Kat Schneider is a PhD researcher studying mindfulness and movement. She has completed an 8-week mindfulness course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and is the author of the blog Maybe Mindful, where she documents her own mindfulness journey, meditation practice, and research.
What is a Binge?
Everyone has probably binged (defined as eating more than usual, in a short period of time) at some point in their lives. Most of us have even occasionally felt ill or uncomfortable after eating too much. Maybe it was Christmas or Thanksgiving. Maybe you were comfort eating after a stressful or emotional day. Perhaps it was a special occasion or simply food that tasted amazing. Either way, we have all binged at one point or other. And some of us have probably even joked about being a binge eater after a particularly big meal. But true binge eating is no joke.
For individuals living with binge eating disorders (e.g., binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa), binges are not only likely to be more frequent and more severe, but they can also be accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and a loss of control. Moreover, binges are subjective experiences, which do not always depend on how much food or what type of food is consumed. An amount of food that is considered “normal” by one person may be a binge to another, and vice versa. For individuals living with eating disorders, binge eating is so much more than a simple case of “overeating”.
So this blog post is not about “detoxes”. It is not about how to stop overeating or how to eat less. It is definitely not about weight loss or how to compensate after a binge. This blog post is about self-love, body positivity, and a way to recover after a binge by truly listening to your body. I have previously written about one possible way of preventing a binge, but today I want to talk about what you can do after a binge has occurred.
So you have binged. What now?
(Before you read on, please keep in mind that the content in this blog post may be triggering for some people.)
Let Go Of Your Thoughts
After a binge, it is common for individuals to have feelings of shame and regret, as well as unkind and criticising thoughts. What is important to remember is that your binge is not you. Your thoughts are not you. So the first thing to do after a binge is to forgive yourself and to practice kindness and self-compassion. It is easy to perpetuate the cycle of disordered eating by believing the negative thoughts you may have about yourself. But the single most important step towards eating disorder recovery is self-love.
Try this: Following a binge, remind yourself that you are separate from your thoughts. Write down your thoughts on a piece of paper and then throw it away or burn it. You can also imagine these thoughts as balloons, acknowledge their presence, and then just let them go.
Take A Self-Care Break
It is easy to feel a loss of control even after a binge eating episode has ended, so it is important to try to step back into the day and to distance yourself from the binge. This can seem very difficult to do. Often, we fall into a downward spiral for the rest of the day, which can not only lead to more binges, but also enhance our negative thoughts and feelings. It is therefore important to take a short break to regroup and bring yourself back after a binge. Remember that a binge does not define you and it does not define the rest of your day.
Try this: Following a binge, sit down in a short meditation, take a few deep breaths, or simply take a moment to bring your mind back to the present. Take as much time as you need to go through the steps of forgiveness and to bring yourself back to the now. Try doing something kind for yourself or take a short break for self-care activities, such as taking a walk, having a bath, listening to some music, or simply having a rest.
Tune Into Your Body
Following a binge, many individuals may want to compensate for the food that they ate by skipping a meal, exercising, or purging. This will only perpetuate the cycle of disordered eating and further disconnect you from the sensations of your body. It is important to stay hydrated, nourished, and rested. Remember to treat your body with respect and don’t punish yourself after a binge. You can achieve this by letting go of your thoughts (see above) and tuning in to your body. What is your body trying to tell you? Was the binge a response to a period of starvation? Is your body missing important nutrients? Or is your body responding to thoughts and emotional cues?
Try this: Next time you meditate, pay attention to the sensations of your body. You can do a formal body scan practice or simply tune in throughout the day when bodily sensations such as hunger or fullness occur. Also, try practicing mindful eating, by paying attention to the sensations of the food and how it makes your body feel.
Remember that you are not alone and seek help if you experience any symptoms of binge eating or disordered eating.
If you want to see more from Kat Schneider please take a look at her blog, instagram or twitter here:
As always, if you are struggling or know someone that is struggling please feel free to get in touch.