Ugh, the moment you’ve been fearing just happened…you binged. The guilt and shame come flooding in. Your body is screaming at you. How could you let this happen – AGAIN? It is easy to continue to spiral down for the rest of the day, maybe even a few more days. Why not? You already messed up. Deep down, you know that’s not what you truly want or is good for you, but how do you recover from a binge episode?
A true binge episode happens when you are in the fight or flight response. It is a compulsive, out of control balancing act by the body in response to a tightly controlled something else. However, many people label their general overeating or emotional eating as a “binge episode” as well. Regardless, when any of these acts of overeating happen, the key to recovering from any of these eating episodes is to not miss the lesson. You’ve got to put on your objective hat and assess the situation – without judgment. If you do not, you will be swimming in mental games for days, deflating your confidence, and not learning how you can change things for the better moving forward.
How to Recover From A Binge Episode
Step #1: Ask Yourself, "Why Do I Think I Binged?"
Three areas to investigate WHY when you are recovering from a binge are physical, emotional, and mindset:
Physical: Did I wait too long to eat? Did I not eat enough real food today? Did I not eat a lot of protein today? Did I not eat enough at all today?
When your body is stressed due to nutritional lack, it will get aggressive with you and force you to eat often in an ugly way (binge eating). This is a natural survival response, and no matter how much you want to be mindful when you eat, when your body is lacking too much – it’s too late. You’ll feel the body override all your good intentions to ensure you eat and don’t starve to death.
Emotional: How was I feeling prior to binge eating? How would I describe my emotional state? Once you can identify what you were feeling, you can reverse engineer it and investigate why you were feeling what you were feeling.
Here are the most common emotional triggers that contribute to my clients’ binge & emotional eating:
- Lack of pleasure in one’s life
- Emotional deprivation with eating
- Fear or doubt
Mindset: What was I thinking prior to binge eating? Negative and fear-based self talk and thinking patterns can 100% ramp up the body’s stress response and feed emotional and binge eating episodes. Yes, you heard me – we can self impose our own emotional and binge eating episodes via our thoughts! The thoughts responsible for binge eating can be very sneaky, so pay close attention. Was it in fact my mind that was feeding my anxiety which led to my binge? Was I overthinking about something I cannot control? Did I have a case of the “F it’s”? Was I in an all or nothing mentality? Was I having rebellious thoughts? What was I fearing could happen? What was my mind spinning about?
Step #2: Be Compassionate With Yourself
Once you identify which of the three areas are most likely the cause behind your binge, celebrate this awareness and be compassionate with yourself. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Your binge and emotional eating is happening because there’s an awareness and/or skill set missing that perhaps you didn’t even know you needed. You cannot be mad at yourself for not being successful at something you are still learning a lot about! We all do the best we can with the knowledge and tools we have at the time.
Right now, you’re in the process of learning something very important, how to recover from a binge episode, and you need to support yourself in your efforts to do so. You would 100% support a friend in the same situation, you would be cheering them on from the sidelines. Be sure to cheer yourself on and be patient and encouraging with yourself too. Otherwise, you will NOT improve if all you do every time a binge occurs is beat yourself up, kick yourself in the gut while you are down, and don’t even give yourself a chance to learn and GROW through it. Sometimes this is actually the lesson many need to learn to reduce their binge eating – learning how to better support themselves!
Step #3: Create An Action Plan
This is the, What could I do differently next time? part. Here are some examples of how you could begin to create an action plan based on your WHY behind your binge:
Physical: If you feel your binge episode happened because of physical reasons, what proactive steps could take to prevent that from happening again? Do you need to take a snack in the car at all times? Do you need to manage your time better? Do you need to make more time to eat between your work appointments? Do you need to improve your personal boundaries? Do you need to take a few minutes per week and ensure you get groceries or decide on a few meals you want to have available for yourself to eat through the week? How could you incorporate more quality foods in your eating?
Emotional: If you feel your binge episode happened because of emotional reasons, is there a need that is going unmet? How could you meet this need better? Do you need to plan what you eat a little better so you can enjoy what you eat more? Do you need more connection with others? Do you need more fun in your life? Do you need to find more entertaining things to do in your down time?
How could you reduce your stress and anxiety in healthier ways? Could you do 5 minutes of box breathing every morning? Meditation? Prayer? Do you need to add more movement into your life? Do you need to tap into more positive podcasts or books to help regulate your emotional state? Do you need to carve out 15 minutes of personal time after work?
I dare you to sit down for 15-20 minutes and really think about how you can truly meet your emotional needs and come up with 1-2 alternative strategies to help you meet these needs. Do this and you can guarantee you’ll see a step forward in improvement with how you recover from a binge episode.
Mindset: This is probably the biggest area you’ll be needing to be proactive with because your thoughts feed into your emotional state. Our evolutionary brain is built to search for more problems and not solutions. It’s meant to search for what could go wrong, will go wrong, is wrong, isn’t good enough, and is always waiting for that other shoe to drop. Great for our survival as a species, not so great when the world around us is only getting more fast paced and chaotic.
The fears, thoughts, doubts you have that populate in your head do NOT mean they are always FACT and that you have to ACT on them. Oftentimes it’s just our survival brain kicking in or we are being triggered by something from our past. The action here becomes about noticing the kinds of thoughts you are having and deciding if you actually need to act on what they are asking you to do. If you find you DO NOT need to act on them (which often will be the case), practice reframing those fear-based thoughts into powerful, assertive, or supportive thoughts and move on without giving those fear based thoughts any more power or energy. Here are some examples:
“Oh my gosh I’m never going to get this project done!” → “Let me write out what steps I need to complete to get this project done. What questions do I need answered to help me move forward here?”
“They are all going to judge me and the weight I gained since I last saw them!” → “I cannot control the thoughts and actions of others. Plus, I always think people are judging me but they all have known me for years and our friendship has nothing to do with what I weigh”.
“But what if X happens?!” → “I can only invest my energy into what I can control. Let go of the things I cannot control”.
What are your most common triggering thoughts that feed your emotional state and binge episodes? How could you reframe them differently in preparation for the next time they populate?
Believe it or not, being able to improve your recovery time is a HUGE win!! Obviously the end goal of yours is to not experience any binge eating episodes at all, but the reality is, most people cannot just jump there. Instead, you must take small progressional steps forward. Consider learning how to recover from a binge episode as a non-negotiable skill you must learn to get to your end goal of removing your binge eating all together. You got this!