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Don’t Beat Yourself Up After A Binge: 3 Ways To Stay Strong After Emotional Overeating & Binging

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So you went to the party, got a little naughty, and…well…then…?

Don’t be so dirty, we’re talking about eating! Specifically, overeating. In all seriousness, has there ever been a time when you’ve attended a social function and went a little overboard in the food department? It’s happened to the best of us, myself included.

It’s true what they say: you eat with your eyes. Who can resist a lavish spread of queso, mini cheesecakes, a plate of fudge brownies and all of the other crap we love to hate (or is it hate to love?). Nevertheless, it’s one thing to eat with your eyes; it’s another to eat with your eyes and subsequently eat with your mouth. If you’ve been in a scenario where you’ve overeaten, keep reading.

We’re going to explore binging — an often shamed subject in the health and fitness world — and what you can do to deflate the pressure and prevent it from happening.

 

What Exactly Is a “Binge?”


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Let’s get one thing clear: eating four slices of pizza instead of your standard two is not a binge. Eating three mini Snickers bars instead of one is not a binge. What is that called then? It’s called life. It’s called you’re at a party and really wanted a piece of cake, and guess what? You ate some cake.

Part of the problem I see with many of my clients is they overanalyze what it means to binge, putting themselves into a state of panic that actually makes them more likely to truly binge. The National Library of Medicine defines binge eating as the folowing:

“Binge eating is an eating disorder in which a person eats a much larger amount of food in a shorter period of time than he or she normally would. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control.”

The binger often consumes between 5,000 and 15,000 calories in a few hours. Bingers often describe themselves as being completely lost in the feeling of food. Essentially, they lose themselves and their emotions in whatever they’re eating.1

Does this sound like you? For about 90%, the answer is no. (And if the answer is yes, please seek medical help and expertise). But for everyone else, it’s important to realize that what you typically think of as a binge REALLY ISN’T. What you’re doing is getting tempted by a social gathering, date, holiday, or other stressor that’s triggering you to overeat.

The good news is that you CAN change the way you approach these situations. All it takes is a little tweaking of your behavior and attitude towards food. Use these 3 helpful tips to battle back against binging.


 

Tip #1: Know Your Weaknesses and Plan Accordingly


Here’s a weakness I and many other people have: sugar.

I love sweets and will admit that I have a total sweet tooth. It took me years of denying myself sugar only to let myself loose on a pint of ice cream and some cookies (Oreos, specifically). But I realized that by denying myself I was only making the problem worse. So what did I do?

I strategically planned out certain days where I would allow myself a sugary treat. Mind you, I didn’t just say to myself, “Taji, you can have sugar sometimes.” Instead, I planned my meals out calorically/nutritionally for the week. And in that week, I picked three specific dates where I was allowed to have a 250 calorie sugary treat (usually ice cream with a couple cookies crumbled up on top). I didn’t eat low-fat or low-sugar versions that are full of additives and preservatives. I ate my treat, enjoyed it, and then moved on with my life.

I’m telling you this anecdote because it’s essential to know your personal weaknesses when it comes to emotional eating. Maybe you’re the kind of person that loves salty snacks and can’t resist diving head first into a bag of chips. If it’s hard to portion out your food, try single/pre-portioned packaged snacks. Better yet, don’t buy your trigger food(s) for a while and see if you notice a change in your feelings/behaviors. In other words, have a game plan. Write it out if you need to. The problem with overeating is that it’s spontaneous and creeps up on you. If you take the time to put a strategic plan together you’re more likely to stay on track.

 

Tip #2: You CAN Have a Few Bites


One bite of a cookie or cake won’t kill you. Even a slice and you’ll be fine. But if you habitually eat an entire cake a couple times a month, you’ll pack on pounds and lose progress at the gym.

When it comes to overeating, I like to think that no food should be forbidden. However, one thing you should never do is emotionally overeat or binge. If you approach that ‘forbidden food’ with the mindset that this is the last time you’ll ever eat it, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, know that there will be plenty of other opportunities to eat French fries or guacamole. Have a few bites and save the rest for another occasion.

 

Tip #3: Let Yourself Recover Physically and Emotionally


Surely many of you have experienced a hangover from alcohol. But did you know you can also get one from food? If you’ve ever overeaten, especially late at night, the next day can be pretty rough. You’re bloated, you’re swollen, you feel like a dinosaur. This, ladies and gentleman, is what we call a food-over.

It’s important not to beat yourself up the next day. Of course, all you can think about is how much you wrecked yourself the day before. But remember that food-overs can take several days to correct. In the meantime, realize that you’re not perfect, and that no one is.

In terms of your eating patterns, try to keep things as normal as possible. Don’t try fasting or any crazy tactics to make up for your session of overeating — eating a little lighter, going for a run, or plowing through an intense workout can all help.

When you overeat it may take 1-3 days before you start feeling like your old self again. Be patient and you’ll bounce back soon.

 

Wrap Up


In the health and fitness world, we talk so much about the progress and gains we make. But rarely do we talk about when we’re not performing our best. Overeating is nothing to be ashamed of or feel bad about. It’s a normal behavior in a time of stress, anxiety, or other intense emotion.

The next time you feel an overeating moment come along, don’t panic. Follow these 3 tips and you’ll be much better prepared to kick that binge to the curb — and prevent it in the first place.

Taji Mortazavi

Taji Mortazavi

Contributing Author at LeanItUP
Taji Mortazavi is the founder of We're Talking About Food. Devoted to democratizing health, Taji believes that anyone CAN live a healthy lifestyle regardless of medical condition, career, budget or other secondary factors.

Besides contributing to Lean it UP, Taji has been published for her health and fitness advice in journals like Thought Catalog. Taji has been supported by numerous health and fitness companies such as Navitas Naturals, Glutino, and Holystic Hut. Support Taji by visiting her site and finding her on Facebook and Twitter.
Taji Mortazavi

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References, Notes, Links

  1. PubMed — Binge Eating []

 

  • Claire

    I’m recovering from an eating disorder and eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream each week. At what point should I stop doing this?

    • Taji Mortazavi

      Hi Claire! Honestly I’m not a professional and don’t think it’s in my knowledge or expertise to tell you what to eat or not to eat. That is a question you should really ask your medical team/nutritionist. I will tell you, however, that it’s great to approach your body from a place of love. Nourish it, be kind to it! Keep your food choices and exercise habits in balance. Eating disorders can take years of recovery. Again, I highly recommend you speak to a professional about this. I wish you the best and thank you for your readership <3