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Why Portion Control Doesn’t Work (And What To Do Instead)

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on August 13, 2012

the endless binge restrict cycle infographic by body love wellness

Healing from compulsive overeating / bingeing is impossible within this cycle.

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you.

You go on a diet or meal plan and you do really well with it for a little while. You feel in control, healthier, just “better” overall.

And then something happens. You have a rough day at work. You have a fight with your partner. You wake up feeling too tired to work out or just hungrier than usual. And then … you binge or just generally eat past the point of comfort.  Maybe you eat something that isn’t on your plan, something forbidden. Maybe you go back to your plan or diet the next day, but these “cheat days” or binges seem to happen more and more frequently.

You beat up on yourself. You feel like you failed. You feel overwhelmed with emotions. Your body feels uncomfortable and bloated.

So what do you do? The only thing you know how to do. The thing that everyone tells you to do. You go back on a diet or plan (maybe the same one, maybe a new one) and hope that overwhelming feeling, that hurricane of desire to binge, won’t happen again.  You start to feel in control, healthier, just “better” overall. And then something happens . . .

Why Portion Control (& Restricting & Dieting) Don’t Work
There are many, many reasons why portion control, restricting, dieting  do not work if you have bingeing* or overeating patterns. (Diets don’t work for weight loss in the long run either, but that’s a whole other story.)

Portion control doesn’t help a binge. It only leads to a new one.

As I wrote in Stop Dieting Now, using portion control to deal with overeating is like putting a band-aid on a deep knife wound. Maybe it’ll stop a bit of the bleeding or seem to be taking care of the problem for a while, but eventually you’ll realize that the band-aid isn’t helping. Plus, you may find that just putting a band-aid on it causes more problems than it solves.

The main reason why portion control doesn’t work is that it only deals with the symptom of bingeing, not the root cause. If you’re eating past the point of comfort as a way to ignore your feelings, those feelings don’t go away. They just get driven deeper down, only to come up again when you’re not paying attention. If you’re eating past the point of comfort because you’re body is desperately hungry because you’ve been restricting food, restricting more will not solve the problem.

Restricting will only lead to your next binge, and the cycle will start again.

What To Do Instead
In order to really heal, it’s important to break out of the restrict/binge cycle. That can be hard to do on your own, so getting additional support is helpful. However, here are three tips to get you started.

1) Intentionally Stop Restricting — This is different than stopping restricting because you’re bingeing. This is an intentional move out of the cycle. Decide that you are going to start a practice of listening to your body more. This process can take a while and be more complicated than it first appears, but it’s important to set this intention for yourself.

2) Respect Your Emotional Reality — Sometimes it’s hard to really acknowledge the depth and breadth of your emotions. You may have been raised to not express certain “negative” emotions, like anger or fear.  But the more you deny your emotions the more difficult they are to deal with. So it’s helpful to practice connecting with and acknowledging your emotions. Sometimes it’s helpful to just take a breath and ask yourself “What am I feeling?”  Trust that it’s okay to feel your feelings and practice finding safe ways to express them. The more you acknowledge your emotional reality, the less you’ll need to use food to handle your emotions.

3) Let Go Of Doing This Perfectly – Trying to be perfect is often a big part of what keeps you stuck in the binge/restrict cycle. We try to be perfect with food, handle our emotions perfectly, deal with friends and loved ones perfectly and the end result is that we feel massively flawed for being imperfect. There is no perfect way to eat, no perfect way to deal with your emotions and no perfect way out of the binge/restrict cycle. What is perfect is your particular journey, no matter how imperfect it may seem.

An Offer Of Additional Support

This week only, I’m offering my Heal From Emotional Eating Home Study Program for only $47.

In this program you will learn to break away from the never ending binge/restrict cycle, eat in a way that is connected to your body’s needs, and discover new methods of dealing with your emotional needs. I normally charge $147 for this program, but I want to make this decision a “no brainer”. To learn more and get this special deal (no code required!), click here.

*I use bingeing and overeating pretty interchangeably in this post, mostly because what counts as overeating vs. bingeing is often open to interpretation, and different people describe their habits differently.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Golda Poretsky, HHC (@bodylovewellnes) August 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

Thanks! RT @barbaramccool: Neat article! “Portion control doesn’t help a binge. It only leads to a new one.” http://t.co/xvZlE7YZ

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@BarbaraMcCool August 16, 2012 at 5:47 am

Neat article! “Portion control doesn’t help a binge. It only leads to a new one.” – @bodylovewellnes http://t.co/CxlmhIXi

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@bodyimagebloggr August 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

“Portion control doesn’t help a binge. It only leads to a new one.” – @bodylovewellnes http://t.co/XFGvqtMO

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Cija Black (@CijaBlack) August 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm

This is some good advice. Why Portion Control Doesn’t Work (And What To Do Instead) — Body Love Wellness http://t.co/BoeMOjkz

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Mulberry August 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Boy do I hate the term portion control. As if a larger portion is somehow out of control. Do people practice “portion control” with sleep, sex or alcohol? Do thin people who eat a lot worry about portion control? It’s such an infantilizing term.
I may be unusual here, but weight-loss dieting doesn’t give me that “in control” feeling. It just makes me feel like I’m kissing ass.

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@MyHarmReduction August 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Oh! I like this lady! Why Portion Control Doesn’t Work (And What To Do Instead) http://t.co/f8yGgjRx via @@bodylovewellnes

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Psiconutricion (@Nutreme) August 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Why Portion Control Doesn’t Work (And What To Do Instead) http://t.co/J07r3fXW vía @@bodylovewellnes

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Golda Poretsky, HHC (@bodylovewellnes) August 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I’m doing a really special deal on my #emotionaleating program. Check it out here –> http://t.co/jvdTZ0Fn

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jane hyde August 13, 2012 at 8:34 am

yet another wonderfully helpful comment, you can do no wrong, and your book is really helping to

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. August 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Aww thanks. And I’m so glad the book is helping!

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Golda Poretsky, HHC (@bodylovewellnes) August 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

New post: Why Portion Control Doesn’t Work (And What To Do Instead) http://t.co/A3kZ4RtU #binge #intuitiveeating #restrict

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