Balance Your Meals
When you binge on food, chances are you don’t binge on salad. You binge on muffins, pies, sweets, fizzy drinks, donuts – or, in other words, refined carbohydrates.
Why does that happen?
Well, first and foremost, refined carbohydrates are a very appealing source of energy, so your body is naturally drawn towards them.
However, what perpetuates the cycle of bingeing is the ability of refined carbohydrates to cause a sudden rise in your blood sugar levels.
Here’s how it works:
- After being consumed, refined carbohydrates are quickly broken down into simple sugars, which cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
- High levels of sugar are toxic to your cells, so in an attempt to help you, your body releases insulin, which pulls this sugar from your blood.
- However, insulin is too good at its job: instead of helping your blood sugar levels to go back to normal, it sends them plummeting to levels that are too low.
- When there’s not enough sugar in your blood, your brain sends out powerful signals that direct you to binge on huge quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods.
- As you give in to these natural cravings, a new binge leads to a new blood sugar crash – which leads to another binge, which leads to another crash… Soon enough you find yourself trapped in a seemingly never-ending roller coaster of sugar highs and sugar lows.
Click on tabs below to learn more about the main food groups
The importance of protein as part of your diet can’t be stressed enough.
- Protein produces enzymes, hormones, and other substances the body uses
- Regulates body processes such as water balancing, transporting nutrients, and making muscles contract
- Prevents you from becoming easily fatigued
- Helps you to restore lost muscle mass and aids in tissue repair all of which is essential for anyone recovering from an eating disorder.
- Makes you feel more satisfied and will be less likely to overeat or binge later on.
Protein makes you feel fuller for longer by balancing your blood sugar; it modulates your appetite and greatly reduces binge cravings. (Rolls, Hetherington and Burley’s 1988).
How do you know if your blood sugar levels are unstable?
Well, here are some of the symptoms you might want to keep an eye out for:
- Intense sugar cravings.
- Energy dips (especially after meals or late in the afternoon).
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, being jittery or shaky.
- Anxiety or agitation.
- Brain fog and having difficulty concentrating.
- Extreme hunger.
New Habit: Balance your meals
The best way to stabilise your blood sugar levels is to ensure that each meal (and preferably each snack) has a balanced combination of the three primary macronutrients. These macronutrients are complex carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Balancing your meals in this way will help your body to:
- Slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream;
- Prevent intense sugar highs and rapid crashes;
- Slow down the process of digestion, so that you can feel fuller for longer and absorb more nutrition from food.
Science & Studies
Numerous studies have shown that a balanced diet can have a huge impact on problem eaters who are trying to get better.
In one of these studies, 20 bulimic women were put on a sugar-stabilising diet to see if it would help with their urges to binge and purge.
Within three weeks, all of the women stopped bingeing – and even more importantly, they remained free from binges in the long run too (Dalvit-McPhillips, 1984).
That’s a truly amazing result, considering that the only thing they did was stabilise their yo-yoing blood sugar levels!
You should begin the process of learning how to eat in a balanced way by ensuring that each of your meals is made up of 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat (in terms of calories, not volume).
Think of it as a simple 2/1/1 ratio.
Let’s keep this really simple. Roughly half of your plate must be dedicated to carbs, a quarter dedicated to protein and a quarter dedicated to fat. That’s it.However, keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science. You don’t have to portion out your plate perfectly. Treat this ratio simply as a rough ballpark.
Here are some examples of balanced meals that contain all of the three macronutrients:
- Half a plate of rice and broccoli, one quarter of chicken and one quarter of avocado.
- Half a plate of whole-grain pasta, one quarter of fish and one quarter of cream-based sauce.
- Half a plate of baked potato and vegetables, and half of roasted meat with gravy.
- Half a plate of fresh salad and half of cheese omelette.
I know all about it from personal experience. If I eat toast or cereal for breakfast, I get hungry by mid-morning. On the other hand, eating scrambled eggs, porridge or kippers (even if these amount to the same number of calories that can be found in a bowl of cereal) keeps me going well into the afternoon.
There is no need to obsess! A rough ball park is good enough
Don’t obsess over these macronutrients. You may be tempted to measure out and weigh your food, you may want to count calories or try and find out the exact amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat in your meals, but this is simply not necessary. On the contrary, it can do more harm than good! All you need to do is be aware of an approximate ratio of these macronutrients in your meals to be able to move forward.
Eggs are great here!
Eggs are a great source of protein. Try adding some eggs to your breakfast or other main meals.
Carry some balanced snacks around
Have some balanced snacks on hand in case you encounter an unexpected binge urge or can’t have your main meal on time.