Now that you downed that whole sleeve of cookies or bag of chips—or both—you may feel as though spending the rest of your days in a pair of sweatpants is a solid life plan. They’re so roomy. So cozy. So stretchy. And best of all, they perfectly hide your food baby. While a life in elastic pants may sound cushy at first, after further assessing the caloric damage of your food free-for-all, you may be wondering what to do after a binge.
That’s when the fantasy fizzles and the horror and panic take over. But don’t fret: I’m here to tell you that the situation is not as bad as it seems. The odds are in your favor that the temporary weight loss and bloat brought on by your binge will not become permanent additions to your frame.
Although experts say that after overeating it may take up to three days to feel like your old self again, there are some exercise, diet, and motivational tips that can help you get back on track right away. We enlisted the expertise of registered dietitians, nutritionists, and doctors to find out the best ways to bounce back from a binge, so you can continue living your life in a regular (read: not spandex) pair of pants the very next day.
First of All, Forgive Yourself
Listen up: It’s not a crime to indulge. You’re only human, after all. So if you’re feeling fat, bloated, and mad at yourself for overdoing it, just stop. Dwelling on your binge will only make you more upset, which could lead to emotional bouts of overeating down the road. “Moving past the guilt is the first step toward getting back on track. It’s important to realize, too, that if it was just one overindulgent meal, it won’t do too much damage. Generally, this would only set someone back a day or two.” So keep your head up; you’ve still got this.
Yeah, I get it. When you’re super full the last thing you want to do is guzzle down water. But it’s for your own good. “Staying hydrated can aid in binge recovery by aiding digestion and fighting gas-induced bloat. “Also, staying hydrated supports a healthy metabolism and satiety, making recovery more manageable for the body.” Drink a large glass before bed and a few large glasses the next morning. It’s also advisable to keep a water bottle by your side over the next two days. Doing so will help flush out any excess salt that’s making you bloated.
Get Quality Shut-Eye
Getting seven to nine hours of sleep is one of the best things you can do to get back on track after a binge. Why? It may make it easier to turn down fat and carb-laden trigger foods the next day. In a University of Colorado study, participants who were only permitted to sleep a mere five hours ate more the next day than those who got nine hours of shut-eye. Researchers observed that the well-rested crew had more “food restraint,” while those who were sleep-deprived not only took in more calories, but more calories from carbs and fat.
Fill Up on Fiber and Protein at Breakfast
It’s the weirdest thing: After eating a huge meal, we oftentimes swear we will never eat again only to wake up the next morning feeling more ravenous than ever before. Why does this happen? “After eating a big dinner, insulin levels spike. This is often followed by a blood sugar drop, which increases feelings of hunger the next morning. Instead of heading to the cupboard and stuffing your face with sugary snacks, fixing a balanced breakfast with a mix of protein, carbs, and fat. This will help tame your crazy hunger and aid in the continued digestion of last night’s heavy meal. Two whole eggs (or just the whites) topped with a fourth of an avocado and a cup of fruit.
Avoid Hard-to-Digest Foods
If you’ve got a case of post-binge digestive distress, steer clear of any foods that may disrupt your tummy further. Big culprits include gluten, dairy products, coffee, refined sugar, carbonated beverages, and acidic foods like fruit juice, pasta, alcohol, fatty meats, and chocolate. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, green teas, almonds, lentils, and avocados are all more alkaline and won’t upset those prone to acid reflux. “Focus first on eliminating known problem foods, and then decide if there are any others that you may need to avoid for a day or two to restore balance.
Keep Lunch and Dinner ‘Clean’
There is absolutely no need to put yourself through a full-blown cleanse post-binge, but eating “clean” whole foods the day after overeating will make you feel refreshed and put you back in the right frame of mind to reach your goals. I suggest whipping up meals comprised of a good balance of protein, fiber-filled carbs, and fat. Here are some examples that fit the bill:
- A grilled salmon fillet with one cup quinoa and three cups leafy greens dressed in an olive oil and lemon dressing.
- A baked chicken breast with half a sweet potato topped with one tablespoon of butter and two cups steamed broccoli.
- Four cups of leafy greens and other veggies topped with grilled steak, 1/4th of an avocado, 1/4th cup dried cranberries, and balsamic vinegar
Allow Flexibility In Your Diet
“Eliminate the urge to binge by allowing more flexibility and freedom into food choices and meal plans throughout the week. Labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ will only lead to restrictive behaviors that will ultimately trigger a binge when the ‘bad’ foods are reintroduced into the diet! As long as portion sizes and calories are controlled, there should be no foods that are off limits.”
Shun the Scale
The scale is not your friend the day following a big binge. It may display a number higher than what you’re used to as a result of the extra food sitting in your stomach and the water retention brought on by eating those salty pretzels. “Many of my patients find it defeating and discouraging to step on the scale after they’ve binged because it makes them feel like they lost all their progress, which isn’t typically the case. Wait two days before weighing yourself to see what the lasting damage is.
“The reframing technique helps to change your overall perspective of the situation. Reframing is great because it shifts the individual’s mindset in such a way that it allows forgiveness and makes the client feel more in control of the situation. For example, if I were to reframe the thought process after a binge, it [would change from] ‘I just binge ate and I feel like a failure; I have no self-control’ to ‘I ate a little more food than I would have liked to, but tomorrow is a new day and I will get right back on track.’ Your thoughts control your actions! If we can reframe the negative connotations that surround binge eating, then we are more likely to bounce back quickly after a binge.”
Rid Your Kitchen of Binge Triggers
Is that sleeve of Snickerdoodle cookies in your cabinet eyeing you? Or maybe you can’t get your mind off the Costco-sized bag of sour cream and onion chips in the pantry? Either way, ridding your kitchen of trigger foods is a solid way to avoid another binge. “Throw out (or give away) all the leftovers and treats that may tempt you. Restock the pantry with healthy staples.
I’ll Start Tomorrow
Try to avoid the ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ mentality. Start now! Have a large glass of water, go for a walk, and choose your favorite healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal. Just because you’re getting back on track doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a treat again. You’re just resetting into the healthy routine you want to be your lifestyle.”
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