When does the battle of a bingeing episode end? Is it when the food is all gone? Is it after your stomach is full to the point of sickness?
In reality, the aftermath of binge eating can last much longer than the episode itself, especially when coupled with another eating disorder. If left unchecked, the habit of bingeing creates a vicious cycle that is extremely difficult for a person to break.
First, let me backtrack and define “binge eating”:
Binge eating is an eating disorder in which a person eats a much larger amount of food in a shorter period of time than he or she normally would. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control.
Binge eating can be a single disorder, or it can be paired with others (such as bulimia or anorexia). For bulimia in particular, the compulsion to purge – via vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise – can be entirely overwhelming.
The desire to get rid of the food, or to punish ourselves for the indulgence, can override logic. It’s when we succumb to these feelings that we give the food and the disorder more power, and effectively continue to perpetuate the harmful cycle.
I confess: last Saturday (it’s a Wednesday as I write this), I had my first true “binge” in months. Of course, there were days in-between where I overate at parties or exercised more than usual, but this day was different. It was planned, and it was immediately followed by compulsion.
Days later, I’m still fighting – but on the bright side, this is the best I’ve ever done when it comes to coping. I say this to put my following thoughts into some sort of context. My strategies are gathered from personal experience and personal research, and what I do (or strive to do) may not work for everyone. But I want to share it with you all in case it can help.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A BINGE:
- First and foremost, we need to forgive ourselves. A binge should not define us as a person – it was an event, not a comment on our personality, talents, or skills. What’s done is done, and we can only move forward.
After a binge, I typically turned to things that made me feel worse, like talking to an ex and further berating my self-image. This time around, I sat in my room with a friend and helped her look up ideas for tattoos.
- Choose healthy foods for the following snacks or meals, versus skipping or restricting meals. It’s tempting to try and compensate for a binge by not eating anything else for the day, but if you are hungry, then you NEED to eat.
Putting healthy foods into our bodies feels much better than 1) calling the day a waste and further bingeing or 2) starving ourselves. Those methods only lead to more negative feelings and cravings, and another binge is more likely to follow.
- Stay hydrated. Our bodies need water, and staying hydrated helps us to better evaluate our hunger levels.
- Exercise in moderation. It’s important to stay active post-bingeing, rather than letting guilt and sadness ruin our workout plans. But it is even more important to make sure we don’t use the gym as a way to beat ourselves up.
Don’t go workout-crazy after a binge. It’s okay to push yourself, but not to the point of complete exhaustion or to where your net calories for the day are significantly low. This was my method in the past, and after binge eating itself, it has been the most difficult habit to break.
Personally, I’ve always been a person who looks at things in terms of failure versus success. It is easier for me to see the “failure” of my binge, rather than realize the “success” that has been all the days before and after. For instance, I promised myself that I would catch up on my reading that weekend, and I did do it. In these past few days, I also decided to do 30-45 minutes of cardio per day, and so far that has also gone well.
There might always be a small voice inside us that says we should just give up, or that we don’t deserve the good things in our lives. But you know what? We don’t have to listen to it.
Change the tune inside our minds, and our whole lives can be made better.
Even if we experience a relapse – we binge, we lose control, we purge, we tear ourselves down – we can always, ALWAYS take steps to improve. Maybe this time we binged, we purged, but we didn’t go overboard at the gym. That’s a step in the right direction. If there’s another challenge in the future, know that you are strong and can choose to not purge after. And eventually, maybe there won’t be a bingeing episode anymore.
Does this all make sense? I sure hope it does. There’s so much more to life than what an eating disorder will try to make you believe.
As always, I’m never never more than a message away (or if my Rice friends are reading, you know where to find me).
Stay strong! This journey isn’t an easy one, but it is worth it.
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