Updated: Oct 8
Medically reviewed by Serena Benali, Registered Dietitian. Published December 25, 2021. Updated July 17, 2023.
Are you struggling with binge eating? While tips to stop binge eating are critical in the process of recovery, understanding what to do after a binge when it occurs is of equal importance in the journey towards healing your relationship with food and breaking the binge eating cycle.
After a binge, your emotions can run high and negative thoughts might seem impossible to shake. It is common to feel frustrated and down on yourself. You may be unsure of what to do next, and think: now what...?
In this blog, we'll delve into key strategies to follow after a binge, arming you with the tools to break the binge eating cycle and regain control.
9 Proven strategies on what to do after a binge to break the cycle:
1. Cultivating self-compassion
An essential tool in reducing binge eating is self-compassion. Research has shown that practicing self-compassion can reduce eating and weight concerns. By being kind and patient with ourselves, much like we would be with a close friend going through a tough time, we can significantly alleviate eating and weight-related concerns.
Picture what you would say to someone you deeply care about during their moment of struggle. Now, try to channel that same understanding and empathy towards yourself.
Dr. Kristin Neff, a renowned expert in self-compassion, offers a range of free guided practices and meditations worth exploring. Studies show that practices like mindfulness meditation have proven effective in curbing binge eating.
In essence, embracing self-compassion and becoming your own support, rather than your own critic, can profoundly help in mitigating binge eating.
Summary: Embracing self-compassion and becoming your own support, rather than your own critic, is more effective in reducing binge eating.
2. Sooth yourself with something warm
Post-binge feelings of isolation and self-criticism can run high after a binge. Scientific studies indicate that physical warmth can cultivate a sense of connection and self-comfort.
Research shows experiencing physical warmth can promote inner feelings of warmth like comfort, kindness and self-compassion. Taking a hot bubble bath or holding a hot beverage can prime you to direct that external warmth you feel towards yourself.
Take a moment to sooth yourself with something warm, whether a warm bath, heated blanket, hot beverage. You can even enhance this with some warm soft lighting and candles. Be present and mindful of the warm touch on your body and set the intention to bring this warmth inwards.
Summary: Embrace warmth! Using external sources of heat, like a comforting bath or a hot drink, can foster internal feelings of connection and self-compassion.
3. Go for a walk
The great thing about walking is you can do it just about anywhere. Walking provides us with plenty of physical and mental health benefits. Research shows walking improves your mood, relieves stress, provides mental clarity and helps you get a better nights rest among many!
Studies show walking helps with digestion as it's been found to speed up gastric emptying.
This means that it can help to relieve the uncomfortable sensation of being overly full after a binge by aiding your stomach in processing food more quickly.
After a binge emotional and mental distress can feel overwhelming. Science shows us that walking improves your mood by calming the stress response of your body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, our body's rest and digest function.
Summary: Take a hike! Well maybe not a hike but a walk. Walking can alleviate feelings of anxiousness and stress and bring about calm.
For those who may not be able to go for a walk due to physical limitations, consider engaging in a calming seated activity such as deep breathing exercises or gentle seated yoga. These activities can also help reduce anxiety and induce a sense of tranquility.
Yoga is a holistic practice that brings balance and health to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of our selves. By incorporating breath control, sense control, concentration, meditation, and physical postures, yoga creates internal and external balance.
There are many different styles of yoga, Hatha yoga involves a slower pace with easier movements. Hatha yoga can be particularly helpful for bringing a more soothing and calming practice.
A study that looked at the impact of yoga on binge eating behaviour in women and found that practicing five days a week significantly reduced incidences of binge eating and enhanced greater connection to one’s body and food choices.
If you're looking for yoga practices, I recommend Yoga with Adriene on YouTube is one of my favourites! She has an extensive library for all practice levels that will help you find the right practice for you. Adriene has a way of weaving in messages of self-acceptance and body appreciation that can be a beautiful soothing compliment to the practice.
Summary: Yoga brings about greater connection to the body. This mindful practice has been shown to reduce incidences of binge eating, making it a powerful tool in your wellness toolkit.
5. Do something that brings you enjoyment
Doing something that brings you enjoyment will keep you from ruminating over the past and help to lift your mood. It is also a reminder that there is more to life than food and eating.
Instead of expending all your energy focusing on things you can’t change spend this time engaging in something that makes you happy – independent of food!
Indulge your creative side with drawing or painting
Listen to your favourite music
Knit or crochet
Reorganize your closet (while listening to your favourite music)
Build or make something
Studies show that indulging in such hobbies not only stimulates creativity but also triggers the release of dopamine, our 'happy neurotransmitter', effectively de-stressing us.
Take the time to do something you enjoy will help you to feel better. Everyone is different – think about what practices or activities promote your personal happiness and gift yourself the time to engage in the practice.
Summary: Engaging in enjoyable activities not only diverts your attention from dwelling on past actions but also promotes present-moment happiness, aiding in your forward movement towards overcoming the binge-eating cycle.
If you enjoy reading, don't miss our blog on Best Binge Eating Books. You'll find a wealth of resources and insights to help you navigate binge eating recovery.
6. Avoid Restriction or Overcompensation
In the aftermath of a binge, it's not uncommon to feel inclined to "make up" for it by making drastic changes such as:
Introducing new, stricter food rules
Ignoring natural hunger cues
Googling ‘quick fixes’
However, such actions are counterproductive. Restricting calories or missing meals can trigger intense cravings, making you more susceptible to additional binge eating episodes. Depriving yourself to ‘undo’ the effects of a binge will only lead to an increased desire to binge again, leading to a vicious cycle. Research shows meal skipping is associated with more binge eating episodes and worse health outcomes.
