Recovering from A Food Binge
A food binge is when we consume a large number of calories in a single sitting. For some people, such as those with eating disorders or hormonal imbalances, a binge can be a very serious health threatening, or even life threatening event. If that is the case with you, then I strongly advise that you talk to your doctor, support worker, parents, or psychiatrist about binging and how to manage it.
However, binging is something that happens to everyone, not just people with pre-existing conditions. Many people binge at Christmas or Thanksgiving, for example. And when you are trying to lose weight or control your weight, a binge can seriously interfere with your mental and physical wellbeing.
So much so that many people after binging will completely give up on their diet and undo all their hard work. To make sure you recover your health and get back to normal as soon as possible, follow these steps:
1: Forgive yourself for binging.
Many people feel incredibly guilty after a binge. This is because they have attached a strong emotional meaning to certain foods. Sometimes the meaning we attach to foods is positive, such as “Mama's cookies” or “our favorite meal”. But in the case of guilt, the meaning we have attached to food is negative: “bad food”, “dirty food”, and “dangerous food” are common thoughts we have about these foods. But this is simply not the case. It is not the food that is the problem, but the amount.
And dwelling on how much we have eaten is not helpful either. It's over and done. Punishing ourselves by restricting our diet more or exercising too much will not fix the amount we ate. It is fine to adjust our day or the next day to balance our calories out a bit more. But if it comes from a place of guilt and anger, we may be at risk of developing an eating disorder.
2: Fast for one meal after the binge.
This is not a form of punishment, and if you are treating it as punishment then you may need to avoid this step entirely. But for people who can fast without feeling self-loathing, a fast can be a healing experience after a binge. When we overeat we put a lot of extra food through our digestive tracts. And like any other body part, if we overuse our digestive tract one day, sometimes a little bit of a rest will help it recover. Don't fast for more than one meal, but skipping the next meal following a binge may help you finish digesting and recover from your binge better.
3: Go back to eating normally.
After our fast, we need to go back to a normal diet. We can't quit our diet just because of one binge. One binge will not make you fat or unhealthy again, but changing your habits will. If you give up now you are guaranteeing that your diet will fail. If you push back and return to your diet, you are giving it a chance to succeed.
But we can't go on a strict diet after a binge either. Usually this decision will be a knee-jerk reaction, and a very extreme diet. And this guarantees that it will fail. Knee-jerk reactions tend to be very emotional, so when the emotion (the guilt) has passed, you will no longer want to carry on. And extreme diets are usually very unhealthy and almost impossible to maintain.
Instead, just go back to your normal, healthy, balanced diet. And if in a week you still want to go on a new diet, think about it then, with a cool head.
4: Be extra careful about avoiding binging for at least a week.
After a binge is when we are most vulnerable to a binge. This is because our bodies are designed to chase calories at any cost. So if we are eating moderately, our body adjusts its expectations and does not complain about how much we are eating. But after a binge our body believes more food is available and will start demanding more. To prevent this, you need to eat very carefully for a week, to adjust your body's expectations.