One of my passions is helping clients heal their binge eating. I suffered from binge and compulsive eating most of my life, so I have a vast amount of personal experience—I know how difficult and frustrating and demoralizing it can be. The added pounds are like a badge of failure that everyone can see. You long to stop obsessing over food and just eat like a normal person. You want to end the struggle, to be happy with your body and weight, but it’s SO. DAMN. HARD.
Even though I have come a long way, I am not perfect; and certainly not above the occasional binge. (It’s the cost of being human.) I have learned that I am sugar-sensitive: the more I eat, the more I want. So while I mainly eat a diet low in sugar and starches, things like Thanksgiving can happen, and knock me for a loop. This year, the binge didn’t happen on Thanksgiving Day; it was the day after, when the extra dessert I didn’t want to take home in the first place stayed too long in my fridge and cravings struck.
So after a slice of apple pie right out of the takeout container, a piece of baklava and a slice of chocolate cake, what’s a girl to do?
I’ll tell you!
- Forgive yourself. We all slip up. Even if you slip up on the regular, know that it is not a personal fault—there are many factors at play that make a person binge. The guilt and shame only make it more likely that you’ll do it again. If this is a challenge for you, a great forgiveness exercise is Ho’oponopono: Close your eyes, put one hand on your heart and the other on your belly and repeat the mantra: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” Direct the words to your body, or whatever part of you is needing to receive the forgiveness. Repeat until you feel an internal shift.
- Notice how the binge has affected you and will affect you–without judgment. Even now as I’m writing this I still feel that sickening fullness of overdoing the play food. It’s totally changed my dinner plan, since I am not feeling up to a full meal anymore, and it ruined my enthusiasm for the nutritious treat I was planning to make later–the cranberry mors recipe I got from my friend Dana. I was looking forward to the scent of cranberry and spices filling my kitchen today. Sigh. It is disappointing to see the results of overdoing it, but it helps to remind me what I’m saying yes to when I say no to overeating, and vice versa.
- Make it a learning experience. When I looked over the course of the prior 24 hours, I saw several choices I made that set the stage for the binge. On Thanksgiving I’d really wanted one of the lower sugar treats I usually eat—but I didn’t make any, so I ate pie instead. About a half hour after that, the cravings started. I drank caffeinated tea with my dessert because I didn’t want to be “too much trouble” when I discovered the tea wasn’t herbal. And the next morning I was out of decaf so I made regular coffee for breakfast. Finally, I didn’t make sure the extra dessert got out of my fridge before the cravings returned. Knowing this, I will do things differently the next time I get into a similar situation. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever binge again, but it means I’ll be more self-supporting and proactive, which gives me a sense of serenity about it. I’m doing my best, and most of the time that is enough to keep me healthy and happy. And as I learn more, I feel the way I want to feel more of the time.
Those are the mindfulness strategies you can employ after a binge, or anytime you do something you regret. Being that the holiday season is here, and there are more potential binge opportunities on the way, I will write a Part 2 to this article next month and share some of the nutritional strategies to use during or after a binge to minimize the damage and get you back on track ASAP.
So tell me, how was your Thanksgiving? Any mistakes or challenges to report? Leave a comment below!
P.S. If you truly want to stop the cycle of compulsive overeating for good, it helps to have support. Recovery involves looking at diet to reduce the physical cravings. It also involves rooting out the behaviors and thought patterns that lead to psychological cravings, and replacing them with more supportive habits. It is not easy, but the feeling of peace that comes from being in right relationship to food and your body is well worth it. It feels amazing.