Beat Bingeing: Summer BBQ Edition

Happy Fourth of July! I hope all of you readers here in the States are ready to celebrate the day with food, fireworks, and time spent with family.

If you’re like me, the day is going to end in a fantastic BBQ. That’s awesome, but for those who struggle with emotional eating and bingeing, summer BBQs can be hard to navigate healthily. I mentioned in How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 4 how, when I was still actively recovering from my binge eating habit, keeping my eating in check at parties was still tough for me even once the rest of my day-to-day eating was pretty normal. I’ll be honest and say that even today special occasions still take some degree of pre-planning, extra self-care, and positive thinking on my part. And really, holidays are days when “normal” people often overdo it on food! Basically, holidays and parties can be a challenge for all of us when it comes to eating healthily.

Ideally, at a BBQ, you should have fun with people you care about, relax, and indulge a little food-wise. But if you’re like me, some at some gatherings you end up NOT enjoying the party because you’re so stressed about food, and then you leave unhappy with the quantity you ate when the night is through to boot. That’s no fun. But the good news is that holidays don’t have to be like this. Here are a few simple strategies I’ve found that help me beat bingeing at summer BBQs and gatherings. 🙂

Family Eden Vacation 2012-700


Eat enough food throughout the beginning of the day. Avoid the temptation to under eat to “save up” calories or stomach space for an indulgent dinner. Heading to a party where burgers, brats, brownies, and who know what else will be available is tough enough. Don’t go in starving! That only sets  you up to overeat. Eat healthy, balanced, filling meals and snacks all day long leading up to your event. This is the breakfast I ate this morning.


Bring a healthy AND yummy dish along. If your event is potluck, show up with a dish that is (1) healthy enough that you can eat it without any worry, and (2) something you really enjoy eating. I like to bring a big bowl of fresh-cut fruit, a veggie tray, or a delicious salad to BBQs. That way, I can pile up my plate mostly with what I brought if none of the other options look great, yet not feel deprived taste-wise.

Go in with a gameplan. It helps me to have a rough plan of both what and how much I’ll eat before I head to a party. For example, here’s the plan I’ve got for my family BBQ tonight:

BBQ game plan

You’ll notice this is something I actually wrote down on paper. I find this immensely helpful. It’s easy to change your plan as you go if it’s just in your head, but if you actually write the plan down somewhere, it’s much more likely to stick.

I also make a plan for dessert once I’ve eaten my meal and am making judgments on a full stomach. I take a look around at what desserts are there, and after evaluating if anything looks absolutely worth the calories, I’ll make a similar plan to my meal one and jot it down in the notes section of my phone. My mental conversation often goes something like this: “The pan of brownies my sister-in-law made look amazing, and so do the peanut butter bars, but the apple pie is store-bought and the ice cream is the cheap party-bucket variety, which isn’t my favorite. That’s also one huge tub of red vines—which I like, but don’t want to overdo.  I think I’ll leave the pie and ice cream alone but have a square of brownie, a square of peanut butter bar, and two red vines.” Once I’ve made those decisions and jotted them down somehow, I go ahead and indulge guilt-free according to my plan. 🙂

And as an added note: if your plan is to eat nothing but carrot sticks, you’ll fail. Make sure your plan entails eating a decent amount that will satisfy you, physically and emotionally. Skew towards the veggie tray over the Doritos bag as you fill your plate, sure, but FILL YOUR PLATE!

Bring gum to signal the end of your meal. Once I’ve eaten what I’d planned, I pop in a piece of mint gum. This little ritual helps me consciously say “I’m done.” Having minty fresh breath is also a good deterrent against going back for more food.

Focus on PEOPLE! Once you’ve eaten what you’ve planned to eat, deliberately decide to stop thinking about food. Any time the thought to saunter back over for more chips and dip pops up, instead find someone to talk to. Remember why you’re really there with friends and family—to enjoy food a little, but mostly to enjoy who you are with! Don’t just sit around white-knuckling the urge to eat more. Be one of the kids and jump into a game of frisbee with your nephews. Talk to your brother about how his new job is going. Throw yourself into the real purpose of the party and you’ll both have way more fun AND be much less likely to spend the night obsessing over the brownies and Doritos you’ve decided you are done with for the day.


Bring a backup snack for the evening. You may be arriving at your BBQ around 5pm but not leaving until 11pm if fireworks are in the plan (or if you just end up having a great time and don’t want to head out in a hurry). This means that even if you eat a filling meal at dinnertime, you’re going to be hungry later in the evening. Don’t let a wave of hunger lead you to justify five more brownies and a fistful of red vines. Instead, come prepared with a protein bar or other healthy snack in your bag that you can quietly pull out later on when hunger strikes. There may be veggies and hummus or some other food option at the party you could have instead, but don’t leave it to chance. Come prepared with a good snack of your own in case the healthy options at the party are slim.

