So my dear friend Tosha posed this question - "the snowball effect...have you had this problem and if so, how did you handle it?" over here. And I've been debating over where I should post my lengthy answer and decided that I would do a blog post about it because I have to share my story with you all.
The first step in admitting you have a food problem is facing the fact head on, be willing to make sacrifices to change and sharing with others. So yes, Tosha... Oh yes! I have battled this problem so many times. I have failed countlessly but I have also finally learned to succeed and regain control. While yes, some days are harder than others... I'm still holding strong.
Here is my story with the Binge Snowball: Hi. My name is Kim. And I was a Binge Eater. It was usually stress induced, emotionally induced, hormonally induced or boredom induced. But either way, I would have a day in which I would binge out on over 2,000+ calories in one day... hide in my car – parked in abandon parking lots and eat loads of junk food on lunch hours – afraid that someone would see me cheating on my diet. While it would feel sooooo good... the shame and stomach aches that would come later was not worth it. The next day I would try to get back on the wagon... then finally say "screw it! why should I after yesterday?" and give up completely.
There have been a lot of baby steps I have gone through to combat this bad food habit.
First step – admitting I have a problem with snacking/eating when I'm feeling "________" insert the above problem. I had to teach myself to eat for fuel not for feelings. I also had to figure out what to do when I was feeling "________" insert problem here. Insert Zumba + exercise here. Insert walking. painting. organizing the dvds in alphabetical order. cleaning the toliet (okay maybe not that far...) but you get what I'm saying. I had to figure out something mentally stimulating + fun, whatever makes you happy (other than food) to replace that desperate animalistic need to cram junk in my pie hole.
Second step – purging the house of all your most favourite "junk, process + comfort" foods. Doing this will immediately put your mind into "hunger" overdrive. You are going to want to eat anything that isn't nailed down or run out and buy junk food to have your cheat fix. You have to mentally push past this... your not really hungry... its all in your head. Drink water, eat some fruit, just don't give in! Eventually it will pass. You will have survived and you will feel more accomplished.
Next, I also realize that purging the house of all "bad" food is going to be difficult in a family situation. That everyone can't suffer if mom is on a diet. That brings me to my next point - take the time and portion out everything! If that means that you have to buy out every bag size of Ziplock, in order to portion out all your food, then do so! Until you can learn self control with food – this is going to keep you from quickly inhaling an entire bag of oreos in one sitting. If you portion out your kid's oreos – 3 in a snack bag – your least likely to want to blow thru all the snack bags because those tiny bags are going to keep you in check. Yes... this takes time and is a total royal pain in the ass! but it works!
There have been times to where my DH has had a bag of oreos. Despite him not being on the same meal agenda as me, I still portioned it all up the same way and put these on top of the fridge. This way, when a moment of weakness did come over me – it was alot more work to have to get the snacks down from the top of the fridge then I opened the snack bag. And before I even had an oreo, guilt ran all over me. I realized I had worked so hard portioning the cookies for my own self control! That I did not even want the cookie anymore. Instead I put it back and looked for another 'healthier' option.
Next - Finding enjoyable + healthy food options to replace the 'naughty' ones you like to cheat on. This way, if you do have a moment of weakness and do cheat... eating these healthy options such as low calorie rice crackers + cheese aren't as serious to your game plan as 3 bags of chips. Are you a salty snacker? Are you a sweet snacker? Greasy snacker? Fast Foodie Snacker? All of the above?
Find similar trade outs. Do you like crunchy salty Sour Cream + Onion Chips, if so, you could trade out for a wedge of French Onion Laughing Cow Cheese + some low calorie crackers in replacement.
Chocolate bar addict? Trade out for a wholesome dark chocolate granola bar (you would be surprised, some of these new granola bars taste like a amped up chocolate candy bar!) or even try a 90 calorie Fiber One brownie. (you can't eat more than one of those without serious consequences!)
Greasy Snacker + Fast Food Lover? Love French fries?! You can easily find amazing fry alternatives on websites such as Snack Girl and Hungry Girl. There are countless healthy recipe resources out there online that is able to healthily soothe your snacky bad food hankering! I promise! And if you can't find it, ask me! I would be happy to help find an alternative!
I am always trying to figure out healthy twists to heavy high-calorie food faves that even I have been prone to cheat on in the past. I love spending time in the kitchen and working on my grocery list to 'bust' out the baddies and figure out better alternatives. I've actually made a game of it to keep it exciting! Kind of like Extreme Couponing but with Junk Food vs Clean Food!
Another thing that has helped me from snacking, is preparing an entire weeks meals on Sunday (usually post-grocery shopping) So I'm portioning out ingredients in ziplock bags or tupperware bins and storing it or freezing it for the week. Ziplock Steamer bags + measuring cups are my newest BFF and trusted kitchen tools! Yes, again, its yet another pain in the ass thing to do but once you do it a couple of times you can make quick work of it. Sure it involves some planning, but it really does work! You don't have to think about your meals, you don't have to worry about getting into trouble by making a bad choice. Your food choices are already prepared there for you. Ready to Grab n Go! I even do this for both mine + DH's meals – even our dinner meals. ALL meals! Breakfast, Morning Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack + Dinner. All prepped, portioned, bagged and ready for the week! By the time the work week comes around – healthy 'fast' food!
I know its a lot of hard work and preparation. But the benefits are worth it ten-fold!
And Yes.... Cheating will happen. But if you have lots of healthy options to 'cheat' on for example: If I were to go on a binge, I'd much rather cheat on say a tasty reduced fat feta cheese, whole wheat crackers and apples than say bags of chips or fries. Cheating will not nearly be as harsh when it does happen and you will be able to get back on track and stay on the wagon – unlike feeling guilt stricken and hopeless!
And just because you have to eat 'the good stuff' all the time doesn't mean you can't treat yourself! Just make it a special once a month reward for all your hard work and efforts. Make it a 'date night to yourself!' At that point then, will it only be truly sweeter! And who knows, you may find that your tastes have changed and actually preferring the 'good stuff' than your 'naughty' treat!
To quote this article by She-Fit: "When times like these hit, don’t freak out! One mistake is not going to make or break your diet. IMMEDIATELY pick yourself up and start over. Don’t allow one mistake of eating an extra 300 to 400 calories lead to an extra 2,000 calories by the end of the day. Why let everything your worked so hard for fly out the window because of that one mistake? If you find that you gave into temptation throughout your day, forgive yourself and continue to stick with the game plan you already mapped out!