Content Warning: This article references disordered eating, eating binges, and similar topics. This may be triggering for some people. Reader discretion is advised. If you struggle with disordered eating, please seek professional help and support with the National Eating Disorders Association.
Have you ever eaten a whole box of Cheez-It Crackers? What about an entire bag of Justin’s Mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups? How about an entire bag of Doritos? (I’m talking about the regular-sized bag, not an individual bag). Oh, and what about an entire package of Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies? How about eating all of that food in one night? I have—just the other week in fact.
I am not proud of this, but I have experienced episodes of binge eating since my early twenties. Disordered eating, calorie restriction and an unhealthy relationship with food and body image have all been factors that, most likely, have led to binge eating episodes at different periods in my life. Oh, did I mention I struggle with anxiety? One of the easiest ways for me to cope with stress and unwanted emotions is by binge eating to the point where I am so full, I am numb and I don’t have to feel those feelings.
In all actuality, I have done a lot of inner work to understand why I binge eat. The aforementioned binge was the first one I had in over seven months. I cannot even tell you the last time I experienced a binge prior to that, but these binge eating episodes still happen from time to time.
Flashback to the other week, as I reached the bottom of the bag of chips and was polishing off the very last chocolate chip cookie, I was already fervently Googling “What to do after an eating binge.” I found many of the search results to be less than helpful, which inspired this article. I want community members to know that if you struggle with binge eating, you aren’t alone. If you are anything like me and a binge happens from time to time, here’s what to do after a binge.
What is binge eating?
Binge eating disorder (BED), surprisingly, is the most common eating (and feeding) disorder in the United States. One of the newest eating disorders to formally be recognized, BED is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, often very quickly and to the point of discomfort.
During binging episodes, many people report feeling a loss of control and experience distress, guilt and shame afterwards. Some individuals try to compensate for the effects of binge eating with other unhealthy measures like calories restriction, excessive exercise, purging or skipping meals entirely.
Why do we binge eat?
Eating and feeding disorders, like BED, are not all about food alone, which is why they are also recognized as psychiatric disorders. People typically develop binge eating as a way to deal with deeper underlying issues or other psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression. Other factors like emotional trauma, family history, genetics, gender, and poor body image can also contribute.
Confusingly, binge eating also can have causes that are not due to any of these things. Let’s be real here, folks. How many times have you been sitting in your apartment, bored, and decided to mindlessly munch your way through half of your kitchen? (I swear, that jar of nut butter was just full).
We’ve all also had times where we have overindulged during the holidays or a night out. It happens! Rachelle Larkey, MS, RD, CDN, CLC says, “Binges are normal, ok, and will happen. I always like to reiterate that there is nothing broken about you if you have binged.”
Whether you use binge eating to cope with uncomfortable emotions (oh hey, right here) or you find yourself rethinking that late night take out order, here’s what to do after an eating binge. Don’t worry. These tips don’t give you the typical “Forgive yourself, give yourself some grace, let go and move on.” Yeah, that is way easier said than done and definitely doesn’t work for me, so here are some practical tips that I hope help readers.
What to do after a binge
- Avoid restriction
After an eating binge, your first natural thought might be to restrict our calories and meals. That is the last thing we want to do.
Rachelle Heinemann, LMHC reminds us, “The most important thing to remember is not to restrict after a binge. It can be the hardest thing in the world to do, but hear me out. When someone binges, almost always it’s because they haven’t eaten enough during the day or week prior. Bingeing and restricting are two sides of the same coin; a bingeing problem is a restriction problem.”
Aleta Marie Storch MS, RDN, LMHC seconds that sentiment. “Don’t make a plan to restrict, avoid, get rid of or limit foods. Don’t plan to have a fresh start tomorrow. Don’t plan to never binge again. These will also reinforce the cycle.” Instead, Storch recommends returning to a regular eating pattern by starting with the next meal or snack.
“If you binge late at night, you still need to eat breakfast. If you binge mid-day, your body will still require fuel in the evening. If you feel full or sick at that point, try to eat something small and easy to digest.”
2. Get comfortable
Right after a binge occurs, Larkey recommends her clients get comfortable both physically and mentally.
“I like to approach this from two angles. Physically, right after a binge, I like to focus on physical comfort. How can we make you more comfortable while you digest? Fullness is temporary and it will pass. Maybe antacids, blankets, comfy clothing, a heating pad or tea.”
When it comes to getting comfortable emotionally, Larkey tells clients to notice and work on reframing self talk after a binge. “Try mantras like: This is okay. My body is smart and will know how to recover from this. I am at the beginning stages of my recovery (if that’s true). Or I am uncomfortable and dislike this feeling, and that’s okay. I always aim for something neutral, and validating since positivity is often impossible in these moments or feels disingenuous.”
