Feel terrible after a binge? Here’s how to come back to your center.
I know the feeling after a binge ~ you’re low on energy, motivation, can’t possibly think of doing anything healthy for yourself.
On top of that, your body feels like crap ~ bloated, heavy, sluggish, and not beautiful.
I remember times when I would wish I could forget I had a body. When I wished I could erase time and fast forward to when my body felt light, healthy and able again.
As I started to heal my relationship with food, though, I started to notice that the way I spent this time after a binge radically changed. I believe its been so key to my transformation that I want to tell you all about it, so that you can start using this method now.
The Root Cause of Binging
In order to fully explain to you how I radically changed my approach to the time after a binge, first I want to dive into the root cause of a binge, because they are entirely related.
When we have a compulsion, like binging, drinking, smoking, shopping, what we are doing is running away from facing the intensity of a moment.
It really isn’t about the food. It’s about what we are trying to run away from when we eat. What we are trying not to face. The intensity of the moment could be caused by something external, like something your co-worker or friend said to you, a person you ran into in the street, but the real thing we are trying to run away from is the feeling that has been stirred up inside of us.
I call these overwhelming thoughts and feelings “triggers.”
On some level, we believe we cannot handle this feeling. That somehow it will kill us.
Enter the binge. If you look at the structure of a binge very closely, you’ll notice that the whole process of it is actually a process of running away.
That explains the urgency, the need to eat not just in large amounts, but with a certain speed. We can’t get the food in fast enough, and we don’t stop eating until the original feeling we were running away from is completely out of sight.
The Cause is the Cure
I know I would have thought it crazy if, ten years ago, someone told me that the very feelings I was trying to run away from were going to cure the problem of binging.
But the reality is, that the thing we are trying to run away from when we eat is actually inside of us. And by eating, we are only stuffing it down. We never get rid of it for good.
As terrifying as it sounds, it actually isn’t until we face these feelings that we believe are so dangerous, that radical change begins to happen and we begin to heal.
Because in the process of looking at our issues straight on, we discover they actually are not dangerous at all. They are simply feelings asking for a way out, wounds asking for attention and healing and love.
Now that we have seen that what we are doing when we binge is running away from the scarier feelings inside of us, you can understand why I teach awareness as a fundamental skill for working with binge eating.
Awareness is the willingness and the skill to simply be present with whatever is happening, including the compulsion to run away. To let it be happening inside of you and not actually make a move, to just stay there, watching your breath and the process of emotion rise and fall inside of you.
If we can use awareness before we binge, just as the urge is coming on, we can stop a binge in its tracks.
But what if we have already binged?
After the Binge ~ Changing the Landscape
By binging, we have tried to escape the feelings that we thought might destroy us.
It’s quite clever ~ because now that we have binged, we are too full, bloated, guilty and angry at ourselves to remember the original feeling that we were trying to run away from in the first place.
And in a way, that is the whole point! That is what we were actually going for, to numb ourselves so much from the pain of the original feelings, even if that means that we replace them with the seemingly terrible feeling of being bloated, emotionally and physically spent.
We actually prefer this feeling to the possibility of facing our inner demons!
Why? Because the pain of having just binged is familiar. It sucks, but at least we know what to expect out of it.
Facing our own selves, on the other hand ~ and the looming feelings of despair, loneliness, abandonment, hopelessness, whatever they may be ~ that live inside of us, is unknown territory. We don’t know what will happen if we get into the ring with our unprocessed feelings. The unknown is terrifying, to everybody. Its a simple psychological fact that comes with the territory of being human.
Beating the Binge at Its Own Game
What I am proposing is that we beat the binge at its own game.
Of course, prevention is always the best route ~ if we can have the awareness to sit with our craving and nip the binge in the bud before it happens, that’s amazing.
But that isn’t always the case.
So if you have already binged, don’t despair.
You can still use awareness to beat the binge at its own game.
How? Think about it. The whole point of the binge in the first place was to take you out of your awareness, to numb you.
Introduce awareness even after you binge by noticing that the feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness are a distraction from what is actually happening in the moment.
The magic of awareness is that it does not discriminate.
To truly learn awareness, we have to learn to sit with what is happening whether it is pleasurable, painful, or anything in between.
By staying with ourselves after we binge, by letting ourselves feel the feelings inside of our bodies and not becoming distracted by the usual circular thinking pattern of how bad we are, we practice staying with ourselves all the time, so that next time we might not have to binge.
Try This the Next Time You Binge
One of my teachers once said to me, it doesn’t matter if you eat the chips, all that matters is how you eat the chips. If you are going to eat them, eat them with awareness, and then be aware and present with yourself after you eat them.
Commit to staying with the feeling, even if it is not pleasant.
If you find yourself at the far side of a binge, try that. Staying with your feelings themselves, rather than running away into the thought patterns. If you find yourself thinking, return to the feeling inside your body. Stay with yourself, even in these darkest moments.
I promise, that will be the beginning of your healing.