This past weekend culminated into a perfect binge storm for me. First of all, my period was imminent, and then Sunday, I was super hung over. At the time, overeating seemed like it was my only option! So, what does a fitness nut do when they’ve overdone it? Freak the fuck out, right?! Wrong. You move on…and here’s how.
First of all, I am no stranger to disordered eating and the all-consuming binge and purge cycle. Thankfully, I have moved past this part of my life and have not been a “practicing” bulimic for many, many years. However, I am all too familiar with the secret shame of driving to the store to purchase a giant roll of cookie dough, a dozen donuts, and a pint of ice cream with the intention of overstuffing my body. Afterward, I would take laxatives and Ipicac (I wasn’t ever any good at making myself puke without it), partially to rid myself of the whole act but also, to add to the self loathing. I was punishing myself with sickness and misery in an effort to create the resolve to stop eating entirely… and rinse and repeat (good times, right?).
To be clear, that is not the type of binge I embarked on this weekend, but if this is something you are struggling with, the insight here can help you to move on toward getting well. The same principals apply whether you’ve had an overindulgent vacation or a full on binge episode (although if you are truly binging and/or purging, you should talk to a professional).
OK, so here’s what happened. Saturday I got up, had a spinach and Omega 3 filled smoothie and went to a REALLY hard hot yoga class. So far, so good. Then, Saturday afternoon rolled around, and I decided to bake Zingerbread (pronounced like gingerbread) mini muffins. It’s fall, and someone gave me a bunch of zucchini from their garden, so it’s the logical (and a totally normal for me) thing to do. Of course, me being me, I create a recipe with minimal sugar, and ingredients like real ginger, turmeric, garbanzo bean flour, almond meal, spelt, and flax seed eggs. These are “healthy” muffins to be sure, but still, I
taste eat at least 5 of them while I bake. I also start drinking white wine.
In the fall, Saturday is game day at our house. My husband is a University of Georgia alum (Go Dawgs!), and we make fun game day food and watch the football game every Saturday. This week, we make nachos. I make a “meat” mixture with brown rice, stewed tomatoes, black beans, onions, peppers, chilies, and spices; my husband makes a cashew based nacho cheese sauce. We layer it on tortilla chips and top it with vegan sour cream, avocado, black olives, tomato…you get the idea. I wash it down with 2 bottles of white wine (don’t judge).
Hugh works early on Sunday, so after the game, he heads to bed. I, on the other hand, raid the chocolate stash in the freezer and eat the rest of a Lily’s stevia dark chocolate with almonds bar and a dark chocolate coconut butter cup. Up until this point, I wouldn’t have called it a binge, but I am really starting to go overboard.
Next thing I know, I’m waking up Sunday with a particularly bad hangover. Naturally, I head to the kitchen and pound 3 mini muffins and a pot of coffee…to start. As the day progresses (while watching Investigative ID and shopping on my iPad from the couch), I make a 10 am vegan grilled cheese sandwich on white sourdough bread smothered in Earth Balance butter and a bowl of leftover potato leek soup… followed shortly thereafter with a half box of crackers (like a full sized box) with various dips (hummus, leftover vegan queso, Kite Hill almond milk cheese spread)…and continue on to 7 Morningstar chik’n nuggets dipped in Crystals buffalo sauce and ranch dip made from Kite Hill plain yogurt and ranch seasoning. I’m full, I feel gross, but I contemplate making more sourdough toast with butter. I push those thoughts aside and decide against it…my stuff sesh is officially over. I take a 2 hour nap.
I wake up at 4:30 PM and know I need to get my shit together. I don’t feel like making any effort, but I do. Here’s how:
Let it Go.
What’s done is done. Let it go, and be OK with it. To be sure, this is easier said than done. You’re feeling fat, full, ashamed, and disgusted with yourself…and it’s OK to feel regretful for a minute, but then you have to move on. You can’t change it. You can only move forward, so stop obsessing.
If it helps, you can think of your overeating session as a “re-feed”. This is a practice bodybuilders use to rev up their metabolism when they’ve been “cutting” (in a fat loss phase). The idea is that if you’ve been working out and eating right for an extended period, your metabolism can slow down. Having a day of overindulgence can re- rev your engine and strengthen your resolve. If you “re-feed’ followed with consistent healthy food and exercise habits, you can actually jump start fat loss and improve your physique.
Newsflash: if you’re thinking you don’t have to accept the “what’s done is done” mantra and can “un do” your overeating by purging, you can’t. Not only is purging extremely hard on your body, it does not work (you still absorb most of the calories). Also, I promise that you’ll cause a blood sugar and electrolyte roller coaster that will lead you down the dark rabbit hole of depression and bulimia (see fun description above). Don’t do it.
