It all started with spilling your morning coffee on important work documents, running late to all your meetings and getting into a row with your mum. One thing after another and it seems like your day is completely snowballing and there’s no turning back. Driven by stress and overwhelm you suddenly come out of a trance-like binge, realising what has happened. Now what?
What you do after a binge is crucial to help you get back on track with physical balance, nourishment and restore your mental health. And this may just be enough to stop the cycle of bingeing the next day or for days to come. Recovery time after a binge could define how the next few days look like for you, so make sure you do all you can.
It’s important what you do an hour, few hours and even a day later and it’s key to include as many nurturing activities as possible, even if it feels counter-intuitive. Focus on balancing your blood sugar, calming the emotions and managing stress. Here are the steps you can take to bring your body into a much-needed balance.
If you’ve overeaten or had too much, the last thing you want to think about is your next meal. It’s very common to restrict after a binge and if you binged in the evening, skip dinner and even breakfast the next day, to compensate for the calories and food that you’ve consumed. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it is very important to have the next meal and send a message to your body that food is coming and get out of the cycle of fasting and feasting- it will only create more urges to binge. Avoid the temptation to punish yourself for the binge and instead lead with compassion and nourish your body.
Don’t underestimate the power of good hydration, as it can help get things moving, process food better and help rid the body of unnecessary bloating. Avoid drinking instantly after a binge as it will make you feel overly full and uncomfortable. Instead, wait an hour or so and drink a pint or two of water, or a couple of big mugs of herbal tea. Peppermint and ginger teas work really well as they support digestion and can help reduce bloating.
A binge episode is often riddled with enormous guilt about the amount of food eaten, the calories and gaining weight. Plus, the food labels such as “good food”, “bad food”, “naughty” and “calorific”, together with old dieting messages come in to make the matters worse.
Easier said than done sometimes, however focus on the next steps and move on from the event. Recognise that food rules and skewed messages about food may contribute towards anxiety around food and binges in the first place and aim to develop a more balanced view of food. Avoid strict rules and all-or-nothing thinking around food, as it will only create more anxiety and guilt, even when eating one biscuit or slice of chocolate.
Nature truly is a healer and taking yourself out of the situation and going for a walk in fresh air can work miracles. Research shows that spending time outdoors helps improve mental health and promote positivity. And although you may not feel ecstatic after taking a long walk, the movement and time in nature can surely improve your day.
Self-soothing is an analogy of a friend giving you a hug and telling you it will all be ok. Except you are that friend for yourself. Self-soothing can include many actions and thoughts and it will be unique to each person, however it’s important to bring compassion into the picture. Rather than seeing a failed action, it is important to recognise that perhaps particular triggers are leading to unhelpful actions in the first place.
Use some of the 5 senses to self-soothe and think of your favourite ways to indulge in these senses. Perhaps going to your favourite picturesque nature spot where you feel inspired or a gallery if you love artwork, getting out the essential oils in a diffuser or lighting scented candles, having a nice bath with bath salts and foam or listening to some relaxing music. At first you may not be convinced that it will work, but give it a try before dismissing it. If you find it hard to be kind and compassionate towards yourself, imagine that you are helping a friend get over a tough time instead.
When a day or two passes, it can be useful to revisit the triggers that may have led to it. Draw a line in the middle of the page and on one side write physical triggers, such as skipped breakfast and had a very small lunch, and on another side write all the emotional triggers, such as looking on Instagram straight after waking up and having a heated argument with the partner. You can start as early as you notice some bigger, more emotional or significant events and sometimes it may go back as far as a few days or a week back.
It is important to tag the binge as a “learning event” in your mind and take stock of the triggers for next time. Are you experiencing the same triggers all the time? Is there something that can be prevented? Any adjustments that you can make to avoid triggers?
Gentle movement can be another great distraction and a way to self-soothe as well. Make sure you are not using exercise and movement to punish yourself for the calories eaten, but rather helping the body gain extra energy and promote overall wellbeing. A boost of endorphins is also useful to support mental health if your moods tend to get low after a binge. Choose gentle stretching or restorative yoga classes, walks in nature, gentle cycling and swimming over HIIT training and spinning-class type of activities.
Recognise if you are setting yourself up to binge. It’s not at all uncommon to create situations and triggers in daily life that drive you to binge and sabotage your health and weight goals. Sometimes this happens due to a perfectionist mindset that wants to test your willpower and prove that you “should” be able to resist and say not to trigger foods and situations with ease. Other times set-ups happen due to blurred boundaries around food and relationships, lack of nutritional balance or simply habits that are not serving you. Lead with kindness and pay extra attention towards eliminating these triggers to avoid binges.
Whether you experience binges daily or once every few weeks, it is the thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that surround it that are important. If you’re in doubt of whether you should seek help or it’s not necessary, take stock of how much of your headspace thinking about food and your body is taking up, rather than the frequency of the behaviours. If your food relationship is making you miserable daily, it’s a good enough reason to search for support just right for you. If you’d like to go through an audit and figure out if it’s time to seek help, you can find it here.
Milda helps women beat binging, emotional eating and food obsession through creating physical and emotional balance, so they can enjoy guilt and take back control of their lives. If you’d like to know how Milda can support you, check out her services.