Get Back on Track: What to Do (and Not Do) Immediately After a Binge
08 May 2023 | Roni Davis
Click the play button above to listen or continue reading below.
Table of Contents
Overview & Intro
How E-CET Can Help
Overview and Intro
Binge eating is a common struggle that affects many individuals, and it can leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained. It's easy to fall into a cycle of guilt and shame after a binge, but it's important to remember that it's never too late to start taking positive steps towards stopping for good. In this post, I'm sharing practical steps you can take after binge eating to help you release the shame, start feeling better faster and move forward on your journey towards a healthier relationship with food, yourself and your body.
Whether you're looking to overcome binge eating for the first time or you're seeking additional support in your recovery, these tips will provide you with the tools you need to help in the hours and days post-binge.
The last thing you need in the middle of a moment of suffering, is more suffering.
Being a human without having developed some unhelpful patterns in your life is impossible. There’s not a person on the planet that doesn’t have some type of unhelpful or even harmful habits they’ve developed over the course of their life, usually as a response to pain or suffering.
What matters is what we do about them. Do we let them continue to guide our lives or do we learn how to change them?
Binge eating is an example of one such unhelpful, even harmful pattern that some of us develop and when we want to learn how to stop the pattern of binge eating, changing what we do (or don’t do) in the hours, even days post-binge will either ensure we continue to binge or have the ability to play a crucial role in our recovery process.
1. Practice Presence & Permission: Don’t promise you’re going to ‘be good tomorrow’ or that you’re never going to do it again.
Is the bingeing having a negative effect on your health in ways that leave you scared and promising never again post binge?
Don't panic. No, seriously, this is not the time to get stuck in a fear spiral that results in promising you’re going to be good tomorrow and never binge again.
We both know neither of those things are true so stop lying to yourself. All this does is continue to keep you stuck in fear and other patterns that aren’t serving you, disconnected from the present moment, and it erodes self-trust.
The truth is, tomorrow doesn’t exist. The future moment you’re promising yourself you’re going ‘to be good’ in, doesn’t matter because it doesn’t exist. The only thing that matters is this moment and how you feel in it, because this is the only moment that exists and your experience in it is impacting you right now.
The choices you make in this moment, have the ability to either make you feel better, or worse right now.
If you’re not present in this moment, or your body, you’re going to have a hard time remembering that or even noticing whether what you’re doing (or thinking) is making you feel better or worse.
Promising that you’re going to be good tomorrow is doing two super problematic things:
First, it reinforces restriction and as we know, restricting food causes over eating and bingeing, in fact it’s one of the biggest driving forces of it. Promising you’re going to ‘be good’ at some later date basically guarantees you’re going to binge or over eat again.
Given this, you can’t keep planning more restriction. It’s an enormous part of the problem.
Instead, you’re going to do the opposite. You’re going to remind yourself that you can keep bingeing all day if you want, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. All day, every day, you have permission to binge. Now, you’re likely thinking I’m nuts because that sounds horrible and you don’t want to do that. Exactly! When you’re helplessly stuck in the middle of a pattern playing out, you know that at your core, you don’t want to binge.
That’s the place in you that we’re working on helping you live from.
See that’s what’s happening when you’re bingeing or thinking that you want to binge. You’re stuck in the middle of an auto-pilot pattern. Which is also why you need presence - it helps you break out of the auto-pilot mode. Which brings me to the second reason promising yourself you’re going to ‘be good tomorrow’ is problematic..
You’re not present. By making promises that you expect future you to fulfill at some later date, you’re not present in this moment.
When you’re stuck in those patterns, stuck in your head, ruminating over those obsessive fear-based thoughts about the weight you’re going to gain now, how perfect you’re going to eat tomorrow, how great you’re going to feel when you do, how you’re never going to do this to yourself again (etc), you’re not present in this moment, or your body.
Fear disconnects you from your body and the present moment.
You’re disconnected from those things because you’re stuck in fear, repeating old patterns that have been getting you the same results; more bingeing.
So, since the only thing that matters is this moment, practice staying in it.
This way, you can make some good come from the binge by learning from it. When you notice the promises to ‘be good tomorrow’, thoughts arise, practice dismissing them, reconnecting with your body, getting present in it, and learning from it.
Most of us never do this, especially after a binge.
We usually do the opposite. We want to get rid of or escape the feelings, so we do our best to detach, disconnect, from the moment and our bodies.
This disconnection makes it way too easy to continue treating it like crap by bingeing and all the other ways we punish them because we’re stuck in auto-pilot patterns and detached from the outcome.
I mean, I know you already know that bingeing or overeating makes you feel like crap but have you ever turned toward your body and explored exactly how it feels as a result of the binge? Have you ever gotten really specific about exactly how it feels post binge? I mean super specific.
Actionable: Be present and connected. Focus your attention on this moment right now and down into your body. Turn towards the discomfort and face exactly what you’re feeling. Look for it. Breathe slow and deep, allow it to be there and explore it. Now, describe not only exactly what you’re feeling, but where you’re feeling it. Again, be as specific as you possibly can, and note the difference between physical and emotional discomfort or sensations.
