Here’s the not-so-dirty secret: Everybody binges.
Think about the last time you declared, “Just one chip,” but finished a full bag of salty chips on your lips. What about that holiday feast turned food coma? The fact of the matter is it happened, and there’s no use pretending it didn’t.
What Is a Binge?
A binge is overeating in a short period of time. You go past satisfying hunger, despite feeling stuffed with food — and oftentimes regret. A binge happens unintentionally, unlike a “cheat meal,” which you can plan into a healthy eating regimen.
Binges can occur periodically, as in Christmas dinner, or over a stretch of time like a lads/lassies holiday to Ibiza.
Just because we all binge at some point doesn’t mean we can’t beat the bulge. A binge can be discouraging, especially if you’ve just started to see progress on the scale.
Follow these five steps, so you can get back on track after a binge:
Step 1: Do Emotional Damage Control
Unless you’re a special kind of saint, bingeing will make you feel lousy. Guilt, shame, worthlessness, and disgust can be knee-jerk reactions post-binge. Catch yourself immediately!
You can’t change the past or let this binge define you. Here are a few tips to reign in your gloomy thoughts:
Reframe the situation
This binge session is not going to tank your progress. Your weight is affected by how much you eat averaged over a long period of time. Think of this binge as a learning opportunity and use it in a positive way for the future. It may be helpful to jot down your thoughts in a journal for when you can look back on this moment with a clearer mind, and glean insights from it. This is something that has helped me previously. In particular, when I started out training.
Get your mind off your mood
Feeling blue? Call up a close friend and plan something fun that doesn’t involve food. Now is the time to distract yourself with a hobby you love (hike, anyone?). Bonus points if it involves light exercise.
Don’t weigh yourself
Bingeing is a hard blow, especially if your self-esteem is tied up in your shape and weight. It’s tempting to weigh that food baby, but do yourself a favor and stay off the scale for now.
Step 2: Pick a Fallback Nutrition Plan
So, you inhaled a large pepperoni pizza, now what? All that excess calories, fat, refined carbs, and salt can make you feel bloated and tired.
After dealing with the emotional hurdles of a binge, refocus your effort to get back on the healthy-eating horse. There’s no one answer to how to do this, but here are a few options you can try:
Get back on the healthy habits horse as soon as possible
Resume an appropriately portioned, balanced diet. Word of caution: Despite tons of calories post pig-out, you may feel hungrier than normal the next morning. This is likely due to the sugary, high-glycemic index nature of most binge foods, which can spike blood sugar and stimulate hunger.
Focus on fluid and fiber
If you’re like me, you’ll get a bit queasy thinking about your binge foods. On the flipside, a fresh salad or tangy fruit-and-veggie smoothie sounds like pure bliss. If this is you, kick off your post-binge meal with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water. The combination of fluid and fiber makes digestion more efficient, which helps move your binge food right on through your system. Avoid loading up on calorie-dense, high-fat foods at this point, as these will slow down digestion.
Step 3: Start Exercising (Again)
Obviously, don’t hit the pavement running moments after you lay down your post-binge fork. Intense exercise on a full stomach is barf-worthy, so give yourself time to digest.
Feeling antsy? Do a brisk walk with your dog or walking up and down the stairs several times. When you’re fully digested (think: the next day), you can sweat through a killer workout.
The excess glycogen stored from your binge can deliver a burst of energy to fuel your next jog or workout. The key here is that you’re exercising to be a healthier, fitter you, not to earn extra calories for food.
Step 4: Think Binge Prevention
Be comfortable with the fact that you may binge again. Then, work on ways you can safeguard yourself from the next binge:
Notice the warning signs
Instead of reaching for a tray of doughnuts, reach deep down inside and figure out why you desire a binge. Oftentimes, bingeing is a coping mechanism for tension or other taxing emotions. If this is the case, brainstorm some non-food ways to deal with your emotions.
Don’t keep binge foods in the house
If you know certain foods can trigger a binge, by all means remove them from your home. You may not have established an appropriate relationship with those foods yet. Once you do so, they can be reintroduced into your home.
Don’t binge on autopilot
Next time you’re mid-binge, take mores pauses to assess the situation. Understand that at any point in your binge you can stop. Just because you’re satisfying an urge to binge doesn’t mean you need to let it play all the way through. Pace yourself and try to enjoy the food.
Loosen up your diet.
Remember you are human!!! For some, eating a restrictive diet (think: calorie-pinching to the point where you’re constantly under-eating) for a long period of time can lead to a binge. If this is you, liberalize your diet and allow some of the foods you love back in modest amounts.
Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating helps you learn the difference between physical hunger and emotional arousal, so you can consciously make the right call to eat. Research shows strong evidence that mindfulness can reduce the frequency and severity of binges.
The Final Phase of a Post-Eating Binge
Be Kind to Yourself Losing weight and getting to a healthier you is a journey, so you need to be patient and kind to yourself. Healthy eating for life is more about moderation, balance, and quality, and this is just one binge.
With time, you will progress and learn more about what will and won’t work for your body. Until then, don’t beat yourself up! If you have any questions on nutrition or would like a plan tailored to you please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.