It’s 11pm and you are starving. Standing in front of the refrigerator, doors wide open, as the light illuminates the entire kitchen. Next thing you know the leftovers from dinner have been devoured and, without a giving it a second thought, you have taken a spoon to a pint of ice cream. Disaster!
Binge eating and battling cravings are something that most everyone deals with. No matter your fitness level, exercise routine, or diet plan, it is possible to be overtaken by the urge to eat everything in sight. Fighting can be futile, but giving in and overeating can offset a day of healthy eating and exercising. Instead of being your own worst enemy, follow these tips for keeping your cravings under control.
A solid foundation
Base your diet on lean protein, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats. Eliminate sugary junk and refined carbohydrates that cause blood sugar and insulin to spike and crash. Eating foods rich in protein, fat, and fiber will satisfy your appetite and provide greater nutritional value than processed foods. Do not become overly focused on low calories or carbohydrates; do eat foods that contribute to a healthy weight and favorable body composition.
Consistency is important, but so is indulgence. That said; when it comes to the foods you are eating, adhere to the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, choose foods that are part of the solid foundation we built in the previous point. Then, the remaining 20% of the time is yours to enjoy as you see fit. Are you a chocolate lover? Whatever your weakness, feel free to partake in moderation. I am not a proponent of the cheat day, where others would encourage you to eat anything and everything until you collapse in a food comma. I, on the other hand, would suggest you treat yourself to your favorite cheat or comfort food every once and a while. Otherwise, attempting to remove all sweets from your diet will result in a total crash and binge.
Timing is everything
Because you do not burn the same amount of calories every day, consider changing your food intake based on your activity level for the day. On days that you are not training, or exercise at a low intensity you will not need to consume as many calories or carbohydrates as you would on a heavy training day. On recovery or low activity days limit the amount of grains and starches opting instead for lean proteins, vegetables, and fruit.
It can also be beneficial to front-load your carbohydrates, taking in the majority of your carbohydrates earlier in the day. You will be more likely to burn these excess sugars throughout the day, and it will not affect your insulin levels before bed. Then, be sure to refuel after workouts to top off glycogen and replenish muscles to prevent cravings later in the evening. Try for a whole food meal within an hour of training or a post workout snack within 45 minutes if you are not able to sit down for a meal. Because they will be burned quickly, after a workout is an opportunity to sneak in some sugary foods like dark chocolate to satisfy cravings.
When it comes time to eat, unplug from everything around you and be mindful of what and how much you are consuming. If you are distracted by the TV, computer, or smart phone, you are more likely to overeat. Same goes for eating straight out of the bag or box. So, make yourself a plate, measure out portions if possible, and actually taste what you are eating. Using smaller plates, eating buffet style, and drinking water before and during a meal are also simple strategies to curb overeating.
Check your conviction
When it comes down to it, I have to ask, how bad do you want it? Sure it can be difficult to turn down a dessert menu or order the grilled chicken instead of the burger, but that’s going to be what it takes to achieve your goals. I have said it before, if you want to suck less, you have to do things that suck. If you are unable to put the time and effort into planning and executing a nutrition and exercise plan, no amount of advice or motivation I have to offer is going to be able to change that. You will always find an excuse to rationalize your shortcomings. Following these tips will help; at least I hope that’s the case. But, at the end of the day it’s on you to be in control of your mind and body.