How did my family size bag of potato chips empty so quickly? I ended up tearing it up last night while sitting on the couch watching a movie.
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Large pepperoni pizzas also seem to have magically disappeared in the evening. The same goes for leftover ice cream in the freezer.
Investigating the kitchen carnage suddenly makes me feel terrible. It’s not just lingering abdominal pain. The by-products of overeating are feelings of guilt, regret, and worry.
So what should you do now to turn things around physically and mentally? Registered Dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, has some suggestions.
Dos (and Don’ts) After a Day of Overeating
Let’s reset the system. Here are five tips to help you through the process.
1. Be kind to yourself
Don’t judge yourself harshly after popping into your fridge or pantry. It happens, says Czerwony. “It’s not uncommon to overeat on a regular basis,” she adds. “So give yourself grace.”
2. Move your body
Want to move that food out of your system? Then move your body. “It’s like a natural detox,” he says Czerwony. “Physical activity increases intestinal motility, pushing all excess junk (calories, fats, sugars) out of the body.”
Exercise also stimulates the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin are feel-good chemicals that boost your mood and help you stay mentally on track.
So go for a walk or hop on your stationary bike and do a quick spin to get your body moving and your mind focused. you can get the job done.
3. Drink water
Want to help your body reboot? Simply add water to flush the excess out of your system.
“In addition, proper hydration is key for your body to function at optimal levels in many ways,” explains Czerwony. “It helps the digestive system. It’s good for your blood. It also benefits your kidneys, your skin, and your teeth.”
Bottom line: stay hydrated and you’ll feel better.
4. Don’t step on the scale
Let’s state the obvious: If you go binge eating, you’re likely to see a higher than normal number when you get on the scale. Don’t go looking for useless information.
“When you go back to eating normally, you’ll get back to your normal weight,” she says. “Give your body a few days to reset.”
Also, remember: weight is not the only or best measure of health. “Feel better, sleep better, bounce off your feet…these are going to be better indicators for you,” adds Czerwony.
5. Do not purge
Czerwony stresses that taking compulsive behaviors to stop binge eating, such as vomiting, using laxatives, or exercising too much to drastically reduce your calorie intake, is not a healthy solution.
“These are eating disorder behaviors that can seriously damage the body,” she warns.
If you are bingeing and draining, talk to your health care provider for an evaluation.
Long-term solutions to deal with binge eating
This completes the reset after overeating.Then let’s work on understanding why How you can keep feeding that frenzy and prevent episodes from repeating.
1. Identify the reason for binge eating
Binge eating is often tied to emotional or environmental triggers. “There’s usually a reason behind it,” he points out Czerwony. “Understanding what it is may help prevent binge eating in the future.”
Stress, trauma, or even boredom can make us go to the pantry for comfort. “I often turn to food because it makes me feel better,” he says, Czerwony. “It’s an easy, accessible way to get instant gratification.”
What’s the best defense against it? When the urge to binge hits, learn how to separate yourself from food.
“Do something action-oriented, like call a friend or go for a walk,” she advises. “Take your attention away from the food until the emotion is gone.”
Just by looking at certain foods, you can start chewing. It could be a bowl of candy on your desk, a plate of cookies at a party, or a hot pizza just delivered by his hungry teen.
To avoid mindlessly eating in situations, try the following:
- Keep healthy snacks on hand, such as fruits, nuts, and trail mixes. (Goodbye Candy Bowl!)
- Camp at the buffet table to eat a little before going to the party and not go hungry.
- Divide food to avoid overeating. (Instead of eating pretzels out of an open bag, pour them into a small bowl to better control how much they crunch.)
“And if you know certain foods will always trigger you, buy them at the store and don’t bring them home,” says Czerwony. It’s much easier to make sensible choices.”
2. Start a food journal
Data doesn’t lie, right? Keeping a diary of what and when you eat can help you identify foods that subvert defense mechanisms and days and times when you are more likely to overeat.
“Track your intake and learn what’s really going on,” says Czerwony. “Until we identify the problem, we can’t address it.”
3. Build a relationship with food
Start with this thought: Food is a neutral item. “We’re a little off the mark when we talk about ‘good food’ and ‘bad food,'” he says Czerwony. “We shouldn’t pass judgment when eating something.”
Take a holistic view of your daily diet. Don’t blame yourself for eating donuts. Instead, enjoy it and tune in elsewhere.
“If the food tastes good, we eat it,” says Czerwony. “It doesn’t make you bad. It makes you human. So go ahead and find a balanced diet that doesn’t lead to excessive bingeing.”