What is a binge?
For starters, let's address what a binge is. A binge is a type of eating episode in which excessive amounts of food are consumed in a short period of time. Essentially, it’s a form of loss of control eating that disregards body cues such as fullness.
How does your body respond to fasting after a binge?
Chances are, if you fast after a binge, you’re going to end up in the vicious binge-restrict cycle, something many dieters struggle with.
The reality is, not eating enough is one of the main causes, if not the number one cause, of overeating. So if you fast after a binge, you’re just setting yourself up for ANOTHER binge.
This can actually be quite damaging to your metabolism. When you deprive your body over and over again, it starts to lose trust.
It realizes it can no longer rely on external sources to provide the appropriate fuel and instead, it learns how to thrive off of less energy. After repeated episodes of fasting after binging, your metabolism will eventually slow down.
Your body will start holding on so tightly to whatever energy it is provided with, in fear of not having an adequate external energy supply in the future. This is just one of the many ways your body adapts to survive.
Another way your body ensures survival when in a fasted state is by increasing the neurotransmitter, neuropeptide Y (A.K.A the carb craver), and the hormone ghrelin (A.K.A the hunger hormone).
The intense cravings and hunger make it extremely difficult to resist eating, which drives the next binge into action.
Fasting not only sets you up for failure but can also result in a range of negative physical and psychological side effects including drops in blood sugar, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, lack of ability to concentrate, hanger (yes hanger is a real thing), food obsession, stress and anxiety.
Fasting after a binge: Is it recommended?
By this point, it’s probably pretty obvious that I don’t recommend fasting after a binge. While it may seem like a logical solution to compensate for overeating, it can lead to a range of negative physical and psychological side effects.
I also want to note that, the reason many individuals fast after a binge is to prevent weight gain from occurring. Though, unfortunately this is the type of behaviour that drives weight gain in the long run.
Ultimately, fasting is considered a diet, or a diet-like behaviour. If you want to learn more about the reasons for weight gain following a diet as well as the physical and psychological impacts, check out my post “Disadvantages of Dieting.”
Here’s what you should actually be doing after a binge
Give yourself compassion
First things first, be kind with yourself and avoid self-criticism and guilt. Food guilt alone can trigger a cycle of restriction and binging, in which we feel guilty for eating certain foods and then try to compensate by restricting, only to then overeat again.
Remind yourself that it’s completely normal to engage in the occasional overeating, even the most intuitive eaters will overeat at times! Moving forward, the best thing you can do is accept the fact that it happened and learn from the experience.
Ask yourself, what led to the binge? Now did it make you feel? And what you may do differently next time?
Determine the reason for your binge eating
While we have already discussed that undereating is likely the main reason for overeating, there could be various other causes of your binge eating. If you don’t get to the root of your issue, you may never be able to overcome your overeating.
Feel free to take advantage of my free guide “4 steps to overcome overeating,” to better understand the reasons why you overeat and learn how to overcome it!
Resume regular intake
I understand that if the last thing you want to do is eat more, but trust me, you still need to eat. Following a binge, you will likely feel the effects of fullness for a longer time than normal. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat when hunger does strike.
As soon as you start to feel hungry again, you should honor your hunger and eat. If you don’t you will only continue on the binge-restrict cycle.
It’s also important to make sure you don’t skip meals, I recommend going NO LONGER than 5 waking hours without eating. Though, there’s a good chance you may need to eat even more frequently than that.
Try an intuitive approach to eating
When you eat intuitively you listen to your body cues such as hunger and fullness, as well as eat in ways that satisfy ALL of your needs.
Intuitive eating is an evidence based, non-restrictive form of eating that results in drastic decreases in overeating once adopted and fully embraced. There’s also a pile of other benefits that come along with it as well.
If you're interested in learning more about intuitive eating and potentially starting your intuitive eating journey, I highly recommend taking advantage of my FREE mini-training: "Getting Started with Intuitive Eating."
Resume regular movement
You may feel like you can’t pull yourself off the couch immediately following a binge (and don’t worry that’s completely fine). Though once you do feel up to it, it may be a good idea to get in some light movement to help with digestion and re-energize.
That being said, I do strongly advise against engaging in physical activity solely as a means to burn calories and compensate for the binge as this can further perpetuate disordered eating patterns.
Avoid the scale
The fast after a binge is typically driven by the desire to prevent weight gain. If you step on the scale following a binge episode, chances are you are going to be unhappy with the number.
Yes, your weight may be up but it’s not as though you have actually gained body weight. In addition to the large amount of food sitting in your stomach following a binge, your body will hold on to an increased amount of water weight, making it seem as though you have gained weight.
Typically this just leads to further disordered behavior with hopes of losing the weight and preventing further weight gain.
It’s also important to note that your weight is not a measure of your health and it’s supposed to fluctuate, so let your body do its thing, there is no need to obsess over an irrelevant number.
Keep on keepin’ on
Lastly, don’t dwell on your past eating experiences. Remember, one binge doesn’t define your health. Though if you can’t seem to find a way to stop the binges on your own, your next step may be to seek out professional help.
That’s all for now on fasting after a binge
As you can see, nothing good comes out of fasting after a binge. If you’re looking to stop the binges, you will also need to stop the restriction.
So tell me, what’s your next step from here?
If you’re in a constant battle with food and your body and you struggle with the binge-restrict cycle feel free to take a look at my services. I may just have the perfect thing for you!