What to do After a Food Binge

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You vowed to order stay away from your husbands Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but you couldn’t stop thinking about it after he went to bed. One teaspoon led to devouring the whole pint. Or maybe you spent the weekend  away with aliceclaar@gmail.comfriends and ended up overindulging BIG time. After it happens,  you’re upset with yourself. How could you be so weak? STOP right there. First of all, you aren’t alone and you aren’t weak!  It happens to almost everyone (myself included!) The way you handle the aftermath of these food “binges” can help you get back on track or set you up for more unhealthy eating patterns.

First, I’d like say that this post is about an “overeating episode” not a binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder  is formally recognized as an eating disorder in the psychiatric manual DSM-5. A binging episode is just that – an episode of overeating but doesn’t meet the psychiatric diagnosis.

Most  of us have episodes of overeating from time to time. But what I find most worrisome, is the effect it has on some of my clients psychologically as well as the behaviors the follow the binge.

Here are 9 ways to handle the day after a binge

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. If you ended up putting a dent in the Girl Scout Cookie box, let it go. Does any good come out of dwelling on it and beating yourself up? Does it make you feel better? Chances are that it only makes you feel worse about yourself which will likely lead to more eating. Let it go and move on. Tell yourself it’s HUMAN to indulge on occasion! 
  2. Do NOT get on the scale.The extra carbs and sodium hold onto water and can make it look like you gained 5 pounds overnight.
    I’m on the fence as to whether you should even be weighing yourself at all. But if you find regular weigh-ins helpful, at least avoid the scale for a good 3 days.
  3. Avoid the all or nothing mentality. Ok – so you ate your husband’s entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. This doesn’t mean your intentions to eat healthy are “ruined” for the day or week for that matter. Healthy is not an all or nothing concept.  Take a deep breath, do a quick meditation (check out my previous post on meditation apps) and let it go!
  4. Don’t restrict your food the next dayYour first inclination is likely to cut WAY back on your food for the next few days. This only reinforces the binge/restrict mentality. You are better off eating healthfully and maybe a BIT lighter than usual  if you wish as your probably won’t be as hungry. But do not skip meals or restrict.
  5.  Get in some form of healthy exercise or movement.I’m not talking a self-punishing 8 mile run, as this only exacerbates the cycle, but maybe a yoga class or another form of exercise you enjoy.
  6. Put it into perspective.  The are so many more important things in your life than what you ate on a Sunday night. This is just a blip on the radar of your life. Move on to something else. It’s just not that important in the scheme of things. 
  7. Reassure yourself this is not your usual eating patterns. Think about all the times when you eat healthfully and in
    moderate portions.  Don’t psych yourself out that this is your new “norm”. 
  8. Try to learn from it. We usually don’t eat very large portions out of pure hunger. There is usually something else triggering you to eat past the point of fullness. Think about what triggered you to eat this time. Read my previous blog post on  Eating Triggers and How to Control Them.  By being really aware of what your triggers are, you may be able to anticipate and intercept these urges to eat and win the fight against them! It may be as simple as asking your husband to buy a different flavor of ice cream.
  9. Other factors that can lead to binging include inadequate sleep, increased stress, consuming inadequate calories in general, especially combined with excessive exercise or overly restricting your diet.
  10. Seek counseling if you feel out of control with your eating.  You may have a form of binge eating disorder. A therapist specializing in this can help you work through it. There is no need to suffer in silence!

Do you have any tactics for dealing with the aftermath of a food binge?

References/additional reading

My guest blog post by Dr.Gretchen Kubacky health psychologist, aka “The PCOS Psychologist” on Get a Grip on PCOS-Related Emotional Eating

Huffington Post: What to do the day after binge eating

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