Structured eating for Binge Eating Disorder recovery
Learn how structured meal plans can support your journey to healthy eating behaviours
When you’re recovering from Binge Eating Disorder, it’s important to control food consumption with a systematic approach. Structured eating involves organizing meals to facilitate a nourishing, balanced diet and positive relationship with food. Over time, your body and brain will learn to communicate constructively when it comes to your nutritional needs.
It’s also vital for family, friends and caretakers of individuals recovering from an eating disorder to understand the ins and outs of meal planning. That way, you can support your loved one on their journey towards healthy eating behaviours.
Below, we break down what structured eating for Binge Eating Disorder recovery involves, why it is important and what steps you can take to implement this practice.
What is structured eating?
As the name suggests, structured eating lays out an organised, sustainable way to feed. This healthy and controlled approach includes when, what and how much food to eat.
Principles of structured eating
- Eat within 1 hour of waking
- Eat in 3-4 hour intervals
- Eat 3 meals a day, with 2-3 snacks to keep you going in between
- Eat nutritiously-balanced, well-portioned food
Why is structured eating important?
The goal of structured eating is to replace a harmful cycle of food restriction and bingeing with a healthy pattern of regular meals.
One of the most helpful things you can do to combat cravings and prevent binges is to follow an eating routine that ensures your body remains nourished and satisfied throughout the day. In fact, research has shown that structured eating is the most effective way to normalise regular dietary patterns when recovering from an eating disorder.
Benefits of structured eating
- By planning your grocery shopping in advance, you can shop for food more mindfully. Instead of stocking up on unhealthy food that may trigger a binge eating episode, you can focus on buying only what you came for.
- Meal planning will also help to minimise the number of visits you make to the grocery store, which can be an anxiety-inducing experience for someone with an eating disorder.
- Meal planning is usually a more affordable alternative to last-minute food choices, which may result in dining out or getting takeaway.
- A meal plan can also reduce the number of decisions you need to make about food to ensure your body stays nourished – choices that can feel overwhelming when you’re recovering from an eating disorder.
- Structured eating supports you in creating boundaries for each meal. You can choose exactly how much food to consume and even identify one item that will serve as your final bite. This will give your meal a clear end point.
- As structured eating involves having food at regular meal times, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with your family and friends if you’d like.
- Your metabolic rate is that at which your body uses energy from calorie intake. If you consistently reduce your daily calories, your body will try to conserve energy by slowing down your metabolism, which can hinder healthy bodily functions. By reinstating regular eating patterns, you can help to rehabilitate your metabolism.
10 tips for structured eating
Regardless of whether you or a loved one are interested in meal planning, it is important to understand what measures you can take to support structured eating for Binge Eating Disorder recovery. Below, we share ten tips to help you get started.
- At the start of each week, dedicate a few minutes to plan at least 5 lunches and 5 dinners for the day ahead.
- Know that your meal plan is not set in stone and that it’s okay to change your mind. Include some wiggle room for spontaneous outings or recipe swaps between meals depending on what you feel like at the time.
- Make a shopping list of all the ingredients you need for your weekly meal plan ahead. By focusing on a clear set of items to buy, you can avoid overwhelming choice and unplanned purchases.
- Schedule one or two big shopping trips each week to cover the majority of your meal plan. You may also want to plan an extra ‘top up’ trip for any forgotten or extra ingredients!
- If you are unable to cook or would simply rather the convenience of a premade meal, know that you can still stick to a healthy meal plan with dishes from the freshly prepared section of your supermarket.
- Don’t forget about snacks in your meal plan. The nibbles you enjoy between meals play an important role in preventing hunger levels from dipping too low and encouraging a binge eating episode.
- Remember that structured eating doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy variety in your diet or get pleasure from your food! Make sure to have various breakfast and snack options that you can choose from each day depending on what you feel like.
- If possible,share your intentions with your family and friends right from the start so that they will understand your choices and can support you along the way.
- If your stomach doesn’t feel satisfied after your meal, question the amount and type of food eaten. Also consider the exercise and energy you’ve expended that day. It might be the case that you need slightly more fuel than the day before, or that your meal didn’t provide quite enough nutrients.
- If you notice that you’re always hungry after eating, it’s likely that you need to adjust your meal plan to get more sustenance from healthy foods. Keep a food diary that will allow you to log your food intake and flag any trends in your eating habits so that you can work out what changes are needed.
Structured eating support from registered dietitians
By making the time and effort to meal plan and adopt other structured eating practices, you can support your recovery from Binge Eating Disorder. If you have undergone bariatric surgery and would like to seek professional advice and guidance with structured eating, our registered dietitians and nutritionists are here to help you prepare and implement your meal plans.
To begin your journey with Newcastle Obesity Surgery Centre, please book an appointment through our contact form or call us now on 02 4058 3936.