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I used to avoid my own emotions and thoughts like the plague. I would do this by binge eating. Any time that I felt a bad feeling coming on, I would shove it down with food. The worse my emotions felt, the more intense and shameful my binge eating became. It took me years before I recognized this pattern, but I really felt like I didn’t have any way of dealing with my difficult emotions, so I just ate. I felt as though I would never be rid of my loneliness, my anger, my sadness, so why not at least give myself the pleasure of ice cream in excessive quantities?
These binges left me feeling unbelievably sick, hopeless, ugly, and defeated. I’d beat myself up thinking, “Why can’t I just get rid of this stupid eating issue? What is wrong with me? I’m totally out of control. Tomorrow I’m starting over on my clean eating and not indulging in anything sugary for at least 2 weeks.”
These thoughts, of course, only led me to more and more binge eating. The worse I felt about myself, the more naturally inclined I became to run to food whenever I sensed a difficult emotion coming on. The more I restricted my food intake, the more intense my desire became to just eat a damn cookie without wanting to devour the whole tray.
If only I’d learned some techniques to use after a binge earlier on in my journey, I would’ve saved myself a whole lot of pain.
Below you’ll find some techniques for helping your heart heal after a binge.
1. Compassion, Compassion, Compassion
Sit yourself down. Turn off all those negative, defeated thoughts in your head and talk to yourself the way you may talk to a small child. Forgiveness and love is what we’re aiming for – something along the lines of,
“Honey, I know this is hard to deal with. It’s hard when you want so badly for life to be a certain way and you just can’t seem to get there. But this one little incident doesn’t define you, and you were doing the best you could to handle the difficult emotions. Let’s make some tea and have a relaxing night in.”
YUP – you DO deserve to be spoken to with this amount of love and sincerity. And when we search for comfort and love outside of ourselves, we’ll never find it. Not ever. At least not sufficient and genuine love. No one can love you the way you can love yourself.
Forgive yourself for the binge. Again, you were dealing with a difficult emotion (or reacting to food restriction) in the best way your brain knows how.
2. Journal some thoughts as your past self
Try this: Get out your journal and think back to the moments leading up to the binge. What were you doing? Were you in a situation that made you feel anxious? What types of thoughts were coming up?
This helps you to identify why the binge happened. Instead of attempting to use willpower to keep yourself from bingeing again, learn from it. Let’s use an example and say you were having a tough time at your job, feeling exhausted, and needing a serious break. But then you started thinking about the leftover slices of pizza in your fridge and suddenly nothing could stop you. You knew that that would be your ultimate comfort. As soon as you got home, you did a beeline to the refrigerator and ate straight from the pizza box.
What can we learn from this?
You were generally exhausted – perhaps both mentally and physically. Was eating pizza the most comforting thing you could have done? Probably not. Though it does seem like a viable option, if you really dig deep, you’ll notice that maybe you really just needed a nap or a good cry.
3. Make a commitment to yourself
Many binge eaters throw themselves into food restriction the second a binge ends. This may sound like a good idea at the time but, think about it: has food restriction ever led you to anything that didn’t end in a binge?
The best – absolute best – place anyone can get to while restricting food is feeling good about their body/diet but still wishing that they could eat normally and feel normal around food like everyone else without being paranoid about weight gain. And very few people even get to that good of a place while dieting.
So let’s try making a different type of commitment, shall we?
Commit to loving yourself through all of the tough stuff.
Commit to being honest about what you need and desire – and not being afraid to go get it.
Commit to compassionate thoughts.
Commit to allowing yourself to eat the foods you’re afraid of, and to listening to your body when she tells you she’s had enough.
This may not happen overnight – big shifts hardly ever do – but self-care and listening to yourself take practice. They are the greatest gift you can give to yourself.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Have you ever felt badly after a binge? What types of things, in retrospect, do you think you needed in those moments besides food?