Can 0 to 5 LEAD to Bingeing?!?

Image Source: Stock Exchange

Image Source: Stock Exchange

A note from a blog reader (and friend):

On one of your videos I heard you say, “following a 0-5 food plan,” which really got me thinking, because I have thought of a food plan as an “eat this, in that amount, at such and such a time” sort of thing, as opposed to an approach to how we are planning to eat when we get hungry. I had thought of 0-5 eating as “beyond food planning” or “letting go of food planning,” but, in the grand sense, of course it is a food plan. It’s a plan to wait for hunger and to eat to satisfaction. It’s a different type of food plan, but it is a food plan nonetheless.

I’d like to offer some more thoughts, based on my experiences as a person with a history of lots of very restrictive eating, including following restrictive food plans for much longer than was good for me, on the whole idea of food plans and how I’ve made food planning work for me within a 0-5 framework.

When I first learned about the whole concept of 0-5 (hunger/satisfaction) eating, I felt released from food jail and liberated into the loving arms of God. I was elated. I employed the suggestions and floated my way right into a headlong binge. What happened? It took me totally by surprise. Well, after repeating the same mistake about 25 times or more (I am not a fast learner in this department), I finally realized that I was eating -5 to +10 instead of 0-5. I was getting too hungry and then overeating. But I didn’t overeat each time I ate. Because I was so used to restricting, I was basically getting too hungry and eating too little for as long as I could take it, and then I would compensate by bingeing every few days. The old binge-starve cycle, except that it started with starving until I worked up to a compensatory binge. Aha. A clear problem presents a clear answer: stop starving yourself! My eyes were open to one answer for me: eat to satisfaction each time, and you won’t need to binge. Halleluiah!

As I continue to re-calibrate and re-fine my eating, I have become aware that although hunger and satisfaction are very important and help me to be and feel most connected to God through my body, life is much easier for me if I find my own eating rhythm and plan accordingly.

Here’s my rhythm: I am very likely to get hungry every few hours. I am hungrier in the morning than in the evening, but that doesn’t always fit well with family and social meals. I need to eat breakfast for myself, but I can’t usually gracefully skip dinner. I am hardly ever hungry for an evening snack, so I don’t plan on one.

If I plan to eat three meals and two snacks per day, separated by approximately three hours each, then I find that my brain is not constantly cluttered by calculating and re-calculating what I can or should eat next time I get hungry or how long it will take me to get hungry, etc. I do best when I expect to eat regularly. I eat meals and snacks in accordance with my signals of hunger and satisfaction, but I also plan to eat normal, social meals and snacks. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that three meals and two snacks is my primary boundary and hunger and satisfaction is my secondary boundary, but they both compete for primary (is co-primary a word? twin primary?).

The reason it’s important for me to elevate the regular meal/snack eating is that when I tell myself I’m just eating for hunger/satisfaction, I tend to default to under-eating and then become tempted to over-eat. I guess that’s because of my history of restricting, I’m not sure. But I do know what’s true for me, and what’s true for me is that although I am on the 0-5 food plan, I’m also on the three meals and two snacks food plan, and it is a manageable challenge to integrate the two. In fact, I think integrating the two is what normal eaters do. Normal eaters almost never say, “no thanks, I’m not eating dinner tonight – I’m not hungry yet.” They try to eat when they are hungry, but if they aren’t hungry, they’ll order something, eat a bit of it, and share the rest or bring home the leftovers or whatever seems like a good idea at the time to them.

I don’t always wait for hunger or eat to satisfaction. Similarly, I don’t always eat three meals and two snacks. Sometimes I get hungry for an extra snack. Sometimes I skip a snack. But I really never skip meals. I might delay meals because of life circumstances even though I’m hungry, or I might put a meal off because I’m not hungry yet, but I’m not going without lunch.

The big “never” for me is that I never binge any more (praise God!!) at least so far, since I started to get serious about this approach. The other “never” is that I never starve myself. If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m not satisfied, I eat more. But I do it in the context of  “I’m going to eat again in another few hours so I don’t have to stuff myself and in fact I don’t even want to because why would a person do that to herself?”

