Reader Question: Help! I Can’t Stop Giving Into Temptation!
Reader Question: Hello Dr.Pritchard! I came across your reading on “Psychology Today” which brought me to your blog and I just want to say your readings are very insightful I have very very much enjoyed reading your work. I’m 18 and all my life I’ve struggled with my weight. Growing up with my grandparents until I was 7 I was always around junk food, fast food, pop, all the unhealthy foods. And by 8 I was adopted by my auntie whose been brought up of healthy eating all her life an it has definitely helped a lot in my life but when I was 12 moved with my grandparents for about a year, gained a good 60 pounds leaving me at approx. 170 pounds. They passed and I moved back to my mothers(aunt) and eventually over the years i dropped down to about 140 pounds. When I turned 16 I was rebellious and moved out into a friends and was in my party stage where I thought “I don’t need rules in my life, I want to have fun”. Gained a good 40-50 pounds during the 14 months being away from home. i eventually hit rock bottom and moved back home of may 2012. I learned ALOT being away from home and that life cannot be taken for granite. I’m a health fanatic now and exercise in weight training mostly but the past 3 months my weight is constantly fluctuating between 138-147. I’ll gain 6 pounds, lose 2 pounds. Gain 4 pounds lose 3 pounds, gain 6 pounds and ill lose it again! I give into these cravings of mine even though I know I’m sabotaging my workouts. Ill be good for about three days and then I go right back to stuffing my face with a bunch if chocolate, or peanuts a full bag, frozen yogurt, or crackers. I end up eating everything until the whole package is gone too. Mostly at night is when it happens(the cravings) Then off I go out in the country on the trails ill go working my but off to get rid of the amount I ate hours after I over indulged. But sometimes I’m just too tired to even bother. It’s been quite frequent and I don’t want to be going into the wrong direction again. I’ve battled with my weight all my life and I’m ONLY 18 5″8! Do you have any advice for me?
- Giving into Temptations
I’m glad you asked. Yes, I can help. It sounds like we are dealing with two separate issues here: 1) eating disordered thinking/body dissatisfaction, and 2) binge eating with non-purging compensatory behaviors. We’ll deal with each in turn.
1) If I understand you correctly, you are 18 years old, 5’8″ and your weight fluctuates between 138 and 147 pounds. The first thing I want to point out is that you are actually at a healthy weight. Yes, it fluctuates, which we can work on to keep it steady, but either end of the range is healthy for your age and height, so even at 147, you don’t need to lose weight. What you need to do is become comfortable in the skin you’re in. Why do you think you’re overweight? Is it the media? Your family? Your friends? Because you’ve had a history of gaining and losing and you’re worried about gaining again? Once I have a better idea, I can point you to the right resources.
2) Binge eating with compensatory behaviors (working out to “get rid of” what you ate) – to get your bingeing under control, the first thing you need to do is stop dieting. I know, I know, but the diet mentality is what is setting you up to binge. By labeling foods as “good” or “bad” and then depriving yourself of the “bad” foods, you are setting yourself up to binge on those foods. You’ve already mentioned your rebellion a few years ago – that’s exactly what’s happening here. You are depriving yourself of something you really want and then rebelling by eating it in excess.
So how can you stop? Here’s what I want you to do. It might seem extreme, but bear with me…
a) Get reacquainted with what it feels like to be hungry and what it feels like to be full. Most of us have long forgotten this and it may take some time to recover. That’s okay. Just be patient. One reason people binge at night is that they are depriving themselves all day long – trying to be “good” by starving themselves. So by the time dinner comes around, they are starving and eat everything in sight. Given that most of your bingeing occurs at night, I am guessing you might be under-consuming calories during the day. (If you want to know how many calories per day you need, check out my last blog).
b) Enjoy your food. That’s right. No eating in the car on the way to work. No texting while talking on the phone while shoveling down a bite of salad. I’m giving you permission to eat whatever you want when you want it (even those “bad” foods!). You might as well enjoy it; otherwise, what’s the point? Which leads us to our next “rule.” And yes, it bears repeating.
c) Eat whatever you want without feeling guilty – if you decide that you want that piece of chocolate cake, have it. Just abide by rule #1 – eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. By allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, you’ll learn to gain control of your binges. If you aren’t depriving yourself of your favorite foods, then you won’t feel the need to binge on them and you’ll be satisfied with less of them.
d) Get out there and move – you talk about working out a lot, but do you enjoy it? If yes, then keeping doing it, if not, then find an activity you love to do – or maybe several. Don’t force yourself to do step aerobics at the gym if you hate it. You know what I just discovered? Belly dancing. And I love it. It’s just a bunch of women of all shapes and sizes moving their bodies in fun and interesting ways. It doesn’t seem like a workout at all! And that’s the key here – don’t exercise. For most of us exercise isn’t fun, it’s a way to burn calories. But movement, on the other hand, can be quite freeing. So dance like no one’s watching while singing at the top of your lungs. Fun, isn’t it?
e) Stand up for yourself – the next time somebody asks, “Are you gonna eat that?!” Say, “Why, yes. Would you like a bite?” Don’t let that person challenge your own ability to know what your body wants in that moment. No one knows your body better than you do. Respect that. Honor that. And forget about what anyone else thinks.
6) Get in touch with your emotions – when you find yourself reaching for something you used to consider “bad,” go back to rule #1 – first ask yourself if you are really hungry. Then ask yourself if that is what you really want right now. If the answer to both questions is yes, then dive in. However, if you find that you really aren’t hungry, and then ask yourself what you do want. We get so used to filling emotional voids in our lives with food, oftentimes we never stop to listen to our bodies to find out what they really want. A big part of healing from the diet mentality is learning to become friends with your emotions. If you’re sad, have a good cry. If you’re angry, punch a pillow. But don’t attempt to bury your feelings under a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It won’t work. It never really has.
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I hope you find this helpful. Please let me know if you need any additional resources or have any further questions. I’m always here to help. Good luck!