After a Binge: What To Do


Yesterday, I shared some tips that helped me when I was recovering from binge eating disorder. 

Very briefly, let’s discuss a truth about eating disorders—and perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind: Recovery is a process. Whatever eating disorder behaviors you're engaging in are there for a reason; they’re serving you in a some way. A huge part of recovery is learning new behaviors to replace whatever the eating disorder has been providing you. With that, it’s 100% okay to stumble along the way. New behaviors don’t often stick overnight. There are going to be days when you take a few steps backwards on the road to recovery, and this is okay. What matters is how quickly you get back on track after one of these stumbles.

With that said, here are five things that worked for me the morning after a binge— 

Get Moving

I used to binge in the evenings, right before bed. I'd wake up the next morning bloated, frustrated and sad. My first thought was aways to reach for more food to make those feelings go away. My thinking went, I've already messed up, so I might as well continue with this binge

This did not serve me.

As hard as it was, over time, I learned to force myself to get up, make the bed and get my butt moving. If you can, I highly suggest getting in a light workout the morning after a binge. Rather than burning off the food from the night before, focus on moving your body with the goal of changing your emotional state. The workout can be something as simple as a 10-minute workout in your room, some sun salutations or a brisk walk around the block.

The purpose of the morning-after workout isn’t to rid yourself of the excess calories; the purpose is to generate positive energy. When you begin a binge, your brain is flooded with dopamine from that initial rush of sugar. After a binge, you're depleted, dragging and disappointed in yourself. Through exercise, you're getting back that dopamine in a healthy and positive way. This in turn will change your energy state and improve your mood.

Eat When Hunger Strikes

The biggest mistake we tend to make when we’re trying to recover from binge eating is restricting what we eat after a binge. This never works. I remember trying to push my next meal after a binge as long as possible, but what would inevitably happen is that I’d be so ravenous once I finally let myself eat that I'd end up binging again. 

Don't be like me. When you get hungry after a binge—which I promise you will—eat. Even if part of your brain is screaming at you to push aside your hunger, make yourself eat a well-rounded meal, and let yourself enjoy it. You want to get back on your regular eating schedule as quickly as possible, and there is no need to punish yourself.

Explore Your Triggers

Here’s the thing: There’s something that led you to binge, and whatever that trigger is, it’s likely going to come up again. For example, if you were home alone, it was a Friday night, your ex sent you a text, you were feeling a little bit restless and decided to eat some cookies, which turned into a full-blown binge, all of this is data. Write this down. Examine what happened; examine what you were feeling. 

Binging is a way to take care of yourself. We binge because we’re needing something that in that moment that we don’t know how to give to ourselves. Whatever we’re feeling, whatever situation we’re facing just seems too overwhelming, so we choose to check out. The binge comforts us and makes the feelings go away—temporarily. Figuring out your triggers are is HUGE. Once you know what sets off your binges, you can track the pattern and start to understand yourself better. Sometimes forcing yourself to sit down and write out the stuff that lead to a binge isn’t fun, but it’s really rewarding when you realize that binging isn’t something that just happens to you out of the blue; it’s triggered by a set pattern.

Write Down What you Could Have Done Differently

Once you’ve explored what led you to binge, rewrite the experience. Take a few minutes to write out what you could have done differently—but write it as if it actually happened. So, instead of saying “I could have XYZ,” write, “I love that I XYZ.” Write it as if this alternative reality was real.

As you’re rewriting the experience, allow yourself to feel the emotions that go along with this alternative story. Allow yourself to experience how good it feels to give yourself something other than food in that situation. Write about how good the rest of your evening/day/week went without the binge. You want to make that reality as vivid as possible, so you start to truly believe that this is how you can respond the next time you're presented with a similar situation. You can make yourself feel this way in the future!

Reward Yourself

Okay, so here’s the thing. After a binge, we tend to beat ourselves up…a lot. But the truth is, you can’t shame yourself enough to stop binging. If you could, the binges would have stopped a long time ago.

You must be kind to yourself after a binge.

The abuse that the binge put your body through is punishment enough. The most important thing after a binge is to show yourself that you can trust yourself. Rewarding yourself doesn’t mean you are rewarding the binge; it means that you are taking care of yourself in a way the binging could not. Take a long bubble bath. Watch your favorite movie. Do something that is going to comfort yourself in the way that the binge was trying to but didn’t. You must be kind to yourself—even if it’s the last thing you want to do. The binging is a coping mechanism—albeit faulty—and you have to keep in mind that your binges are an attempt to take care of yourself. 

When I was recovering from binge eating disorder, I stumbled…a lot. There were times when I could go weeks without binging, and then I’d fall back into the habit of binging for nights in a row. It felt like the binges would never end. What I learned, though, is that what you do after a binge is vital when it comes to getting back on track and ridding yourself of the disorder. The more you can show yourself that you can take care of yourself without turning to food, the quicker the binges will stop.

And remember: There’s no shame in binging. The only shame comes from staying stuck in the disorder through self-blaming and giving up. The binges are trying to tell you something, and you must listen to yourself and realize that you have the ability to overcome this. Be patient when you stumble, pick yourself up and keep the focus on where you're going.

You can overcome this.