Maybe the main benefit of planning on eating three meals and two snacks is that it decreases my anxiety about starving. A person who eats that often is not going to starve. I am not going to starve myself and therefore I don’t need to overeat to prevent future starvation or to make up for past starvation. I am taking care of myself – I can relax around food : )

I hope this imperfect approach is useful to someone else. I so want to be linear and rigid, but I know that doesn’t work for me any more. It never worked for me, even though it’s how I attempted to live for years. I have to be integrated, complex, and flexible. Darn it.

~ Anonymous 🙂

What About You?

Have you modified your 0 to 5 eating in a way that frees you? Can you relate to this writer’s technique? How about sharing with us how you manage? It might encourage someone else!

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21 Responses to Can 0 to 5 LEAD to Bingeing?!?

  1. Beth October 22, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    Wow. Thanks! Heidi, I was just trying to ask a question about something similar to this yesterday, but I couldn’t phrase it write and it felt like a jumbled mess. This post basically answered that jumbled mess.

    I have been working through the book/devotional “Thin Within” and I’m almost done. I’ve found along this journey that when I wait until 0 to eat it isn’t the right time and so I wait, then when it is time time to eat I don’t feel hungry anymore. I can see now that it is because of bad habits before and my body just coping that I’ll not feel hungry….and like the author I’ll overeat…it’s like I’m a crazy person.

    This post has given me some more to think about in this area.


    • Heidi Bylsma October 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Hi, Beth. So grateful that you have something to work with now from my friend. She is a very wise lover of Jesus and I am so glad she is willing to share her insights here!

  2. Carrie (South Africa) October 22, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    I totally get what you saying! Coming from a very disordered eating history, waiting till 0 is not the issue. The issue is that I can ride that 0 till I’m way past starving, coz that was my default setting for a decade or so! And then stopping at 5 is hard because I’ve just come from a -10 lol! So God is working with me. Again.
    Thanks for your posting.

  3. Becky McGeorge October 22, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    Thank you for your candid thoughts on 0-5 eating. All I
    can say is that I too have fallen into a similar trap and was focusing too much on ” am I hungry enough?” , “is this really a zero?”, ” Did I go over five?”. Ah, the angst of legalism!
    I had given up, but now may give it another go. Thanks again!


    • Heidi Bylsma October 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      I am so glad to hear that, Becky. Yes, DO give it another go. Let us know how it goes, ok? 🙂

  4. Lee October 22, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    That’s exactly what I have struggled with for years – legalism that is. Every time I try to get serious about Thin Within, I get in panic mode because of my starving experience with WeighDown. Did I lose weight – you bet – cause I was hungry all the time – so fearful of bringing God’s wrath down on myself if I ate even one bite over satisfied. I traded one addition for another, that is my addiction to food and eating to an addiction to legalism. I felt powerful, and powerless, all at the same time.
    I’m going to hang on to these words of wisdom. The whole matter of being successful in any weight loss program should be common sense first, but I usually throw out my common sense for a new set of rules. Not anymore, God gave me a body that senses hunger and fullness and what I need to do is listen to it, with my common sense in tack!!
    Heidi, thank you for posting this. As always, you seem to have a sense for what your readers need to hear:)

    • Heidi Bylsma October 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Oh, Lee. Thank you for your kind words! God is so wonderful the way he is using the body to minister to one another! I love to get to participate in it as you ladies encourage one another!

  5. mariewhitemarshm October 22, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    wow–sounds like my struggle..binge/starve cycle- I have had a hard time allowing myself to eat at a 0 because of the fear that I will not stop at a 5. I definitely wait for the negative numbers and than binge. I, too, am working on this. Sad to say–I recently brought into a weight loss program that is two protein shakes a day and one 500 cal meal with two fasting days a week. Boy, did that set me up for a fall. I lost six pounds the first week and than binged and the guilt of spending money on it when I know what the truth is…it is not in a protein shake but in the Word of God and listening to the voice of God concerning eating. I like the posts last week on night time eating..have to spend some time writing some of this down to put into practice. thanks for the post Heidi!

    • Heidi Bylsma October 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      Sure, Marie. I love how God is so gracious and merciful. He gives us the light we need when we are ready and not a moment before.