“I feel ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with myself. These are emotional responses that are showing up as the sensations of heat rushing through my face and tightness in my chest. My stomach also feels so full it’s distended and hard. I find it difficult to take a deep breath and my chest is burning from heartburn. My stomach feels nauseous. I’m also lethargic and sleepy. These are physical responses from my body; it’s trying to tell me how my choices have impacted it.”
While noting the differences between emotional and physical responses, notice how the physical responses are your body’s attempt at communication, so listen to them.
Also, notice how the emotional responses, (the guilt, shame, disgust…the emotional suffering really), those things are coming from your brain, not your body. These things are not actually the result of the binge, they’re the result of your judgments of the binge and what you believe it means about you. Refer to my comments above about kicking yourself when you’re down. That’s what those emotional responses are; kicking yourself when you’re already down.
2. Practice Intention, Acceptance, Compassion + Kindness:
Be intentional with your self-talk and your actions; speak to, and treat yourself with acceptance, compassion and kindness.
I know you’ve been conditioned to respond with self-judgment, loathing and shame after you’ve binged, those things probably even start before the binge is over, but this is the exact opposite of a helpful or productive response to a binge.
We treat ourselves the way we believe we deserve to be treated so the more we judge, berate and shame ourselves for our choices, the worse we feel about ourselves and the worse we feel about ourselves, the worse we treat ourselves. It’s that simple.
In fact, given self-punishment is one of the three biggest causes of bingeing, doing those things almost certainly guarantees the bingeing won’t stop.
Piling on the judgment, loathing and shame post-binge is like kicking yourself when you’re down. If you’re on the other side of a binge, you’re already down, practicing acceptance and compassion instead is like simply standing outside yourself for a second, looking down at someone who has been kicked and beaten, and choosing to show her love and kindness rather than continue kicking her.
You are not a bad person for the ways you’ve learned to numb your pain, or for the conditioned patterns you’ve developed.
I don’t care how much you eat, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not a bad person for the ways you’ve learned to numb your pain, or the conditioned patterns you’ve developed over the years - especially since one of the biggest reasons binge eating develops is the direct result of everything you’ve been taught it takes to “be good with food”. You didn’t choose to become a binge eater, our screwed up diet and ‘healthy eating’ cultures (among other things) created that pattern in you.
Binges are NOT your fault.
So rather than simply thinking to yourself, “look what you did, you made yourself feel like sh*t again, you idiot” (or whatever you tell yourself post binge) and promising you’ll “be good again tomorrow” so you’ll feel better, (both of which will almost certainly cause future binges), instead start releasing the judgments and shame (the last few principles help with that), turn towards the physical suffering caused by the binge and be purposeful about noticing exactly what they are so you can remember them the next time you feel the urge to binge.
Accept that not only did it happen, while you’re working on learning to break the patterns that drive it, it will continue to happen for a while, and then be extra kind to yourself.
I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s a necessary part of the process. If it scares you consider this: if judging, berating and promising you’ll “be good tomorrow” worked, you wouldn’t be here right now. You’d have been binge-free and happy and healthy years ago if those things worked.
They don’t work. So, why not take a chance on something else that, while it may seem scary, actually does work? AND will help you feel better, in general and about yourself.
When I was still bingeing, I eventually realized that one of the biggest driving forces was self-punishment and that was being driven by self-loathing and shame.
Self-loathing and shame were at least in part being caused by my judgments over the choices I was making with food.
And I recognized that if I ever wanted to stop bingeing, I had to change the driving forces.
That meant I had to somehow stop believing I was bad and deserved to be punished (for the food choices I made, among other things).
We stop punishing ourselves when we stop believing we deserve to be punished.
Because here’s the thing: where there is bingeing, there is suffering. If I’m purposefully eating so much that I’m making myself sick, I’m a human that is suffering in some way.
Why would I pile even more suffering on myself when I’m already suffering?
If it were anyone else, offering them compassion and support would be the only things on my mind.
So I started practicing shifting the post-binge self-judgment and shame to compassion and support.
If I felt sick, I’d consider, how would I treat and speak to my daughter if she were sick? I’d put her to bed, rub her belly and do my best to soothe her.
So that’s what I started doing for myself. And holy cow, what a difference it made!
Actionable: Be intentional. Notice when the abusive and judgmental thoughts show up.
Remember, because those thoughts are currently part of your conditioned response to a binge, you cannot simply choose not to experience them anymore. Until you reprogram them, they are going to continue to arise. So, accept that they (along with bingeing) are part of your current programmed patterns. You didn’t consciously choose to develop any of it but you can consciously choose to change them by noticing and intentionally choosing how you respond when they show up.
3. Awareness and Curiosity: Try to get some insight into what actually caused it.
No matter what you may believe, binges are not the result of weakness, addiction, lack of self-control or gluttony but they are the result of something.
Binges do not occur out of thin air.
There is always, always, always something driving the desire to binge; and that something has nothing to do with your willpower or strength.
Your job isn’t to judge or try to force yourself to not binge, it’s to accept this (temporary) pattern and begin understanding it.
This is where awareness and curiosity are required.
