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The Binge-Restrict Cycle

Here we look at the 'Binge-Restrict Cycle' - how is has negative effects on our physical and mental wellbeing and how we can get out of it!


Before I get revved-up on this one, there are 2 important points I want to make: 1.) It's fair to say that I have, in the dim & distant past definitely followed binged patterns myself 2.) When I talk about being a 'Weekend Binger', I'm not just talking about food and booze.


As listeners of my new Podcast 'The Wellness Sessions' (cue shameless plug - available on all good podcast playing platforms) will know from my latest episode, sleep falls into this category too.



A story of the Binge-Restrict Cycle


So here's how people justify it to themselves, illustrated using the example of 'Made-up Mandy'! And when I say 'Made-up Mandy', I mean I've invented her - she's not real (as opposed to her heading for a night-out, after spending 20 minutes with her 'Max Factor' kit).


Anyway, from Monday to Friday 'Made-up Mandy' thinks she's being what she likes to call 'good', 'healthy' and 'well behaved' by restricting her calories, not eating or drinking anything she actually enjoys, and permanently feeling hungry (she averages 1,200 Calories per day). So, by the time 'Made-up Mandy' gets to Friday Evening, she thinks 'I've been good all week, I haven't eaten anything naughty or had any booze, so I deserve this take-away pizza with my partner 'Fictional Frank', and let's crack open a bottle of wine while we're at it - it's the weekend after all! Oh, and I always have a big packet of crisps while I finish my Pinot Grigio (you know, those posh Kettle Chip/Tyrrell's ones! Other brands of potato-based snacks are also available).'


Made-up Mandy has a sweet-tooth too so now she fancies a bit of chocolate, but it's okay because she's been 'good' all week, so she gets stuck-into the dairy milk, and actually ends-up scoffing the whole 200 gram bar.


During the week, Made-up Mandy heads to bed at 11.00 pm, as she has to be up for work in the morning, but not tomorrow! So her and Fictional Frank settle down to watch Graham Norton and it's gone 12.30am when they finally climb into bed. But it's okay, no work tomorrow so Mandy and Frank have a lie-in ('Mank',or 'Frandy', as I like to call them, always looks forward to their lie-in at the weekend!) They've got up at 5.45 am for work all week after all, so they deserve this disregulation of their hormones by sleeping in until 9.00am.


This impacts Mandy and Frank's mood the next day - 'Moody Mandy', and 'Cranky Frank', but they're not really sure why (it's the lack of consistency with sleep and wake times and food and drink by the way!) They eventually drag themselves from their slumber with slightly groggy heads from the Pinot and Frank says "I fancy a Fry-up". "Yeah, let's treat ourselves", says Mandy. "It's the weekend!"


All of Saturday this continues, Mandy & Frank indulging in all of their favourite foods, which in their minds they 'deserve' because they've been so 'good' during the week. A few Bottles of Beer for Frank and another couple of Glasses of Plonk for Mandy in front of the telly on Saturday night, and off to Bed at 12.30pm again after a bit of Netflix followed by another 'treat' - Lie-in Number 2!

Sunday comes and follows similar eating and drinking patterns, including Mandy and Frank thinking, "I'm still really hungry, I could demolish a Sunday Roast, followed by a lemon cheesecake. Well the diet went out of the window on Friday night, and we'll get back on it tomorrow so yeah, let's do it!"


Average Daily Calories at the weekend? 3200!


Monday morning arrives and that 'Eeeuuggghh I hate Monday's' feeling hits. Mandy and Frank struggle to get out of bed, feeling sluggish, and lethargic. Back to being 'Good' it is then - 'Where's that Muesli?'



Does this routine sound familiar?


Mandy and Frank are firmly under the grasp of the 'Binge-Restrict Cycle' - i.e. eat nothing/very little that you enjoy during the week - only foods you see as being 'healthy'. Eat SO little that by the time it gets to the weekend, you're absolutely starving and craving all those hyper-palatable foods and drinks you love (you know, the ones Mandy and Frank wrongly call 'unhealthy', 'naughty', 'treats') because you haven't allowed yourself them during the week!


The same applies to their sleep. They didn't get enough kip Monday to Friday so tried to make up for it (whether consciously or sub-consciously) by binging on that too with two lie-ins.


Now, as I mentioned at the start of this post - I have been guilty of following extreme (but admittedly different) binge patterns myself in the past. When I was in my teens, I went through a phase of not having breakfast (although there's absolutely nothing wrong with that), and not eating anything until right at the end of school lunchtime, after my gym session. I'd then pig out on bacon sarnies (ironically!) and chocolate doughnuts! I'd then 'starve' myself again until tea-time before another session at the trough, eating my Mum and Dad out of house & H=home! I have no idea what I thought I was trying to achieve with this advanced Sports Science!

But the point I'm making is that if we restrict calories, and foods we enjoy so much that we end up 'Hank Marving' & craving the foods we love, it's only likely to go in one direction, whether or not we kid ourselves that this isn't what we're doing. Again, the same applies to sleep, which is just as important (as well as having a big impact on our nutritional choices too). I hope this hasn't come across as too 'preachy', but if you do genuinely want to improve the way you feel (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and the way you look, keep reading.



How to identify and break the cycle


Start by being honest with yourself.


A.) Does this sound familiar

B.) Is it working for you

If you're serious about wanting to improve those things mentioned above - give this a go - eat more during the week, not less!


If you eat more, you'll have more energy and move more, speeding up your metabolism, so you eat more and the cycle continues. Remember more calories out than in is key, but as I say if you eat more, you'll move more! Eat more foods you enjoy, and stop calling them 'treats' - you're not a Labrador! If you fancy a couple of squares of chocolate on a Wednesday - have them, and enjoy them! (Ask yourself what would happen if you had two squares of chocolate every weekday. You'd probably not end-up craving chocolate at the weekend, eating a whole bar, then feeling terrible!


Remember, it's still really important to have a high proportion of our food coming from nutritionally-dense, optimal food sources. The other stuff - 'empty calories' doesn't fill us anywhere near as much as quality Meat, Fish, Eggs, Vegetables, etc.


Apply the same principle to your sleep - i.e. consistency! Set a time to go to bed and a time to get up each day and stick to it, 7 days a week - your body will thank you for it!


There's loads more helpful info on this on Podcast 4 - 'Sleep - How to do it better and change your life!'.



Want more Nutrition Advice? Feel free to get in touch!