It happens. Maybe you were stressed and couldn’t help but hit the cookie jar—hard. Perhaps you had sworn off chocolate for the entire month, only to cave and dive face-first into your child’s Halloween candy stash. You promise yourself you'll just eat a few pieces, but half an hour later, you're buried beneath empty candy wrappers. Either way, it’s done—you ate well beyond your body’s fullness cues, and if you’re like many people, you feel terrible. What’s a person to do? Here are some of our favorite do’s and don’ts if you’ve just experienced a binge.
Skipping meals will only make you ravenous for more food, and lots of it, perpetuating the binge/restrict cycle. Even worse, skipping meals reinforces the false idea that you must “punish” yourself or “make-up” for certain eating behaviors. Normal eating allows for flexibility, recognizing that there will be times when you consume more or less food than other times. You’re a human after all, not a robot.
Swear Off “Fun” Foods
This is a great way to set yourself up for another binge. You just ate too much of a food, so it may seem natural to decide not to eat it again for a while. Unfortunately, this makes you crave that food even more intensely. Research shows that our body’s reward response to food is greater if we have restricted a particular food for a while. This means the food we consider to be "off limits" will become even more tantalizing, so that when we finally eat it, we will desire large quantities of it.
Health is a marathon, not a sprint. One decision can’t ruin your health. Don’t give one event the power to determine whether you want to continue pursuing health, and don't believe for a second that it always has to be this way.
This communicates to your body that food will be available when it needs it, and it reduces the power that food has over you! If you know that you have permission to consume pleasurable, nourishing foods, you won’t feel the need to eat everything in sight when the next opportunity comes!
Choose Foods You Enjoy
For many people, bingeing is at least partially caused by feelings of deprivation. Choosing a salad for lunch when you actually want a sandwich might make you feel better about your binge last night, but it will also make you feel deprived so that you are more prone to binge later on.
It’s likely that the binge didn’t happen out of nowhere. Rather than throwing up your hands in despair, ask yourself questions. Were you feeling stressed, sad, angry, or happy when you binged? Were you restricting that food prior to the binge? Had you eaten regularly that day/week? Were you categorizing the food as a “good” or “bad” food, rather than choosing gratitude for that particular food?
If you are reading this and are feeling defeated by binge eating behavior, you're not alone. If you're feeling overwhelmed about dealing with the problem by yourself, we recommend seeking out professional help. Our dietitian, Sydney, would love to help you begin your journey as you heal your relationship with food.