3 Ways To Get Back On Track After Binge Eating
How many times has this happened to you?
You eat two cupcakes on Friday night at a birthday party. They’re definitely not on your nutrition plan. You think, “I’ve really done it now. The rest of the meal/evening/day/weekend/week is going to be a write-off.” So you spend the next few days pigging out. We’ve all been there.
So how do you get back on track after binge eating?
The longer you stay in “write-off mode”, the more momentum your bad habits develop. Then your weight-loss regresses, and it becomes harder to eventually get back on track. Sometimes a nutrition plan that’s otherwise working can be completely derailed when a weekend of unhealthy eating turns into a week and then a month. Instead of losing 5lbs of fat that month, you’ve now gained 5 or more. Ugh.
After binge eating, LOGIC DOESN'T ALWAYS PREVAIL
We all know the logical way to get back on track after binge eating. After enjoying those first two cup cakes, the better path would be to acknowledge that slip-ups happen, and that it’s really not a big deal as long as you get back to on track at the next meal.
So why is that so difficult to put into practice? Why do we often swan dive off the wagon, and turn a treat into a binge?
The first step to preventing this cycle is to understand why it happens. These are the three big factors.
Why we binge eat reason #1 - The snowball effect
When your nutrition plan starts slipping, it’s usually not from one fatal blow. It’s almost always a protracted downward slide. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, it starts out small - even hard to notice - and eventually gets bigger and bigger until it feels like an avalanche of gummy worms, ice cream and despair. The more momentum it gains the harder it feels to fix.
In my experience, the first major pitfall is that you’ll stop doing the little things which normally keep you in check. For example, keeping a food journal, planning out your meals for the next day, food prep or timely grocery shopping. Even though they might feel unimportant or tedious at times, these kinds of simple habits are the very things that enable your success when the going gets tough.
No matter what, get back to doing those crucial little habits which lay the foundation for bigger, long-term success. If you’re not sure where to start, drop me a line and I can help.
Why we binge eat reason #2 - THE PHYSICAL CRAVINGS ARE REAL
What happens when you eat high-carb processed foods? After an initial spike, your blood sugar crashes. Your body responds by releasing the stress hormone cortisol and you become hangry (hungry + angry). This stress response to poor blood sugar management leads to bigger sugar cravings, increased appetite, the feeling that you need to eat every 2-3 hours, and larger drops in energy levels throughout the day.
In short, the worse you eat, the worse your cravings become for unhealthy foods. It’s the definition of a vicious cycle.
Expect that the first one or two weeks after a major nutrition slide are going to be challenging. You’ll be physically craving sugary foods and processed foods more than normal. You’re going to have to battle it out. There’s no way around it. If you slip up once, get back on track and know that after a week of sticking to the plan, things will start getting a lot easier. The physical cravings will decrease substantially.
Eating mainly protein, fats, and vegetables will keep your blood sugar stable. This will leave you feeling satiated and balance your hunger and stress hormones. You’ll definitely want to avoid high carbohydrate meals in this phase.
Set yourself up for success by throwing out any sugary or processes treats living in your cupboards. You can’t be trusted in this state! No one can. So don’t let temptations linger. Then, plan out your breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week ahead of time. Food prep on the weekend. That way you’ll have healthy food that’s ready to go and less excuses to swing by the drive-through on the way home.
Why we binge eat reason #3 - THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FAILURE
The feeling of failure sucks. A lot. And it plays tricks on our minds.
Studies show that the more times we fail, the more we view the same task as unattainable. Failure also negatively distorts our perception of our own ability, making us feel more helpless. These emotions often lead to unconscious self-sabotaging. When failure is a scary possibility, we humans try to buffer ourselves against the pain/disappointment by creating excuses and situations that can justify why the failed.
Chances are that you’ve failed at trying to lose weight before. And if you’ve messed it up enough times, every time you start anew you wonder: Can I do this despite my lousy track record? Won’t I just mess up again? Will I ever be able to change my body? If I truly commit 100% and I fail this time around, does that mean I’m hopeless?
With all that self-doubt lurking just beneath the surface, the stakes can feel immensely high anytime you slip up, even if it’s only a little. You start feeling helpless and like there’s something wrong with you. It’s no wonder so many people give up right there.
Failure is inevitable. I can guarantee 100% that eventually you’ll mess up your nutrition plan. It’s how you get back on track after binge eating that’s important.
The most common response - beating yourself up about it - helps nothing. Instead, we need to form a simple, effective plan to improve.
When I intend on going to bed at 11pm but stay up until 1am watching Youtube, I don’t dwell on it and beat myself up. If it’s important to me, I’ll simply change my approach and aim to do better tomorrow. I’ll set an alarm at 10:55pm, 11pm, 11:05, 11:07, and 11:09pm to make staying up past 11pm super annoying. I’ll also tell my wife that I plan to go to bed by 11 and that she has full permission to nag me about it if I delay. After all, who wants their spouse breaking their balls? Those two things are usually enough to get the job done.
With nutrition, there’s often so much self-doubt and shame when we mess-up, it can be hard to forget about and move on. But when you see yourself getting into this familiar mindset, your only objective is to break out of it. By any means necessary.
Having extra accountability from a spouse, friend or coach can help a lot. Having a routine that pumps you up can too. Start the day with 10 push-ups while listening to Eye of the Tiger. Do some visualisation drills. Pick something easy that you can accomplish to build momentum for the rest of the day, like starting the day with a good breakfast,.
Some of this sounds cheesy, but it’s all designed to change your state of mind from feeling helpless toward getting you into a more competitive zone where you take charge.
If you have trouble being consistent and could use some help with your mindset, habit development, and establishing key action priorities, email me. I can help get you back on track with a fully customised plan designed to work with your existing routine, habits and food preferences.
But remember: failing doesn’t predict future success. You CAN do this, even if it sometimes seems hopeless.