Say goodbye to bingeing: Here's how to get control


January 11, 1994|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

"I'm a professional woman. I can control everything all day long. But when I get home at night, I can't control my eating. What's wrong with me?"

"I'm a nurse. I have all the knowledge, so I should be able to manage my eating. But when I get home at night, something sets me off, and I'm out of control. Is this physical or emotional? If I could just figure that out, I could control it."

Probably it's both physical and emotional, and there's nothing wrong with either of these women.

In counseling women trying to control their weight, I find most simply get "cause and effect" backward.

They believe they have no willpower at night, so minimize breakfast and lunch to save up calories for the inevitable evening binge.

What we know from research is that starving causes bingeing. So it's more important to eat earlier in the day.

From the physical perspective, this is simply a well-tuned body screaming out against being abused through deprivation all day long.

Bodies need to be nourished. They require fuel from food in order to function.

By comparison, when we try to drive our cars without fuel, they just refuse to budge.

Our bodies try harder to cooperate, but eventually revolt by demanding enough fuel for today, and tomorrow as well.

When women switch to eating more substantial meals earlier in the day, and even add a snack before leaving work, they feel more calm, less stressed, and are more likely to eat reasonably after hours, because fuel supply has kept pace with the day's demands.

But there is a strong emotional component to evening overeating as well.

Another woman summed it up neatly. She said, "I'm a social worker by nature and profession. I give and give all day long. When I get home, I'm empty and need to be filled up. Food fills me up."

If you're having problems with evening overeating, you might want to take a look at both the caloric adequacy of your day and your need fornurturing at night.

* Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself the same kind things you'd tell a patient, a sister or daughter having the same problems.

* Put yourself on record. Keep a journal to record the emotions surrounding your meals as well as your day.

* Reorganize to better meet your needs. Relieve the day's stress with a brisk walk or a workout instead of a pigout. Have a bubble bath or soothing shower. Get a massage or a manicure. Sit quietly and sip some tea while you read the mail.

* Review the day's successes. Pat yourself on the back for all your accomplishments, patience, adaptability, kindness to others, and sheer refusal to give up in the face of disaster or a rotten boss.

* Minimize decision-making. Plan meals and shop ahead so you only have to decide about food once a week.

Let food be your friend, not your enemy.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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