(Editor's Note: Mara Schiavocampo is an ABC News correspondent and author of the book “Thinspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds -- My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Self-Acceptance.” The book is now available in paperback.)
Like so many of us, four years ago I set out on a January weight loss journey. But unlike my previous attempts, this time I succeeded, dropping a whopping 90 pounds, as I share in my book “Thinspired."
What made this attempt different? I realized something very important. The often repeated mantra “everything in moderation” simply wasn’t true for me. I had to accept that I had a serious problem with binge eating. Certain trigger foods would always lead me down the road to a binge, causing accompanying mood swings. Completely eliminating my personal triggers was the key to finding true freedom, and major weight loss.
So, how do you know if you might have a problem with binge eating, and what should you do about it? Here are some tips that can help.
How to Fight the Urge to Binge Eat
Know The Enemy
There’s nothing subtle about binge eating. If you have a problem with it, you definitely know it. (Binge Eating Disorder on the other hand, is a condition that's diagnosed. If you think you may suffer from it, there’s a questionnaire in my book. You should also consult with your doctor.) Binge eating is more than just an indulgence here and there, or a weekend cheat day. It’s that uncontrollable “I wish I could stop, but I can’t” feeling, and it often derails our weight loss efforts.
Knowing which foods are likely to trigger or accelerate a binge is important because eliminating them from your diet is often the key to freedom. So, how do you identify those foods?
Think about the things that you have no control over, but that control you. Those things you try desperately to eat in moderation, but almost always end up consuming entirely. It’s probably not lean protein and vegetables. Most of our triggers are the same: processed, carb-heavy, fatty and full of sugar, salt, or both.
The idea of permanently eliminating your most coveted treats can be overwhelming. So don’t think of it that way.
Choose a manageable time frame as a starting goal, like 10 days. Once you get there, choose another goal, say 14 more days. Remember, it takes a while for your body to detox, and at least three weeks to form a new habit. The good news is, once you’ve crossed that threshold, it really becomes easier. Suddenly, momentum is on your side.
Mind, Body, Soul
When you eliminate your trigger foods, you’ll almost immediately realize something important: the food was serving a very important purpose in your life. It’s a coping mechanism. If you remove it, how will you cope?
Really take some time to think about non-food related things that help you through life’s challenges. You need other means of support, or you’ll inevitably fall apart. This can include anything from more spiritual fare like prayer, yoga, meditation, writing in a journal, shopping or getting a massage. No judgment! Whatever works, works.