A Food Binge: How To Recover From ItFebruary 16, 2021
If you’ve had a food binge, you can recover from a food binge.
A Food Binge
“How did I end up eating that whole pint of ice cream and cake?”
“I only meant to eat one wing not 20!”
“I didn’t mean to eat the entire bag of chips….let’s not even talk about the cookies.”
If these thoughts sound familiar, you may be recovering from an episode of excessive indulgence, also known as a food “binge.” You’re probably wondering what to do next. The great thing is since you took the time to look up “How to Recover from a Food Binge,” you’re already on the right track for creating a positive recovery. Acknowledging you had a binge is the first step to positive change.
This article will offer helpful steps to help you get back on track. Please be aware this article is not referring to how to recover from the medical condition “Binge Eating Disorder or (B.E.D.).” You may have B.E.D. if you have a regular habit of excessive eating (>one binge/ week per week for >3 months) and if you eat excessively even when you are not hungry. See The National Eating Disorder Association’s article on B.E.D.
B.E.D. requires professional help. Please seek the care of a medical professional if you suspect you have B.E.D.
Strategies to Recover From a Food Binge
Recognize That You Had a Binge
You can’t address what you won’t acknowledge. Once you are aware that you overindulge you can then work to address what happened.
Release Any Negative Emotions
Disappointment is a natural feeling after your binge. You may feel like you let yourself down for not sticking to your goals. This disappointment can spiral into the fear that you’ll “never get back on track” or guilt or shame or other “dangerous” emotions that may sabotage your efforts to get back on track.
It’s okay to admit your disappointment but stop there and say “I had a binge and I can’t erase the past. I can learn from what happened to prevent it in the future.”
Reflect On What Happened
It’s important to identify why you binged. Take time to reflect on what was going on with you externally and internally before you binged.
Were you stressed because of a family situation, work, or something else? Were you feeling: Bored? Rejected? Lonely? As an emotional eater “in recovery” for over 6 years I know first-hand that emotional discomfort or even pleasure can be a trigger to overeat or binge. Identify which emotions or situations trigger us to eat is an early step to overcoming emotional eating.
Were you on a very restrictive diet? Most diets tell us what we can’t eat. This actually has the opposite effect and makes us crave that type of food more since the body feels deprived. Like a dam with a slow leak, each time we deny ourselves a food choice that we really want the desire keeps building until we “can’t take it anymore” and give in to the temptation.
To help prevent future binges allow yourself small amounts of the foods you desire rather than deny yourself. If you feel you can’t eat just a small amount without overeating I highly recommend seeing an obesity specialist for further evaluation. There may be many reasons for causing you to overeat.
Re-Group and Strategize
Now it’s time to get back on track, really, NOW. Too often when we have a binge it’s tempting to continue eating unhealthy for many days. Stop the cycle. Decide at this moment that you are going to return to a more healthy or, as I like to say, a more helpful lifestyle.
Action Steps To Do After a Binge
- Get rid of any leftovers that may tempt you to have another binge
- Return to eating your regular meals if you are hungry. Do not starve yourself to “compensate” for your overindulge. Punishing yourself for not eating will only set you up for another binge. Break the cycle by deciding, “I had a binge before. But I’m hungry now and it’s okay to eat.”
- Make your healthy food choices more delicious. Try new recipes or healthy restaurant options
- Start small if you’re not ready for a lifestyle overhaul. Just make one small helpful change/ day.
- Be kind to your body. Reclaim control by deciding to do something positive for yourself such as
- Movement aka Exercise: Decide to do some form of movement you enjoy such as dancing, walking, running, spinning, etc. It helps to release the negative emotions after the binge by releasing endorphins which are chemicals that cause you to feel happy. The movement also helps you release the extra energy (aka calories) acquired from the extra food consumed in the binge.
- More water: Often thirst is mistaken as hunger. Drink enough water can help you recover from your binge by preventing dehydration which may trigger overeating. Most people require about 1oz/ water per kg unless you have medical conditions that require fluid restrictions such as kidney disease, heart disease, etc. Everybody is different you should check with your medical professional to see how much water you should drink based on your individual health.
- Massage/ Mani-Pedi or other self-care: Often an indulgence is triggered by stress which leads to seeking relief. Self-care activities can help decrease stress levels.
- Meditation: As little as one minute of meditation can be helpful in relaxing you and helping you set a positive mindset after a binge.
- Make time to sleep: Sleep deprivation (sleeping <7 hours/ night) throws off our appetite-regulating hormones and raises our stress hormone, cortisol. This can cause you to feel hungrier and also crave high-carbohydrate or high-fat foods for quick energy. Aim to sleep 7-9 hours/ night to control the hormones that can appetite-regulating hormones that contribute to you having another binge.
Recognize You Need Support and Help
We all need help on our weight loss journey. As mentioned in the introduction, there are many factors that contribute to a binge especially if it occurs repeatedly. A trained obesity specialist can help you identify what factors are causing your binge. If you do not have access to an obesity specialist in your area you can see your primary care clinician.
In addition to professional help, joining a supportive community can also help you. When I started my weight loss journey Twitter was a great source of support. I later joined Facebook Groups and eventually started my own, Embrace You to Lasting Weight & Wellness.
You can do this! Recovery from a binge is possible. Setbacks are a part of any learning experience. Imagine if a toddler decided not to continue learning to walk just because they had a few falls. Instead, learning from each fall helps the toddler eventually walk or even run well.
To recover from eating off track, view setbacks as opportunities to learn from for our weight and wellness journey. Each time we choose to learn from a setback we are gaining skills to create lasting weight loss. Stay positive and reach out for help as needed. All the best on your weight and wellness journey.
ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Sylvia Gonsahn-Bollie, M.D. is a dual board-certified obesity medicine expert who learned to compassionately listen to women struggling with weight loss after she lost 60lbs, not once but twice. As CEO and lead physician of Embrace YOU Weight and Wellness, Dr. Bollie is passionate about empowering other women who have more than 25lbs to lose, stop obsessing over the scale and get to their happy, healthy weight for good through a customized wellness based strategy that can be used for your lifetime.
Read more articles by Dr. Sylvia Gonsahn-Bollie!