23 Jan Binge Eating | My Experience
Binge eating has been, and continues to be, a big problem for many people, especially those who take their bodies to the extreme with fat loss and dieting, such as bodybuilding competitors, models, and gymnasts, to name a few. Binge eating, in a very simple definition, is when you eat large, copious amounts of food in a very short period of time. Contrary to whatever you believe, this is an eating disorder, whether you want to believe it or not. It is a serious condition that results in weight gain of 2-10 pounds in one day… and don’t tell me you’re just “holding water”. You definitely gained fat.
The first step in taking control of this problem is admitting that you HAVE this problem. Too many people deny that they binge eat, yet they’ll be finishing up telling me their story of how they ate a large pizza to themselves last night, along with a pint of ice cream, some cookies, and a few drinks. This isn’t normal and is usually a result of having a terrible relationship with food. I see this all the time with competitors. They have their meal plans from their “coaches”, if you really want to even call them that, indicating to only eat chicken, tilapia, asparagus, oatmeal, and egg whites, and giving them a cheat meal/day when their coach thinks they “deserve it”. What complete nonsense. By restricting certain food groups and being so aggressive with dieting, you are doomed to binge and fail. Whenever we are deprived of something, we want more of it. It’s true when they say, “we always want something we can’t have.” This holds true to these types of diets. If you “can’t” have any cookies, or pancakes, or treats throughout the week, what do you think is going to happen on a Sunday or Saturday when you’re allowed your cheat meal? … Exactly! You’re going to eat everything in sight, stuff your face with everything you wanted to have during the week, binge eat the entire day, and then gain a ton of fat in only a short amount of time. I’m not speaking from opinion. I’ve had this binge eating disorder for the first couple years I decided to compete.
I was 19 when I did my first competition. I ate only chicken, green veggies, fish, a little bit of healthy fat, did copious amounts of cardio, and lost a good amount of weight by the time I had to step on stage. Literally, one week after the competition, I had gained 20 pounds right back, and looked like I had never competed, only 7 days prior. The Sunday following the competition, and then the rest of the week, I did nothing but eat. Didn’t workout or step foot in a gym. I went out to breakfast a few times loading up on pancakes and French toast, traveling to the grocery store right after to pick up some junk food, cereal, cookies, eating a few pieces of candy on the way home; once home, opened up all the stuff I bought and ate until I felt sick; would take a nap for a few hours, wake up, finish whatever I had bought from the store and then think about what I wanted to order for dinner. Literally, all I could think about was food and eating. I did that pretty much everyday for 7 days following my competition. Once I took a look at myself, I was disgusted, so then I started dieting for another competition; what a dumb decision that was. Went right back to “bro eating”, only having white fish, ground turkey, chicken, veggies, and “bird food”, as I like to call it. Lost the fat, stepped on stage, and then what do you think happened? … Yeah, same cycle, only I learned a little bit. I only gained 15 pounds this time in one week, instead of 20. Haha : P
After I kept doing that to myself every Sunday, when I “allowed” myself to eat some junk food, I kept feeling like sh*t, fat, depressed… I was wondering, “Why was I doing this to myself?” I would even write myself a note in my phone before going to bed on the day where I just ate terrible and stuffed my face, as a little reminder when next week came around. I would read it and then remember how bad I felt from eating all of this food, with no real reason as to why I was doing it. Here is one of the notes I still have in my phone from 2012 (I apologize for the language, but I’m not going to edit anything):
“This note right here, is me, finally taking control and saying NO MORE CHEAT MEALS. I just had my last one, as I am now 8 weeks out from making my dreams come true and stepping back on stage after my shoulder surgery. I don’t need these dumb f*cking junk food cheat meals. Writing this, my stomach is blown up like a balloon, and I feel like I have failed myself once again. I had Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream, a toasted muffin with butter, a doughnut, some candy (Reese’s and Mr. Goodbar), Red baron pepperoni pizza (the entire thing), and some cereal with milk. All in a matter of hours. It’s ironic because although everything tastes so good, I notice that if I only had like one or two of those foods, I’d be satisfied… yet, I just keep eating, because I know throughout the week I’m not going to be eating any of it. I need to be better than this.”
Sound familiar to any of you? Can you relate? What a horrible way to live. I can’t believe I went through SO MANY days like that, but I know that in order to learn and have a better relationship with food and yourself, you have to go through those times. You have to enable them to teach you what you don’t want to go through anymore, and how you don’t want to feel.
This is one of the main reasons I no longer promote cheat meals or cheat days to my clients or athletes. It would be like I am promoting an eating disorder to them, and that’s not right. I allow them to follow a flexible dieting approach with their nutrition, so that if they want some chocolate, or cookies, or pizza, or whatever, they can have it, as long as they account for it into their macronutrient intake and stay on goal with their total intake. This is what I do as well, and it has helped tremendously. My clients even tell me that they don’t crave any junk food because they know they are “allowed” to have it whenever they want. I feel the same way.
Don’t become a victim to the “clean eating” crowd, and think you can’t achieve a great, muscular, fit physique by eating some cookies here and there, and having a slice or two of pizza. If you get a coach and they tell you, “These are the foods you are allowed to eat and only these. You can’t substitute these foods out and only cheat meals when I tell you…” … please, run in the other direction. Save yourself from that pain and start developing a better relationship with yourself and the food you put into your body. You will look, feel, and perform ten times better by doing so, just as I have.
Paul Hovan Jr., B.S., CPT, CSN, CSCT