Post-Binge Recovery Tips
Binge Eating is a b*tch. Here are some skills that may help.
This one is going to be short, sweet, and to the point.
The holidays are upon us and, regardless of if you struggle with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) or not, overeating will happen. Not to mention the jacked up levels of anxiety/stress/depression that this time of year always exposes us to.
Along with the cluster-fuck of these emotions comes the increase in guilt-inspiring advertisements that the media just loves to pelt us with to get us to hate our bodies and buy their products.
“The most wonderful time of year,” my ass.
Always keeping in mind that binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the United States, effecting three times the number of individuals diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia nervosa combined (healthline.com). It occurs in both men and women, any age, any race, any income level. So believe me when I say that, while it often perpetuates feelings of failure, loneliness and shame, you are not alone. And that shame you might feel is just part of the disorder itself, not a reflection of a flaw within you as a person.
It is also important to note that, while there is a distinct difference between general over eating, being overweight, and/or actually having a binge eating disorder, the following coping skills can be used to help deal with the effects of all of the above. Just remember that body weight, size, and shape does not determine what eating disorder you can or can’t have, nor does an overweight person necessarily have BED. Its all relative to the individual.
Navigating the Binge
Okay, so you’re binging.
You’re aware that you’ve crossed the line between “regular” eating and acting on a disordered behavior, and now you are either actively putting food in your body or have just finished up the episode.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do when in that specific moment is actually moving, but if you can, I want you to get up and go wash your face and hands. If you have them, take your dishes to the sink and just leave them there (don’t worry about washing them right now. Thats a job for Future You.)
Find some loose, comfy clothes to put on.
On your way back to the spot you’re most comfortable in, grab a big glass of water, a pen, and some paper.
In the hour following a binge eating episode:
- Put yourself in an area that is comfortable. Someplace you can stretch out to help aid digestion.
- Write down exactly what you are feeling, physically, in your body. Just jot it on the paper. Don’t worry about making it legible to anyone but yourself, as long as you get those physical sensations put down in front of you in tangible form.
- Once that’s done, write down what thoughts are in your head. Starting with the present and then going back through while you were binging and the hours prior to the binge. I know its tedious and cliche, but it helps. Trust me.
- As you do this, make a point to deliberately re-structure negative thought patterns. You may not believe the positive arguments you tell yourself at first, but I want you to fake it. Eventually the belief will just come naturally.
Here is an example of what your paper may look like when this is done:
I binged. I ate X, Y, and Z. I feel greasy, and the smell of the food on my hair is making it worse, so its tied back into a ponytail until I can manage a shower. I washed my face, and that helped, but its like my core is full of rocks and my lungs are squished up into my throat. I can’t even stand straight. I’m so thirsty but I can’t fit the water in my body to drink it.
I feel guilty. I should have known better. I’ve been here so many times before, its no wonder my body is a disaster zone. All I want is to lose weight and yet I keep pulling this shit.
I intentionally started the binge because food is comforting. I was bored, it was there, and I’m tired of fighting. Recovery is so fucking exhausting. Once the discomfort started to hit, I kept eating because I wanted to bury myself in the physical sensation of the food in my mouth, and the repetitive motion of eating that allows me to space out and not think of anything else. I didn’t want that to end.
Prior to the binge…Idk. I was caught up in the moment. I’m tired of fighting the eating disorder, and the bad body image.
I know I’m not alone and I know that this cycle is self-perpetuating, so if I try to fast or diet to make up for this binge its more than likely I’ll just end up here again. But how can I not try to lose weight?
Rationally, I could say that these behaviors are an understandable reaction to the stresses I face every day. That I’m only human, and humans aren’t perfect. I don’t believe that I deserve forgiveness, but what does berating myself for something I can’t change accomplish? Its not like I have a time machine, so now I just need to focus on getting through these next few hours and doing some damage control.
That is an edited excerpt from an old journal of mine. Edited because my actual entry was full of paragraphs beating myself up for the binge and wallowing in self-pity over it, prior to finally letting myself look foreword and start brain storming some ways I can practice damage control and move on.
The Damage Control:
In the hours after a binge:
- Distract distract distract: Settle in somewhere safe, and do whatever you need to do to keep your brain off negative self-talk, as well as to help you get through the initial discomfort of the binge. Watch a movie, read, write, scroll through Tumblr, whatever. Personally, I find looking at memes and watching YouTube videos works wonders to pass time and distract my stupid brain.
- Take a fuckn’ sip, babes: Hydrate yourself. As soon as you are able, start sipping from that giant cup of water you grabbed after washing your hands and face. It will aid digestion and flush out any extra sodium.
- Stretch out: Get comfy, but elongate your body as much as you can! Make sure you don’t curl up into a ball. This can disrupt digestion and cause less-than-desirable side effects like cramps, gas, or increased bloating. It may help to lay on your left side, because that’s the side your stomach empties from, but only do what makes you comfortable. It may be beneficial to keep your upper body elevated during this to decrease the likelihood of acid reflux or heartburn.
