How to break the binge and restrict cycle

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Food restriction is a common trigger for binge eating and can create a vicious cycle that keeps you at war with your body. We ask nutritionist Paola Langella how to break the binge-restrict cycle and create a healthier relationship with food…

How to break the binge and restrict cycle

You’ve eaten ‘clean’ all day but then at night you have one square of chocolate and you’re not able to stop. What’s more, you’re doing it in secret and you beat yourself up about it afterward.

Now, diet culture would have you believe you lack willpower. However, what could actually be going on here is you’re stuck in a binge-restrict cycle.

Binge eating involves consuming large amounts of food in a short space of time. These episodes will be recurrent and Binge Eating Disorder (BDE) can be diagnosed if binges occur at least once a week for three months.

The episodes will also characterised by three or more of the following symptoms: eating faster than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating a big portion of food even if not hungry, eating when no one is watching or hiding, feeling depressed and guilty after binging.

How to break the binge and restrict cycle
Photo: Shutterstock

There are many possible causes of binge eating but one of the most common is restriction. This means completely cutting out certain foods or food groups, normally ‘bad’ foods.

The problem is this is difficult to sustain and can lead to cravings, obsessive thoughts about food and depression, all of which can cause someone to binge eat – and so the vicious cycle begins.

Here nutritionist and Pilates teacher Paola Langella shares her tips on how to break the binge-restrict cycle…

1. The 80/20 rule

It is impossible to be consistent on a 100% healthy or ‘clean’ diet. The ideal balance is 80/20, which means eating  80% healthy food and 20% treats. When you think about 80/20 eating, compare this percentage to the time you spend working. You cannot spend 100% of your energy on your work or you will burn out. This is the same for our lifestyle and food.

2. Increase mindfulness through mind-body practices

These practices help to boost self-esteem and lower stress. When you stress less, you’ll sleep better, your mind will clearer, and as a result, you will be more aware of the red flags and what triggers your binge eating. We also make better decisions when the mind is clear and so our food choices will be better. Moreover, when we engage in low-impact mind/body practices our body is connected in a deeper way. We are more in tune with who we are and we start to develop self-love, which will help destroy the sabotaging mechanism of the binge-restrict cycle.

3. Find a form of exercise you love

Plan the day and the time you want to exercise and put it in your diary. Exercise increases the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone that you’ll need to fight depression and anxiety.

How to break the binge and restrict cycle
Photo: Nutritionist Paola Langella

4. Try mindful eating stop the binge and restrict cycle

Respecting mealtimes and the way we eat is a form of self-respect. Always eat at the table and switch off electronic devices when you eat. Many of my clients have found this so beneficial and said they felt fuller soon, happier, their digestion improved, and they didn’t crave anything sweet after dinner.

5: Eat vegetables and fruits every day, particularly green vegetables

I call them ‘beauty foods’ because they are rich in vitamins and minerals. When you’re satisfied with your nutrients, your body won’t crave comfort food. Our cells need to be satisfied and you will feel fuller only with good amounts of vitamins and minerals. We can eat many calories but still feel starved if we don’t eat anything nutritious.

6: Eat more root vegetables

Root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnips and carrots, are great for satisfying your sweet cravings. Plus, in Ayurvedic medicine, root vegetables are used to help you feel more grounded and more connected to yourself and to the earth.

Main image: Shutterstock

By Sam

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