I’m headed to tonight’s party armed with a Quest protein bar in one of my favorite flavors. I’ll pull it out whenever I get hungry in the hours of visiting and fireworks after dinner.

Treat Yo Self.  As part of my gameplan I write down before a party, I sometimes add in a little reward. If I stick to the plan I laid out today, for example, I’m going to buy myself 3 new songs on iTunes for my walking workout playlist. You don’t have to make a reward big, or even have one set up at all, but I like doing it. Every time I make it through a party, vacation, or holiday with mono bingeing streak totally alive and well, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. And meeting goals, big or small, is something worth celebrating and giving yourself kudos for.

So there you go! Best of luck today and at all your BBQs and parties through the rest of the summer. I know you’ll handle them all like a pro.

Do you have any other great ideas that help you navigate BBQ season healthily? Share them in the comments below!


Confessions of a Foodaholic

Hi there. My name is Sarah McConkie. I’m a mom of three daughters. I’m a wife of an MBA student. I’m a writer, a runner, a lover of all things involving cake batter, and a Pushing Daisies/BBC Sherlock/Gilmore Girls fan (in that order). And I’m out to conquer binge eating forever. Essentially, I’m a former foodaholic that is finally starting to figure things out.  My quest is to stay binge-free forever and help anyone else out there who’s sick of the food fight to do the same.

confessions of a foodaholic


I’m writing this blog because after lots of frustration, tears, and figuratively crumpling up the paper and starting from square one all over again, things are starting to really click into place for me.

Scarves & Green Apples

Now, a bit about my blog’s name. Does anyone else out there LOVE the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic? I think it is absolutely hilarious and adorable (plus the hot British guy totally looks like my husband. Hehe).

But I digress. If you are a fan of said movie, you probably know my blog name references it in a big way. The girl in the show, Rebecca, ends up writing for a money magazine about personal finance. But the trouble is that she’s a shopping addict with rampant credit card debt—something she doesn’t mention to her boss or anyone else at the magazine. But throughout the movie she overcomes her problem with shopping by figuring out what’s really important and then biting the bullet to make hard changes and simply STOP her old patterns. And that’s what I want to do. Rebecca’s pen name for her magazine writing is “the girl with the green scarf.” I want to be the girl with the green apple: someone who had a real problem—eating in my case, not compulsive shopping—but who overcame it.


My Story

In case you’re curious, here’s a bit about where I’ve been. (This is the Reader’s Digest version, btw. If you want the whole thing, check out my How I Stopped Binge Eating series of posts on my Binge Eating Help page.)

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a hard time eating sugary foods. Sugar has always been hard for me to eat in a moderate and normal way. Even as a kid I remember occasionally being embarrassed at how many cookies or brownies I’d eat if my mom made a pan of something yummy. I knew I was eating more than any of my other family members ate and felt ashamed of it. However, the negative feelings bounced away pretty quickly. I was a fairly happy kid and then a fairly happy teen.

Sarah McConkie
Cute little second-grade me. 🙂

My freshman year of college was when I became really worried about my overeating for the first time in my life. That was also when I began overeating more than ever before. I was freaked out! I’d just moved away from home. I was dealing with my first real heartbreak. The economic downturn that year (yep, it was 2008) meant my dad got laid off and a scholarship I’d planned on using to pay rent didn’t get funding. I wasn’t getting along with my roommates like I’d hoped I would. It was a lot of things all at once, and I didn’t handle it well.

Full-Blown Disordered Eating

I began full-on bingeing about once a week as a freshman. The binges happened when I was feeling particularly stressed or sad or scared. After a few months of that, I began making myself throw up after overeating to try to compensate.

I purged after bingeing a total of five times over a three-week window before realizing that what I was doing was scary and just plain wrong. I felt sick, weak, and shaky after purging. I didn’t want to do it anymore, but I was afraid of the weight I’d gain if I didn’t get a handle on my overeating. I panicked and cried and prayed. And though it was scary, I finally told my roommate and my mom about what I was doing. With their encouragement I went to go see a counselor at my university.

I’m grateful that I sought professional help. I needed it then, because at this point of my story what I was doing was extremely unsafe. However, I feel bad that my counseling there wasn’t a fantastic experience, or at least one that proved helpful long term. My counselor and I  met a few times and we’d talk about all the things I was worrying about, and he did give me some good strategies for dealing with my feelings and fears more healthily. But after three visits over three weeks my counselor  seemed to think the problem was resolved since the purging was over (the last time I did was even before we began meeting). He told me to just come back if it started up again. So there we go: I was “better.”

So I carried on. And in a lot of ways, life was great. I graduated from college  I got married to a wonderful guy. We had two gorgeous daughters. All in all, things were really, really good.

