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Stop Me Before I Binge Again!

6 strategies for taking control
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

It's time to stock up on holiday goodies again. No matter that you and many of your friends and relatives are counting calories this year. It would be a shame to be caught with an empty pantry if guests dropped by. What could it hurt to lay in a supply of fancy chocolates, just to be on the safe side?

It's when you look at your chocolate-smudged fingers and see four empty candy wrappers that it hits you. You're on a binge.

The next day, you join your co-workers in the break room and indulge in the frosted cookies and other holiday goodies you'd been avoiding all week. That night, you go to a party where you end up eating like there's no tomorrow.

What happened? Your diet had been going so well -- at least since the last binge.

Why Do Special Occasions Make Us Vulnerable?

What is it about special occasions -- holidays, weddings, birthdays, vacations -- that invites eating well past the point of being full? Three experts talked to WebMD about the problem and gave some advice on how to bounce back -- and how to prevent the next binge.

Special occasions trigger binges for three reasons, says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, author of The Way to Eat.

  • First, they provide a social license to binge because everyone's doing it. "Indulgence loves company," Katz says.
  • Second, they provide opportunity: "You're surrounded by foods like chocolate candy, and exposure begets indulgence."
  • And third, they provide a festive feeling: "You think because it's not something you usually do that it's OK. You can compensate tomorrow."

Special occasions are part of a complex web of hobgoblins that ensnare us in spite of our good intentions. Stress, loneliness, boredom, and feelings of deprivation all contribute.

Deprivation is one of the big ones for dieters, says Dee Sandquist, MS, RD, CD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"Dieting for some people means skipping meals and getting overly hungry," she says. "That could cause a binge. You'll crave the foods you're leaving out."

Can You Stop Mid-Binge?

One way to turn off a binge is to get away from the stimulus, says Christian Crandall, PhD, professor of social psychology at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

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