“I’m either very good or very bad when I’m dieting. I can be strict with myself for days, but then the willpower evaporates and I binge.” – This is one of the most common feedbacks we hear from people on a low-calorie and low-carbohydrate diet.
How can you beat the all-or-nothing syndrome? Alternating periods of bingeing and virtually starving are typical of an obsessive dieting behavior pattern. Many women do this (the pattern differs from bulimia in that sufferers don’t make themselves vomit). It usually isn’t an ‘eating disorder’ as such, it is simply your body telling you that it needs more food. However, you don’t need willpower if you’re slimming correctly.
The low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets of the 1970s first caused the binge/starve effect to become apparent and many women have since been alternately crash-dieting and bingeing.
The fact is that if you starve your body of carbohydrate foods for any length of time, you will inevitably end up with a strong desire to eat the foods you’ve been avoiding. This is in part due to the fact that a low-complex- carbohydrate diet (low on foods such as bread and potatoes) can lead to a relatively rapid reduction in blood-sugar after a meal – a condition that makes us physically desire a carbohydrate food to restore the balance – and what will restore the balance most quickly is a ‘simple carbohydrate’, a sugary food such as chocolate, sweets or biscuits. This dose of sugar will send the blood levels soaring quickly.
Also, of course, it is well known that when people are deprived of something, psychologically they want it even more. Doctors have likened people on strict diets to tightly wound springs: the harder they try to stick to a diet, the tighter the spring is wound and the more pronounced the breakdown of the diet when that spring is released. So you see, this isn’t you being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it is simply you reacting in a normal way to an overly restrictive eating pattern.
Very low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diets are in fact the very worst thing you can go on for longterm weight control and one of the quickest ways to mess up your body’s natural balance. Promise yourself you’ll never again go on any diet that severely limits your intake of complex carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, pasta, cereals, rice and pulses) or that asks you to eat less than three times a day.
Here are the guidelines for avoiding the binge/starve trap in the future:
- Aim for slow weight lose.
- Eat plenty.
- Eat regularly.
- Don’t think of any food as ‘forbidden’; just remember to restrict some foods to sensible amounts.
- Always eat something nutritious when you feel hungry.
- Remember there are certain times when you may feel hungrier than usual. If it is real hunger, don’t feel guilty, eat.
PMS may make you feel hungrier than usual, and if your hungry patches regularly occur after your mid-cycle and disappear soon after menstruation begins, this is almost definitely the cause. Allow for it in your slimming campaign.