Updated: Dec 10, 2019
** If you have an eating disorder or disordered eating behaviors - PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP! This article does NOT substitute for any professional health care services you may require. This article is intended to help individuals cope with a binge TEMPORARILY*
Recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating is NOT easy. However, it is and so worth it. You may not feel as though it's possible right now, or imagine life without your eating disorder.. I understand! The first step is to start. Reach out for help today.
What is considered a "binge"?
Binge eating is characterized by eating a large amount of food in a small amount of time. Many people experience this as being in a trance, where they feel like they lose control and inhibition. Temptation takes over and they go into autopilot. This is not always the case however. Some people are very conscious of what they are doing and are either trying to numb emotions or are simply in a "f***-it-I-don't-care-anymore'' mentality.
Most times, people start a binge to taste food (sensory overload) but end up not experiencing any pleasure while eating and don't even taste the food anymore. It's used as a coping mechanism to numb emotions or experiences or as a result of restrictions (physically or emotionally). Binge episodes can be triggered by different events, situations or could be the result of an unhealthy habit (i.e. night and having a binge or binge eating whenever you are alone).
Binge eating episodes are often followed by an overwhelming of guilt, shame and regrets. They may lead to of extreme disappointment in one self and worthlessness. Most people will blame themselves and feel "weak". Overall, it's a very negative experience.
vs. Binge Eating
I think it is important to make a distinction between over-eating and binge eating. Nowadays, with the normalization of eating disorders (WHICH IS AMAZING!!) many will use the term "binge eating" incorrectly.
It is normal for most of us to overeat here and there, like taking an extra portion meals (pass the point of satiety) or over-indulging during the holidays or celebrations. These occasional overeating periods do not lead to any long term consequences to our health and do not impact our everyday life. Some may experience regret or guilt following over-eating, however, it does not cause distress.
Binge eating, however, is characterized by eating an excessive amounts of calories (pass the point of satiety) in a short period of time and is accompanied by feeling guilt, shame and distress. Binge eating disorder is diagnosed when an individual has these binge eating episodes 1x/week for at least 3 months.
What to do following a binge:
If you just had a binge, here are a few things you can do to keep moving forward without spiraling down into binge cycle.
1- STOP & Breath
If you can, make the decision to stop. It doesn't matter if you are about to binge, halfway through or done. Say, out loud, ''STOP or CANCEL'' (voicing this out loud creates a separation within your thoughts). Take 5 deep breaths (inhale 5 seconds - hold for 5 seconds - exhale for 5 seconds). Breathing can help you ground yourself and come back into the moment. Regain control.
2- Change your state & your environment
Create space. The easiest way to change your state is to change your body temperature. You can do this by: going outside, jumping in the shower (really cold or hot water), put (or ice) in the back of your neck. Anything that will change your body temperature will force you to change your state by shocking your body** Changing your environment is also crucial to create space. If you had a binge in your kitchen, do not stay in your kitchen, change room, change floor or even leave the house! The more space you better.
** Do not jump in a pool following a binge as risk getting cramps.
3- Compassion, Compassion, Compassion
Chances are, you will feel like shit. You will either have 23872948327 thoughts going through your mind or a complete It is important to give yourself love and compassion. This is probably the hardest step.. feel like you deserve you do. It's time to be your own best friend. If you can't give yourself love and compassion, at least recognize that the binge eating is a coping mechanism. It may not be ideal, but it is the only way you know how to cope right now. can learn other coping mechanism in time and with the right help.)
4- Identify triggers - or not!
Right after your binge, it may be a good time to identify the triggers and write them down. You are not to deal with it at this point, however, in the future when you are in a better state of mind you can go back to it. Keep in mind that you may not be able to do this step. You may not have the mental space or energy to do this exercise. And that's okay too. You can come back to this later.
5- Productive distractions
Distractions can be a great tool following a binge eating episodes as it takes away focus from what you just consumed. This activity needs to be something you truly enjoy and is soothing for you. Ex: Crafts, gentle stretching, funny show, happy music, gardening, self care acts (wash hair, paint nails, bath,...), journaling, light walk etc.). If you experience worthlessness or uselessness after a binge, finding a productive distraction activity can be very useful. These activities can be folding clothes, scheduling appointments, making plans (or lists!). Try to avoid anything food related such as grocery shopping or cooking as it can still be
** Physical Activity is NOT a good distraction activity post binge because it can be used as a compensatory behavior**
6- Drink water
If your binge was very carbohydrate dense, you may feel excessive thirst- this is normal. Make sure to drink water and satisfy your thirst. Also, drinking water is a way to psychologically create space and emphasize that the binge is over.
7- Do not skip your next meal
If you had a binge, you may feel tempted to skip your next meal. You may feel like you ''need'' to skip your next meal because you surpassed calorie requirements. This is a mistake. Skipping a meal is a restrictive measure that will most likely set you up for another binge eating episode. RESTRICTION = BINGE EATING.
BONUS: Reach out for help
If this is a recurring issue, please reach out for help. No matter, if it happens daily, weekly or monthly, you do not have to live with this burden. It can get better with the right support. Improving your relationship to food and to your body is a crucial step in recovering from binge eating. Look for a registered dietitian in your area who disorders or disordered eating. If you live in Ottawa (or willing to work together online) contact me for more info. I am here to help and support you in your journey.
I hope this article helped! Again, this article is NOT a substitute for health care services. If you need out.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D'Iorio, RD, ScPsychology