Sheri’s Rants #23: The Binge and the Payback

Posted on August 26, 2009 by

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My friend Jeannette went for a 15 mile hike this last weekend with a group of friends she’d not seen in years.  When she came out of the woods, she headed to the local mini-mart and bought a Big Gulp diet coke and sloshed it down because “I was really thirsty.”  Her first diet coke in maybe a year – a year that she has spent meticulously taking care of her body, learning to eat, exercising moderately, dropped 42 lbs.  She’s pretty happy with her body.  She said by that night she felt agitated, unsettled, and had a headache.  The next day she went into town and went to Costco, where she was assaulted with the sights and smells of literally tons of refined and processed ‘foods’, along with people at little tables at every turn handing her crap to stuff in her mouth.  Which she did.  Then she bought a huge tub of some kind of artichoke/cheese/mayonnaise dip stuff, along with some ‘multi colored multi grain chips’ and ate them all the way (1.5 hours) home.  Along with another Big Gulp and some cookies.  Once home she banged on a neighbor’s door and, with a ‘boiling gut’, handed over the chips and dip.  She was really proud of that.  Nice.

The next day she woke up with what she describes as ‘the runs’ and a headache.  After stepping on the scale and finding her weight up by 3 lbs she decided she’d better drop to a low calorie day and do some cardio.  She couldn’t get her heartrate up on the cardio machine and had to leave the machine 3 times in 30 minutes to…ah…’use the bathroom’.  Still she persevered.  The day after that, still gut-wreaked and headachey, her weight still up, she decided to stay with low calories and called me because she was too weak to do her cardio and was freaked out that rotation ‘wasn’t going to work’ and worried that ‘something is really wrong with me’.

“Jeanette”, I said, ” why were you inspired, even though you were feeling so ill, to drop your calories and do cardio?”

“Well,” Jeanette says, “my weight was up and I wanted to burn that off.  I know I ate way too much garbage and I wanted to lose the weight right away.”

Me:  “While I understand the drive, let’s talk about what chemically happened.  So you came out of the woods and you were thirsty.  Had you been drinking water on the hike?”  “Oh yes,” she says, “but I wanted something, you know, cold and substantial.  I felt like, here I had hiked all that way, and I deserved something more than water, and so I had a diet coke.  That is what I always used to do.”

Me: “So was that really about thirst, or was it something else?”  Jeanette: “It was like a craving.”

Me: “Okay, so you had a craving for diet coke out of an old habit, and you had one, and then you got sick from that.  So the next day what happened?”  “Well,” she says, “on a whim I decided I needed to go to Costco, which is way out of my way and since I live alone I didn’t really need anything in bulk, I don’t know why I did that I guess.  And once I was there, it was like I was on another planet, and I didn’t even think about what I was doing.  Next thing I knew I was in the car eating all that crap.”

I’m going to break down for you what is going on here: 1) She goes on a hike, a long one, with an old group of friends, and has a diet coke out of long lost habit.  The coke makes her sick, being as she hasn’t eaten chemicals in a year, and that triggers addiction (from the inflammation). 2)  The next day she makes a mindless decision (out of triggered addiction) and eats a bunch of crap.  She gets quite ill, and knows it was from the crap, and – and this is the critical part – starts beating up on herself for eating all the crap and feeling like shit.  3) She makes a decision to drop her calories and do cardio, because she is getting fat by what the scale tells her.  But the cardio isn’t ‘working’ , her body is not responding.

Why isn’t her body responding?

Because it’s in detox, and detox is a powerful process that requires quite a bit of energy from the body. If the body has to detox crap food that causes inflammation, then that is the MOST IMPORTANT TASK FOR THE BODY TO DO.  Dropping stored body fat is a luxury to the liver.  Cleaning out the body is numero uno.  If your body is deeply entrenched in an ass-saving process like detoxification from harmful foodstuffs, then it does not have leftover energy for cardio, either.  The inability to get her heartrate up shows this (since she didn’t pick up the message from the 3 runs to the bathroom in that 30 minutes…).

REALITY: When you binge on inflammatory foods (crap) then the body has to deal with all the inflammation.  That is why you won’t feel so good.  Now, the scale is going to go up the next morning, because of the sodium, chemicals, and general inflammation.  Not necessarily fat storage, but simple water bloat from inflammation.  If you react to the scale, and don’t stop to think about the chemistry and calm down (you know, be a big kid) – then you’ll go into Diet Head.  Diet Head says “ACK!  I’m fat again!  Quick!  Drop calories and do cardio!  Work it off!”

Except that if your body is fundamentally healthy, it is going to be spending all of it’s energy on detoxification, not fat burning.  And it will show you this by not responding ‘normally’ to your heart rate monitor or your level of exercise.  I know many of you out there have experienced this, and this is one of the many reasons we have our clients wear heart rate monitors ALWAYS when doing cardio – there is so much you can learn from your heart rate.

So if you push it – here’s your body trying to detox, here’s you in Diet Head trying to shove your body in another direction – what’s gonna happen?  Well, number one your body is going to have some alarm and confusion.  It wants to detox but you’re adding another load, another stress (dropped calories and cardio).  This will prolong both the detox AND the fat loss, because the body may have to opt for famine mode, or consider burning muscle tissue, or – and this happens a lot – take you down completely with an illness (cold, respiratory, ‘stomach flu’, whatever) due to the overload and to get you to sit the hell down.

Further, some foods work slowly on the inflammation process and so the scale the day after the binge may show sodium weight, but chemicals, wheat, corn, and other things you may be sensitive to won’t show up for about 3 days.  Many times what happens is you go into Diet Head and drop calories and do cardio and then a couple days later your weight is up MORE and now you’re flipping out that ‘nothing is working’ and you end up binging again and then the cycle gets out of control. In the general population, what we see normally is folks who eat high calories (binge foods) and then follow that up with 3-5 days of NOT eating and exercising like crazy, followed by another high calorie binge day…and the body in constant detox and stress and so does the weight go down?  NOPE.  It keeps going up.

AND THAT, my friends, is how we end up in that hopeless place of ‘hardly eating anything’ and doing tons of cardio and continuing to gain weight.  But I digress from Jeannette’s story.

Once I explained all of this to Jeannette, this is what she summed up her experience with:  “I guess what I was really doing was DSC_2282I binged, and then I felt I needed the payback, I needed to beat myself up.  Even though the cardio hurt, I felt like I deserved that for binging. So I pushed myself harder.   And got sicker.  And more disgusted with my self…I really want to reach my goal weight and keep feeling better.  So why would I do this to myself?”

Well, it doesn’t really matter ‘why’.  It doesn’t.  What matters is that you work with the chemistry and be logical about it. Take full responsibility and avoid the Diet Head reaction.  If you binge, and feel like crap, keep your calories HIGH and CLEAN so that your body gets nourished, the liver can do it’s work of detoxification (which takes energy from the food you eat!) and you can turn off the addiction.  Drink a lot of water so your body can flush.  Don’t do cardio.  Walk, hike, do some bodyweight training – you DO want to move your blood around but you don’t want to STRESS your body.  Do you get this?  Let your body detox.  The quicker you are out of the addiction the better off you will be.

Yes, this takes time to learn.  That’s okay.  Just keep learning.  Over time, you’ll understand and work with the chemistry and not react to the Diet Head.

Posted in: Sheri's Rants