Seven Tips for Recovering After a Binge

Wow. There must have been something in the atmosphere this summer, because to say that people (friends, family and clients!) completely slid “off the rails” at some point would be a colossal understatement. For some, that just meant a few too many cocktails or “treat meal” that veered too far off-plan. However, for many others, it meant a full-blown month of mindless overindulgence with the wheels just falling off the bus. Now one “off-plan” meal (or day), will not unravel all of your hard work and efforts when it comes to clean eating. In fact, it likely won’t set you back more than a day or two, and the bump-up on the scale the next morning is primarily a result of bloating and sluggish digestion.

However, how you handle yourself “post-binge” is the make-or-break opportunity. Even though it may take a full three days to feel like you’re back on track (depending on the degree of derailment, of course), every meal is a chance to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Rather than dwelling on your “slip-ups” and wallowing in guilt (which could lead to emotional eating or further self-sabotage later on), transfer your energy to the positive steps you can take to “right the ship.” Here are 7 "tried and true" tips for bouncing back in a safe and healthy way:

1. Lace up your sneakers and go for a walk! Walking briskly for just 15 minutes minutes after a gluttonous meal will help you metabolize and digest food more quickly and prevent blood sugar spikes which lead to fatigue, cravings, and more eating!

2. Hydration is key! “Cheat” meals (although we despise that term) often consist of foods loaded with salt, refined sugar or both, and the best way to flush them out is with plenty of water. Additionally, staying hydrated aids in digestion, supports metabolism and satiety, and helps eliminate water retention and gas-induced bloating. We recommend drinking a large glass of room-temperature water before bed and another large glass upon waking. Extra points: add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. If you’ve knocked back a couple of alcoholic drinks as well, drinking plenty of water can help reduce the threat (or at least severity) of a hangover or headache the next day. A cup of ginger or peppermint tea can also help with hydration and digestion.

3. Get your ZZZ’s! If possible, allow yourself to sleep in. Ideally you should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night; less than that can lead to cravings, lack of “food restraint” and motivation, and a disruption in the hormones that control appetite. In fact, missing out on just 80 minutes of sleep in a night could lead to the consumption of an extra 500+ calories the next day. If you’re feeling extra-full or nauseous when you head to bed, try propping your head up on a pillow. It will help prevent acid-reflux and can promote a better night’s rest.

4. Eat a compliant breakfast. Breakfast should be a combination of veggies or fruit, lean protein and healthy fats. We personally love an egg scramble with plenty of leafy greens or an antioxidant-rich hydrating smoothie. After a large meal, insulin levels spike, followed by a sudden (and hard) crash. Avoiding a carb and sugar-laden breakfast will help stabilize blood sugar and prevent the cycle from repeating all over again the next day. Including healthy fruits and vegetables in your diet also increases your fiber intake which can reduce bloating, improve digestion, help decrease cravings, and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

5. Give your body a few days of “RESET”. We recommend focusing on leafy greens and veggies, cutting our alcohol, sugar, gluten and dairy, and following an intermittent fasting schedule of 14/10. It’s not necessary to do a full-blown “detox” post-binge, but eating "clean" whole foods and cutting out the “usual suspects” for a few days will help cleanse and rebalance your system, flush out the bloat, and put you back in the right mindset to reach your goals. However, don’t put yourself on an intense calorie-restricted “diet” just because you overdid it yesterday. Skipping regular meals/snacks the next day or fasting for too long will just increase the likelihood you’ll overeat (and possibly make poor choices) again.

6. Step up your workout – but not too much! It is fine to ramp up your workout a bit after a “treat meal” or “bender day”. However, overly intense cardio sessions combined with an inflammatory diet will actually put your body into stress mode. This raises cortisol levels which in turn promotes fat storage – not idea! Instead, try adding just 15 additional minutes of cardio, a few extra sets of resistance exercises or a quick yoga flow to your regular routine. The key is just to get your body moving, get the blood flowing and breaking a little sweat! This helps increase calorie burn, raise metabolism and deliver oxygen to the digestive tract. Its important to note though that exercise should never be considered a way to “offset” overeating. First of all, its unrealistic (and ineffective), and secondly, it can contribute to a disordered mindset and unhealthy dietary habits.

7. Onward! I know this is easier said than done, but it may be the most important recovery step of all. Way too often, we continue to fret and obsess for days after a “slip up” or “binge”, when in reality, the only thing you can (and should) do, is regain control and right the ship. We encourage our clients to change their mindset from “guilt and regret” to “motivation and resilience”. After all, your thoughts create your actions! Not only do we educate our clients on the importance of clean eating and listening to your body, but also how to quickly and easily recover after an overindulgence so as not to unravel all of their hard work and success.

In a nutshell, the best way to recover from a binge is to start now! The more quickly you get back on track, the more quickly you will reset your healthy habits and move closer towards your goals. Also, being “on track” does not mean never having a treat meal (or weekend) ever again. Rather, it's about making indulgences more mindful so we can break the toxic cycle of guilt and shame, and truly enjoy those special occasions and celebratory meals.