Let’s face it – most people aren’t feeling so great after a binge. Whether it’s physical discomfort or the mental and emotional experience of guilt, frustration, or self-attack, the moments (or hours) following a binge can be rather unpleasant. But there are some things you can do to reduce your distress, as well as the incidence of future binge episodes.
1) Engage in self-care. What do you need to do to make yourself more comfortable? Would it help to lie down? Change your clothes? Might anything help settle your stomach? Is there something you can do that is emotionally soothing – maybe read a book, draw, or watch a favorite television show? Call a cease fire on self-attack. This is not the time to berate yourself. All you need to do is give yourself the same care you would a friend who told you they weren’t feeling well or were in distress.
2) Stay on track with future meals and snacks. There’s a tendency to want to restrict future intake following a binge. Some of it might be that you’re still feeling full, while a large part might be motivated by trying to compensate for overeating. But doing that will perpetuate the diet/binge cycle, so committing to your next meal or snack, no matter how hungry you are, is a big part of recovering from a binge.
3) Get curious. With a non-judgmental, observational approach, examine what some of the factors were that might have contributed to the binge. Did you let yourself get too hungry? Were you consciously (or inadvertently) restricting your intake earlier in the day or week? That can backfire in the form of binge eating.
Binge eating might also occur if we break a self-imposed food rule and then adopt a black-and-white mentality around this (e.g., “Well, I’ve already messed up. . . ). Researchers have identified this type of thinking and behavior to be a reaction to food restraint, dubbed the “what the hell” effect.
Were there specific feelings that you wanted to avoid or escape? Was there a particular trigger that set off this behavior?
Conduct what is known in DBT as a chain analysis. Knowing some of the contributing factors for your binge eating can help you plan more effectively for the future, addressing what you might do differently next time. You might start carrying snacks with you so that you never get too hungry. You might work on recognizing challenging emotions as they creep up and find more effective ways of coping with them. Again, conducting a postmortem of the behavior is best done from an investigative, uncritical stance. If you start judging and criticizing yourself, you can see how this might contribute to future binge episodes, if your bingeing is impacted by distress.
Also focus on what you did well in this scenario. Despite how challenging an episode might have been, there’s usually something you can identify that you did well. Did you tolerate an urge for a period of time (even briefly) before giving in to action? Were you mindful at all during the binge? Did you practice self-compassion after the fact? Did you learn anything from this experience? There’s usually something you can identify that is reason to reinforce. Your goal in this step is to learn more about yourself so you can build upon your strengths and continue to address behaviors that don’t serve you well.