Body Blog: Plan Your Plate & Stop Your Food Binge

[For this week’s Body Blog, we’re turning to our friend and college nutritionist Melanie Jatsek to help a reader in need. Though we’re pretty sure the girl who wrote in isn’t the only one with this problem….]

Dear College Candy,

Thank you so much for your topics on health and fitness. As a college student, I feel very self-conscious about my body, and it causes a great deal of self-esteem issues. Especially around midterms, eating binges for me are fairly common.  What is the best way to prevent this?  Also, I live with two boys who eat WHATEVER they want… how do I avoid eating what they eat??

Thank You,
Binging Betty

Dear Binging Betty,

When you’re tired, you sleep.  When you’re thirsty, you drink.  When you’re hungry, stressed, sad, or bored…you eat!  Get the picture?

Food is medicine for the body, but often times we eat it to self-medicate.  We aren’t self-medicating with carrots sticks either – it’s more like M&M’s, chips and ice cream.  This doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human!  When it occurs too often, however, it can lead to food binges.  Depression, guilt, name-calling and a zap in your energy level are usually the result.

The two best ways to stop your food binge:  Plan your plate and follow the 80-20 rule.

Plan your plate:

Skipping meals and eating foods loaded with fat, salt and sugar will set you up for failure.  More recent studies have shown these types of foods to be addicting in nature.  In other words, they’re absolutely irresistible and compel you to eat more!  Think about the last time you opened up a bag of potato chips – did you eat just one or several handfuls?

If you want to put an end to your food binges, you have to start by eating three well-balanced meals and snacks throughout the day.  Visualize your plate like one of those 3-compartment Styrofoam plates you see at your family parties.  The biggest compartment is your “carbohydrates,” the medium compartment is your “proteins” and the smallest compartment is your “healthy fats.”

Carbohydrates = beans and legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables, yogurt

Proteins = beans and legumes, cheese, eggs, fish/seafood, meats/poultry, milk, protein powder, soy, yogurt

Healthy Fats = oils, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, avocados, olives

When planning your meals, it’s important to include all three because they each serve a purpose.  Carbohydrates give you energy, protein helps you stay alert and focused, and fat keeps you feeling satisfied after your meal so that you won’t find yourself wandering over to the fridge to see what else you can munch on.  Don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day too.  Dehydration can make you feel hungry, when all you really need is a few sips of water.

An example of a well-balanced meal to keep you focused, energized and satisfied during a busy, stressful week would be:

* 3 ounces of baked chicken or salmon (protein)
* 1 cup of cooked brown rice (carbohydrate) and ½ cup of black beans (protein/carbohydrate)
* 1 cup of steamed broccoli (carbohydrate) drizzled with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (fat) and sprinkled with a small handful of crushed peanuts or walnuts (fat)
* 16 ounces of water to drink

The 80-20 rule:

What if you’re just dying for some chocolate or potato chips? Do you ignore the craving and hope it goes away?  NO!  You make room for it.  The 80-20 rule means that 80% of the time you eat well-balanced meals and snacks and 20% of the time you have a little fun!  All foods fit in a healthy diet.  Trying to live an “all or nothing” lifestyle is the fastest way to failure.  Besides, your brain doesn’t like to be told it can’t have something.  Have you ever tried giving up your favorite “sinfully delicious” food?  You wind up obsessing over it, don’t you?  By removing the words “can’t have” from your vocabulary, you render those M&M’s powerless!

To stop you from polishing off that whole bag of chips or M&M’s, follow these two simple rules:

1. Never eat them when you’re hungry or as a snack.  This spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R!

2. If you really have a taste for them, eat them with or directly after a well-balanced meal to weaken their addictiveness.  For example: a handful of chips with a chicken breast sandwich on whole grain bread or a small snack pack of M&M’s afterward.

You’ll find that when you build your diet around a solid base of healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats 80% of the time, your taste buds will change a bit and you’ll slowly start to prefer more of these foods and less of the salty and sweet ones.  In other words, you lose taste for them.

If you happen to have a craving for your favorite “sinfully delicious” foods, remember there’s room for them – 20% of the time.  Don’t be surprised though if you find yourself less tempted by them.  When you start making positive changes in your eating habits you’ll begin to view food a little differently.  That once absolutely irresistible ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie will now just be…well…. a cookie.

Get more healthy tips and tricks from Melanie right here.

[Melanie Jatsek is an author, speaker and registered dietitian who teaches college students how to eat to look better, feel better, think better and stress less!  Send her an email at [email protected] or connect with her on her new Facebook page for college students: “The Healthy Campus Project.”]

Candy Dish: Belt it Out Harry
Candy Dish: Belt it Out Harry
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