Help!! I just had a week of binge eating

We all give in to temptations from time to time and binge eat. Here are some tips to reduce the after-effects of your indulgence.

young woman binge eating potato chips

So you just gobbled a large samosa and you are feeling guilty about it. Relax! If you are eating foods like these once in a week, then enjoy your indulgence. But if such fried foods are staple at tea-time, you could be in trouble. The samosa that you relish everyday with your favourite chutney contains over 300 calories. Similarly, if reached out for a Snicker bar because you were famished and the ad says, “hungry kya, grab a Snicker”, you just guzzled a whopping 500+ calories in one go.

But how much is too much? Nutritionist John Berardi says that, “For an average person, any meal over 750kcal (not including pre- and post-workout nutrition) results in fat storage”. I don’t agree completely, as for an athlete it would vary greatly and would also depend on the ratio of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in the meal. A high protein meal may not get readily converted to fats as a high carb meal. However, when an average person eats 500+ calories from a candy snack bar, it is going to lead to fat gain. What’s worse, while we know how to stop it, we are still helpless.

Tips to deal with binge eating

Here are some simple tips to help you overcome the damage of binge eating:-

1. Treadmill counters are misleading

Many people I know compare the calories they burn on a treadmill or cross trainer with the calories they consumed in their meals. This is not a sound strategy. Firstly, on a treadmill, the calories shown include your BMR [the calories you burn at rest]. Say your body burns 2400kcal/day i.e. 100 kcal/hr. These calories are burnt by your body just to maintain your normal body functions. So if you run for an hour on the treadmill, the treadmill will show that you have burnt around 500kcal. But this 500kcal is including your BMR [basal metabolic rate]. So actual calories burnt would be 500 – 100 = 400kcal. Now a kilo of fat has around 7000kcal. At this rate, you need to run for over 17 days at the same intensity every day to burn just a kilo of fat—that too if your intake of calories is equal to your calorie output. This is why weight training and HIIT [high intensity interval training] are the best forms of exercises to target fat loss.

2. Make use of your "anabolic window"

After a hard and intense workout session, your metabolism sky rockets. Your body is like a furnace ready to burn whatever you put in it. This furnace is at its hottest for 45 minutes post workout, also called the “anabolic window”. When you know you are going to a party or will be gorging on foods that are likely to be unhealthy and high in sugar and full of empty calories, then working out before that meal is the best way to offset the negative effects of that meal. Though the 45 min window is the optimal time, the furnace is hot enough to burn your cheat foods even three hours after of your workout.

If for whatever reasons it is not possible to workout before you eat this meal then another way is to increase your exercise volume and intensity for a week before and after the binge day. Now the exercise I am talking about are intense weight training sessions and HIIT workouts, not leisurely strolls on the treadmill or pleasant rides on the cross trainer.

3. Eat before bingeing

It happens with all of us sometimes where we eat something just before our meals and then don’t feel hungry enough to have our main meal. This is a simple trick that dieticians refer to as the “Second Meal Effect”. Having something just before the main meal or an hour or so before it, would suppress hunger which automatically make you eat less of your cheat meal. The best bet is a big salad plate or a high protein, low glycaemic index food an hour before the main binge meal.

4. Cleanse after indulging

If you have eaten more than you should have and now need to detox, here’s an excellent way to do it. At night before sleep take two tablespoon of isabgol or Psyllium seed husks with three glasses of water. In the morning, have three glasses of water again as soon as you wake up. After you have emptied your bowels, add two capful of bitter gourd [karela] and gooseberry [amla] juice, each in less than half a glass of water and drink it. This will help stabilise your insulin levels and also provide you with powerful antioxidants. Thereafter, have a cup of green tea with lemon or 500mg vitamin C. Work out hard and eat clean that day and the next.

Remember, these techniques only help overcome the side effects of occasional binge eating. Do not make this a regular way of life.

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