Bouncing Back After A Binge

Pink and white beach ball. Bouncing Back After Binge Eating

11 March 2022 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Filed Under: Binge Eating

You’ve binged. Again. You’re feeling distressed, bloated and beating yourself up.
Negative thoughts are flooding your mind. You’re planning how to make up for this and you’re promising yourself this is the last time; you will never do this again. I remember this scene so well. I believed that if I made myself feel bad enough, I would be able to stop binge eating. As I worked with my eating challenges, I learned some very valuable tools to recover from a binge. Learning how to bounce back from a binge rebuilds your trust in yourself to find your way back to your centre. It doesn’t mean you never do it again, it simply means you know the way home.

Acceptance

When we binge, we blame, shame and beat ourselves up thinking this will help prevent more binges. We tend to go into “if only” mind thinking, if only, I hadn’t done it again or we catastrophise and think we will never be able to overcome it. We cycle around in the past and future. Staying in the present by accepting it happened, understanding that it will probably happen again, is the first step to bouncing back after a binge.

Don’t Try Compensate

After a binge our first thought is “how can I make up for this?”. You feel you need to repent by fasting, cutting out carbs, restricting, trying harder or over-exercising. This is mostly likely going to set you up for another binge. Have you ever had a binge that turned into a weekend of bingeing? These restrictive thoughts and plans can trigger a deprivation response which in turn can lead to more binge eating. Try and remove the focus off food and more restriction. Rather try tune into your body and what it needs.

Manage Your Mind

Notice the story you are telling yourself. Do you believe that you are weak and undisciplined? Thinking thoughts like:
Why can’t I just get a grip on this?
I’m hopeless, I will never be able to stop!
I’m abusing my body.
Challenge your story and instead of saying “what’s wrong with me” replace it with “what happened?”. It’s hard to take care of your needs when the story you’re telling yourself is that you are unworthy and hopeless. Let go of catastrophic thinking and replace your thoughts with factual or neutral thoughts like:
“I ate a large amount of food and I now feel physically uncomfortable and I’m experiencing emotional distress as a result.”

Make Sense Of The Binge

This may not be easy to do straight after a binge so allow yourself some space before reflecting on what happened. Binges don’t happen in isolation. There is usually a chain of events that lead to binge eating. Think about what could have triggered the binge?
Triggers could be: mental or physical food restriction, emotional distress, a trigger person, dealing with a difficult situation, body dissatisfaction, exhaustion. Very often it’s actually a combination of some these things. Here are some questions you could ask yourself so that you can gain more insight into what triggered the binge:

  • What happened the day before?
  • What happened on the day?
  • Who was I with?
  • What was I thinking?
  • What was I feeling?
  • How was this binge trying to help me?

Nourish Your Body, Heart and Soul

We tend to punish ourselves after a binge. We fear that responding with kindness is letting ourselves off the hook. It’s important to remind yourself that a binge is way to take care of yourself. It may not feel like that, but it is a response to unmet physical and emotional needs. After a binge we feel bloated and sluggish. Treat your body with kindness. It may bring some relief to drink some warm water, do some light stretches, wear loose clothes and lie down or put a hot water bottle on your tummy. Anything that will bring some physical relief.

Give yourself a break from beating yourself up. Find the courage to let go of the anger and disappointment you are feeling and remind yourself that mistakes are part of the process. The way we overcome eating challenges is not linear, it’s a messy process where we binge along the way. The more we make sense of binges and understand why we do it, less frequent binges occur. Speak to yourself the way you would to a close friend in distress. You could try using compassionate phrases like: “I am not alone, it was a difficult moment” or “we all struggle”, “it’s human to mess up”. Can you let go of the need for perfection and for unrealistic expectations? Impatience can slow down the recovery process and it feeds feelings of failure. Embrace imperfection and small steps, taking it meal by meal and bite by bite.

Shame, blame and guilt cannot inspire positive action. The way out is not through more deprivation and self-loathing. The sustainable way out is through understanding, patience and taking compassionate action in the direction you want to go.

May we all be free from suffering.
May we all be free from inner and outer harm.
May we all find peace and acceptance.

Wishing you well,
Xen

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Book a free 30-minute mini-session
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PS. For more on binge eating go here, here and here.

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