I’m writing this at 5:29 in the morning. It’s still dark outside and I just clicked on the furnace, even though it’s June. The house is cold and silent.
Normally I’d be buried deep under my covers. I don’t need to be awake this early, but I can’t sleep. My head in spinning, negative thoughts are bombarding my brain, and I feel a deep sense of disappointment.
It’s the morning after a binge.
I’ve awoken to a food binge hangover hundreds of time before and, I suspect, I’ll have many similar mornings in my future. Opening my eyes to feelings of depression, self-hatred and disgust. Starting the day with regret for filling my stomach with food my body did not want or need. Sick, emotionally and physically, of using food as a drug to temporarily escape some feeling I didn’t want to experience.
Or maybe it is just a bad habit.
The reason doesn’t matter. I binge ate and now I’m hungover. It’s time to snap out of it.
The motivation to drag my weary butt out of bed so early was to share my thoughts with YOU. To write my “binge recovery plan” in the hope my failures, and the lessons I’ve learned, will benefit someone else. Someone who might be you – a soul sister who shares a of love of food, and a hatred of herself when she uses it as a drug.
4 Steps to Recover from an Eating Binge
1. Start with a simple and calming Morning Routine.
I have a somewhat more elaborate morning routine that helps me start any day off well. It touches on three areas that lead to wellness and balance: nutrition, movement and mindset.
- Drink a large glass of water. I add a handful of frozen fruit to my favorite water cup, decorated with yellow, red and green flowers. The pretty cup makes me smile, the water rehydrates my body quickly, and the fruit adds a little flavor, a few nutrients, and makes me feel pampered.
- Stretch. This is not a workout. I simply do a few minutes of simple stretches or a few sun salutations. The gentle movement invigorates my body, helps me move from sleepy zombie to “almost ready to face the day” mode, and it feels amazing.
- Recite some positive affirmations. Infuse your brain with a positive message immediately. We are bombarded with negativity throughout the day, particularly from our own brain the morning after a binge, so I make sure to get the positive vibes flowing immediately.
I’ll share some simple examples. I read similar affirmations every single morning:
- I eat when my body is hungry and stop when I am approaching full.
- I eat a wide variety of delicious, healthy, whole foods because my body deserves to be fueled well.
- I enjoy the taste of healthy, nourishing foods.
- I am energetic, active and strong.
- I choose to be positive and courageous.
- I fill my day with hope and choose to face it with joy.
This mini morning routine takes less than 5 minutes, and the goal is to ease myself into normalcy. I choose to start my day on my terms. I am not a victim.
2. Forgive Yourself
Binging, and the aftermath, is an emotional process.
Yes, it involves stuffing large quantities of unneeded food into our bodies, but the decision to eat in the first place comes from the brain. Whether it’s a conscious decision – “I’m going to eat this entire container of Oreo cookies,” or subconscious and habit-based – I grab handfuls of food, scrounge in the cupboards and fridge for more and cannot seem to stop – doesn’t matter.
We wake up filled with guilt and remorse. Self-hatred is a common feeling for me. The real “me” wants to be fit and healthy. The real me wants to nourish my body with wholesome, nutritious food.
Why am I sabotaging my own goals and progress?
I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure one is necessary. I’m prone to binge eating. Period.
But the binge is over and done. I refuse to wallow in self-hatred and disgust for one more minute. I made bad choices yesterday. Today I choose to move on.
So I consciously forgive myself.
I literally think these words in my mind: “I did the best I could at the time. I choose to get back on track today. I forgive myself. It’s OK.”
3. Journal to learn from the experience.
Journaling has been incredibly helpful in my weight loss journey. I don’t journal every day, but I do often – particularly when I need it. And, after a binge, I need the outlet journaling provides.
I have no formula, either for journaling or “learning” from the binge – I simply get my (negative) thoughts and feelings out of my brain and onto paper.
I’m not trying to “solve” my problem, like an icky word problem in math class. Spilling my thoughts is a release; it clears my head.
Sometimes answers will become apparent, and sometimes not. If there is a lesson to be learned, seek it. If it helps simply to rid yourself of the mind clutter, that’s an incredible benefit all on its own.
I don’t ask myself formal questions, but “food for thought” might be these journal starters:
- What stresses was I dealing with?
- What was my real need? (Comfort, companionship, support, etc.)
- What could I have done other than eating?
- What will trigger me to take better action in the future?
(Tip: I keep my journal in Evernote, along with my affirmations. Evernote is a free note-taking app.)
4. Don’t cut calories or add exercise.
I refuse to diet, cleanse, fast or starve myself to make up for my binge. This is critical, because punishing myself by depriving my body of fuel to “make up” for my indiscretions leads me back into a vicious cycle of deprivation and binging.
I simply follow my normal eating plan.
I have my normal breakfast of protein, veggies and coffee. When lunch, dinner and post-workout snacktime come around, I just eat what I normally would eat on any other day. Period. No calorie slashing to compensate for the binge.
I do my regularly scheduled workout.
Same concept with fitness. I do whatever workout was already on the calendar. No unplanned 10 mile run to burn off calories. No double video workouts to make up for the extra food. My body deserves to move daily and that is a normal part of my routine. No marathon cardio sessions necessary.
Now it’s 6:03am. I’m feeling slightly more awake, but haven’t had my morning coffee yet. It’s now raining, but at least the house feels warm. My salted caramel candle is flickering in my office as I type on the laptop.
I am tired, but at peace. I messed up yesterday, but my binge doesn’t define me. I am not a bad person for stuffing down my feelings with food, and neither are you.
I hope and pray you never need to use these steps to pull yourself out of a binge and back onto the path of wellness. But I know I have soul sisters out there with similar struggles. If that is YOU, know that I was thinking of you this morning. You are the one who motivated me to leave my cozy bed. You are the one I’m talking to right now.
And I hope YOU find the peace with food that you so deserve.
Do you struggle with binge eating too? What do you do to snap out of it?