9 Ways to Recover From a Food Binge

If you’re human, you’re probably gonna overdo it from time to time. Here’s how to get back on track and feel better fast.

October 16, 2017
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If we’re being honest—and we’d like to think we have that sort of relationship -- no matter how many healthy meals you have in your recipe box or how clean you eat most of the time, if you're human, you're bound to stuff yourself silly at some point.

But an overeating slip-up—even if it’s a huge one—doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating plan. Here are nine expert-approved ways to feel better and get back on a healthy track after a food binge:

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1. Cut yourself some slack

Feel guilty about your overeating? Don’t. "Guilt discourages us from making positive changes and leads to emotional eating," says wellness expert Dawna Stone, author of The Healthy You Diet. It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to be perfect all the time. Acknowledge that, and don’t waste your mental energy on should-haves. Focus on what you are going to do going forward. 

More: 10 Simple Ways to Stop Emotional Eating 

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2. Eat normally

Sure, you ate 4,000 calories in one meal yesterday. But that doesn’t mean you should eat 0 today. “Many women think that the day following a binge they can eat just an orange and feel better, but that will only make you feel worse,” Stone says. Fueling your body is vital to your energy, health, and even weight loss. Plus, getting into a feast-or-famine pattern can foster an unhealthy relationship with food

More: 5 Ways To Lose Weight Without Going Low-Carb

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3. Steady your blood sugar

Most binge-eating episodes involve carbs—lots of 'em (when's the last time you overate chicken breast and brussels sprouts?). The result: Your blood sugar levels shoot up, and quickly plummet—part of the reason that, no matter how stuffed you were, you are magically hungry for more cookies a couple hours after you eat. Instead of going back for more sugar-filled foods, opt for protein-rich foods like Greek yogurt or lean turkey to help slow your digestion and steady your blood sugar (or, try any of these 25 High-Protein Meals in 30 Minutes or Less), recommends Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

More: 19 Ways to Give Up Sugar

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4. Focus on portion sizes

As unhealthy as some common binge foods can be, the even bigger problem is the enormous piles in which we serve them. By simply returning your portion sizes back to normal, your stomach will feel better and lighter, and you’ll take a big step back toward healthy eating, says Stone (just take a tip from this woman, who lost 150 pounds by focusing on portion sizes).

More: Your Ultimate Guide to Portion Control

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5. Pick and choose which leftovers you keep

If your binge-eating session took place at a holiday meal, be mindful of leftovers. Not all holiday foods are not cooked equal—and their preparation determines whether you should leave them in your fridge or push them off on others (or trash them entirely). For instance, a baked turkey can be super healthy. As can sweet potatoes, granted they weren’t cooked in butter, cinnamon, and doused with mini marshmallows. Any foods that fall into the unhealthy camp need to go. "If it’s in the fridge, you’re going to eat it, even if you aren’t hungry," Stone says. "But out of sight, out of mouth."

More: What to Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

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6. Get moving

Exercise can reduce appetite and help you eat less by altering your body’s balance of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that work together to regulate feelings of both satiety and hunger, according to research published in the Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology. Feeling really icky? Make it an easy workout: In one Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study, 45 minutes of brisk walking was enough to reduce women’s appetites—just use these 10 tips for a better walking workout. Plus, it will just help you feel healthier. "You’ll feel like you are taking action and taking control of your health," says Stone. "When we feel better about ourselves, we tend to make better choices."

More: 5 Simple Tricks to Move More During Your Work Day

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7. Treat yourself

No, not to thirds or fourths—to a cup of your favorite tea, a relaxing bath, or even a pedi (and follow these 8 Steps to a Relaxing Mini-Spa Day at Home). Ending (or starting) your day with a pampering ritual can go a long way toward helping you feel more comfortable, says Stone. The point is that you renew your healthy eating plan feeling good about yourself, not bloated and angry. 

More: 8 Steps to a Relaxing Mini-Spa Day at Home

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8. Drink water

Sure, you took in a lot of calories in one shot, but, chances are, you also took in a lot of sodium (hello, Mexican feasts and Thanksgiving dinner). Drinking water continuously the day after an all-out eating session will not only help flush the sodium out naturally, but also reduce sodium-induced dehydration, which can easily be mistaken for hunger, says Stone—so use these tricks to fool yourself into drinking more water.

More: Drinking 10 Cups of Water a Day Is Really Hard (And Totally Worth It) 

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9. Enlist support

Last but not least, remember you aren’t alone in your binge-belly pains, advises Stone: "Find a friend and make a pack to eat better for the next week." Not only can this keep you accountable, but by surrounding yourself with people who are eating healthy, it’s automatically easier to do the same. Research from Arizona State University shows that our eating habits subconsciously change to mirror those of the people around us.

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