s important to make the most of it. Splash out on some quality ingredients and foods to maximise taste and experience. I’m always plugging the message of eating whole foods, and I believe that should apply to when we are treating ourselves too. I’d much rather treat myself to good quality beef burger with bacon on homemade bread with sweet potato fries than on a MacDonald’s meal. I know for a fact that I am going to enjoy the taste of that burger much more and it’s still going to be providing me with a lot of nutrients. You’ve been working hard on your diet so when you’re treating yourself treat yourself right.
Difference between Indulgence and Binging
It’s important to differentiate between a bit of a treat and an all-out binge. As you can tell I am all for the occasional treat or re-feed but all out binges not so much. The problem with all out binges is…
1. They are often not planned, they tend to be impulsive due to severe hunger or cravings
2. They lead to extreme caloric surplus which can be detrimental to weight loss goals
3. The “food hangover” the next day is much more severe with more guilt
4. Often one binge can lead to another supporting yo-yo dieting
To avoid food binging it’s important we understand why we sometimes get this insatiable need to eat copious amounts of food. I think the most common reason is over restriction of calories or carbohydrate. When we restrict energy or carbs it’s possible to experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). When we have low blood sugar our bodies react by craving foods high in sugar, it needs that instant hit of fast absorbing carbs to maintain homeostasis. This is why food binges tends to mainly consist of foods high in both refined carbohydrate and calories. My tips for avoiding this again comes back to being mindful and thinking about what’s going on in your body. If you’re having these crazy cravings recognise that you may be over restricting your calories or carbohydrate, solution consume an extra 100-300 calories from whole food carb sources such as potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, squash or fruit. This should give your body the carbs and energy is shouting out for without the unplanned 3000kcal surplus. Again don’t feel guilty about these extra carbs and calories, your body is showing signs of over restriction, and the added calories will likely not take you out of a caloric deficit.
Tips for the day after
So you’ve decided to treat yourself and the next day you’re not feeling too great.
1. Just to reiterate don’t feel guilty this can lead to unhealthy relationship with food, when really food is awesome
2. Do something active go for a long walk or exercise
3. Drink plenty of water, usually excess salt and sugar leads to water retention so we need to make sure we stay hydrated
4. Don’t starve yourself to “make up for it” this will only lead to potential hypoglycaemia and another binge/cheat. Sure have a lighter breakfast for me I usually have one less egg or 25g less oats nothing too restrictive.
So there we have it my thoughts on food indulgence. To sum up yes its ok to indulge every now and then, try to avoid binging, be mindful and favour quality whole foods evening when treating yourself.