Get Some Exercise.
In my case, after my 2 hour nap, the dogs are bugging me, so I take them for a hike. I feel like shit, and I almost don’t go. Honestly, if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I could have always waited until Monday for a fresh start. But, they are really bugging, so I tell myself we’re just going the mile and a half round trip up to the gate. When I get out there, it feels great, so we go the 3 miles to the top of the mountain and back. I feel a lot better already.
If you can muster it, do something…even if it’s just to go for a 20 minute walk. It is NOT about burning off the food. Forget about the food. This is about a renewed positive outlook. Fresh air and/or exercise will make you feel better. Tomorrow, you need to get back to your regular exercise/ work out schedule (maybe you’ll actually be more motivated!). Today, just try to make yourself do something.
Don’t Skip Meals.
Unless you are still just really full, do not skip your regular meals. It is very tempting to think, “Ugg…after all that junk, I am not going to eat anything for the rest of the day/ tomorrow/ this week/ ever”. Resist the temptation to “make up for it” by starving yourself. I know of no better way to start the binge cycle over again than by messing with your blood sugar levels in this way (not to mention your mental health). You’ve already caused a big insulin surge, which (surprisingly enough considering the calories you’ve consumed), will probably make you feel hungry again a few hours after a binge. Eat. Eat something healthy.
In my case, I came home from my hike and made dinner. You’re trying to feel good about yourself again, so you want something lower in calories- but filling with lots of fresh vegetables (there is a smugness factor here). I made pancake omelets (see Vegan Richa Eggless Chickpea Flour Pancake ) and filled them with sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, broccoli, spinach, artichoke hearts, etc. Usually, I would make millet tots on the side, but I skipped those… since I really did overeat earlier.
This is the lesson in balance: you do not want to punish yourself with deprivation. Punishment makes you feel bad, ashamed, low. Instead you want to make yourself feel good, excited about the beneficial foods you are putting in your body going forward. You’re also working to balance out your blood sugar levels. However, you do want to be mindful to keep meals a little lighter than normal for the next couple of days. Small things add up- like maybe do two smaller breakfasts (instead of one bigger, and one smaller)- to shave off a couple hundred calories from your normal routine. Just make sure you still eat both breakfasts.
Today (Monday- the morning after), I had a piece of Ezekial toast with smashed banana, cinnamon and turmeric for my first breakfast and oatmeal with raspberries, lemon zest and a teaspoon each of hemp, chia, and pumpkin seeds for my second breakfast (saved about 200 kcal from normal- not huge). For lunch, I took the leftover nacho “meat” and loaded it on a bed of romaine with a bit of lime juice and topped it with leftover vegan queso and black olives. Normally, I might have rolled it in a flour tortilla and eaten it as a burrito…not today (skipped the simple carbohydrate-trying to keep blood sugar balanced).
My nacho salad today for lunch.
Don’t Weigh Yourself.
If you are someone who regularly weighs yourself, resist the temptation to step on the scale for at least 3 days following a pig out. Chances are, you didn’t gain any real weight, but your weight is going to balloon for a couple of days afterward due to water retention from salt and carbohydrates. Also, you need to let that food make it’s way through your gut. If you’re like me, and your binge was PMS related, do yourself a favor, and wait to weigh in until a day or two after your period is over. Seeing a “fat” or “heavy” weight will just cause you to feel bad about yourself which might make you dwell.
You Might Want to Take a Couple of Triphala
This one might seem controversial, but I take Triphala every night. It’s an Ayurvedic herbal combination that aids in digestion. This is NOT the same as a laxative. If you’re even thinking of taking it for a laxative effect (to try to flush calories out of your body), then don’t do it. I take it for good digestion and complete elimination- not to give myself diarrhea. If you’ve really overeaten, your digestive system might need a little help. That’s all.
Get Up the Next Day, and Get Ready
In my case, I had to go to work, but regardless of what’s on your schedule, get up, shower, shave, wash your hair, do your makeup. Make yourself look and feel good.
Put on an outfit that you like but that is loose fitting. Tighter clothes have the tendency to make you focus on what you perceive as your bloated belly. In my case, I put on a short, knit tent dress that I tend to get a lot of compliments on. It’s cute but let’s me breathe. I paired it with heels to make it less dumpy looking (plus, they’re animal print, what’s more fun than that?).
Drink a Lot of Water.
It goes without saying that you should drink a lot of water, and limit alcohol more than usual for a couple of days. For me, this part is hard.
Honestly after a full day of healthy eating and a good workout, you should be feeling back to your old self. Hopefully, that is lean, strong and confident.
If you have tips or tricks to get back on track after overindulging, please feel free to share!
Thanks for reading. Stef