5 steps to stop the binge-restrict cycle

Pepperoni pizza
5 steps to stop the binge-restrict cycle

One of the most common fears that I hear from new clients is the lack of structure with Intuitive Eating.

"Full permission with ALL foods, are you crazy?! I'll only eat junk food and sweets 24/7!"

"Satisfaction? How do I know when I'm satisfied? I've never thought about actually liking my food."

"I haven't felt hunger cues for years. How can I possibly know when I'm slightly hungry?

When you've been on and off diets for years, relying on a do/don't eat prescription food lists, it's terrifying to let go of that structure and jump headfirst into honoring what your body wants to eat.

The thought of eating based on satisfaction and subtle hunger cues can also trigger the dieting mind, unleashing backlash fuckit eating, and create rebellious swinging between bingeing and restriction.

Giving up the certainty and safety of meal plans and acceptable food lists can feel like a big leap of faith in the beginning. But you don't have to do it completely cold turkey.

Inspired by my years of helping clients take this leap of faith between the binge-restrict cycle and Intuitive Eating, I created the SAVOR Model. In a recent blog post, I described the broader perspective of SAVOR it relates to both food and body.

Let's dive a little deeper into how it can be a helpful guide through the uncertainty that comes with applying the principles of Intuitive Eating in everyday life. First, the word SAVOR stands for...





Reflect & Release

All of the principles of Intuitive Eating fit into each of these steps. Here's how the model works:

Stop. Take the time to pause, even just for a mindful-minute. Notice what messages about food and your body you've been taught over the years from school, caregivers, friends, medical providers, and the media. How do these messages affect your thoughts and beliefs about food? Doing this reflection is the first step to Rejecting The Diet Mentality and Making Peace with Food, two foundational principles of Intuitive Eating.

Awareness. The next time you reach for a snack, take a mindful-minute and notice if you have any physical signs of hunger. If so, how can you Honor Your Hunger at the moment? Honoring your hunger is another principle of Intuitive Eating and a critical piece that will keep you from getting entangled with the binge-restrict cycle. If you let yourself get too hungry, you will easily eat beyond fullness, which can lead to consistent fuckit eating.

As you consider what foods you have access to, notice if any Food Police thoughts come to mind. These are thoughts created by diet culture and your past dieting experiences telling you what's good or bad to eat. They're typically tied to an agenda that's outside your body - usually weight-loss, appearance, and even someone else's definition of health.

The point here isn't to judge the Food Police thoughts or yourself for having them. It's just about noticing and getting compassionately curious about those thoughts.

As you become aware of your hunger cues, consider what tastes, textures, temperatures, and flavors you find satisfying in food. Discovering the Satisfaction Factor with food is the glue that holds the whole practice of Intuitive Eating together. If you aren't eating enough food, you won't be physically satisfied, which can lead to bingeing later. If you aren't eating foods you find pleasurable most of the time, it will also be difficult to subtly Feel Your Fullness and stop eating.

Table by a window with tea pot and mug
Your needs matter!

Validate. Your need for consistent nourishment matters. Your hunger cues matter. Your desire for pleasure and satisfaction when it comes to eating matters. Validation, while not directly tied to the principles of Intuitive Eating, is important in order to keep you moving forward toward autonomy with food and away from the confines of the binge-restrict cycle.

Options. As you pause for a mindful-minute, becoming aware of your hunger, satisfaction, while also denying food police thoughts whirling through your head, think about what options you have to Respect Your Body by honoring your hunger, satisfaction, and emotional needs at the moment?

If you're physically hungry, making a Gentle Nutrition (variety, balance, convenient, accessible) food choice can provide sustained energy and satisfaction as you go on with your day.

If you're not physically hungry, what options do you have to meet your emotional needs with kindness and compassion - with or without food? Maybe you need Movement to Feel the Difference in your body by moving it in an empowering way? Maybe you need downtime with your reflection journal, a book, or a movie? Maybe you need connection with your partner, friend, or pet?

As you consider all your options and what sensations are arising in your body, try not to censor or judge them. Compassionate curiosity is key here.

Reflect and Release. After you've done the best you can to meet your needs, take another mindful-minute to notice how your choice supported your wellbeing or not. If you're feeling nourished mind, body, spirit, you'll be less likely to engage in binge-restrict behavior later in the day.

If your choice didn't quite hit the mark, that's ok. What can you do differently next time given the resources you have? Be kind with yourself and curiously compassionate.

Then release the experience without judgment. Move on with your day knowing that you did the best you could at the moment to take care of yourself. There's no failure with SAVOR or Intuitive Eating, only learning opportunities.

Ready to give the SAVOR model a try?

Consider joining the upcoming Body Image & Intuitive Eating 6-Week Online Counseling Group. You'll receive practical, action-packed tools, resources, professional coaching, and access to an amazing community of women who are all about cheering each other on through the Savor Food & Body journey. Find details and registration HERE.