Binge eating. Over eating, “What was I thinking?” eating. And, “I can’t believe I did that (again?)” eating. You’ll most likely deal with one or more of these eating "mess ups" along your journey toward sustained good health.
What do most people do when this happens? Slide right down the rabbit hole of negative self-talk, only to land in an all-too-familiar pit of despair. In an attempt to evade the resulting despair following a binge, one then turns to the habitual substance in an effort to “feel good” (if only for a moment)… more food.
It does not have to be that way! Here is a way to use what I refer to as the “4 ACES” to help you get through a “setback” with food in a way that sets you up for engaging in healthier behaviors without going down the rabbit hole!
I’m certainly not a gambler, but I know enough about poker to say that having 4 ACES in your hand is a good thing. A really good thing that leads you toward winning. Any time you utilize these 4 ACES you are setting yourself up to win in your journey toward sustaining a healthy weight and living a healthier life. Here’s how this works:
S: SELF (self-worth, self-efficacy, self-esteem)
Awareness: As soon as you are aware of what you are doing when it comes to unhealthy eating, you are able to start the process of healthy change. Even if you are AWARE of what you are doing, you may feel helpless to stop in that moment. That’s all right. Awareness is the first step of change. At some point after the unhealthy eating event is over, think about what was going on that led up to the event. Become aware of what you were thinking or how you were feeling or what people or situation may have triggered you before you turned to unhealthy eating. That way, you can learn tools to deal with similar triggers in healthy ways in the future, thereby avoiding unhealthy eating.
Acceptance: Accept that there may be times when you resort to “old habits” and give in to unhealthy foods and eating behaviors. Accept that there are emotional, biological and environmental triggers all around you every day that will tempt you, maybe for the rest of your life. Accept that you are responsible for getting the help you need to learn to resist returning to those “old habits” and instead, learning healthy coping skills so you can resist triggers and temptations.
Accountability: This is a tough one. We want to blame other people, circumstances, stress and “life” for the fact that sometimes we choose not to do what we know is best for us. If you binge eat, take responsibility for not reaching out for help when you needed it. There’s no blaming the job, the kids, the spouse, the sibling or the traffic for unhealthy choices you make. Take responsibility NOW for making a plan to avoid a binge in the future. It’s your health. It’s also your responsibility to take positive action toward good health.
Attitude: If you have a food “mishap,” you can choose to beat yourself up and have a pity party filled with negative self-talk. Keep in mind, this will likely lead to even more unhealthy eating. OR you can tell yourself, “Shake it off” and “Get back on with healthy behavior RIGHT NOW.” Attitude makes a huge difference in how you feel. How you feel has a lot of impact on how you behave… toward yourself, toward others, and in relation to food. A poor attitude, or stinkin’ thinkin’ will lead you away from good health. A positive attitude will lead you toward positive behavior. It IS that simple.
Commitment: Remember sitting in my office before your surgery, and do you remember talking to the doctor, and to Trish? I remember talking to you! Pretty much everyone makes a commitment to the health care team (AND to themselves) before they have surgery that they WILL follow through with healthy eating and consistent exercise. Find a way to remind yourself of that commitment if you mess up and make healthy choices beginning immediately. You no longer need to wait until “next Monday” to start over. Make a commitment as soon as you wake up EVERY morning to stay true to your healthy living plan! Feel free to remind yourself of that commitment several times a day!
Effort: It’s all in vain without EFFORT. If you tell me you’re “trying” I’m gonna remind you that you either DO something or you don’t. “Trying is dying,” they say in many recovery programs. Trying is not doing. Wishing is not doing. Hoping is not doing. DOING is DOING. Get whatever help you need to assist you in staying committed to your goals, in learning how to keep your motivation high, and in asking for help from others. You can have the best plan in the world for sticking to your goals, but without effort to implement the plan, the plan is worthless. Make a plan for what to do if you fall off the rails and binge eat (things like call a support person, meet with a therapist, think about what was happening prior to the eating mishap, etc.) and then use the plan. Put forth the EFFORT! Same with exercising, meal prepping, participating in support groups, and attending therapy. It all takes EFFORT. Bottom line: staying healthy takes effort. Period.
Self: Every time you put forth positive effort, you increase your self-efficacy (the belief that you can follow through), your self-esteem and your attitude. Positive SELF anything leads to more positive self-everything!
Bottom line. You can recover in short order and learn to prevent future binges. You have 4 ACES in your hand. Use them to your advantage. “Know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em.” You choose! Anyone throwing away a hand with 4 ACES in it… definitely needs therapy (says the therapist)!