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How to break the binge cycle- every damn weekend!

May 29, 2022
junk food, binge, overeating

In my old world of professional dance, performance and entertainment, weekend binge eating (and binge drinking) was ‘just what you did.’

It felt good to let your hair down.... pull down the mask of perfectionism… until the feelings of regret, guilt, bloating, and extra pounds made it not really worth while any longer. Trouble was... by that point I was no longer dancing as a career but the habit had stuck.

That’s when I discovered the surprising *real* reason behind my Thursday-to-Sunday binge-fests.

I've out together my top 5 strategies I used to ditch the habit (and the weight) for good.

I used to overeat like a lot!

I'd be “good” all week.(what ever the hell "good' is)

But weekends? That was for eating as much and drinking as much as possible until Monday.

Every Thursday around 5 pm, was the end of our 'rehearsal week' It was long tiring hours and it meant a Friday ritual bottle of red wine, pizza, a giant bag of crisps, and bad TV. Every week.

Friday night, when I got to let my hair down, eat whatever I wanted and know I was performing over the weekend so 'it didn't matter".

My job was stressful. The pressure was high. Coming home, dumping my dance bag, and crushing some fast food and booze was my way of unwinding.

Screenshot 2022 04 29 at 16.35.22

However…

Thursday, became Friday, and Friday quickly became the rest of the weekend.

I ate big breakfasts on Saturdays before I had a day of rehearsals and performances, and I took loads of snacks with me, nothing 'unhealthy' but bags of nuts, seeds, bars and the like.

Post performances on Saturday nights the company would always go for drinks which usually resulted in far too man and then even more junk food at 4am on the way home.

Then came Sunday;  naturally, you close weekends with a big Sunday roast… because Sunday.

Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday. Because, because because every time.

In my head, the weekend was a time where “normal rules” didn’t apply. It was a time to relax, put my feet up, and let the soothing crunching and chewing take me away from the pressures of every day life.

I’m not talking about compulsive bingeing here. That’s where you have episodes of eating without thinking, almost like you’re on autopilot.

(People with binge eating disorder feel disassociated while overeating and that can be hard to break without help from a doctor or therapist.)

But for me, it wasn’t that. It was the kind of overeating where you’re all-in and very happy about it: a convenient, stress-fueled, often social, habit.

My social circle of colleagues and friends were happy to support it. I had binge buddies and pizza pals. As far as I was concerned, going all in was just what people did on weekends.

Looking back, I also know that in the fact it was a results of a stressful job and overwhelming responsibilities and lack of fulfilment elsewhere in my life.

After a while, though, weekend overeating started to suck.

As every overeater knows, the joy of runaway indulgence comes with consequences. Especially when you stop dancing as a job 8 hours a day plus weekends.

You start to feel uncomfortable, bloated, perhaps even sick to your stomach. Mentally, you feel crappy, foggy, unhappy. Guilt. Regret and shame. Maybe angry at yourself. Or just angry in general. I know one thing though; I wasn't performing my best or bringing my best self forward.

And while weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay that way or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can sabotage your goals very very quickly.

Yet the cycle can be hard to break.

I tried to get it under control.

I started rationalising with myself, things like, if it’s “healthy food” then it’s okay to overeat.  jars of almond butter, spinach pizzas, and sushi.)

During the week, I started trained harder. Ate less. Tracked calories within an inch of their lives. But every starvation attempt was always followed by an even bigger blowout on the weekend.

The cycle continued; my physical and mental health remained elusive.

How did I finally break free of my weekend overeating cycle?

Maybe not how you think.

I retrained as a nutrition coach and personal trainer, I soon realised that my eating habits on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were disorders, but they weren't the only habits which needed some work. Habits that were after all crucial to the whole picture.

Once I identified my work-week eating patterns, and how they were affecting my weekend behavior, I developed a healthier relationship with food… and myself.

Ive shared my top  5 strategies that helped me turn things around below:

I aimed for “good enough” instead of “perfect”.

Since nutrition coaching for 8 years ive seen it so many times with clients:

They want and expect to follow the “perfect” plan.

So they adhere to strict miserable meal plans Monday to Friday. And, the whole week, they worry incessantly about screwing things up. 'Should I have sweetener in my tea" should I remove all self from my meals?

By the weekend, though, the willpower looooonnnnggggg gone. They’re so sick of the restriction and can’t wait to eat food they actually enjoy. Bring on the weekend binge!

For most of them, there are only two options: All or Nothing.

