Yesterday I posted my strategy for stopping funk-induced out-of-control eating. I talked about how I get back to basics with food choices, water drinking, etc. and just focus on keeping a food journal and watching my portions.
I never thought about portion control as a hot topic but Michelle M. left a passionate comment:
If a food (or “edible product,” as many binge foods are — bagged snacks, dip, sweets/baked goods — have you ever seen anyone get “out of control” with baked salmon and steamed broccoli?) makes one feel a loss of control/eat compulsively, then “portion control” is NOT going to help. There is no such thing as portion control when one is in the throes of a binge. How many times did I tell myself I would just take one teaspoon of ice cream from the carton, only to find myself back in the freezer after 20 seconds for another..and then again…and then finally sitting on the floor with a carton and a serving spoon, repeating that “one bite” until the half gallon was nearly gone…and then hiding the carton in the bottom of the trash so no one would know? The only thing that works with those types of foods is ELIMINATION. There will never be a carton of ice cream in my house again. Would you advise an alcoholic to keep it to one shot of whiskey or half a beer? Some “foods” operate on our brains the same way as a narcotic does. There is no safe level of exposure. Sorry to Weight Watchers and “moderation” and all the “diets” that keep DRUGS in our bodies and never result in sustainable weight loss — if a food provokes that reaction in our neuropathways, it’s got to go. If you eat a food in secret, hide the evidence, feel that you physically can NOT stop your hand from going to the food to your mouth and back again, that food is your trigger and you have to eliminate, not moderate.
I can totally commiserate with Michelle. I’ve been there. I’ve taken that “one bite” of Ben and Jerry’s, which resulted in an empty pint. I’ve bought packaged cupcakes while grocery shopping only to shove them in my mouth on the ride home and hide the wrappers so no one knew. I’ve even ordered entire large pizzas (stuffed crusts mind you) while alone in hotel rooms and proceeded to eat the entire pie while watching the evening news.
My response to Michelle was:
I agree with you that portion control doesn’t work in the throes of a binge and I’ve done all those things you mentioned, but the way I’m referring to the above is those times when you grab a bag of pistachios and mindlessly eat the whole thing while you’re working. When I start to feel out of control I consciously start to weigh out a serving again.
That being said though, you have to find a balance with the moderation vs.elimination. Anytime I told myself I could NEVER eat a certain food again, say, pizza (huge trigger food for me) it backfired. So at first I found substitutes for pizza — I made my own, I severely cut back on the times I was around it, but I still do enjoy a slice now and then. I do believe moderation is possible but you have to really control your environment and make smart decisions on what you will and will not indulge in.
Moderation has worked for me. Instead of straight elimination of certain foods I got creative in the kitchen to make substitutes. Instead of ordering a pizza, I’d make my own on English muffins. Instead of buying ice cream I’d keep frozen bananas on hand for fruit soft serves. Instead of store-bought cupcakes I’d make single servings of things like this.
I guess that’s a form of “elimination” but not once did I think, “I can never have a slice of pizza again. Ever!” Because if I’m out with friends and they want to go for pizza, I don’t want have a panic attack. If my kids want to go out for ice cream, I’d like to enjoy a small cup. On our anniversary I want to split a slice of chocolate cake with my husband.
Controlling your environment is definitely key, but to say you have to eliminate trigger foods for the rest of your life is a little extreme. I have no doubt that certain foods cause physical reactions in our brains and bodies, which cause cravings and overeating. But sometimes I don’t think it’s actually the food that is the trigger for me.
When I’m in that “bingey” mood I will turn to anything I can find whether it’s cheese, chips, chocolate, pretzels, nuts, etc. Sure there are some foods, I have a hard time controlling myself around because I like them (hello, chips and salsa!) but there are other times I just want to eat to eat, to fill a void, to deal with depression. And frankly, any old thing in the pie hole will work. It’s why sometimes I find myself making batches of butternut squash fries at 10 p.m.!
I know my way isn’t the only way so I thought I’d pose this as the Question of the Week. Are you in the moderation camp or elimination camp? What’s your experience?