  6. Michelle October 22, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    Thanks for posting this!!! I too have struggled with feeling like I’m starving myself. I didnt do it intentially but waiting for my zero, which I guess like someone else said felt like a -10 then I wanted to eat everything! Yesterday I noticed I “tried to be good” and eat small amounts then when I got home I was eating small amounts of everything! I reminded myself this morning that someone once said that even “little” snacks add up almost like “little” meals.

    So today I decided to pack my lunch to take to work. I’m not much of a morning/breakfast person. I was hungry & didnt have a growl but couldnt concentrate or stop thinking about food. So I decided it was time and ate my small sandwich, sm amt of chips. I feel better & it’s what my body wanted. I’m satisfied not stuffed. I’ve also decided to wait & stay in my boundary of waiting until I get hungry again before I eat

    I need to remind myself that I’m not asked to deprive myself but to wait and satisfy myself & not overdo it. I can eat anything just not all at the same time! I think I need to plan my meals & bring them with me. I cant just say I’m cutting back, I’m not packing a lunch, I’ll just wait & only eat dinner. That is really me taking over and not listening to my body. I

    I think this is perfectly inline with how Heidi teaches us to observe & correct. I’m still a work in progress but will continue onward! Thanks Heidi!!!!

  7. Jamie Moe October 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this Heidi. It gives me another perspective of things. Don’t be legalistic about 0-5. I also awake very hungry and eat a nice protein filled breakfast. I don’t eat until I get hungry again until around 4 pm if not filling the hunger enough I can wait till later. I do try to eat when truly hungry. and then have a snack at night when I feel the hunger pain again. Some times I don’t and I can just go to bed and sleep just fine. Other times I may need to eat more often than two meals a day and a snack. Depending on my exercise and movement level.
    Listening to our body’s is so KEY! God so fearfully and wonderfully made us all. With God’s help and grace we will all arrive to the place of true deliverance and freedom in Christ our Lord Jesus who has purchased our health and healing and salvation.

    ISAIAH 53
    King James Version

    1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

    2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

    3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

    4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

    5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

    6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

    7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

    8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

    9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

    10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

    11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

    12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

    53:5 we are healed. The sufferings of Christ remove the penalty that His people would otherwise owe, and as a result He will undo the effects of sin in them. Death itself will be undone at last (1 Cor. 15:26).

  8. Christina October 23, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    This was very encouraging! I like how the writer has discovered what their body needs and has come to peace with that. Praise God!

    • Heidi Bylsma October 29, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      Yes, Christina…me, too, though this is definitely a strategy for those who come from a legalistic and/or extremely restrictive background. If a person reading it has never struggled with under-eating or legalism, probably they need not to plan on 3 meals and 2 snacks! LOL! My husband says, “I gained 40 pounds with 3 meals and one snack.” That, of course, was from someone who has never struggled with restricting! Just OVER-eating! 🙂

  9. Carrie October 24, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    As one who used to live in rigidity, I love hearing about your ability to be flexible now! I also have found a rhythm – I really only need 3 meals a day. Occasionally I need a snack around 3:00 or 4:00, but if I eat too much, I won’t be hungry for dinner. I actually had a stab of jealousy reading the post when I thought “no fair, she gets to eat 2 snacks a day!” But then I realized that my body is designed as it is – and it is unique. I’ve had enough experience of skipping a meal (or eating it way too late) and then overeating, or “snacking” too close to dinner time and feeling disappointed that I am not hungry for the family meal. When I stay in the boundaries that God designed for my body, I am the most at peace and physically satisfied.
    I agree that finding my rhythm has diminished the thoughts of food, the planning of food and bingeing, as well. Thank you for sharing.

