How to Stop the Binge-Restrict Cycle
Tell me if this sounds like you:
I won’t eat any dessert this week. I’ll be good.
Yes, I’ve got this! I’m in control of my food choices.
Oh but that cookie smells so good. Dang it! I really want the cookie, but I can’t have it.
Okay, I’ll eat the brownie tonight but promise that my diet starts again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll go ahead and just eat 3 more brownies… ugh, I feel so guilty now.
Maybe you’re nodding your head saying, “yessss, Rachel, you’re reading my mind.” If this is you, know that you’re not alone. This is the all-too-common Binge-Restrict Cycle.
What is the Binge-Restrict Cycle?
The binge-restrict cycle is a pattern triggered by food restriction. It consists of 4 key components:
- Restriction. Withholding a certain food, food group, or amounts of food. (For example: restricting cookies because you’re avoiding all sugar.)
- Craving. The heightened desire for the restricted food. (Wanting the cookie even more because it’s “off-limits”.)
- Binge. Feeling out-of-control around food and eating large quantities at once. (Eating multiple cookies at once because you couldn’t stop after one.)
- Guilt. The feeling of shame and defeat that follows a binge. (It’s my fault for eating too many cookies. I’m a failure.)
The cookie example is just one form of restriction. Additionally, the restriction can also look like avoiding certain food groups, like limiting carbohydrates or grains. Another common example of restriction is “eating clean” during the week and leading to binge eating on the weekend.
How to Stop the Binge-Restrict Cycle
If you feel like a victim to this cycle, here’s the secret to breaking it: STOP RESTRICTING. I know it might sound scary at first to give yourself permission to eat, but this is ultimately where we break the cycle for good.
This is so powerful because the body is hardwired to fight starvation on the cellular level. When we restrict calories, the body revs up the production of hunger hormones (aka- making us feel more hungry). Cravings will always follow restrictions. We cannot override our biology.
Steps to Make Peace With Food
1. Identify your food restrictions.
What foods do you consider “off-limits” or “bad”? Do you feel stressed or anxious around them? What foods do you feel guilty about eating? Answering these prompts honestly will what foods you could be restricting. We must first identify our food restrictions in order to loosen the grip on them. Make a list of your food restrictions now.
2. Loosen the grip on restrictions.
To loosen the grip on restrictions, start small. I’m not telling you to go buy every food on your “off-limits” food list. Instead, consider buying one of those foods and keeping it in your house. Or next time you’re at the local coffee shop, allow yourself to try one of those delicious looking muffins you’ve been eyeing. As you start to eat these foods again, you might find yourself in the “honeymoon phase” wanting to eat them more often. But eventually, these foods will become equivalent to any other food you keep in the house. Trust me.
3. Neutralize your food choices.
To neutralize how you view food, change how you talk about food. Instead of saying, “I’m never allowed to eat pizza” say, “I’m allowed to eat pizza when it sounds satisfying to me”. Instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad” try replacing them with the phrases “health-promoting” or “fun foods”. This levels the playing field. At the end of the day, food doesn’t have moral value. So why should we treat it like that?
If food freedom sounds too good to be true, send me a message. I’d love to chat about how the Everglow Method can support you in finding food freedom. Or follow me on Instagram @everglownutrition where I share food freedom tips more regularly.