August 21, 2022

Top 3 tips for former athletes: what to do post-binge (so you can break the cycle)

So you find yourself on the other side of a binge feeling pretty…blah. Been there plenty of times myself. The urge comes flooding in pretty fast to do something DRASTIC to make up for it, right?

Maybe it’s the thought that now you need to go work it off! Compensate for what you ate! “If I can just burn off the calories I just ate…” So you find yourself doing sit-ups on your bedroom floor at 11pm at night hoping to burn enough so you don’t gain weight from the binge. Sound familiar?

Or maybe it’s the urge to restrict everything the next day in order to make-up for what you just ate. If you swing the opposite way, you can counter the binge! Right? You know, egg whites, grilled chicken and salad only. The usual restriction approach.

Friend, if this is sounding at all familiar to you, first, I have been there! Second, this cycle of binging can be broken! But let me tell ya, jumping into compensation (either through exercise or food restriction) is not the answer to overcoming binges. Don’t worry! I’m not just going to tell you what NOT to do! I’m sharing with you my top 3 tips for what to do post-binge so you can stop the cycle and over-come binge eating! (PS: Module 6 inside The Fueled Former Athlete Academy teaches you how to overcome the restrict-binge cycle and improve metabolism!)

But first, we need to establish something…what IS binge eating?

An episode of binging can be determined by several factors including but not limited to:

  • eating much more than normal
  • eating faster than normal
  • eating until uncomfortably full
  • eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • eating alone because of embarrassment
  • feeling disgusted by oneself after eating or feeling very guilty…

Now, it’s important to note, occasional overeating is NOT the same as binge eating. Everyone overeats occasionally (it’s a very normal and human thing to do). Binge eating is most often associated with these feelings of guilt and usually consists of very large amounts of food in a short period of time.

Another important note. Just because you binge every so often, does not mean you have Binge Eating Disorder. Check out the diagnostic criteria linked! Plus the NEDA Contact Helpline for immediate support linked HERE. It is ALWAYS okay to ask for help. Even if you don’t think it’s “that bad”.

Okay, now that we have that established…what about when you have the occasional binge and the urge to restrict or workout to compensate comes flying in…? My top three tips below!

TOP 3 TIPS for what to do POST-BINGE:

  1. Resume normal eating + water
  2. Gentle movement for digestion
  3. Reflect and learn

Let’s breakdown each one, shall we?

Tip number 1 is probably the most challenging, wouldn’t you agree? I’m telling you to resume your normal eating pattern and to drink water AFTER you just ate your weight in chocolate?! Yes, yes I am. And here’s why! Our body doesn’t function well with extremes. It prefers consistency. Consistent energy intake. Consistent water intake. Consistent sleep. You get the picture. Consistency is what allows your body to feel safe and function optimally.

After a binge, if you immediately jump to restriction, your body goes from lots of food intake to little food intake, which can often result in more cravings, more hunger, and feeling less in control around food.

By resuming your usual pattern of eating, you’re giving your body consistent energy intake (WIN!) and minimizing the occurrence of rebound cravings. Many of which can perpetuate the cycle.

Tip number 2 is a slippery slope from beneficial to disordered so bear with me here! GENTLE. MOVEMENT. I am not saying to go run off the Oreos you just ate. What I am saying is gentle movement. Maybe a casual walk, or online yoga. I’ve linked my favorite “gut health” yoga!

After a binge, your stomach is possibly upset. And very full. Physical activity after eating has been shown to improve digestion. Getting up and going for a walk could possible help alleviate any digestion discomfort you are feeling post-binge. And the faster you feel better, the faster you can get back to living life after sport!

Tip number 3 is arguably the most important one…REFLECT and LEARN from the binge. Here’s the challenging part…reflecting without criticism! I want to encourage you to take a curiosity approach post-binge. I KNOW it is so challenging not to beat yourself up. Especially as a former athlete. The self-criticism is REAL! But…it’s not beneficial. Instead of being critical, can you be curious?

Ask yourself:

  1. Was I stressed more than usual?
  2. Did I go too long without eating?
  3. Am I eating enough?
  4. Am I restricting foods? (Mentally or physically?)
  5. Was I using food to cope with emotions?

All of these questions can help you reflect and learn for the next time. No eating experience is a waste! You can learn from each one. Even a binge.

BONUS TIP!!!

Okay so 4 tips instead of three, but this tip is just as important as the first three. And that is, post-binge, after you’ve reflected and learned, it’s time to move on. Hanging on to frustrations surrounding a binge only makes you feel worse (not fun). Binging does not make you a bad person. I know the guilt can feel that way. But there is nothing morally wrong with binging. So, next time it happens, refer back to tips 1-3, and then jump back here to bonus tip 4, and move on with life after sport. You DESERVE to enjoy life after sport. Without the stress of food. Or binging. Or weight gain. Or body image struggles. You deserve to enjoy life after sport. Period.

You’ve got this!

***Struggling with binge-eating post-sport? CLICK HERE to join The Fueled Former Athlete Academy! Learn how to fuel your body for life after sport, overcome binge-eating, and improve body confidence as a retired athlete!***

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