No one (repeat: NO ONE) has cast iron willpower.
We’re humans, not robots, and it’s for this reason that no dieter is ever 100% perfect. Everyone, no matter who they are, will slip up on their diet from time to time.
Whether this is just going slightly over your macros, or having a full-on binge, the important things to know are what triggered this so it’s less likely to happen again, and to learn what to do to ensure that you stay on track and beat the binge in the future.
Binge Eating Can Happen With Flexible Dieting
Flexible dieting might not ban any food, but you’re still restricted in the amount of food you can have, and so your willpower and dedication are tested.
While you may have greater levels of willpower than the average person on the street, this doesn’t mean that you’re immune to episodes of binge eating.
We’ve also got to face the fact that while you can theoretically eat whatever food you want to ease cravings with flexible dieting, when your macros are low, it’s often just easier to say to yourself that you won’t eat any highly-palatable, calorie-dense foods. The meager amounts you could fit into your macros simply aren’t worth it, and having just a small taste is likely to just make you want these foods even more.
This restriction then increases cravings, thus increasing your chances of binge eating.
Flexible dieting may lower the likelihood of binging in comparison to rigid eating strategies , but that doesn’t mean simply tracking macros guarantees you’ll never binge. Many of us have a history of ‘clean eating’ or following traditional restrictive bodybuilding-style diets, and so have a slightly disordered relationship with food already that may never be fully fixed.
All of this points to the fact that for the vast majority of people, binging is going to happen from time to time and it’s no good beating yourself up over it—especially if you follow our 5 steps for binge recovery success.
1. Stop the Abuse
Our programmed reaction after a binge is to go into a cycle of self-abuse, hate, and regret, as we rue our lack of willpower. But this is the last thing you need right now.
Look at it this way—would an obese person suddenly get lean and ripped by eating one healthy meal?
Of course not.
Therefore, by proxy, you’re not going to lose all of your progress just because you overshot your calories for the day.
You may feel the need to head straight to the gym to burn 1,000 calories on the Stairmaster, or to starve yourself for the next 24 hours to undo the damage you feel you’ve caused, but this is a potentially dangerous practice. There’s no need to punish yourself for binging, and it can lead to a cycle of restriction and deprivation, followed by further excess and binging.
Your number one goal right now is just to get back on track.
2. Write It Down
I don’t mean write down everything you ate, rather, write down how you feel.
Chances are, before the binge, you thought everything you were about to eat would be delightful, delicious, and delectable, but now, in the cold light of day, you’re just not sure it was worth it.
Use these emotions and harness them so that you can look back next time you’re thinking about binging and remember how the expected pleasure just didn’t ever arrive, and how the feelings afterward didn’t make the initial binge worth it.
On this point, it’s also crucial to identify why you binged.
Were you ‘eating your feelings’ because you felt stressed or upset? Were you bored? Tired? Or had it just been a long day? By recognizing what led you to over-eat, you’ll be better prepared to prevent binges in the future and to see the signs before they happen.
3. Talk to Someone
If binging is becoming a regular occurrence, then talk with someone.
This could be a friend or a coach, or if you’re worried that you might be edging closer toward an eating disorder, then book a consultation with a dietitian, nutrition counsellor, or an eating disorder specialist so you can grab the bull by the horns and tackle your demons before they start to overcome you.
4. Water & Walk
To help get your digestion moving (it might need it!) drink plenty of water, and get outside and get moving. The fresh air will do you good.
The occasional binge is bound to happen.
Only a very small minority of the population can stick to their diets all of the time and never get the urge to binge. These tend to be the lucky folk (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) who don’t derive too much pleasure from food.
For you and I though, in a world where there is pizza, Pop-Tarts, and pie, every now and again we will think ‘screw it’ and give in to the temptation of excess.
While in an ideal world we’d battle through, it won’t always be like this, and if you do succumb to the desire to binge the important thing is to move on. Don’t necessarily forget about it, as it can be a huge learning experience, but don’t beat yourself up over it either. Realize that one meal (even a big one) isn’t going to set you back that far in the grand scheme of things.
Dieting is tough, willpower is limited, and while you can work hard to build it up, you’ll never be perfect. So don’t get down on yourself if you slip slightly!