By: Michael Beiter
"Hey Mike. I binge ate yesterday. I feel super guilty and wanted to be honest."
I got this message from a client who is working with me to lose body fat.
It is not the first time I've received something like this and certainly won't be the last.
Here are some steps to take if you over eat.
First things first. Knowing that you over ate is a big deal.
One of the biggest issues facing dieters today is unawareness. Most people have no idea how much they are eating and are no closer to using a philosophy that teaches them.
I firmly believe that the only way to successfully manage your nutrition and body composition for the long term is by measuring your food. By doing so you bring awareness to your consumption. That awareness tells you whether you have had too much, just enough, or too little. Learning when you've had your fill objectively is one of the most valuable skills food logging teaches you.
Everyone wants to be able to eat intuitively and skip the logs. I do too. But the research is evident we just are not capable to think of food accurately when left to our own devices. Our brains evolved in times of famine and because of that whenever we are presented an opportunity to eat our hunter gatherer brains tell us to over consume in case the next meal isn't coming for a while. Add to that the engineered foods of the 21st century that don't fill us up and feed addiction loops and the recipe for overeating disaster is firmly in place. The only way to win is to log.
So knowing when you've over eaten is better than guessing.
Once you know there are three things you can do. One is to subtract the amount you over ate from the coming days. This might result in you needing to fast for awhile or significantly reduce the following day or two's consumption to offset how much extra you had when you over ate. This is predicated on you honestly assessing how much you ate and logging it. With this strategy it is best to zoom out and look at your calorie and macro balance at the weekly level. An over consumption on one day is no big deal if is accommodated for with under consuming on other days so that your weekly average is kept in check. Honestly, I've seen people apply this successfully at the monthly level too.
The second thing you can do after over eating is to increase exercise. Your weight is a product of calories in versus calories out. When you bring more in than you need you can offset them by putting more out. Aka exercising. The best bang for your buck calorie burning exercises are compound weighted movements or high intensity cardio that spikes your heart rate to near max levels. I caution you in using this strategy because if you are sustaining your fitness you are likely already exercising 7-10 hours weekly. Going above this level is not desirable or sustainable for most people.
The last thing you can do after you binge eat is to simply resume your daily hour of exercise and food logging you were doing before. This is the 'right back on the wagon' mindset. It is probably the most realistic because adding exercise reduces sustainability and encourages a binge and restrict cycle and banking macros takes many months of practice to get good at.
Returning to baseline and giving yourself a break is the least mentally taxing. Do this most of the time but add one exercise: examine the feelings you experienced and foods you consumed when you over ate.
Take a few minutes to jot down what you were going through after the fact. With enough practice with this exercise you will come to realize two things. One, your feelings deceived you. You might have been bored, tired, or sad and mistook those feelings for hunger. Two, you chose to eat foods that are hard to stop eating once you stop. High amounts of salt, sugar, and fat are added to processed and fast foods and make it nearly impossible to stop once you ate the appropriate amount. Especially if emotions are involved.
Learning these two things makes you start to evaluate the costs compared to the benefits of your actions which leads to future decisions to avoid the food or emotional response easier.
Give these strategies a shot next time you are feeling guilty for eating too much.