  10. ChelleHM October 25, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you so much for this post! I discovered TW several years ago & remember thinking even then that eat ***only*** when hungry or ***only*** when you reach “0” sounded unrealistic (even legalistic) for me. Also, so much focus on weight (even in the title ***Thin*** Within) was a little offputting to me (for lack of a better word), but unfortunately I know that’s what sells books. I used to read the forums on the TW website occasionally (until they all but “died” & gave way to FB, etc.), but I never posted because I realized it was not always the healthiest place ***for me*** because of all the weight talk & what I perceived as anxiety about 0-5 eating & talk about how ***little*** someone could get by with eating (made me think there was something wrong with me). I was disappointed because I had read other books on “normal eating” but so much wanted to learn about normal eating from a Christian perspective, plus I still desire Christian support from people who understand. While I love the Bible references in TW & beautiful writing style, it still stuck me as legalistic & “diet-y” in it’s tone (again, for lack of a better word). If we’re to “discover” our natural, God-given size, then why are we asked to choose a goal weight? I just could not shake the confusion (which I know God is not the Author of…) & didn’t pick up the book & workbook (which I still have not finished) until recently.

    I have a history of bulimia & binge eating, so I too find that regular meals & snacks are better for me, not to mention more realistic. Like you, I try to “schedule” hunger, but I’m not always successful at being “0” at ***exactly*** the right time. Am I going to not eat a piece birthday cake at my neice’s birthday party because I’m not at “0”? NO WAY! What kind of message would that send her? Also, (this is especially true for those of us who work outside the home) sometimes people have to eat at certain times (lunch at work, for example) to keep from being hungry at times when they cannot eat. I don’t want to sound like I am totally opposed to 0-5 eating, because I believe it is an extremely useful tool, especially in the beginning for those who don’t know or who have fogotten what hunger/satsfaction feel like. I believe the book even states that it is a tool, not a rule (? — it’s been awhile since I read it), but as I read the book, I got the opposite impression (confusion again).

    Now I believe I am at a place where I can read the book & go through the workbook, with discernment, gleaning what is helpful & leaving the rest.

    God gives ***much*** grace!

    Love your site & have been visiting when I can since I read your “no scale challenge” post. Thank you for all your hard work.

    • Heidi Bylsma October 29, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      Hi, Chelle. Chapter three in the book…I helped with the writing of the book. I collaborated with the Hallidays. If I had my druthers, we would reword a bunch of that chapter…the one that asks for a goal weight. That is just me. But I know for a fact that Judy Halliday doesn’t own a bathroom scale! In fact, she has said to me that her opinion is to ditch the bathroom scale and focus on God and his God-given hunger scale. 🙂 I do think that we don’t want to let what *others* do determine what *we* will do. Each of us answers to her own master, so taking what is in the TW book and asking God what he would have us do with it is valuable. If others make it a law, it doesn’t have to be for us. Yes, he gives MUCH grace. Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

    • Jamie M. July 2, 2019 at 10:11 am #

      I can relate to your post! I’ve also struggled with eating when I’m at “zero” while at work. I’m only allotted a certain time to eat at work and cannot eat any other time. When I tried to wait and eat until I was actually at “zero” at work I had no way to eat. This caused me to be sluggish and irritable the rest of the day.

      I have found that I need three meals a day, and I try to eat all three within the same time frame each day.

      I have found when I don’t skip to my “schedule” I end up binging on snack foods and feel miserable for a few days.

      Thank you for your response! I am glad I’m not the only one struggling with this particular aspect.

  11. Lin September 3, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    I can so relate to this post, I too am struggling with learning what is a “0” and not a – 5 before eating, which leads to eating too fast, too much, and the stomach ache that follows! I am realizing (and need constant reminders) that this is a process, not an exact science for me to find my “0” and know that it won’t be perfect every time, and really like the idea of having a loose meal schedule, while also using 0-5 as a guideline. I really needed to hear this, as I am really trying to adopt these principles without being too legalistic. It is easier said than done. I also struggle with the “5” and feel I either stop at 2 or 10, again trying to lean on the fact that this is a learning process, and praying for guidance. I am so thankful for this website and all of those posting their experiences as it is a great help to myself and others!

  12. Tamra March 28, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

    Yes! I just started my 0-5 journey, and feel like I’m not eating enough. Then I feel guilty when my body says more. (Finding the balance between my needs and wants!) Not waiting till I’m at a -5 is definitely something to start working on. Also, I felt guilty for eating dinner last night when I wasn’t at true 0, but I wanted to make sure I was eating 3 hrs before bed. As said by many, its truly a journey and a learning experience. This article helped me to stick with the 0-5 framework, but also eating regularly too.

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