Your head feels fuzzy and your stomach feels like it’s about to burst. The cabinets are strewn open, and the wrappers surround you like a halo. The shame and guilt builds inside of your chest, and the panic about how to fix it send your brain into a tizzy. You’ve binged. You probably want to restrict in response, to balance out the act. But is that actually in your best interest? No, and I’ll tell you why.
Binge eating is an experience many of us are familiar with; feeling out of control with our eating, devouring all of the foods we promised ourselves we wouldn’t have, stuffing ourselves until our belly aches, and then the final tsunami of guilt and shame that cascades over us. Often we seek to escape the self-flagellation after a binge by doubling down on a restrictive diet plan, promising ourselves that it will all be okay because we’ll start a new detox in the morning. This way of thinking leads us straight back to the restrict-binge-cycle, setting us up for yet another binge down the line.
It isn’t only our mental selves that feel the repercussions of a binge; our physical wellbeing can be thrown off-kilter too, both because of the ways in which emotional stress affects our body, and also because of the physical toll that bingeing can take on our digestion.
If you notice discomfort after a binge, remember: this is NOT the time to beat up on yourself. This is time to take care of yourself and support yourself through any emotional or physical distress you may be experiencing.
Here are my three tips for taking care of yourself, body and mind, after you experience a binge:
- Do NOT plan to restrict Those of us who make it our life’s passion to study food behavior know that bingeing is a response to restriction. When our bodies feel deprived, physically or mentally, our biological mechanisms kick in and we find ourselves driven towards food, to the point of feeling obsessive and compulsive with our cravings. If we follow a binge up with the plan to restrict in any way, shape, or form, we’re only going to perpetuate the bingeing cycle. Instead, think about how you can nourish yourself with gentle meals that won’t be too hard on your stomach but will still provide you with nutrients and satisfaction.
- Be Sure to Hydrate! Because bingeing is often driven by biological hunger, it’s no wonder that we tend to find ourselves drawn to high-carbohydrate foods during a binge episode (it’s also no coincidence that these are usually the very foods we restrict). While this instant-energy might satisfy your body’s immediate needs, it also can have some pretty intense impacts on your digestion, including constipation and general discomfort. To counteract this, be sure you’re hydrating yourself with plenty of water.
- Journal with a Self-Compassion Prompt The best response to a binge is self-compassion. Rather than berate yourself for “falling off the wagon,” you can learn to respond to these experiences with kindness. Take this opportunity to explore your emotions before, during, and after a binge. Ask yourself, “How did this experience serve me? Did it fulfill my needs? If not, what could I do next time that might be a better fit?” Be gentle, and know that yes, your binge experience DOES serve a purpose! It’s your body trying to send you a signal that it’s in need of care. Listen to it.
If you are struggling with body hatred, feel stuck in wanting to lose weight, struggle with disordered eating or an eating disorder, or just know that you could have a healthier relationship with food and your body, I encourage you to seek out support from a licensed mental health professional specializing in eating disorders from a Health At Every Size® weight-inclusive perspective. And be sure to check out my brand new 6-week online course, The Anti-Diet Plan, designed to help you break-free from dieting and learn a radically new way to relate to food and your body.