Okay, this tip may seem pretty basic, but there’s a reason it appears in almost every Google search for “What to do after a binge.” While you get comfy, grab some water and hydrate. Michelle Tierney, Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in eating disorders, tells us why.
“Water is the most potent natural detoxifier, helps digested food move through the digestive tract quicker and promotes optimal cellular function,” she says. “Furthermore, it can help reset proper hunger and fullness cues, which can reduce binge episodes.” While you get comfy, grab that glass of water and drink up, buttercup!
4. Identify the reason for the binge
After an eating binge, Colleen Christensen, RD recommends taking some time to identify the reason for the binge. “It’s important not only to focus on how to get through the binge, but to also focus on how to prevent one in the future.”
Christensen continues, “I like to say that everything is a learning experience. So, what can this teach you? Were you under eating and to prevent a binge again, [maybe] increasing the amount of food [you eat each day] may help? Maybe it was a specific food that you binged on that you restricted. Work on breaking food rules around that food and neutralizing it. Maybe you were feeling emotional and in the future you can work to cope with the emotion itself versus using food as your sole coping mechanism.”
Heinemann agrees, saying, “Bingeing is sometimes part of a larger emotional issue. One of the first steps to understanding some of this is to identify some of the emotions you are feeling after the binge. Try to see if you can connect those feelings with anything else that is going on. Usually, that’s the stuff to process and the binge is just covering up, giving an excuse to stay focused on the food instead of difficult emotional and relational struggles.”
Grounding practices like journaling, meditation or taking a long walk may help in identifying the reason for the binge.
5. Find connection and seek support
Storch has another great tip after an eating binge. Find connection. “Reach out to a friend, family member, or provider that you trust, and share about your experience. Find Intuitive Eating and anti-diet accounts on social media and read through or respond to posts and comments. Binge eating can be very lonely because of the stigma attached to it. When you feel less alone in the discomfort, there is more space for healing.”
Tierney agrees that it’s important to find support. “Whether it’s through a therapist, close friend or someone in recovery from an eating disorder, it’s important to find support. Oftentimes, binging actually mimics the desire to fill up on something else (like companionship, excitement, fun, love, etc.). Thus, talking through the binge experience with someone else can help elucidate what you’re really seeking or trying to fill up on.”
Binge eating can happen to the best of us, but (hopefully) these five steps help you reset after an eating binge.
*If you think you struggle with BED, please seek professional help and support with the National Eating Disorders Association.
Keeping your body well-hydrated is always a good practice, especially after a binge, because water aids in digestion and reduces bloating. Vavrek recommends sticking with vegetables, fruits and other foods with high-fiber content as well as lean protein the day after a binge.How do I recover mentally after a binge? ›
Take a walk by yourself or with a friend. Walking outdoors, especially with someone else, can boost your mood and help promote improved mental health. Walking after meals can also help your body process the nutrients from the food you have eaten.What happens after a huge binge? ›
The day after binge eating can also contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety or a combination of both. Overall, the discomfort is significant. Despite the discomfort from binge eating feeling overwhelming, the worse thing that you can do the day after binge is is start to restrict your food intake again.How many calories is a binge? ›
Binge eating is when 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. A binge eater often: Eats 5,000–15,000 calories in one sitting.Will one binge gain weight? ›
It can be useful to remember that, just as one day of dieting will not cause a person to lose weight, a day of binge eating will not cause weight gain. Although an episode of overeating can happen to anyone occasionally, some people have a binge eating disorder, which usually requires professional attention.Should I fast after a binge? ›
Do not fast. Fasting after binging raises the risk of triggering a binging-fasting cycle. Fasting can make you more hungry so that you subsequently overeat.How much weight did you gain after a binge? ›
The researchers didn't measure the participants body fat percentage, but they did record their weight before and after the all-day binge. The result? On average, the participants gained 1.76 pounds.What is considered a big binge? ›
A binge eating episode can last over an hour, though it may be much shorter or longer. Sometimes binge eating is a planned activity and other times it is not. Most binges involve the consumption of more than 1,000 calories, with a quarter of binges exceeding 2,000 calories.How do you reset after eating badly? ›
- Start the day with hot water and lemon. ...
- Hydrate all day long. ...
- Give your digestive system a break. ...
- Move your body. ...
- Sweat it out in a sauna. ...
- Focus on what you can include. ...
- Forgive yourself.
Many people complain that they gain weight around the holidays, but you'll be happy to know that you can't really gain weight from a single meal or day of overeating.
You probably can't eat enough to gain weight with just a couple of days of overeating, but according to the website SFGate, any extra calories you consume end up stored as fat, which means if you continue to regularly overeat, it'll make it easier for you to gain weight in the long run.Will I gain weight from binging once a week? ›
While eating too many calories will cause weight gain, because your body stores any excess calories as body fat, overeating at one or even a couple of meals won't undo your weight loss progress. However, in the meantime you might see a temporary difference on the scale.Does your body absorb all calories binge? ›
You don't absorb every calorie you eat.
