Unconventional Advice: Beating the Binge


If you struggle with binge eating you are certainly not alone. It is a common theme I see when I’m reading new client intake questionnaires. It’s usually something along the lines of:

“I will often do great on a new plan for a few days, but end up falling face first in a vat of ice cream before long. If only I could just CONTROL myself a bit more around sugar/breads/evil food d’jour, I wouldn’t struggle so much.”

“I don’t eat gluten/sugar/dairy/processed foods at all. Except when I do, and then I eat a lot. And then I pay for days.”

“I have a hard time sticking with my 1200 calorie allotment from MFP. I usually do so well for a few days but I have a major sweet tooth and can find myself mindlessly eating an entire batch of cookies when I’m not paying attention.”

“Dieting makes me feel bad mentally, and food makes me feel better. The diets never last.”

Some further reading into the client’s food diary often reveals the same scenario: control, control, control, control, (salad leaves, NO dressing, raw veggies, plain oatmeal, dry chicken), and then, record scratch, 2000 calories of ice cream, cake, pizza, and booze in an evening.

And then the cycle of guilt, punishment, and restriction starts again.

10 times out of 10, when I read about a client’s binging behaviour and then identify their purging cycle tendencies in the food diary, my advice is pretty simple, and it isn’t to ditch all the sugar in their cupboards and hide in a bubble until they have beat the addiction (?!) and feel clean again.


Quite simply, my advice is much more likely to be this:

You need to eat more.

Generally speaking, for the average woman interested in losing body fat, the International Sports Sciences Association guidelines are to eat your body weight x 10-12 in calories each day. With very few exceptions, I opt for the x 12 for most of my clients.

For a 200lb woman, that is 2400 calories a day. Of course, there is a caveat with that recommendation, which is that around 75% of those calories should optimally be coming from nutrient dense, whole food sources.   Because those nutrient dense foods fuel your cells the way they need to be fuelled in order to burn fat deposits. They also give you tons of energy, make you feel full, and help your body function in a multitude of ways.

But I also absolutely believe that approximately 25% of your calories each day should be coming from other types of foods, the not-so-whole-and-nutrient-dense choices. The foods and libations that make life worth living, dang it!

Because you are much less likely to binge on a food that you already make room for in your meal plan.

Because life happens and holy cow, it’s only food.

Because while food is fuel physically, it is also fuel emotionally and socially, and we set ourselves up for success when we are able to recognize this, honour it, and plan accordingly.

And also, because wine.

Hope this note finds you well and encourages you to eat some more food. Ya food!




  • Kerry

    November 4, 2015

    I can totally relate to this post, especially the binge cycle. I do “good” and am very controlled, taking an all or nothing approach most of the time. Sugar seems to be my downfall and also the word “control. Because really, are we every in control?? LOL Anyway, I do ok for a few days and then, BAM!, I’m eating out of control again. What is your take on keeping a food journal? I always start with some type of journaling, but find that writing calories freaks me out and has sometimes backfired for me. What do you suggest? I was thinking just logging what and how much I’m eating, feelings, etc. My problem is, I know what I should eat, but don’t eat it and get stuck in a crazy cycle. I do think of myself as pretty knowledgeable in regards to nutrition, etc. I’m just very frustrated because I’ve been stuck in this cycle for years and cannot seem to break free, even though I know better. Thank you again for this great article, it really hits home. Especially the part about keeping away from the sugar bubble until the addiction is gone…it never is…it’s something that can be worked on though. 🙂

    • Amber

      November 4, 2015

      Hey Kerry,

      Thanks for the comment! I think a food diary can be a valuable tool to get an idea of what you are eating and try to hit certain targets, but I think for people who struggle with it your idea of logging ingredients and then journalling about how you are feeling each day is a much better option! Best of luck Kerry! 🙂