To err is human. If you stepped away from your weight loss goal, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It just shows that you’re human. As you may have heard me say before, perfection is the goal, but rarely the reality. However, living in a healthy and fit body is important, so when we take these side-steps, we need a way to get back on track. This blog post shares why binge eating happens and ways to recover from a binge.
Binge Recovery – At-A-Glance
- The addictive components of processed and refined foods cause brain chemistry changes and metabolic actions that make it hard to stop eating.
- Recovery Step #1: Add blood-sugar stabilizing foods (i.e., non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, fiber, and protein) as you subtract junk food from your diet.
- Recovery Step #2: Fill up at mealtime. Research shows that eating large meals less often satisfies hunger better than eating frequent small meals.
- Recovery Step #3: Reduce your eating window. A 12-hour fast overnight will help stabilize blood sugar, reducing cravings.
- Recovery Step #4: Stop Searching. Start Doing. There is so much information that we can spend months learning. Learning is important, but at some point, we must take what we’ve learned and turn it into action.
How to Recover from a Binge [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Why we binge eat and what it does to our bodies.
- Four solutions to get back on track!
- A strategy for future success.
When something happens to throw us off a diet, we don’t binge on carrot and celery sticks. No one says, “I cannot believe how much lettuce I just ate.” The foods we gravitate toward are refined foods that contain that perfect mix of addictive ingredients, namely refined carbs, fat, and salt. There are two things these foods do to us that make us crave them.
First, they activate the reward center of the brain, giving us an instant good feeling. They also cause us to remember this good feeling by forming associations in the brain. Therefore, when you are feeling bad, your brain reminds you that chocolate can give you a lift, making you feel trapped in this emotional binge eating loop.
On top of that, there is a process called ATP trapping that takes place in your liver when you consume refined fructose. This phenomenon explains why you can down 1,000 calories of cookies and still feel like you have room in your belly for a donut. Refined fructose is found in table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, so it is typically in junk foods and sodas.
Fructose from fruit does not cause ATP trapping because the fibrous matrix in the fruit slows absorption.
Your liver must metabolize that fructose, which requires energy. ATP is the source of that energy. It is the energy your body runs on. The problem is that ATP trapping causes the high-energy ATP molecules to lose a phosphate group, turning them into lower energy ADP molecules. In other words, refined fructose causes ATP to be destroyed.
When you eat junk food, it destroys the same energy required to process it. Even though you just took in 1,000+ calories of pure energy, your liver is telling your brain that you need to keep eating because there is not enough energy. You can literally binge eat, never feeling full, until you feel physically sick.
You can see that we face brain chemistry and metabolic actions that make us want to eat these foods that we feel bad about eating. In one sense, it seems unfair. But in another, it provides hope because the desire to binge is not just in your head. You can reset your internal environment and put this desire to binge behind you.
Stabilize Your Blood Sugar
The best first step is to eat in a way that stabilizes your blood sugar. Non-starchy vegetables and foods that contain healthy fats, fiber, and protein biochemically fill you up by slowing digestion, flooding your body with nutrients, and calming the blood sugar roller coaster that makes you feel out of control around food. From your body’s perspective, this is great.
There’s no better way to bypass binge eating than ditching processed foods and taking in whole natural foods. However, your mind might not be on board yet. It’s still telling you that a candy bar is more fun than a salad bar. The way to get your brain on the same page as your body is to think add as you subtract.
Remember that when you’re stuck in a binge, you create an internal environment that wants more – wants another hit, if you will. It seems like the only thing that will make you feel better is sugar. Your only defense is to muster up enough willpower to get through the day, which is exhausting.
Adding as you subtract is a saner approach. By adding the foods that stabilize your blood sugar as you’re getting rid of the junk foods, you’ll find that the energy around binging lessens, and the tide starts to shift in your favor. The perfect meal for biochemically filling you up is a salad that includes plenty of hunger-satisfying toppers, such as meat, cheese, nuts, seeds, avocados, and hard-boiled eggs.
You’ll feel more in control of your eating when you stop thinking of salad as a small side dish and start thinking of it as a hearty meal that fills you up for hours. When you do, you give yourself another binge recovery tool, which is filling up at mealtime.
