I went out of town this past Memorial Day weekend. I had a great time, but I also went on a bit of an unhealthy-eating binge, consuming much more fried and snack foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol than I usually eat in probably a month. Instead of being a single cheat meal, it became an extended cheat weekend.
Emotionally, in the moment, it was enjoyable. Physically, it made me feel absolutely lousy.
I could beat myself up about it, but that hardly seems productive. Instead, I’m going to out myself right here as not being perfect (!), and then simply brush it off. I’ll remember that I had an awesome time with friends, and look forward this week to eating well and feeling good again.
It got me thinking, though. How can one prevent a downward spiral and get back on track? How do you keep that one luxurious weekend getaway from turning into a guilt-driven, exasperated, throw-your-hands-up admission of defeat?
Here are a few ways — and I hope you’ll add your additional ideas and thoughts in the comments.
1. Think about why you went on the binge.
If it was a primarily situational reason, such as a lack of available options, that’s a pretty easy fix (assuming that you’re no longer in the situation) — don’t be too hard on yourself, and as soon as you can start eating healthfully again, go for it.
If it was an emotional reason, you may need to dig a little deeper. Think about what triggered the binge. Was it a negative or positive emotion? Do you still feel that way, or have you moved on? How else can you react, other than by eating or drinking, to make yourself feel better?
Perhaps you can surround yourself with supportive friends, or go to the gym or for a hike, read your favorite book… there are lots of ways out of a negative emotion other than eating (though in the moment it may be hard to find them).
And if you binged because of a positive emotion (“rewarding yourself” with food?), ask yourself if what you’re eating is truly the best way to “reward” your body and therefore yourself.
2. Remember how you felt physically because of the binge.
One of the foods I ate was a Shrimp Fajita Tostada at a mexican restaurant. Although I planned on skipping the tostada shell completely and only eating the (rather greasy) salad, I ended up eating nearly the entire fried shell (after a margarita, it was tough not to). The rest of the afternoon, my stomach ached and I felt mildly queasy. It definitely wasn’t worth it. Next time I’m tempted to do that again, I’ll try to remember how I felt physically this past time.
3. Remember how you felt emotionally because of the binge.
Often I’ll eat something I “shouldn’t” because I’m feeling down and I think it’ll make me feel better. It almost never does.
More to the point, I usually feel worse about myself after a binge. I’ll feel like a failure (even though I’m not). Next time I’m tempted to binge again, I’ll try to remember that binging actually made me feel worse, not better.
4. Shrug it off, remember your goals, and look forward.
You’re human; you make mistakes; nobody’s perfect. That’s not a reason to go into a downward spiral, in fact, it’s a reason to do quite the opposite.
Be resilient. Be proactive. Be the leader of your own life. Take charge, and make your next meal a healthy one.
This is a very brief post on what can be a very in-depth and serious topic. I’m writing it primarily to “walk the talk” by being upfront about everything with my readers (and therefore myself). I’m not a mental health expert, and I should refer you to my disclaimer.
If you’re struggling with the binge-starve-binge cycle on a frequent or regular basis, or any other eating disorder, I strongly recommend you seek help from both supportive friends and trained experts.
Image by Rosie Hardy.