Some foods, particularly those high in fiber, make their way through the digestive system without being completely broken down. Others, some of the higher fiber foods (specifically those in the soluble variety), can prevent absorption of fat. Whole almonds are a good example.
Yes. In fact, having a regularly scheduled cheat day each week can actually be good for weight loss by preventing binges, reducing cravings, providing a mental break from dieting, and boosting metabolism—if it's done in a healthy way.Will a 5000 calorie binge make me gain weight? ›
In fact, it doesn't happen that way. Depending on the number of calories needed for weight maintenance, a person would have to down a total of 5,000 to 7,000 calories in a day to gain any weight at all, and it's not likely to be even close to a pound.Should I Undereat after a binge? ›
Don't try to undereat the entire surplus in one day by creating a deficit as large as the surplus because that will most likely lead to another binge in a few days. If your surplus was too big, simply get back on your diet and just think of it has your diet having extended just one week.Should you weigh yourself after a binge? ›
Wait to Weigh: Weighing yourself immediately after a binge can be a false representation of your actual weight gain. Not only will the actual weight of the food in your belly tip the scale, but excess sugar, salt, and starch can make you retain water, which will flush out over time.How long does it take for water weight to go away after a binge? ›
The length of time that it takes to lose water weight depends on how much water you're retaining, the cause of the water weight gain, and the action taken to lose it. If you have one high-sodium meal and then return to normal, healthy dietary habits, you'll likely return to your normal weight in 1-2 days.How long does binge weight stay? ›
It takes around three days to recover from a binge and return to your regular weight. Furthermore, the amount of days it takes to lose binge weight is determined by how different the binge food is from your usual diet, your fitness and activity level, and how you react to the binge.Is it possible to gain 10 pounds in a day? ›
Since many people can't eat enough in a day or two to actually gain 5 or 10 pounds, if you notice a dramatic increase on the scale, chances are it's due to water, says Anita Petruzzelli, M.D., owner and medical director of BodyLogicMD.
Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18–34. Binge drinking is nearly twice as common among men than among women.What are binge triggers? ›
Certain social situations, such as a dinner out with friends, going to a party. Seeing certain types of food might also make you eat when you're not feeling hungry, such as a cookie box at work. Large portion sizes and large packaging make it hard to stop eating when you're feeling full.
Triggers for bingeing can include stress, poor body self-image and the availability of preferred binge foods.How long does it take to detox your body from food? ›
The detoxification process may vary from one day to weeks depending on the type of detox you choose. Good and adequate sleep allows eliminating toxins that accumulate throughout the day. Eating a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics keeps your digestive system healthy, and thus helps in proper detoxification.Can you reverse damage from unhealthy lifestyle? ›
It's never too late to change
For the most part, many complications and health risk experienced from poor food choices, physical inactivity and too much stress can be quickly and effectively improved by changes in lifestyle habits.
According to Moss, it only takes about six weeks of healthy eating to ditch your dependency on junk food, especially salt.How can I be kind to myself after a binge? ›
Learning to forgive yourself for a binge and moving on is one of the biggest obstacles during recovery. Instead of punishing yourself for binge eating or not fitting into your clothes, accept that you are not perfect, acknowledge that you somehow started using eating as a crutch, and be gentle with yourself.Can I sleep after a binge? ›
Overeating can affect sleep as well. Eating too much, especially when it involves heavy or spicy foods, can worsen sleep by interfering with digestion and raising the risk of heartburn. For this reason, most experts advise against eating too much and too close to bedtime.Should I fast the day after a binge? ›
Do not fast. Fasting after binging raises the risk of triggering a binging-fasting cycle. Fasting can make you more hungry so that you subsequently overeat.What is considered a binge? ›
A binge eating episode can last over an hour, though it may be much shorter or longer. Sometimes binge eating is a planned activity and other times it is not. Most binges involve the consumption of more than 1,000 calories, with a quarter of binges exceeding 2,000 calories.
- Relax. 1/12. Don't beat yourself up. ...
- Take a Walk. 2/12. An easy stroll will help stimulate your digestion and even out your blood sugar levels. ...
- Drink Water. 3/12. ...
- Don't Lie Down. 4/12. ...
- Skip the Bubbles. 5/12. ...
- Give Away Leftovers. 6/12. ...
- Work Out. 7/12. ...
- Plan Your Next Meal. 8/12.
It takes around three days to recover from a binge and return to your regular weight. Furthermore, the amount of days it takes to lose binge weight is determined by how different the binge food is from your usual diet, your fitness and activity level, and how you react to the binge.