- Don’t be worried about eating the perfect amount
- Break the cycle with these 3 balanced meals
- After you break the cycle try being more flexible and adding variety
Break the cycle of starving, bingeing and purging with these 3 roughly balanced meals. When you’re comfortable eating meals, consistently, add variety. Soon you’ll be in the habit of eating balanced meals and be flexible in any food situation. Eating can be a non-issue.
How I got caught in the cycle again
When I learned I could stop bingeing (and lose weight) by eating more, I was faced with a new set of fears. How much more of what type of food should I eat? All my rules, tips and tricks made eating confusing. And I was (unnecessarily) fixated on eating the perfect amount.
I wished I could just take a pill that gave my body what it needed so I didn’t have to think about food. Without that option and having lost all concept of a healthy meal, I was left guessing.
In hindsight, unless I grossly under-ate, I was always sure I had one bite too many.
My all-or-nothing approach to everything meant one bite too many ruined the day. So I defaulted back to bingeing and purging as a way to punish myself. Though I was under-eating the rest of the time, I was about 30 pounds overweight. Now I understand the wild extremes I put my body through slowed down my metabolism and made it easier for me to gain weight.
Break the cycle: My mindset made it difficult
The starve, binge and purge cycle developed as a coping mechanism for my anxiety. I thought giving myself consequences would make me more disciplined to eat the perfect amount. But when I made a mistake again (or in reality, when I didn’t under-eat), I thought I hadn’t been hard enough on myself. So I’d make the stakes higher (like not let myself go to class) and be even more disappointment in myself. All these self-defeating weight-loss approaches drove my downward spiral.
By my second year of university everything had become so complicated. My preoccupation with weight had well and truly seeped into every other part of my life. Trying to pretend everything was “Great!” was increasingly difficult. I loved life and wanted to get back to all my other goals. Once again I asked for help. And an amazing thing happened.
Eating 3 set balanced meals helped me break the cycle
It was suggested I join the school meal plan and eat 3 balanced meals a day. I was scared to eat most foods, but I was even more scared about where my life was headed. So we planned what I’d eat at each meal. Having a set meal helped me feel good about what I ate because there was no grey area.
I chose being healthy over being thin. To my surprise, that’s when I lost weight.
When you break the cycle this happens
I couldn’t believe what a change eating 3 set balanced meals made in my life. They kept me feeling full. So I stopped thinking about food. And because they were planned with someone I trusted, I stopped worrying about what I ate. Then I could concentrate on everything else between meals.
I was eating more, exercising less and lost weight without feeling hungry.
Eating 3 balanced meals also divided the day up nicely into five blocks. Focusing on one block at a time helped me feel less overwhelmed about trying to put my life back together. I just focused on what I needed to do when I got up (shower, pack books for school … ) until I got to the school cafeteria. After breakfast I concentrated on life before lunch (classes, going to the library … ) and so on.
Below are the 3 set balanced meals that helped me break the cycle of starving, bingeing and purging. They helped me when I had no idea what to eat. When you’re comfortable eating 3 set balanced meals then you can focus on being flexible and adding more variety.
Break the cycle with a balanced breakfast:
- dry whole wheat toast (white bread is fine too!)
- bowl of cereal (usually half corn flakes and half raisin bran – these days I prefer whole foods like porridge)
- 2 small glasses of skim milk (to put on cereal – these days I drink whole milk)
- fresh fruit
Break the cycle with a balanced lunch:
- cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich (2 pieces of whole wheat bread) with mustard and salsa
- 2 small glasses of skim milk
- fresh fruit
- one snack food like a cookie
Afternoon snack: diet pop & an apple
Break the cycle with a balanced dinner:
- salad without dressing (these days I always have a homemade dressing like oil and vinegar)
- main dish (meat & potatoes or something like lasagna)
- 2 small glasses of skim milk
- fresh fruit
Break the cycle: Troubleshooting
- If you’re under-eating the above menu is a good start
I always suggest making small changes to what you’re already doing. These meals were a big jump for me. Everything I’d been doing was extreme and inconsistent. I ate so little most of the time. Eating a lot more was necessary to break the cycle of starving, bingeing and purging.
- I wanted to eat these meals, nobody forced me to eat
- When I got used to eating these 3 balanced meals I made more changes
I started adding higher-fat foods (like 2% milk.) I also became more flexible and confident in my choices. So I began to include more variety, like eggs on toast with melted cheese, ketchup, coffee with lots of milk and fruit for breakfast, rather than the same thing each day. But the 3 balanced meals above were the water-wings or training wheels that helped carry me from under-eating in the attempt to eat the perfect amount, to getting more comfortable eating more food, regularly. These days I’ll put mayonnaise on my sandwich and I have whole milk (3.25%). When I have toast I’m happy to eat white or brown bread with butter (vs. dry toast.) I also include roughly balanced snacks when I’m hungry between meals, such as a cookie, apple and coffee or Greek yogurt with blueberries and ground flax seeds. I’ll have chips (crisps!) or cheese before dinner once in a while if I’m at a dinner party and that’s what’s going. After dinner I usually have something sweet, like a few squares of chocolate. Then I never feel deprived or crave food because there isn’t a type of food I avoid or feel guilty about eating.
Please note: I no longer drink diet pop and I don’t chew sugar-free gum. Both confuse your body and make you feel hungry.
- Don’t rush yourself
Get used to eating 3 balanced meals. Then just make one change to each meal at a time. Let yourself get used to the change. Change needs to be slow so you can develop healthy habits. Then the positive changes you make will be lasting.
- If you’re overeating
Don’t aim for the low-fat meals I’ve outlined above. Just work toward eating more balanced meals made of whole foods by making small changes to what you eat right now. Big changes will shock your system and be a short-term change.
Focus on being healthy instead of being thin
Through the experience of eating 3 set balanced meals and slowly becoming more flexible, I learned there isn’t an exactness to eating. I also experienced I could eat a lot more than I thought I could, which sped up my metabolism and helped me lose weight. Once I understood this I could relax more about my food choices.
Now I just make my plate look roughly like the Eatwell Guide at breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I choose as many whole foods as possible for each of the food groups rather than processed food. Eating more helped me break the cycle, lose weight and eating became a non issue. Now I have a healthy body and mind. Life is so much better! I hope you’ll try eating 3 balanced meals.
Everybody should take a shot at the night. Try something new. Interrupt a self-defeating pattern. Break the cycle!
Shot at the Night by The Killers
Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it
Are you ready to break the cycle? Tell someone you trust so they can support you.