It’s common to think that eating small meals throughout the day is the best strategy for getting a grip on the hunger that drives binge eating. However, research indicates that we experience less hunger when we eat less often. A study showed that when the same amount of calories were consumed, people who ate small meals nearly every hour of the day experienced more hunger than those that split the calories into three larger meals (1).
Fill Up at Mealtime
On top of that, the mere act of eating makes us want to keep eating. The more eating occasions we give ourselves throughout the day, the easier it is to overeat.
By allowing yourself to fill up at mealtime, you’ll find that you have an easier time going without food between meals. This allows you to transition into the next binge recovery method, practicing intermittent fasting. However, there is a catch.
Reduce your Eating Window
After a binge, we want to recover, and we want that recovery to be fast. It seems like the quickest path to recovery is to stop eating. Anyone who has tried this in the past knows that this starvation strategy can easily deteriorate into another binge.
There is a right way and a wrong way to utilize intermittent fasting. When done correctly, fasting helps to stabilize your blood sugar, controlling cravings. Fasting should never be looked at as a punishment for screwing up, so start with the easiest fasting method, which is a 12 hour fast.
For instance, finish dinner by 7 pm, fast overnight, and eat breakfast at 7 am. You’ll soon adapt to this length of time, finding it comfortable to increase your fasting window to 14 or 16 hours, reaping more of the weight and blood sugar control benefits.
Stop Searching. Start Doing
In this blog post, we went over practical action steps to recover from a binge. But, for action steps to be of value, they must be acted upon. The great thing about living in the information age, as we do, is that whatever challenge we face, there is information about it out there for us to read, watch, and absorb.
The bad thing about living in the information age is that there is information out there about everything for us to read, watch, and absorb. In fact, there is so much information that we can spend days, weeks, and months learning. Learning is important, but at some point, we must take what we’ve learned and turn it into action.
To illustrate this, I want to share a short story that I wrote 20 years ago. It’s a story about a teacher who gives his three students an assignment. They were to go out and learn as much as they could about how to sail a boat. Having no prior knowledge of sailing, the three students went separate ways to complete their assignment.
The first student headed straight for the library, where he began a week of intense study. He learned everything he could about the different types of boats, the history of sailing, and the effects of the wind and seas on a sailing ship. By the end of the week, he felt confident that he could answer any question his teacher might have about sailing a boat.
The second student decided that he could learn through the experiences of others. Over the next week, he interviewed shipbuilders, sailors, and ship captains. He was given so many firsthand accounts about what to expect from the high seas that he felt he had already experienced it.
He listened intently as the shipmen described the mechanics of the boat and how to manage the sails in detail. At the end of the week, he felt confident that he could describe any aspect of sailing that his teacher might present.
The third student found a man who owned a sailboat and asked him for lessons. During the week that followed, the third student hoisted the sails, scrubbed the decks, navigated the waters, and piloted the ship during rough seas. He had experienced excitement, boredom, exhaustion, and fear during his week. By the end of the week, he was humbled by the amount of knowledge and effort needed to sail a boat.
After one week, the class met again. The teacher took his three students down to a dock that moored three boats. The professor explained that their grade would be determined by how well each student could sail their boat.
The first two students climbed on board. They struggled to remember all they had read and heard about sailing but soon realized that all of their knowledge and enthusiasm provided no practical experience. Neither of the first two students could move the boat away from the dock. They failed the assignment.
The third student boarded his boat with trepidation, for this would be his first solo voyage. He remembered how he learned through his experiences to push the boat away from the dock. He recalled the precarious steering needed to position the boat properly, and with strength and confidence, he raised the sails catching the perfect wind.
The world we live in provides us with every opportunity to study and learn, but sometimes the only true teacher we can count on is action. Is the secret to weight loss hidden somewhere in a book, still waiting to be discovered? Do we need to hear the success stories of any more celebrities that lost weight? If you are unhappy with the condition of your body, then take action. You will make mistakes, but from those mistakes, you will learn the lessons necessary to succeed.
If you want a list of action steps you can take today, I encourage you to download my 0,1,2,3 strategy. It follows the add as you subtract method that I described earlier. More than 80,000 people are already using it to get their eating and weight under control, and you’ll find it works as a foundation for your health plan as well. Thank you for reading and have a lovely week!
(1) Munsters, Marjet JM, and Wim HM Saris. “Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males.” PloS one 7.6 (2012): e38632.