Sometimes schedules change, and you can’t sit to eat at your usual time. When you are finally ready to eat, you may eat beyond the point of comfortable fullness. Afterward, you may feel a little ashamed, but you shouldn’t! These events are called binges, and they can happen for several reasons. This article will teach you why binges happen and what to do after a binge to help you feel better.
Why does a Binge happen?
Everybody’s experiences leading up to a binge will be unique. It can be driven by emotions or plain old hunger. One thing for sure is that your appetite can affect how much you eat in a serving. We know several factors can impact your appetite every day. These include: 1,2,3
- Activity levels.
- Mental health status and mood.
- General health.
- Stress levels.
If your appetite runs higher than usual, you are more likely to overeat. Other common scenarios that can increase the chances of a binge include:
- Skipping a meal and arriving at your next meal starving or famished.
- Eating meals throughout the day that were too small and inadequate in calories.
- You could be celebrating a happy event and caught up in the moment, so you ignore your fullness cues.
- Feelings of sadness or stress fuel emotional eating.
Is A Binge Bad?
A single binge is unlikely to affect your long-term health. However, chronic binging and regularly consuming more calories than you need can increase your risk of weight gain. Gaining weight can increase your risk of other health conditions, including heart disease, blood sugar disorders, and even different types of cancer.4
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a severe mental health condition and a recognized eating disorder. The National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC) states these symptoms that can indicate BED:5
- Changes in body weight.
- Dressing in layers of clothing to intentionally hide body shape, even during hot weather.
- Episodes of binge eating to a point where you feel out of control.
- Hiding and storing food away in secret.
- Guilt and anxiety surrounding meal or snack times.
If you have these symptoms and feel out of control while eating, you should follow up with a healthcare provider. You can also complete a screening tool on the NEDIC website.
What To Do After A Binge
Nutrition messaging from the diet industry can make you feel like you’ve done something wrong by binging. If you suffer from guilt after binging, you can read this article for helpful tips on navigating these feelings.
Immediately After a Binge
Listen to how your body is feeling. If your clothes feel tight, change into something looser to lessen the squeezing on your stomach. Too much pressure against your abdomen can increase your risk of heartburn or acid reflux.
Once you feel comfortable, try to complete gentle movements and light physical activity. This can include a low-paced walk around the house or neighborhood.
Being upright allows gravity to pull food downward and help with natural digestion. Avoid tasks that require a lot of bending over because it could squeeze your stomach and add discomfort.
A Few Hours After a Binge
Document your experiences in a journal to better understand the events leading up to the binge. Here are some prompts to help you get started:
- When was my last meal before I overate?
- What did I eat at that meal?
- Was the gap between my meals too long?
- How am I feeling emotionally?
- Was I trying to restrict foods from my diet? What happened when I finally ate that food?
Understanding the lead-up to a binge can help you make choices in the future that could decrease the chances of another binge occurring.
Tips to Decrease the Chances of a Binge
- Eat every 4-6 hours to maintain consistent energy throughout the day. A “crash” or “slump” in the afternoon is a sign you could have benefitted from a snack.
- Include food choices that make you feel full after eating: healthy fats, lean proteins, and high-fiber options.
- Learn new coping strategies for emotions outside of food.
- Avoid restricting certain foods because they are labeled as “bad.” Restricting foods can increase your want for that item, and you may overeat the next time you see it.6
- Reconnect with your natural hunger cues.
Listening To Your Hunger Cues
Hunger cues are the signals your body uses to indicate if you are hungry or full. They fall under an approach to nutrition called Intuitive Eating (IE).
Many people don’t have the luxury of choosing when to eat in a day. But constantly bypassing natural hunger cues can increase your hunger level and increase the risk of overeating at your next meal.
Here are three simple steps to help you tune into your hunger cues:
- If you’re hungry, eat! It sounds obvious, but it’s essential to feed yourself when hunger strikes. Even a small snack is better than nothing.
- How do you feel when you’ve had enough? Are you alert and full of energy, or lethargic and ready for a nap? Ideally, you will feel energized and prepared to spring into action.
- Keep a diary. Whether you choose pen and paper or an electronic app, documenting your observations is key because memory can be unreliable.
Work With A Registered Dietitian
Making dietary changes is a great way to improve your eating habits and relationship with food. Frequent binging can be a vicious cycle, and sometimes you need a professional to help you break the chain.
Nourish can connect you with a Registered Dietitian specializing in binge eating to help you achieve your health goals. Together you can build a plan that uses mindful eating practices to help you get ahead of binge eating. Get started now!
- Blundell, J. E., Gibbons, C., Caudwell, P., Finlayson, G., & Hopkins, M. (2015). Appetite control and energy balance: impact of exercise. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16 Suppl 1, 67–76.
- Yau, Y. H., & Potenza, M. N. (2013). Stress and eating behaviors. Minerva endocrinologica, 38(3), 255–267.
- Bayon, V., Leger, D., Gomez-Merino, D., Vecchierini, M. F., & Chennaoui, M. (2014). Sleep debt and obesity. Annals of medicine, 46(5), 264–272.
- Effects of Overweight and Obesity. (2022, September 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- NEDIC | Binge Eating Disorder. (n.d.).
- Meule A. (2020). The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation. Current nutrition reports, 9(3), 251–257.
- Warren, J. M., Smith, N., & Ashwell, M. (2017). A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition research reviews, 30(2), 272–283.
- Van Dyke, N., & Drinkwater, E. J. (2014). Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public health nutrition, 17(8), 1757–1766.