Uh oh… you ate all the cookies, all the chips, and the pizza box is empty…and you feel gross and ashamed. What do you do afterwards? How can you avoid feeling guilty?
First, there's a difference between overeating and binge eating. This article is geared towards those who overeat. While these strategies can help everyone, seek professional help if you suspect that you might have BED. I’ll talk a bit about the difference between them, and what you can to feel fabulous! But here’s a hint- its all about intuitive, or mindful, eating.
What is a Binge?
A binge is eating an excessive amount of food in a short amount of time. Unusually large amounts of food, that is. During a binge, you don’t feel in control and you want to hide the behavior: you feel ashamed. If it continues for over 3 months, you may qualify for a diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder. It is characterized by:
- Recurring episodes of eating large quantities of food: often very quickly and usually to the point of discomfort
- A feeling of a loss of control during the binge
- Feelings of shame or guilt afterwards
- Not regularly purging
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder.
How Is Overeating Different?
Overeating can be distressing, but it is much less severe than Binge Eating Disorder. There are many degrees of severity to this overeating-type behavior. Here’s some clarity.
Overeating is eating more than you might usually eat at a time, but not an absurdly large amount. For example, eating an extra scoop of rice may be overeating, while eating an entire rice cooker pot full of rice would be binging. You might eat a little extra because it is delicious, your belly might feel a bit stretched and uncomfortable, But you are still in control.
What Do You Do After You Overeat?
Ready to learn what to do after a binge or overeating? Basically, it is a three-step process.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY THE WHY
People overeat for two main reasons: they have severely restrictive food rules and/or they’re not eating enough. Or…both.
Not eating enough
Fuel is not optional. Just like your car really can’t function without gas, your body cannot function without food and hydration. If you’re eating less than you need, your body will tell you… with hunger. But if you ignore it, your body will get more creative with irresistible cravings and reduced inhibitions.
Too many restrictive rules
Do you have a running list of which foods are “good” or “bad?” Do you have a long list of special requests when ordering your usual meals at a restaurant? There is so much that you can micromanage, but just don’t. Having restrictive rules sets you up for feeling resentful…and your next binge.
STEP 2: REFLECT ON THE EXPERIENCE
Hunger is just a signal that our body needs something. If you feel hungry, or craving for something, it is important to think about why. Were you missing protein, vegetables, adequate carbs, or even water earlier in the day?
Your feelings of hunger are 100% valid. So why do you have them?
Reflect with curiosity, not judgement. Learn about yourself, how you respond and react to different situations, and you will gain more feelings of control in these situations over time.
STEP 3: MOVE ON AND LET GO
No matter what you discover about yourself, forgive yourself, and move on. The next meal is a fresh start, the next snack is a chance to try again. That’s it! Use what you learned to make better choices, and have a more comfortable outcome.
Give yourself a pat on the back for reflecting on your data about your recent experiences. Keep the information that was useful and let the rest go.
Can You Stop Mid-Episode?
The simple answer: yes you can. What if you’re practicing these new skills and find yourself feeling out of control? Definitely try to stop:
- Ask yourself… How does the food taste?
- Think about the why, and try to reflect
- Don’t be upset if you can’t stop this time.
The minute you stop yourself, you become stronger and more capable to stop yourself again and again.
The first question will take you off of autopilot, and from here you can start thinking about your actions. You’ll also get to understand if you want to continue eating, or if you’re really ready to stop. You can be in control. With the right tools and support, practice AND patience, you can build new patterns that help you to feel great.