Sarah McConkie

Kind-of-Disordered Eating

I purged a total of two times over the next six years, and my overeating calmed down from the extreme pitch it had hit back in college. But my overeating never really went away. Sometimes binges were directly correlated to stress, sometimes they were a “last supper” response to my deciding I’d start another diet the next day, and sometimes they seemed to happen for no reason at all. My binges/overeating episodes weren’t multiple pizzas plus entire tubs of ice cream, but they were often 1,000—2,000 calories in one go of rich, sugary stuff, and they made me feel horrible physically and emotionally. I found myself perpetually worried about my weight and shape, sure that many of my problems would go away if I hadn’t been “so fat.” I think the dieting attempts that began in earnest beginning with my freshman year were the #1 factor in leaving me totally unable to stop bingeing, simply because I never let myself eat enough to be full consistently.

The years went on and the overeating/restricting went on about as I’ve described. I felt like I was in this weird limbo: I didn’t have a full-blown eating disorder, but I wasn’t happy with where I was with food. I was stressed about it constantly and scared of it. I seemed stuck on a wheel of restricting (both in terms of what I ate and how much I allowed myself to eat) and then rebounding with binges. I wasn’t doing anything dramatic or scary or unsafe anymore, but I just wasn’t completely happy.

Sarah McConkie
Here I am shortly after having my second baby, Aurora. It was during my pregnancy with her that I was finally able to begin breaking free from my awful bingeing and restricting habits.

If you’re in that same camp, my friend, I wish I could give you a huge hug. Because I know firsthand that it sucks. I also know that SO MANY PEOPLE, especially women, are like me. I’m amazed at how often I get the response “Me too!” when I share with others that I struggle with eating in a so-called “normal” way. So many of us are not full-blown anorexics or bulimics, but we aren’t happy with our relationships with food, and often that unhappiness seeps into other areas of our lives. It’s confusing and embarrassing to feel that you don’t have a “legitimate” problem, but that you still wish you could find something or someone that could help you get things straightened out. That, at least, has been how I have felt.

Better at Last

So. Years went on, overeating went on. In times of stress things would occasionally worsen, but with the help of my amazing and supportive husband as well as others who love me, I’d pull through before things got out of hand as they did back in my college years. And while none of the approaches I tried “worked” in the sense that my binges totally stopped, I gleaned helpful ideas and practices from almost every one of them that are helping me progress, and things slowly but surely began to change.

Sarah McConkie
Me with my little family on my sister’s wedding day in Fall 2014, when things had finally started to really click.

The biggest factor in my increasing success? I began letting myself eat enough. That single behavior change has been such a dramatic turning point for me. And over the past few months, I’ve finally allowed myself to say it out loud: things are starting to change for me long-term.

It feels so good! I go for so much longer than I once did between binges—weeks rather than days. And even my “binges” are things like me deciding I don’t care about healthy eating on moody days, having three pieces of toast I’m not hungry for, and then realizing what’s beginning to happen and stopping in my tracks. Really, I haven’t truly binged in years.

My thinking, my eating, my EVERYTHING is starting to finally change. And late last year I hit the point where my husband and I felt like I was in a healthy enough place to try for our third child.  I’m thrilled to report that I’m currently about 7 months along with a third baby girl we’re planning to name Scarlett. 🙂

healthy pregnancy
Me at 15 weeks along with little Scarlett, right when my bump first “popped.”

And so I began this blog. In my darkest hours as a frightened bulimic college freshman I decided if I ever figured things out, I wanted to help others find their way out too. So here I am. I’m not a professional, and I’m not yet completely where I want to be, but I think I’m out of the woods.  And I want to share everything and anything that has helped me and continues to help me along my way. My hope is that someone else out there can find hope and a bit of practical help from what I write about.

My Mission

I believe there’s power in being honest and vulnerable and real. There are some things that are embarrassing to share and hard to talk about. But guess what? I talk about them anyway.  I’ll reference my struggles with bingeing head-on in lots of my posts. However, I’ll also write about all things healthy and happy that are keeping me better. You’ll see a lot about healthy pregnancy and post-baby recovery here too. Since I’ve been going through both recently, that’s where my head has been lately. But the bottom line is this: I’m out to have a happier and fuller life where regular binges are a thing of the past. Moderation, not perfection, is my battlecry. Everything on this blog is meant to support that idea and help you in your own quest to live you happiest, best life.

The Girl with the Green Apple


So here’s my effort to share about my journey to finding a place of real HEALTH. And by “health” I don’t mean weighing 110 pounds and living exclusively on protein powder. By health I mean genuine, all-around wellness. I want to keep figuring out how to live a moderate, truly healthy lifestyle where I’m taking care of myself not just physically but emotionally too. And I would absolutely love for all and any of you reading this to come along on this journey with me:  a real, imperfect, former foodaholic who’s out to become the healthiest and happiest version of myself I can be.

Love to you all,