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What to do the day after you binge

POSTED: March 16, 2017 9:41 a.m.
Paige Smathers/

You ate too much last night and now you're panicking... what should you do next?

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So, you went completely overboard last night with your eating. What do you do now? Before we dive into advice about how to bounce back after a rough day with food, I want to be sure to clarify some terms. Binge eating is when you eat a large amount of food in a short time (typically within two hours) in a quantity that is considered more than what most people would eat during that time frame. Binge eating is also characterized by feeling out of control or unable to stop during the eating episode. When most people say the word binge they are actually referring to overeating. Overeating is when you eat past the point of fullness and is nowhere near the same experience as a binge. Overeating is part of the human condition. We all make mistakes in heeding our bodily cues of hunger and fullness. It's important to recognize that each of us will overeat occasionally and that being healthy is not about being perfect. So, if you overindulged or even binged last night, what should you do the following day? Practice compassion. It's completely natural to feel annoyed, angry, bugged or any other negative emotion toward yourself when you overdo it with food. The physical consequences are a constant reminder of where you went wrong and can ignite a deep sense of shame within yourself. Whenever you're tempted to go down the shame-and-guilt spiral, remember that self-compassion is the antidote to shame. When in doubt, remember to be compassionate and kind to yourself. If you let the anger, guilt or shame spiral out of control, overeating and less-than-ideal self-care will only continue. You stop the cycle of bingeing or overeating when you practice compassion.

Set some intentions for the day. Before you start your day, take a moment to breathe and ground yourself to set some clear intentions for the day. Make conscious decisions ahead of time and decide how you're going to take care of yourself during that day. Some examples of intentions you might set are: Breathe deeply when you feel stressed; remain compassionate with yourself; honor your body and to stay positive.

Nourish yourself. Many people react to a binge or overeating by restricting their food the next day. This behavior only sets you up to continue the cycle of bingeing! Remember to nourish yourself with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks as needed that are balanced, mindful and nourishing.

Hydrate. Be sure to drink lots of water during your day. Keeping yourself hydrated after overindulging can help your body get back on track and in balance.

Monitor your thoughts. Chances are pretty good the day following a binge will bring out the thought gremlins. Your mind will likely want to take you to shame and guilt or maybe even schemes about how to make up for your mistake. You can't change what happened yesterday, but you can make an effort to maximize the present moment. Your reality exists in this moment only, so do the best you can each moment, meal and decision during the day. One day of overdoing it isn't the end of the world, but if you let your thoughts get the best of you, that one day can turn into weeks, months or even years of cyclical struggles with food. Ending the food fight starts with your thoughts, so make an effort to keep them in a positive and helpful space.

Connect with nature, a trusted friend or yourself. When we're struggling, our natural inclination tends to be to disconnect. But connection is really the answer. Go on a hike or walk sans your phone and connect with nature. If you prefer to connect with a friend, pick up the phone and call a trusted family member or friend to talk things through with. Or, if you're more of the solitary type, connect with yourself by meditating, doing gentle exercise or journaling. Writing things out can be an eye-opening experience and can teach you so much about yourself and what you need to do next. Connection with nature, another person or yourself is a crucial step toward healing.

Learn from it. Experiences aren't wasted when we reflect on them and learn from them. Even negative experiences like bingeing or overeating can teach us how to take better care of ourselves next time. Be curious and not judgmental as you explore your previous day and attempt to learn from it.

Break free from the cycle of bingeing (or overeating) by learning how to be kinder to yourself and to honor your body's natural ability to regulate hunger and fullness. This nondieting method for health and well-being is called intuitive eating and can completely transform your relationship with food.
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