I want to share a few tips and frameworks to help you find and stick to a weight loss program that will help you sustainably lose weight, especially if you are prone to emotional eating and binge eating. I’ve written extensively about the importance of identifying the specific contexts, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, environments, etc that seem to trigger and influence your emotional eating. So, it is definitely important for you to gain some awareness of and address those dynamics.
It is also important to consider your eating behaviors, cravings, weight, and mood are all influenced by other life domains. Are you physically active? Do you have support social connections? What are your stress levels? How’s your sleep? And, just as important as what you eat, when you eat can also impact your weight. For example, having at least 12 hours between the last time you eat in the evening and the first time you eat the next morning is an important starting point for meal timing/time restricted eating [TRE]. For many emotional eaters who binge in the evenings, that can be difficult. If this is applicable for you, perhaps begin to frame your evening binges as a behavior that is flat out unhealthy.
There are so many things aside from diet that impact your emotions, your behaviors, and your weight. But, diet is definitely important, and there is so much conflicting information. The goal of this blog post is to help you choose a way of eating that will work for you right now. Keep in mind, diet can shift and change, especially as you lose weight. The diet you choose for today, for the next two weeks, etc, can evolve. You might find certain foods don’t agree with you. You might choose to increase or decrease certain components of your diet. Metabolism is not static. Diet does not need to be static. In fact, most of life is flux and flow.
Here are some tips to help you choose an eating plan:
1. Take some time to reflect on this decision, perhaps a week. Consider your preferences, what worked (or didn’t work) for you in the past, what you like to eat, any food intolerances or medical dietary restrictions you have, etc. 2. Choose an eating plan or eating guidelines developed/advocated by an MD or a PhD. I only get my diet/nutrition/health info from medical doctors and/or PhDs. There is so much misinformation out there, especially on diet. 3. Consider the long term and health impacts of the diet. Most experts agree on more plants and less animals. This does not mean you NEED to be 100% plant based, but it does imply that a bias towards plants is likely healthier than a carnivore diet. 4. If you are struggling with food addiction/sugar addiction, consider cutting certain foods out 100% for a few weeks until you are more in control of your eating. 5. Phased programs can be useful. Examples include Atkins, South Beach, and Mosley’s various 800 calorie eating plans. 6. Programs like WW and healthi (formerly itrackbites) can help you more gently shift your food choices while providing guidelines on quantity. 7. Follow general principles of sound nutrition. The Mediterranean Diet was ranked #1 best diet in 2022 by US News and World Reports. You can follow a lower carb Med Diet; a more plant based version; etc.
As I have stated numerous times, your diet can evolve over time. You might start off low carb, and then gradually add back in healthy whole food carbohydrates and decrease fat. Some people do better with more whole food carbs in their diet, and some people do better with less. Find a solid place to start, and then maybe consider tweaks and adjustments as your weight loss progresses.
If you struggle to follow a well-formulated weight loss program, regularly binging on junk food and sugar, it may serve you to consider how those contextual elements I noted above are impacting you. Can you sit with the discomfort of cravings and urges? The less you engage with and act on them, the sooner they will go away. You can have cravings and urges, and you can also not act on them.