How To Recover From a Binge

My old binge food of choice.     photo credit: Sugarland aka Supermarket (2 of 10) via photopin (license)

My old binge food of choice. photo credit: Sugarland aka Supermarket (2 of 10) via photopin (license)

Last week, one night on my way home from running some errands (which included the grocery store), I decided to have a piece of milk & caramel chocolate from a bar I had bought (just a piece!). That one piece, turned into me eating the entire bar on my drive home.

Ug.

I felting sick from being “over-sugared” and so disappointed in myself for choosing to indulge in emotional eating. I felt myself slipping into the mental shit spiral that comes with binges (do you know what that feels like?? It’s the WORST).

But I stopped my pouty pity party because I thought “hey, wait a minute, I don’t want to do this. What would I tell a client right now?”. I coached myself through it and instead of one eating episode sending me into a tailspin for days, it was over, which is the goal.

Here’s what to do to recover from a binge quickly:

  1. Figure out what the feck you were feeling when the binge happened.For me, I know I wasn’t hungry but I was tired and kind of in a funky mood. Buying the bar itself wasn’t a big deal – we usually keep some junk chocolate in the house – because we’re human! But most of the time I try not to eat in the car, unless it’s absolutely necessary (like eating a snack immediately after a long workout), and that I was choosing to do this was unusual, at least it’s become unusual for me in the last 2 years.Prior to that, when I was in some of the worst binges I’ve ever had (I’m talking about you 2012!), I went through a period of time where I would drive to a store on my way home from work, buy a bag of doritos or a box of white cheddar cheez-its (jesus christ those things are delicious) – and open it as soon as I got my seatbelt on in the car. Then I’d drive home (another 35 minutes) inhaling whatever junk food I bought – barely tasting it and feeling awful about it the whole time – but feeling unable (and unwilling!) to stop.But why was I doing it today? What was going on for me in the last 24 hours? Nothing crazy. I had a couple of really good client calls that day – I was feeling really proud of all my ladies and all they were doing for themselves. Ok, so what was I doing right before I did errands? I was listening to a business building podcast – on a subject that I’m excited about learning about but feel a little overwhelmed on. Ah!! Bingo – So I was feeling overwhelmed, and probably like I wasn’t enough / didn’t know enough. Instead of feeling that and remembering that those feelings would go away in their own time, I reached for something that was my comfort for a long time – food!When trying to figure out why you binged (especially when your binges have been a thing of the past), it’s helpful to keep digging if you’re not coming up with an answer. Telling yourself “I don’t know” why you did it, is a subconscious way of avoiding the issue. You know why you’re doing this – keep asking questions and looking at your thoughts and interactions that led up to the event. Pretend you are a detective and leave no stone unturned!
  2. Recognize that it happened.
    Acknowledge to yourself -I ate that bag of chips. I ate that whole chocolate bar. Whatever it is. If you keep a food journal/diary, it’s important to log it down. We love to hide our binges from the people in our lives but also from ourselves and if we avoid it, it’s easy to let them happen again and again.
  3. Ask yourself: “How did eating this make me feel?”
    In my case, it made me feel really shitty. It made me feel like a bad person. It made me feel like all my hard work – emotional and physical (eating to satisfaction, stopping when I’ve had enough, exercising etc) was for nothing. I don’t like feeling that way.
  4. Next ask yourself: “How would I rather feel?
    I’d rather feel strong, capable and in control of my feelings and what I put in my mouth. I’d rather not feel ashamed of what I eat.  I’d rather have a relationship with food that is easy and not wrapped up in so much emotional garbage.
  5. Write all that shit down.
    Writing stuff down on paper preferably (typing is not the same but preferable to not writing at all!) helps us release feelings and cement the thoughts and feelings that we want to have in a way so that they stay in the front of our minds. Things become more real when we write them down! There’s no avoiding your feelings if you’re writing and acknowledging those facts down.I came here and wrote up this blog post after my binge and that helped immensely! Confronting this bad boy head on, meant I didn’t end up binging all night, it meant I didn’t skip my workouts for the next few days and it meant enjoying the weekend with my handsome husband without being moody and bloated (because that is the type of shit that happens when we let rotten feelings about a binge hang around and fester).
  6. Now that you know how you’d rather feel, know that you can choose to feel that way instead of the terrible way binging made you feel.
    What??? I know that’s a tough one to wrap our heads around but I’m serious. If I want to feel strong and in control of my food choices I can choose to feel that way from now on rather than choosing to feel like a bad person because of one single event. Eating the candy bar was an action I took and the only reason I felt bad about myself after was because I choose to make the act of eating it mean something about myself (I’m bad). But I can just as easily decide that I’m human and it was just one food choice and I can move on and make better choices going forward. You can CHOOSE to not feel like crap about it (and guess what?? That will affect your future food choices too!!) and that is really good news!
  7. Let it go & know that one binge does not mean all your progress is erased. I know it’s hard. I know there is a part of you that thinks if you don’t beat yourself up over it, then you’ll just do it again and never learn from your mistakes, right? It happened. Let it go. There’s no benefit to us to obsessing over what we did in the past – because we can’t go back and change it!Eating a whole chocolate bar in the car – (while a slightly lesser big deal than a whole box of cheez-its) felt so terrible, not because it was more calories than I want to eat in chocolate, but because it reminded me of how out of control, miserable and borderline apathetic I was a few years ago – and despite the healing I’ve done, there is a small part of me (and almost every one who is recovering from eating issues) who thinks that if an old behavior resurfaces at all, it means I’m back to square one. And that thought is terrifying.It’s also completely untrue. One binge does not undo all the hard work you’ve done – it’s how you move forward that counts. It’s your willingness to confront your actions (instead of tucking them away and ignoring them) and feel those feelings that made you want to binge in the first place that is the hallmark of your hard work!

Moving forward, the next time the potential for a binge appears and you start to fall into old habits that make you feel uncomfortable, you can come back here and revisit these steps. Just knowing that 1 binge doesn’t have to equal weeks or months of destructive behavior. With practice, new positive habits begin to replace old habits and we become less likely to resort to our old ways.

Notice I said “less likely”. Here’s the thing – I have a toolbox full of effective, tried and true tools to stop emotional eating and all are effective in different ways, but sometimes we resort to whatever our brains know best – and my brain still remembers bingeing as the most basic way for me to cope. I’ve retrained it pretty well the last few years – but it can sneak back up on us, especially under stress. I coach women on their own eating struggles and yes, mine sometimes creep up here and there (I’m human and imperfect) but they’re never as bad as they were in the past because I remember to do a mental and written “download” of the experience immediately afterwards.  It’s all about how you handle the “after”.

If you want to recover from a binge – you have to face it, instead of running away. Try reframing it into a learning experience about yourself and it will help remove the shame that we put on it! What helps you recover after a binge? Share with me in the comments!

Hey – did you like this article? Consider sharing your email with me (in the box below) and I’ll send you goodies like this directly to your inbox! Need help working through your own struggle with emotional eating? Schedule a free discovery session with me and let’s see how you can move forward.

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