If you’re a human on planet Earth, you’ll encounter food.... and if you encounter food, chances are you’ll have instances where you overeat from time to time. Even “normal” eaters who wouldn’t say they struggle with food have had instances of overdoing it, perhaps after Thanksgiving holiday or a vacation. However, for people who struggle with dieting and binge eating, a single instance of overeating can send us into a spiral of guilt and shame that leads us to to further binging.
If you’re a dieter (or someone following more rule-based eating), you know exactly what I’m talking about. This happens when you break your rule and because you do that, you figure you might as well keep eating and wait until tomorrow (...or Monday) to start again. This is a phenomenon that Josie Spinardi coined as “Eating ‘coz you ate.”
We have to start accepting our “humanity” and recognize that from time to time we’re going to make “mistakes.” We won’t do things perfectly and instead of punishing ourselves, we can create a new habit that helps us turn binges/slip ups into opportunities.
So how can you being to do this? Here are the 7 Essential steps to Bounce Back Quickly from a Binge (or When you Overdo it with Food)
Step 1: As as you recognize a “slip up,” hit the PAUSE button right away.
I remember when I struggled with binge eating myself that oftentimes it would start with a single cookie. I had done well all week but then a single cookie would turn into a sleeve of cookies, which would turn into a day of binging… then weeks. For many of my clients, the pattern of binge eating started in a single instance where when their willpower was low and sadly spiraled into months or even years of binge eating.
So as soon as you recognize you’ve slipped up, take a pause. Take a breath. Go for a walk… anything to get yourself out of the zoned out binge eating state back to where you feel calm and safe.
It may be helpful to find a place in your house or an activity that helps you to pause. For example, if you would never binge in the bathroom, go to the bathroom for a couple minutes to let yourself breath. Or you might want to consider going for a walk, getting out of the house to help you reset.
Step 2: Forgive yourself
“I feel so disgusted with myself when I overindulge,” one of my clients recently told me. “Why can’t I have more self-control?”
I really felt for her as she shared this with me because I too have felt this way in the past. But one mistake I see people make is beating themselves up and feeling so guilty about their mistake that these low feelings cause them to eat even more.
If this is something you struggle with, I invite you start developing a practice of forgiveness self-compassion. One way I like to have my clients do this is to recite Hawaiian Hoʻoponopono prayer to themselves: “I Love You, I'm Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You.” It’s simple yet incredibly powerful. It encourages us to take responsibility for the situation but also let go of what you cannot control. Recognize that as a human being, given the circumstances, your beliefs, and perceptions up this moment, you’re really doing the best you can at every moment.
Step 3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
When you’re feeling bloated and stuffed, taking in any other food or liquids may be the last thing you’re thinking about. However, if you’ve overdone it with food or perhaps drank the day before, then hydrating can help ease the hangover and help support your digestion. Drinking enough water can also prevent dehydration which some people can often confuse with hunger.
Step 4: Get some **gentle** exercise
Notice the emphasis on **gentle**. In this case, your mindset around exercise makes a BIG difference. Please watch out for the tendency to “make up for the calories” after you overeat. I remember back in my dieting and binge eating days, I would run intensely the day after anytime I overdid it. This practice got me to associate exercise with punishment and then that continued mental stress would often cause me to binge again!
Forgive yourself right away and get moving to aid your digestion. Do some yoga, go for a walk, or if you do enjoy the act of running, do so from the act of caring for your body. Whatever you choose, come from the perspective of easing, soothing, and caring for yourself.
Step 5: Don’t starve yourself. Do wait until you’re hungry again to eat
A big mistake I see many people make is restricting and starving themselves all day to “make up for a binge” but when they’re feeling famished, the inevitable happens where they binge once again. This often gets people stuck in the pattern of nighttime binge eating.
So please, EAT! It may take a bit longer to get hungry again (perhaps 6-7 hours) but when you notice the first sensations of hunger, let yourself eat! It may also be helpful to incorporate a bit more protein (for most people this will be 1 palmful size of protein) at each meal to help you feel more satiated.
Step 6: Get curious
As shared earlier, beating yourself up NEVER in my experience has led to people healing their relationships with food. A slip up can send us down a shame spiral where we start to tell ourselves a story that we’re wrong, broken, or undisciplined. One of the big keys in the Food & Body-Love Group Coaching Program is to come from the perspective of the “Observer.” Put on your detective hat on and see what you can learn from the occurrence.
Why did the binge happen? - For example: Were you tired? Were you starving and that cookie was the only thing available to eat? Were you stressed?
What can you learn from this occurrence that you can change and improve for next time?
Step 7: Get support
"If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”
- Brene Brown
I used to pride myself on being independent and being a lone wolf but looking back I realized this came from a place of fear and insecurity that others would judge me as broken, weak, and needy. Let me tell you this… if you struggle with food at all, you are not broken, you are not weak, and it takes courage and bravery to ask for help when you need it. When I started working as a coach, I was surprised to learn how many people who I interacted with daily also struggled with food and would have benefited had we known we could support each other. Let me emphasize the “right” kind of support. You want to look for the people will love and accept you exactly as you are, not the people who will shame you or judge you.
So who can you add to your team to support you as you continue to grow in learn in this process?
When I struggled with binge eating, I told just a couple of friends I could trust. It was good to be supported. However, it wasn’t until I got support from coach with the tools and who could also challenge me to be accountable to myself that I was able to release the shame and guilt and could live free from dieting and binge eating.
In the Food & Body-Love Group Coaching Group Program and in 1-1 coaching, having the right kind of support is a big key to my clients finding food freedom. Together, we work on breaking the habits that keep you stuck in the cycle of dieting and binge eating and also give you the safe space to process and learn from your experiences.. If you are looking for additional support and would like to learn more, I recommend applying for a complimentary Jumpstart to Food Freedom Session ($250 value) here so we can chat further. In this session, we’d spend 30-50 min getting clear on where you are, where you want to be, and I’ll give you some personalized recommendations on how to get started.
When it comes any pursuit, whether that be healing your relationship with food, starting a business, or getting into shape, we have to start accepting there will be times when things don’t go as we’d like. I invite you to start developing a habit of self-compassion, forgiveness, and resiliency so you can bounce back no matter what the challenge!
Lastly, I’d love to hear what tips were most useful for you and your biggest insights. Would you comment below and/or share this article with someone who might benefit?
Stay well, eat well, and savor all that life has to offer you because life is simply too short not to!
Above all, love,