Observations on involuntary binge eating.

I'll start by saying that this is a complex and multifaceted issue, and circumstances from one individual to another will vary. Therefore this might not be applicable to everyone with a binge eating problem, but hopefully it might be to some.

I've long felt that over restriction of energy intake is the cause of all manner of other problems. Restricting or banning food choices actually makes you crave them and more likely to over indulge in them than if you'd adopted a flexible approach with a little room in the plan for a delicious treat in moderation.

I had a link to a study on that point but I'll have to try dig it up later and paste it in.

Now along with restriction of food choices also comes restriction of energy intake, either inadvertently due to avoidance of calorie dense foods, or deliberately via attempted adherence to a low calorie target. Often this will be the generic 1200 calorie diet, or restricting to BMR or even "netting your BMR".

So for the people who are quite active and enthusiastic about training, who are attempting to adhere to a low calorie diet as described above, but invariably end up going way, way off the rails eating what we might describe as.... well, let's just say significantly more than you intended...

My observation quite often is that this is a recurring or cyclical thing, and even though you end up quite upset (to say the least) and blame this "binge" eating for a lack of progress in your training or weight loss goals, your condition stays about the same and you don't re-gain weight or see any other regression in condition.

So for those people, here's my observation and my theory about what is going on. As I mentioned earlier, I believe most problems stem from trying to restrict to an unrealistic and inadequate total energy intake. To illustrate what an appropriate intake might look like just in terms of total calories, I came up with an imaginary / hypothetical case study of a 22 year old female client of about average height, about average weight, and above average participation in exercise and training.

Running the maths on this client at "extra active" level, the numbers were pretty high so I decided on "moderate activity" instead. I am working on the theory here that people in this situation even though they are indeed "extra active" are somehow convinced that it doesn't really count for some reason and they don't require as much fuel as another athlete at that level. So... ok then I will humour you and go with just "moderate activity".

If you are active and participating in sports or training most days, that's certainly "moderate activity" at the very least, right? Anyway for this hypothetical female client at moderate activity I crunch the numbers and decide that 2000 calories per day is the appropriate target to see better results, lean out a little and quite likely lose 5kg in the process.

Now... imagine that like many people, rather than the appropriate 2000 calories per day, this client is restricting to a target of 1400 calories per day. Now, that's 600 calories per day below the amount she actually REQUIRES. Not below maintenance, below REQUIREMENTS. At some point the body is going to say "enough is enough"... or rather, it is going to say "not enough is NOT enough" and demand the rest, all in one go.

Here's a little chart I made showing the amount you'd need to eat on a Sunday to get back up to 2000 per day on average, after restricting to 1400 calories per day for the week previous.

Now realistically, it won't necessarily happen on the seventh day rounding out a week of failed dieting. It might be the fourth, or the tenth, or whatever day. At some point though the human body will DEMAND the massive amount of missing energy (not to mention other nutritional resources) that it requires but has not received. And even though the conscious part of the brain that you hear as a little voice in your head might still be saying "no", that's not really the part that is running the show.

To my way of thinking this is self evident. People are upset and dismayed that they have ended up over eating to the tune of hundreds, or even thousands of calories in an afternoon or evening. Have they really though? If this happens regularly without resulting in significant weight gain, it is self evident that in actual fact, on average, they have only consumed the amount required to maintain their current weight. In other words, they've made up for what they needed but did not receive in the days prior.

In these situations it is the attempt of restricting below the amount that you require for good results that is to blame for a lack of progress, not the days when you inevitably, involuntarily "over eat" to make up the difference.

Since 2000 calories per day is the actual requirement in this case, in my opinion something like the following would be a much better strategy to ensure results from training and enjoyment of life as well.


As you can see, this is a decent and suitable amount each day and good stack extra on Saturday night to grab a pizza to share with your friend while watching a DVD or something nice like that.

The bottom line is: you cannot expect results from training by restricting your energy intake. You can’t expect to hold out and stick to that level of restriction in the first place, as your subconscious will take over and you will end up making up the difference involuntarily. But even if you COULD hold out, it wouldn’t be conducive to results from training anyway.

You MUST give your body what it REQUIRES not only to FUEL activity but to RECOVER and ADAPT positively to training.

Always remember: You are trying to BUILD something here.

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