Overate? What to Do to Get Your Weight Loss Back on Track
Everybody overeats sometimes.
Think about the last time you declared, “Just one chip,” but finished with an upended bag of salty crumbs on your lips. It happened, and there’s no use pretending it didn’t. Don’t beat yourself up after you go on a binge — here’s how to get back on track after it’s over.
(Note: In this article we’re talking about an occasional binge in which you overindulge, not a consistent pattern of binging that may be a sign of a more serious eating issue. To read more information about eating disorders, visit the National Eating Disorder Association.)
What to Do After a Binge
Overeating can be discouraging, especially if you’ve just started to see progress on the scale. But we all overeat at some point — it doesn’t mean we can’t beat the bulge.
Follow these three steps to get back on track.
Step 1: Do Emotional Damage Control
Overeating may make you feel lousy. Guilt, shame, worthlessness, and disgust can be knee-jerk reactions afterwards. Catch yourself immediately!
You can’t change the past or let this define you. Here are a few tips to reign in your gloomy thoughts:
- Reframe the situation. This is not going to tank your progress. Your weight is affected by how much you eat averaged over a long period of time. Think of the binge as a learning opportunity, and use it to course correct for the future. It may be helpful to jot down your thoughts in a journal for when you can look back on this moment with a clearer mind, and glean insights from it.
- Get your mind off your mood. Feeling blue? Call up a close friend and plan something fun that doesn’t involve food. Now is the time to distract yourself with a hobby you love (yoga, anyone?). Bonus points if it involves light exercise.
- Don’t weigh yourself. Overeating could be a hard blow, especially if your self-esteem is tied up in your weight. Do yourself a favor and stay off the scale for now, a spike on the scale may cause you to be overly discouraged, when in reality, a lot of it may be water weight.
Step 2: Pick a Fallback Nutrition Plan
So, you inhaled a large pepperoni pizza. Now what? All the excess calories, fat, refined carbs, and salt can make you feel bloated and tired.
After dealing with the emotional hurdles, refocus your efforts on healthy eating. By regaining control over your food choices, you are more likely to feel more in control of your life, including the issues may be causing you stress. There’s no one answer for how to do this, but here are a few options you can try:
- Get back to healthy habits as soon as possible. In other words, resume an appropriately portioned, balanced diet. A word of caution: If you consumed a ton of sugar and refined carbs during your binge, you may fight more cravings the next morning. This is likely due to the sugary, high-glycemic index nature of the foods we’re likely to overeat, which can spike blood sugar and stimulate hunger.
- Focus on fluid and fiber. If you’re like me, you’ll get a bit queasy thinking about whatever it was you binged on — but a fresh salad or tangy fruit-and-veggie smoothie sounds like pure bliss. So let’s move on, get back on the wagon as soon as possible and flush your body of those toxins. The best way to do this is to resume a diet that in chock full of fiber; think whole fruits, vegetables and water. The combination of fluid and fiber makes digestion more efficient, which helps move everything right through your system, detoxing your body (and possibly your mind).
- Incorporate some lean protein and healthy fats. Protein helps you feel full, which will help you avoid another session of overeating.
- Try out a non-gimmicky reset. Depending on just how much your overate, you may want to slate about two to three days to recuperate. Get back on track while eating simple meals of nutritious fruits, veggies, and good-for-you fats.
Step 3: Start Exercising Again
Obviously, intense exercise on a full stomach is barf-worthy, so give yourself a day or two to digest before going too hard.
Feeling antsy in the meantime? Do a brisk walk with your dog, or walk up and down the stairs several times. Even if you’re not yet ready to break a sweat, some light exercise will boost your mood and keep you from dwelling on what happened.
Then increase the intensity of your workouts as you’re ready. The key here is that you’re exercising to be a healthier, fitter you, not to earn extra calories for food.
How to Stop Binge Eating
Be comfortable with the fact that you may overeat again. Then work on ways you can safeguard yourself:
- Notice the warning signs. Instead of reaching for the entire bag of Oreos, reach deep down inside and figure out why you crave them. Overeating can be coping mechanism for tension or other taxing emotions. If this is the case, brainstorm some non-food-related ways to deal with your emotions. Also, don’t be afraid to get help. A health professional can help you figure out your triggers and find better ways to cope.
- Don’t keep the foods you crave in the house. If you know certain foods can trigger you to overeat, by all means remove them from your home. You may not have established an appropriate relationship with those foods yet. Once you do so, they can be reintroduced into your home. Again, a health professional can help you figure this step out.
- Don’t eat on autopilot. Understand that at any point you can stop. Just because you’re satisfying an urge doesn’t mean you need to let it play all the way through.
- Loosen up your diet. For some, a restrictive diet (think: calorie-pinching to the point where you’re constantly under-eating) can lead to reactionary overeating. If this is you, liberalize your diet and allow some of the foods you love back in modest amounts. A healthy diet should allow you to enjoy them without guilt.
- Practice mindful eating. Mindful eating helps you learn the difference between physical hunger and emotional arousal, so you can consciously make the right call to eat. Research shows strong evidence that mindfulness can reduce the frequency and severity of overeating. This means, no eating in front of the TV, or while playing on your phone.
- Be kind to yourself. Losing weight and getting to a healthier you is a journey, so you need to be patient and kind to yourself. Healthy eating is a lifestyle, not a diet that you start and stop. This healthy lifestyle is about moderation, balance, and quality over the long-term. With time, you will progress and learn more about what will and won’t work for your body. Until then, don’t beat yourself up!