I feel SO stuffed, I ate SO much, why did I eat that second piece of chocolate cake? That second scoop of ice cream?
Who has been there? If your hand isn’t raised, I’m going to lovingly say you’re in denial. In this society we are constantly inundated with excess and we have ALL had holidays, vacations, or just nights at home in which we cave to cravings and later experience the unpleasant aftermath of a food binge.
It’s not fun – we have to deal with the bloating, gas, headaches, lethargy, and sometimes actual pain. But even worse, most of us have to deal with the emotional berating we give ourselves through our internal monologue:
“I’m all talk – I say I care about my health but always give in to cravings”
“Why do I have so little self-control? I ate that junk food I didn’t even like just because it was there”
“I’m so ashamed of myself – [this person I know or saw on Instagram] is so much more disciplined in her diet than I am.”
Ever talked down to yourself in this way? I’m not pointing a finger at you, my hand is raised too.
This self-deprecation is neither productive nor what you deserve for a nutrition slip-up. So let’s talk about 4 steps to recover from a food binge more constructively:
1. Recognize that eating healthy can be hard.
You have chosen a path of greater resistance by choosing to eat more whole, fresh foods and less processed foods. It takes courage and resolve every time you ask the waiter an ingredient question, pass on a happy hour appetizer, or politely decline dessert at a friend’s house. And it creates some awkward situations – strangers and friends alike may be confused by your decisions, laugh at or mock your abstinence, or worst of all become angry or offended by what you choose to eat. Whenever you take a stand to live differently in a world that applauds going with the flow without asking questions, you are acting in bravery and empowering others to be brave too.
Sometimes choosing to be different can wear us down and we give in. Remember it’s not just about eating a cookie or not, it’s about a much greater obstacle you must hurdle daily and you may occasionally become weary.
2. Give yourself grace - no name calling.
In follow up to the above point, once you remember how hard what you are trying to do every day is: give yourself grace. If only saying this to others made it easier for me!
Alas, I find myself regularly struggling to give myself grace when I make mistakes. That said, here are a couple strategies I find helpful to be kinder to myself:
- Find a buddy who will encourage you to succeed in your health and pick you up when you fall. If you want a larger community for this, consider joining The Live & Eat Community Group. Encouragement, meal planning, and recipe ideas are what we’re all about.
- When you are feeling good about yourself, pick a few TRUE things about how wonderful you are and remind yourself of them when you feel down. Some of my personal favorites are “I am beautiful, confident, and strong – even when I don’t feel like it.” “I am the daughter of a God who loves me deeply.” “I am healing my body through food, and there will be bumps along the way.”
- Remember that what you do most of the time matters so much more than what you do occasionally. Think back on the progress you’ve made over the long term, not just what you ate yesterday, and be thankful for how far you’ve come.
3. Get back on track right away.
This is also a simple but difficult concept: Do not wait to return to healthy eating habits. Did you have a binge brunch? Have a healthy dinner. Are you feeling sick from the way you’re eating halfway through vacation? Don’t wait to get home to start eating right again. Remember how good you feel when you eat well and that when you eat well you give yourself this gift, and you can start anytime.
4. Make some notes about what to differently next time.
This is intentionally the last step in the process. We often start trying to get back on track by thinking what we’ll do differently next time, but it is most important to first course correct in the present moment. Remember you have chosen a difficult path, have grace with yourself, start eating right again, and THEN make some notes about the lessons you learned and how you’ll prepare differently next time. Holding this step until last helps me to avoid some of the negative self-talk and start feeling good again quickly.
Recovering from food binges is not the most fun topic to think about, but it is so relevant during the summer. I’ll leave you with this quote from Winston Churchill in hopes that you can reframe success and failure in your own health journey: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”