- Do the Twist: Once that initial stage of oh-my-god-I-can’t-move has passed, get down on the floor and lay flat on your back with your arms overhead. When you feel ready, curl your legs up so that you are holding your knees to your chest, and then twist at your middle while extending your legs and resting them against the floor, perpendicular to the core of your body. Breath for a moment, then bring them back to center before extending them to rest on the other side. Do this slowly, repeating a few times and breathing in long, cleansing sighs. As you practice these stretches, empty your brain of negative, anxiety invoking thoughts and instead just focus on the physical sensations in your limbs. This practice accomplishes a few things: It jump starts your metabolism, releases uncomfortable gasses (lol), eases bloating, and stretches your core. It will also put you back in touch with your body in a way that feels nice, rather than harmful.
This video, by Yoga with Adriene, is specifically for aiding in digestion. It has helped me immensely in the past and I encourage you to take a look at it. It can really help to heal your body after a binge, or even just over eating. (She’s actually got a couple videos devoted to digestive flow, and they’re all fantastic. Give her a try when you have the time!)
- Werk It: After the initial discomfort has eased up, consider taking a walk, or doing some light yoga (such as what is linked above). It will get you out and moving, help with regulating digestion, and clear your head enough to start making plans and focusing on a healthier tomorrow.
The Healthier Tomorrow:
Here’s the thing, folks.
Binge eating disorder is self-perpetuating. Put simply, it quite literally feeds off itself.
I’m not going to detail the cycle here, because all it takes is a visit to Google to learn about if you don’t already know. (And I’m sure most individuals who have read this far are familiar with it, anyway.) You can also glean the basics from the graphic above.
What I am going to talk about is recovery, and how you can start to approach it as a lifestyle that actually works.
The only proven way to recover from a binge eating disorder is a regular, unrestricted eating plan. And this is one of the hardest things someone struggling with these issues will ever have to face.
The Unrestricted Eating Plan
- Food is neutral. There is not “good” or “bad” when it comes to the things you put in your mouth. That’s not to say you shouldn’t strive for balanced, whole foods and proper nutrition. Just know that if you’re craving something like a pop-tart or ice cream or whatever it may be, the best choice is probably just to let yourself have it. Otherwise, you’ll just end up feeling deprived and thinking about that craving all the time.
- Do not restrict calories or food groups. Part of recovering from BED is removing magical thinking from the concept of weight loss, and accepting the fact that making your body smaller is not going to solve the issues with which you struggle (even if you don’t believe that right now). Do some research into what nutrients and caloric levels your body needs to function at its optimal level, and strive for that instead. There is not one answer to those questions, but through educating yourself and some trial and error, you’ll get there.
- Drink enough water (duh.)
- Exercise for better mental health, not a “better body.” Do some experimenting and find a form of physical activity that you find fun, relaxing, and easy to look foreword to. It doesn’t have to be heavy, as long as it helps you feel good about yourself.
- Always keep in mind that this process is about trial and error. While foods should not be “off limits,” if you know that one specific food item is more likely to set off a binge, it may be beneficial to steer clear of that for a little while.
The Trial and Error of Recovery:
There is no one easy answer. No cure-all, no button you can push or magic pill you can take to suddenly wake up tomorrow without BED.
Recovering from any mental illness is about learning what works for you, as an individual. That’s not to say research is wrong — the only tried and true way to recover from BED is through introspection, a healthy (unrestricted) eating plan, and a complete CBT/DBT overhaul of that negative voice in your head and the behaviors it perpetuates.
Working within those guidelines takes a lot of time and patience. So as you go foreword, keep these Truths in mind:
- There is no “right” way to eat.
- Obsessing about macros and micros is a waste of time. Your body is smart, it can handle a little extra sodium one day or a little less protein another.
- Slip ups will happen. How we handle them determines the damage they cause.
- This is a long process, and you are not alone. BED is one of the most rampantly common of mental illnesses, regardless of how little people talk about it.
- Binging does not lessen your value as an individual. Or your beauty, for that matter.
- You do not need to “earn” food.
- You do you. Don’t compare your recovery to anyone else’s. We are all special snowflakes and should embrace that.
You do You
This is way longer than I intended it to be so I’m going to shut up now, but I just want to reiterate that there is no such thing as a “perfect” way to eat, or a “right” way to recover. I’ve said it plenty of times in my writing, but trial and error is the key to success when it comes to victory over an eating disorder.
This is a long process. You did not get sick overnight, and you will not recover overnight either.
Give yourself time, patience, and oodles of gentle self talk. Fake that positivity until it becomes second nature, and suddenly you’ll find yourself seeing the truth:
That you are beautiful, worthy, strong, and resilient.
That you are a shimmering human soul, full of potential and love and quirky qualities specific to only you.
What you eat, how you look, and what you weigh will never have any effect on that.