Take the as an example:

“It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with the girls, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned kale salad like I usually do, so instead I’ll go all in and overeat a giant bacon cheeseburger and a huge heap of fries at a bottomless brunch”

If you remove the expectation of “perfect”, things change significantly. You feel more empowered to make 'better' choices rather than 'perfect because there are now other options. Instead of kale salad vs. five servings of Prosecco and chips, its:

“I’m actually in the mood for a salad with my burger because I had chips last night and I'm not missing out.”

The solution: Always aim for “better not perfect”.


I let go of rediculous rules around food

Food rules I used to tell myself:

  • what you can and can’t eat,
  • when you can or can’t eat it,
  • how you can or can’t eat it, and/or
  • how much you can or can’t have.

These rules take up an awful lot of mental real space and energy and most of them are b***s*** you picked up from some magazine or instagram influencer somewhere along the way. They also set you up for the "F*** it Button

Here’s how the that works...

Let’s say your #1 food rule is Don’t Eat Brea. That means you won’t touch a sandwich; no roll at a picnic, you cant have pizza or garlic bread, ever again.

But this Friday night, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza. You hold out for a bit. Finally, you give in and grab a slice.

That means F*** it, you’ve “blown it”, so you might as well keep eating. Here comes  the binge and uncomfortable after-effects that go with it.

If you have one food rule, like me you likely have a few,

Eating by the rules almost always leads to overeating crap, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you.

Ditch the rules and let true hunger guide you.

Aim to eat until you're 80% full- that will be different each meal and each day, but by allowing your conscious mind to slow down and play catch up it can prevent the F*** it fest

Give up "Cheat Meals"

What on earth is a "Cheat Meal"?

The happiest day of your week. The day you throw caution to the wind, all your rules out the window and condone massively overeating, coz, Cheat Meal?

As evening nears, you open the flood gates. So you eat (and maybe drink) even more. Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality. Back to fidelity and compliance. And no fun. FOMO is no joke.

Of course some people find the idea of a weekly Cheat Meal useful both mentally and physically. If this is you, and it works for you, then by all means continue.

But for most of the people I’ve coached, having one Cheat Day means the rest of the week is food purgatory.

My tip here: Remove the Cheat Meal mindset, and gave myself permission to choose what I wanted all week long within reason and sensible targets.

Like the F*** it Effect, Cheat Day depends on scarcity and FOMO

Scarcity makes us feel anxious, needy, and greedy. All typical things which lead to over eating and over drinking.

Totally Own your choices... All of them. 

Do you rationalise your decisions, barter with yourself, give yourself a scape goat? I used to!

In this mindset, one “good deed” gives you license to overeat elsewhere. These trade off rarely pay off though—they usually just amount to a lot of mental gymnastics that help you avoid facing tough decisions and help you justify overeating. Which is never in alignment with you goal of overall focus but in the moment, instant gratification is more rewarding.

There's no 'good' vs 'bad' decisions or foods, this isn't a game of cops and robbers- only decisions which are aligned or aren't aligned with your goal.

Try this tip: start owning your choices, and letting the conscious, adult brain make aligned decisions rather than bartering with yourself In the moment.

I started making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome I would expect, based on my experience. For example:

“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel pretty sick and anxious afterward. I know its not going to positively effect my goal come Monday morning but today, I’m fine with it.”

Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.

It’s your call and you own that journey.


I stopped justifying my decisions

Weekends present all sorts of easy justifications for over eating an drinking.

It could be anything:

  • You were out... or maybe you stayed in.
  • You were traveling... Or maybe you were at home.
  • You had lots of work on.. Or you had no work to do.
  • You had family/social meals... Or maybe you were alone all weekend.

Any excuse will do. Powerless victim of circumstance!

But busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t cause overeating by themselves. People make decision to. Their explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time which is easiest.

My solution: I stopped rationalising and asked myself why I was really overeating.

This is partly why I chose to qualify in nutrition and disordered eating psychology myself!

Sometimes, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. That’s normal, you're a human and not a robot.

But instead of falling back on the tired victim-of-circumstance narrative, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s really going on.

Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy?

Do this over and over and over, and you’ll start to see some patterns. That’s your pot of gold. That’s your opportunity to change overeating behaviour habit—and do something else to address those emotions instead of bingeing.

 

To summarise:

  • Aiming for “'better' not 'perfect,
  • Get rid of Food Rules,
  • Forget Cheat Days,
  • Owning your choices, and/or
  • Quitting the rationalisations.

If you feel urgency or compulsion when you overeat, remember consider talking to your doctor or a trained professional about binge eating disorder.

 

Love and Light,

 

Nikki xx

 

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