In this article, you will learn what you exactly should do after you’ve experienced a binge eating episode in order to prevent further binges.
Before we get started, we should discuss what “binge eating“ means.
Binge Eating Behavior and Binge Eating Disorder (those 2 terms are not the same) are eating behaviors where a person “uncontrollably“ eats large amounts of food, usually unhealthy foods, in a very short period of time. Binge eating occurs in attacks and most of the time without any warning signs. Those attacks are very uncomfortable and stressful situations for sufferers because eating large amounts of food causes a lot of stomach pain, water retention, fatigue, guilty feelings, shame, and other mental health issues afterward.
There’s also a phenomenon called “black-out binges“ which means a person who binge eats cannot remember what they’ve eaten or even that they have binged. This shows how powerful and controllable binges can be. It can cause a person psychologically check out of their body during the binge.
There are 2 types of binge eating episodes:
1. Objective Binge Eating
Objective binge eating means a person eats an “objectively“ large amount of food in a very short period of time (usually within 1-2 hours). This could be any amount of food that is considered an “obviously excessive amount of food“. The medical theory tells us “an obviously excessive amount of food“ contains over 2000 calories. I personally disagree with that as binge eating shouldn’t be characterized by a certain number of calories. This is because not everyone who consumes more than 2000 calories in one sitting automatically binge eats and a person can binge eat even without hitting the 2000 calories. Binge eating comes in the form of attacks where the sufferer experiences a loss of control and is not even able to enjoy the food.
2. Subjective Binge Eating
Subjective binge eating means a person eats a “subjectively“ large amount of food that is not seen as a large amount of food from an objective perspective. That means, the consumer him or herself perceives the amount of the food they eat as large and their eating behavior as binge eating. But other people wouldn’t necessarily see their food portions as large.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Behavior and Binge Eating Disorder:
- Eating large amounts of food in a short period of time
- Eating very fast without chewing thoroughly
- Increased heartbeat during a binge
- Eating beyond until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating in secret
- Feeling guilty and ashamed afterward
- Having a “food-hangover“ the day after (with physical symptoms such as water retention, bloating, digestive issues, tiredness, and stomach pain)
What to do after you’ve binged?
We now know what “binge eating” exactly means. Therefore, we can turn to the strategies and techniques that you need to implement when you binged out on food. This will not only help you along your recovery journey but also in preventing further binge attacks.
Most people who suffer from reoccurring binge eating make the mistake that they restrict their calories after they have binged out on food. I can totally understand this way of thinking because I used to be the same when I struggled with binge eating in my past. But let me tell you, restricting food and calories after a binge simply doesn’t work! And I am sure deep inside of you, you know that because otherwise, not so many people would live on a life-long restricting-binging cycle.
Going on a diet or calorie restriction program after a binge will only feed your binge eating behavior or binge eating disorder and will set the requirements for the next binge attack.
Going on a diet or restricting food is a form of punishment because you have eaten so much food. It is an attempt of preventing weight gain and of proving yourself that you have enough willpower to not binge again. But again, this form of punishment and weight gain prevention doesn’t work. I went on diets a thousand times after my binges and I always told myself that this was the last time I binged, from now on I will be disciplined and show enough willpower. Until I realized binge eating has absolutely nothing to do with willpower and discipline.
I give you this advice because it caused me to run in a restricting-binging cycle for over a decade and I could have been able to recover so much earlier if I would have acknowledged that restricting my calories after a binge just sets the requirement for a new binge.
Therefore, I highly recommend you to not make the same mistake and don’t go on a diet or restrict your calories after you have binged out on food.
2. Don’t Compensate
You have now learned that it is not recommendable to diet after a binge eating episode. The same is for any other form of compensation. By that I mean, over-exercising or the use of laxatives. Over-exercising in order to burn off those calories that you have consumed during the binge is also a form of “dieting“ and punishment.
For this reason, it is very counterproductive to engage in compensatory behaviors such as over-exercising and/or using laxatives. In fact, compensatory behaviors are the most ineffective methods to undo the effects of a binge. They feed your binge eating even more and the next binge attack is predictable. At the same time, these behaviors feed your body and weight obsession and make you lose your intuition and trust in your body. It enhances a negative mindset towards your physical appearance and body in general.
3. Eat Regular And Sufficient Meals
One of the most helpful and supportive tools you can use after a binge is eating regular and sufficient meals. Even though you have binged out on food it is highly recommendable to nourish your body with regular and sufficient meals the day after.
This is helpful for regaining a healthy and efficient metabolism and digestion. Our bodies need regularity and consistency when it comes to eating. Restricting calories and then binging out on food makes our body very confused and puts it into a so-called stress-response-mode. Either starving or eating until we’re uncomfortably full, both are great stress factors that make our body automatically slow down its metabolism and store body fat. A healthy metabolism needs sufficient and regular meals.
Stick to a regular eating schedule. If you’ve binged in the morning or sometime during the day, that doesn’t mean you’ve finished eating for that day. Even though you feel guilty and ashamed, you will need to stick to your regular eating schedule in order to prevent further binges.
This was one of the most supportive tools that helped me in overcoming my own struggles with binge eating and losing 40 lbs after my recovery.
4. Move On With Your Life
After a binge, sufferers usually experience feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and as if they have failed in their lives. People who binge eat give a lot of power to their binges and see it as something that controls their lives.
This is very understandable because binge eating can be very overwhelming and consuming. However, to recover from binge eating it is necessary to see binges from a different perspective. People who binge eat are not “binge eaters“ which means binge eating is not an identity that describes a person’s personality and character. It is a behavior and something someone does.
It is important to decrease the power we give to binge eating. To be precise, we need to give weight, the scale, calories and the desire of having the perfect body less energy. Instead, we need to shift our focus to things in life that are much more important. Binge eating doesn’t make anyone a bad person or a person that fails in life. Binge eating, in fact, is a normal biological and psychological response to stress because every binge comes from a source of stress.
Sitting around and feeling guilty, ashamed and depressed because of a binge will make your body jump into the next stress-response-mode that will eventually lead to the next binge. It is therefore of immense importance to move on with your life after a binge. Worrying about what happened will only worsen the situation and your mental state.
5. See Your Binge As A Teacher
In today’s world, we are taught to see food as the enemy, especially when we eat too much of it. However, this is quite the opposite of what we should actually do in order to recover from binge eating and prevent further binges.
In fact, your binge is a great teacher that gives you a lot of information about your body, your mindset and what is going on in your life. Every binge is your soul’s call for attention and if you don’t listen carefully, it will call you even louder and with more energy in the form of returning binges.
Every binge happens for a damn good reason. No one sits around, enjoys life and all of a sudden decides to binge out on food. There’s always a reason behind someone experiences binge eating.
Your binge is a great message that tells you to slow down a bit and dig a bit deeper. It’s a chance to think about your life, yourself and the people around you.
Take this precious opportunity and write down on a piece of paper the following questions:
- Do you feel stressed or relaxed in your life?
- What’s your biggest stress factor?
- What is life calling you for – and does this stay in alignment with your job and lifestyle?
Take time to think about these questions and write down your honest answers. Then think about what you can learn out of it and what you do to change it?
You might also be interested in:
Article about the 5 Common Causes of Binge Eating Disorder
Article about the Set-Point Theory
Video about the 3 Lessons To Learn From Emotional Eating