If you have been on diet after diet in your lifetime, chances are you have played a game with the binge and restrict cycle and this may be familiar to you already.
If you are not familiar with the binge/restrict cycle... Let me paint a picture of what this may look/sound like in your life....
You start a diet with the hopes to drop the stubborn few pounds you just can't ever seem to get off. You go all in with the intentions of following the diet's rules to a T, and you do! You feel great the first few weeks and it's awesome. You feel accomplished for following your plan so well and you think to yourself... "I've finally found something that is going to work for me!" and then a few days later.... cravings start to sink in. HARD.
You sit there trying to come up with a healthier fix for your sweet tooth and all you have is a chocolate chip protein bar. You choose that for your healthier option but are still unsatisfied. You next turn to some dark chocolate dipped in peanut butter. Then this turns into more spoonfuls of peanut butter, followed by the rest of the bag of veggie straws, and whatever else you can scrounge up in your pantry to fill the void.
You then sit there so uncomfortably full, not even realizing how you got yourself into this situation. Your perfect eating has been ruined and you are so upset with yourself and vow to get back on track tomorrow.
You get back on track by starting your day with a workout, skipping breakfast, and beating yourself up and feeling miserable for last nights food decisions. Only to be led to the same cycle happening over and over again each time you put your efforts into dieting. Or maybe when you finaly finish the diet, you reward yourself with a good "cheat" (binge) on whatever foods you hadn't been allowing yourself to have.
This cycle is SO real for so many people. It is vicious and perpetuates a terrible relationship with food. Our personal relationship with food is just that, personal. Maybe you sit there thinking "I wish I could eat normally like my friends" or stuck wondering why you are tortured with these thoughts about food and trapped in this terrible cycle. Time after time, you turn to a new diet to be the answer to your problems but the truth here is that the issue lies within the diets. Which brings me to my first step for you to put an end to the binge/restrict cycle....
1. Stop dieting. Yes, I as a dietitian am telling you that you do not need another diet to fix your problems, increase your confidence, and to eat healthy. Dieting leads to food rules, restriction, and oftentimes eating way too little amounts of food. Put these things all together and you've got a perfect setup for a binge opportunity to occur! Refraining from diets and the diet mentality is so challenging to do especially if you've been on diet after diet, year after year, but breaking free from diets can be one of the most important steps in order to break free from this cycle for good!
2. Start to view food as a form of self care rather than the enemy. We all know that we need food. Every single day, no matter if you've ran a marathon or laid in bed all day, our bodies deserve food and need nourishment in order to function. When you start to view food as a way of taking care of yourself and start asking yourself how you can do that day after day, rather than focusing on minimizing the amount of food you eat, you can start to appreciate food rather than fearing it. Focus on nourishing your body and eating consistent meals so you prevent ravenous hunger from happening which is also the perfect set up for a binge to happen.
3. Break away from the "good" and "bad" food labels that often lead to you restricting certain foods in the first place. If you are trying to stay away from all the "bad" foods, you're more often than not only going to want what you "can't" have, right? When you peel back these labels and again like I mentioned above, start to view ALL foods as a form of self care and nourishment, you are able to take away the moral value that food holds on you. Know that all foods can hold a place in a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and there is no need to restrict yourself from the foods you love.
4. Know that it is okay to seek support. I stated earlier that our relationship with food is personal. Many people feel embarrassed by their behaviors around food and are discouraged from speaking up to get help because they think they are crazy for thinking the way they do and having these binges in the first place. Know that it does not have to be lonely and isolating to break away from this cycle. Having a strong support system is crucial. Taking that first step to seek help may be nerve wrecking and the hardest part, but trust me when I say that living a life free from the binge/restrict cycle is much less scary versus thinking about being stuck in this cycle on your own for the rest of your life. Seeing professional help is nothing to be ashamed of. Know that you are not alone!
Lastly, never give up on yourself. Breaking out of these thoughts and actions is challenging. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. You deserve to live a life that isn't controlled by the binge/restrict cycle. You deserve to feel confident in your food choices and your body. And you do not need a diet in your life to keep you in control. You are the one who needs to take control! Believe in yourself and trust that your life does not have to and will not be stuck this way forever!