If you’re a compulsive overeater, chances are that you find yourself desperately “needing” carbohydrates throughout the day. Even if you don’t eat much at a time, you may eat quite frequently, perhaps even every hour. When you do, it isn’t likely that you’re filling up on lettuce and carrots. You’re most likely to find yourself feeling addicted to potato chips, sodas, snack cakes, and fried meats. Sound familiar? A great way to save calories and reacquaint yourself with your body’s natural hunger signals is to focus on training yourself to eat at certain times of the day. If you can teach yourself to stop eating based on emotions, you’ll have fought half the battle (something you already know all too well). To help you through the challenges ahead, consider the following tips on how to get through carb cravings associated with compulsive overeating. Note that the following is not a guide on how to shave calories from your diet, but rather on how to avoid eating carbohydrates all throughout the day as a result of cravings.
Tip #1: Space eating times three hours apart, even if your schedule fluctuates. Adhering to strict daily meal times may not work for the compulsive overeater if the slightest disruption interferes with his/her schedule. In other words, if you schedule your lunch for twelve o’clock every afternoon and you end up having breakfast earlier than anticipated, waiting an extra hour to eat can become disastrous. Instead, focus on simply spacing out your meals and snacks by a few hours, rather than scheduling them for specific times of the day. You’ll be less likely to hit the vending machine for a candy bar as a result.
Tip #2: Chew sugar-free gum during “no food” hours. Those three hours can seem like twelve if you’re used to easing your tension with food. Chewing sugar-free gum will give your mouth something to do, and may even trick your body into believing that it is in fact actually consuming food. That soothing effect you gain from eating carbs in between meals can be duplicated with a sugary-tasting and long lasting replacement.
Tip #3: Drink plenty of flavored, low calorie drinks throughout the day. While drinking plain water is often advised, compulsive overeaters with carb addictions need something that can hydrate them as well as give their tongues the impression that sugars are being consumed. Water just doesn’t cut it. Hydrate yourself with drinks such as Crystal Light, Fuse, or just flavored water. This step also aids the compulsive overeater in that it diminishes the risk of confusing thirst with hunger, a common problem for those with overeating disorders.
Tip #4: Drink water with soda. Trying to completely deprive yourself of something that offers both carbs and caffeine for you regularly might be a mistake. Instead, have a glass of plain water with every caffeinated, regular soda that you drink in order to prevent compulsive sips.
Tip #5: Create distractions for yourself during your most intense carb-craving hours. Most compulsive overeaters can identify certain hours of the day when they are more tempted to indulge in excess carbohydrates. During those hours, try to keep yourself in a situation that would make eating next to impossible. Because compulsive eaters tend to have their overeating sessions in private, being in a public place during your more vulnerable hours is key. Schedule meetings, attend religious services, go to the gym, or make business calls during those times to keep yourself from diving into carb-filled treats.
Tip #6: Practice deep breathing when you can’t avoid food. If you happen to be facing a buffet during your vulnerable hours, concentrate on your breathing. We often crave sweets and salt when we’re stressed, and those normal cravings are multiplied for compulsive overeaters. One of the best ways to relax the entire body and retain focus is to simply inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Continue this practice throughout your day.
Finally, you may be wondering what you can do to prevent binging at meals after all of this trained “deprivation.” Add a craving that’s been nagging for three hours with normal daily stress, and you’re in for a carb meltdown come lunchtime, right?. To prevent this common pitfall, create a luscious menu of fruits and vegetables that can help you derail those cravings at meal time. If you’re a salt lover, consider having baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of low fat dressing with meals. If you love sugar, slice bananas and strawberries and top them with either low calorie Cool Whip or non-fat chocolate syrup. You’ll gain a few carbs, but most importantly you’ll silence those cravings with healthy alternatives to sweet rolls and potato chips. Not only that, but knowing that you have a go-to plan for carb emergencies can take some of the pressure off. Talk to your doctor about more ways to implement habit-changing strategies in your life in order to kick those compulsive carb eating ways for good.