OK, so if you’ve been following Squiffy’s Fascinating Experiments Weight Loss Plan you already know some of the basics of weight loss now, and you’re doubtless itching to get going and to take your first step towards practical weight control and finally being slim.
So what where do you start? Do you try to eat less right away? Do you get up at dawn tomorrow and go for a run? STOP! The first step you need to make towards controlling your eating habits is to stabilise them.
If you already eat according to a steady pattern, with no binge eating and little self-recrimination, then you don’t need this article. You might want to check out other articles in my weight loss secrets series. But if you find yourself binge eating frequently, then this article’s for you.
What is Binge Eating?
Binge eating is a broad church covering a range of eating habits, but the common factor in all is that you have times when you eat large amounts of unhealthy food in a compulsive way. You find it difficult to stop eating when you’re in the middle of a binge, and you eat things that you’d really rather not be eating.
Often binge eating goes hand-in-hand with feeling bad about yourself. A typical pattern is that you try to go on a diet, and you succeed in eating ‘correctly’ for a while; but then sooner or later you crack and start eating all kinds of really unhealthy, fattening foods. You may do this while telling yourself that you’ll start dieting again tomorrow. You may feel wretched, guilty, and despairing about your lack of ability to control your eating habits. You may even decide to embark on a diet even more extreme than the one you’ve just failed to adhere to.
Do you recognise this pattern? Does any of it sound familiar? If so, the first thing you need to do before you can lose weight is to stabilise your eating habits.
The fact is that feeling bad about yourself is no help in losing weight. Those binge-eating sessions will destroy your attempts to develop long-term healthy eating habits, and will ensure that you stay locked in a spiral of unhealthy eating.
Take my advice; stop the binge eating and self-recrimination, even though that means temporarily giving up dieting. Dieting, as most people understand it, is a fool’s game. For ten people who loses weight through going on a special diet, there are probably nine people who fail to lose weight, or lose weight and put it all back on again later, or even gain weight instead of losing it!
Before you can lose weight successfully and permanently, you need to start from a platform of stable, regular eating habits. That means that you eat more or less three square meals a day and there are no parts of the day when your eating is out of control.
Later on we’ll be looking at how to gain control of cravings, how to break sugar addiction and how to replace unhealthy foods with healthy ones. All of these elements work together to form a successful weight loss plan, a plan that will not make you feel like you have to crucify yourself to lose weight and that will set you up for good long-term control of your eating habits and enable you to control your weight while eating well.
Meanwhile, the first step is simply to cut out the crash diets and be honest with yourself about what you’re eating.
Keeping a Food Diary
It helps a lot to write down what you eat. You don’t need to record calories, detailed facts or even exact quantitites. Just write down what you eat for a couple of weeks. Don’t attempt to diet during that time; just focus on trying to get an honest overview of what you normally eat.
If you tend towards binge eating and you have bad eating habits, it may be that you separate your diet into two parts mentally; the stuff you’re supposed to eat and the stuff you eat while binge eating. The first part you remember well; the second part you forget, except to beat yourself up with it periodically.
This is exactly what your food journal should aim to eliminate. You need an honest appraisal of what you’re eating, even if you’re leaping from one crash diet to another. Once you can look honestly at what you’re eating, free from self-recrimination, then you can begin to make small but steady changes to your diet.
Whatever you do, don’t take my weight loss tips and turn them into just another crash diet that terminates in another binge. Well OK, you can do that if you want to — I don’t mind — but it won’t help you lose weight!
To take an example, let’s say you have been keeping a food journal for two weeks and, in spite of your best efforts to avoid crash dieting during that time, you find that you’re eating along these lines:
An Example of Binge Eating, or Uncontrolled Eating Habits
- Breakfast: low-fat cereal with yogurt
- Lunch: salad
- Dinner: low-fat diet meal with ‘treat’ of one low-fat diet cookie
- Evening snack: uncontrollable binge consisting of three chocolate bars, two large bowls of ‘chocolate crispy puffs’, two quarter-pound burgers and a bowl of ice cream
If you write down something like that, congratulations! – because now you’re at least being honest with yourself.
If you see this pattern literally every day, or every other day or whatever, it’s useless to continue dieting during the day. You’re unintentionally bringing the binge eating on yourself by not eating enough earlier in the day. STOP! Take what you normally eat, distribute it more evenly throughout the day and stop feeling guilty about it.
Then read my weight loss secrets articles to find out how to make slow, steady, incremental changes starting from a solid base of being honest about your eating habits and being in control, at least to the extent that you eat what you eat systematically, rather than following the kind of pattern illustrated above.
Whatever you do, try to stop feeling guilty about your eating habits. Guilt drives secrecy and self-defeating behaviour, which causes loss of control.
Your cravings for food are perfectly natural, and the example eating pattern above is only a natural result of adopting too strict a diet during the day, then crashing at night. Unhealthy food also tends to cause you to crave more unhealthy food, leading to a vicious circle that’s really not your fault.
I hope that these articles will help you break out of these unhealthy patterns, as they’ve helped me. Through the appliance of science you can learn how to reduce your craving for food and systematically gain control of your eating, leading to weight loss that’s slow enough to be sustainable in the long-term, but fast enough to encourage you and keep you motivated.
At the end of the day, it’s much better to have a plan that takes a little time but that you know is working, than a plan which gets everything done yesterday but that you don’t really believe you can stick to.