What’s driving the binge? What need is it trying to fill? How else could you fill that need
How will it impact how it feels to live in your body (remembering specifically how it felt the last time)? Do you want to feel that way? If you don’t care, why not? Why don’t you care about purposefully making yourself sick? Do you want to purposefully punish yourself?
Why do you believe you deserve to be punished?
These are difficult questions to ask and learn how to answer but the answers contain vital information.
And they’re also questions that are best considered before the binge but I’m including them in what to do post-binge because it’s often easier to consider them after the binge.
Often once the decision has been made to binge, trying to pause to ask ourselves a few questions is like trying to stop a runaway train. It’s not going to happen. But once the binge has started or when it’s over and the desire is gone temporarily, the edge has been temporarily taken off the emotions that drove it, leaving us feeling a little numb and making it easier to pause and consider the questions.
The better we know ourselves, our triggers, what’s driving our behaviors and are connected to the consequences of our choices, the better prepared we can be to either avoid them entirely or be prepared for them so we can consciously choose different responses when they do occur.
Actionable: If you didn’t stop to consider what’s actually driving the desire to binge before you binged, use your time post-binge to do it. While you’re practicing the above steps, start questioning why the binge happened. What need was it filling?
Being wholehearted is about living from a foundation that’s grounded firmly in your own self-love and worthiness.
Binge eating (or even over-eating) cannot exist in someone who truly loves and values themselves.
Exactly as we are; not only if we weigh the right amount or eat the right things… if we manage to make ourselves meet certain conditions that we’ve decided are required before we’re allowed to love and accept ourselves.
It’s about loving and accepting all parts of ourselves, the good, the bad and the ugly, as they say… owning our full-humanity.
In E-CET we apply this concept to not just how we live, but also to how we eat… because how we live is often very much reflected in how we eat.
And it’s important to recognize that being wholehearted in this way is not always easy, nor are these things abstract concepts, only available to other people, or destinations we magically arrive at some day if we just hate and shame ourselves enough to ‘be good’ today.
Love and acceptance are never, ever born from hate and shame.
They’re intentional practices.
Because how we feel about ourselves impacts every aspect of our lives, including how we treat ourselves and our bodies. Hate and shame are never catalysts for positive, life-affirming choices or changes.
So from that foundation of self-love and worthiness, it’s about making choices for yourself and your body through four main pillars of being: Being Present, Connected, Curious and Intentional.
These pillars have been applied in the steps, as have some of the foundational practices in E-CET. For more about the foundations outlined above, and learn more about the rest of the Foundations, you'll want to check out Foundations for Peace. FfP is a 6-week introductory course I created to get you started with the foundational principles that underscore everything we do in the full E-CET program.
These post-binge steps are not just about getting over a binge so you can feel better, they’re about beginning to intentionally build that foundation of self-love and acceptance into everything you do.
Because when you do, when you change the patterns that drive binges to happen in the first place, binge eating naturally goes away on its own.
I used to think that, as a bulimic/binge eater, the best I could ever hope for in terms of recovery was to learn to manage the binges, but through the skills, tools and practices that I’ve used to create E-CET, recovery has been more glorious than I ever could have imagined.
It’s probably been close to ten years since I last binged and not only do I have no desire to ever do it again, I have no fear that the desire will ever come back.
Because I intentionally changed the programming that drove it.
How can E-CET help you stop binge eating for good?
Are you still flailing a little or still feel like learning to stop binge eating is hopeless for you?
Ending binge eating and changing the patterns we’re stuck in that drive unhealthy habits like that, is absolutely possible, but it is NOT an easy process.
There are SO many roadblocks and setbacks along the way and when we’re trying to go it alone, there’s no real way to know what to do about those roadblocks and setbacks.
Plus, it’s way too easy to give up on ourselves, especially when we don’t have effective tools with the right kind of support and don’t know what roadblocks and setbacks to watch for or what to do about them.
But you don't have to try to go it alone. It’s one thing to read some steps, but implementing them effectively in real life is a whole different ball game.
That's why I created E-CET, because I did have to do it on my own and it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.
I’m unbelievably proud of the ways in which E-CET has been helping women not only break their unhealthy patterns with food (like binge eating), but also love themselves more, understand and manage emotions (without always relying on food), tame the mean girl in their heads, and finally make peace with food, themselves and their bodies.
It can help you, too.
And it actually works because it actually gets at the root causes of those things, helps you identify them and teaches you exactly what to do about them.
E-CET combines a wide range of scientifically proven, evidence-based modalities into an easy-to-follow step-by-step process that helps you understand why you can't stop eating in ways that don't serve your best interests and how to stop. It has been meticulously crafted and tested for over three years with one goal in mind - helping you move past all the things that are keeping you stuck repeating the same self-destructive patterns so you can find peace and start living and feeling better.
Award-winning coach, speaker, podcaster and author with a passion for helping women redefine healthy eating and living through wholehearted being: being present, connected, curious and intentional. As a former fitness and nutrition professional, she writes about weight, food and body image along with health, healthy eating, self-love and more. Learn more about her work with her free Why We Eatvideo series.
End the weight & food war and break unhealthy eating habits with Embodied Cognitive Eating Training - the proven process that actually works.