How to Get Out of a Cycle of Weekend Binges?

By October 11, 2012

I like to think of myself as a recovered binge eater. I try to regularly eat the foods I like in manageable portions. After many years of dieting and bingeing, I received professional help through nutritional counseling and therapy. Over the last two years, I reached my thinnest adult weight of 130-135 lbs. through Weight Watchers. As you know, WW is a healthy lifestyle. Over the last year, and in particular, since the holidays, I am going “crazy” on Saturday evenings and sometimes into Sunday, too, when I’ll just eat lots of food, including desserts, in one sitting. It was embarassing last night at the Super Bowl Party, my husband said that I ate the most of anyone there. Often these eating episodes are accompanied by too much wine, but sometimes not. Subsequently, after all this eating, I’ve gained about 8 lbs., albeit slowly. Now it seems that my whole weekends are an eating fest rather than just one Saturday night. How do I get out of this cycle? I’m frustrated by my actions. I’m scared that I’ll balloon up again after so many years of hard work. I exercise regularly and moderately which helps with stress. And, I do have good eating habits most of the time. – Judy

Dear Judy:

It sounds like, overall, you have made progress in your quest to eat and live more healthfully, but you are having a set-back. I have a few thoughts for you to ponder regarding your current frustrations with weekend bingeing.

Let’s start by taking stock of the positive things you learned through the Weight Watchers program. You were provided with information and tools that promote a healthy lifestyle—good nutrition, portion awareness, social support, and active living. You learned that you have the freedom to make choices that can include all the foods you like, even some sweets. The downsides to the program, however, were the weekly weigh-ins (which can promote obsessions) and reliance on an external set of controls (the point system) to determine how much to eat each day. A key goal to eating well is learning to trust our bodies’ internal cues that tell us when to eat and when to stop (see “Understanding Hunger and Fullness Cues” for more on this).

That said, I’m wondering if you are approaching healthy eating like a diet (or program) that you are “on” during the week, and “off” during the weekends. Consider these questions: During the week, are you trying to be very restrained in your eating such that you feel deprived of favorite foods? On the weekends, once you have a taste of a “fun food,” do you feel like you have “blown it,” so just keep eating more, way past the point of fullness? If this is the case, read the articles “What Is Healthy Eating?” and “Eating Treat Foods Without Guilt” for some suggestions.

I also want to mention your reference to drinking wine and its connection to your eating episodes. Without a doubt, alcohol lowers our inhibitions, which in your case is contributing to your binges. Think about what you can do in your home to support your desire to stop this cycle, such as keeping to a minimum the availability of wine, as well as the foods you tend to binge on.

You also have to consider if there are issues or circumstances in your life that are triggering your current binges. If so, you would really benefit from returning to your counselor, who can help you identify and work through them.  This is not a sign of failure, and you won’t be returning to square one; you have gained invaluable wisdom and insight from past counseling and experiences.  With a little guidance, you will get back on track!