Instead of falling into the overcompensation trap, get back to a normal eating routine with regular meals and snacks. Focus on lean protein, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Studies indicate that eating regular meals and snacks will help lower binge frequency.
Summary Eat regular meals and snacks. Avoid the temptation to "compensate" for a binge by skipping meals. Meal skipping or calorie restriction only increase food obsession and binge eating episodes. Provide your body with the nourishment it needs to feel physically and mentally well!
And if you're seeking some inspiration for some meals, make sure to check out our free meal plan! It's designed to support balanced, nourishing meals that are sure to promote a healthier relationship with eating.
7. Get some sleep
Getting adequate sleep and rest after a binge is key to feeling refreshed and fighting off cravings post-binge. Studies show that even a modest amount of sleep deprivation can increase hunger, food cravings, food reward and portion sizes.
Research shows that sleep deprivation can alter your body’s natural hormone levels and may actually lead to increased appetite!
A few ways sleep deprivation can affect binge eating:
Research shows showed how sleep deprivation may lead to a decreased liking of low-energy (or low-calorie) foods, resulting in an increased preference for high-energy (or high-calorie) foods and the risk of a binge.
Data shows sleep deprivation may have an effect on self-control and lead to less discrimination between which foods to consume, which can often result in giving in to cravings.
Research shows reduced sleep increases the hunger hormone ghrelin, which leads to increased feeling of hunger.
Research shows decreased leptin (a hormone that prevents hunger) causing us to feel hungrier.
Data shows food reward (the pleasure we receive from food) increases with reduced sleep with the hypothalamus region of the brain.
Remember – cravings are a natural part of human life and punishing yourself for having them is not the key to long term success. Ensuring you are well rested after a binge is just one way to reduce cravings that may present due to altered hormone levels rather than your body’s natural needs and desires.
Summary: Inadequate sleep disrupts many of our hunger and fullness hormones causing us to crave more foods. After a binge, set your intention to rest and recharge and wake up ready to conquer a new day binge-free.
8. Embrace mindful eating
Using principles of mindful eating are effective in reducing binge eating (14). Mindful eating allows us to enjoy food and the food experience more fully. As a result we eat what our body needs and not in excess because were more connected to the satisfaction and pleasure from eating.
Studies indicate, those with lower levels of mindfulness during eating had more sever mood disturbances and binge eating behaviours. Being present and mindful during meals allows us to be present with our food choices and from this we can make more informed and satisfying food choices that align with our body's needs.
Here's how you can introduce mindful eating into your meals:
Eat at the table. Eat in a nice environment, remove distractions and create a relaxing ambiance can enhance your eating experience.
Use all your senses, stay present. Eating mindfully enhances the pleasure and satisfaction we get from food. Tune into the textures, tastes, temperatures, and flavors of your food. This can enrich the pleasure and satisfaction derived from eating.
Appreciate your food. Love food? Then let it show! Reflect and give thanks for the food you have in front of you, savour each bite.
Extend your meal time. Put the fork down between bites and extend the duration of your meals. It can take time for our brain to get the message that we're satisfied and full.
Summary Mindful eating is an effective way to significantly reduce incidences of binge eating while bringing greater awareness, presence and enjoyment to the eating experience.
9. Talk it out
Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Sharing your experience is a big part of the healing process and can help to instigate reflection into the root cause of the binge. Sometimes talking about your feelings out loud can help you to identify triggers that you otherwise wouldn’t have recognized through personal reflection alone. A strong support system is instrumental in binge eating recovery and producing long term behaviour change and developing healthy habits. Social support can help you accept setbacks, reduce stress, enhance problem solving and improve self-esteem.
Summary Reach out to someone you trust and talk out your feelings. This can bring some ease and bring some clarity around your relationship with food and binge eating.
Don't miss out on our Breakup with Binge Eating: 5-Day Challenge! We walk you through, five pivotal concepts, step-by-step, to help you breakup with binge eating. This eBook was designed to provide you with practical, manageable steps to start your journey towards binge freedom.
Key takeaways: What to do after a binge to break the binge eating cycle
Binge eating happens. It is not an indication of your worth or deservingness of self-love and respect. In the aftermath of a binge, it's natural for emotions to surge and negative thoughts might seem impossible to shake.
Understanding what to do after a binge is a crucial part of the recovery process and instrumental in breaking the binge eating cycle. These moments provide opportunities for growth and learning. By employing the 9 strategies we've outlined, you can regain control, maintain focus, and lay the groundwork for long-term success. These strategies are not quick fixes but rather tools to build resilience, promote self-compassion, and foster healthier habits.
Remember – you are not alone, and what you eat does not define you! The road to a healthier relationship with food may not always be smooth, but every step you take forward, no matter how small, is a victory. Through compassion, understanding, and persistence, you can break the binge eating cycle and foster a healthier, happier relationship with food.
Registered Dietitian support for binge eating
Our registered dietitians are here to provide the guidance and compassionate care you deserve. With personalized plans and non-judgmental support, our team can help you navigate your unique journey towards a healthier relationship with food. Contact us to learn more or book online today and start your journey towards food freedom!
Written by: Maria White, Dietetics Graduate