We all have experienced those days when we eat just a little (or maybe a lot) more than we know we are hungry for. Maybe it was Thanksgiving and the turkey was just so moist, the mashed potatoes so rich and buttery we couldn't resist. Or a birthday party with cake where just one piece wasn’t enough! It may have been a normal day, out with friends for pizza where the aromas and setting had you scarfing down slice after slice. Maybe you had an extra busy or stressful day at work and that bag of M&M’s on the counter was calling your name! No matter the circumstance, we can all relate to that “loosening the belt” sensation and guilt that comes along with it. Overeating is never a fun feeling, physically or mentally- but I promise these sensations do pass! In the
meantime, however, how do we handle the full belly and shameful thoughts that arise? Do you beat yourself up for the binge? Swear off the triggering food? Restrict the next meal? Go “burn off” the extra calories at the gym? These are all common “solutions” for bingers, although they are NOT helpful in the long run as they encourage future binges to occur! We want to end the binge-restrict cycle, not promote its continuation. So let’s discover how we can do this!
First, I want you to LET GO of the guilt and MOVE ON from the binge. What happened is in the past. The food has been eaten and there is nothing you can do to change this fact (so please don't try!). I promise you, one day of overeating will not make you gain weight or effect your overall health in the slightest bit. Binging will, however, cause weight gain and negative health consequences when it is repeated time after time. So the best thing we can do now is to let it go, stop thinking about it and learn how to break the binging cycle so it is less likely to occur in the future. The important key here is to let go of the guilt and shame that arises from the binge episode.
Next, we should explore why you felt the urge to binge in the first place. There are many explanations for why a binge may occur. Some may include:
- A busy or stressful day
- Skipping meals or snacks, leading to excessive hunger at later meals
- Current dieting, restriction of calories or avoidance of specific foods/food groups
- Increase in activity which is not being met by adequate calories leading to excessive hunger
- A restless night of sleep
- Feelings of loneliness, depression or shamefulness
- Feelings of excitement, joy or celebration
- Settings- being at a party, out to eat or with friends and family
These are not the only reasons for a binge, everyone is different and their personal reasons for overeating vary greatly. Never the less, the effect is the same- a bloated belly and guilty conscience.
If you are able to determine the reason behind the binge, you may be able to stop it from happening again. For example, if you recognize that a stressful day caused your desire to overeat, then the next time you are extra stressed you can recognize this emotion and take the appropriate actions to relieve the stress such as by taking a walk, a calming bath or talking to a close friend. If you over ate due to missing a meal earlier in the day, then you may want to pre-plan out your meals or keep snacks on hand to ensure you never become too hungry. If you binged due to the situation you were in (maybe it was a holiday or birthday) then be aware that you are prone to eat more when surrounded by abundant amounts of food or friends and carry this conscience reminder with you- although I think eating a little extra at Thanksgiving, a birthday party or other special occasion is pretty normal! But what is NOT normal is to feel overcome by guilt and shame or acting by restricting or purging when you have done so.
Last, we want to continue living! After we move on and discover the reason behind the binge, we want to keep eating and moving as you normally do. Don't feel the need to eat less at the next meal, avoid the tempting foods or exercise excessively to “work it off”. Any of these punishments for overeating will end up causing you to continue in the restrict-binge cycle again and again. Studies show that when people restrict foods as a method of controlling their weight, they tend to obsess over those foods and binge on them which leads to guilt and the need to restrict that food again! This cycle goes on and on and will
not be broken until we stop trying to “make up” for the previous binge. Instead of restricting at the following meals, listen to your body and when you are truly hungry again, choose to nourish your body! Make a healthy, balanced meal that will satisfy and fulfill you! Don't try to restrict calories or certain foods because it will eventually lead to another binge. Nourish your body. Move on. Stop the guilt. And ultimately, lets learn to break the cycle!