Now that you downed that whole sleeve of cookies or bag of chips—or both—you may feel as though spending the rest of your days in a pair of sweatpants is a solid life plan. They’re so roomy. So cozy. So stretchy. And best of all, they perfectly hide your food baby.
While a life in elastic pants may sound cushy at first, after further assessing the caloric damage of your binge, the fantasy may fizzle as horror and panic takes over. We’re here to tell you that the situation is not as bad as it seems. The odds are in your favor that the temporary weight gain and bloat brought on by your binge will not become permanent additions to your frame—phew!.
Although experts say that after overeating, it may take up to three days to feel like your old, slender self again, there are some exercise, diet and motivational tips that can help you get back on track right away. We enlisted the expertise of Lauren Minchen MPH, RDN, CDN, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist based in New York City to find out the best way to bounce back from a binge so you can continue living your life in a regular (read: not spandex) pair of pants the very next day. Once you've bounced back after your binge, don't miss these 15 Easy Ways to Reset Your Diet.
First of All, Forgive Yourself
Listen up: It’s not a crime to indulge. You’re only human, after all. So if you’re feeling fat, bloated, and mad at yourself for overdoing it, just stop. Dwelling on your binge will only make you more upset, which could lead to emotional bouts of overeating down the road. “Moving past the guilt is the first step toward getting back on track,” explains Minchen. “It’s important to realize too, that if it was just one overindulgent meal, it won’t do too much damage. Generally, this would only set someone back a day or two.” So keep your head up; you’ve still got this.
Yeah, we get it. When you’re super full the last thing you want to do is guzzle down water. But it’s for your own good. “Staying hydrated can aid in binge recovery by aiding digestion and fighting gas-induced bloat,” says Minchen. “Also, staying hydrated supports a healthy metabolism and satiety, making recovery more manageable for the body.” Drink a large glass before bed and a few large glasses the next morning. It’s also advisable to keep a water bottle by your side over the next two days. Doing so will help flush out any excess salt that’s making you bloated and paunchy.
Get Quality Shut-eye
Getting seven to nine hours of sleep is one of the best things you can do to get back on track after a binge. Why? It may make it easier to turn down fat and carb-laden trigger foods the next day. In a University of Colorado study, participants who were only permitted to sleep a mere five hours ate more the next day than those who got nine hours of shut-eye. Researchers observed that the well-rested crew had more “food restraint" while those who were sleep-deprived not only took in more calories, but more calories from carbs and fat.
Fill Up on Fiber and Protein at Breakfast
It’s the weirdest thing: After eating a huge meal, we oftentimes swear we will never eat again only to wake up the next morning feeling more ravenous than ever before. Why does this happen? “After eating a big dinner, insulin spikes. This is often followed by a blood sugar drop, which increases feelings of hunger the next morning,” explains Minchen. Instead of heading to the cupboard and stuffing your face with sugary cereal, Minchen suggests fixing a balanced breakfast with a mix of protein, carbs and fat. This will help tame your crazy hunger and aid in the continued digestion of last night's heavy meal. Minchen’s breakfast of choice? Two whole eggs (or just the whites) topped with 1/4th of an avocado and a cup of fruit.
I generally caution my patients to be careful about viewing exercise as a way to counteract overeating, notes Minchen. “This approach can fuel guilt and shame about eating habits. Plus, it’s not realistic or effective to chase every calorie with exercise. Even so, breaking a sweat the day after a binge can help deliver oxygen to the digestive tract which keeps food moving through smoothly and can help people feel less blah.” Minchen recommends 30 minutes of light cardio, such as walking, jogging or an at home cardio DVD. If you’re pressed for time, turn your trip to the mall to do holiday gift returns into a mini-workout. Park as far away from the mall as possible and power-walk to and from the entrance.
Avoid Hard to Digest Foods
If you've got a case of post-binge digestive distress, steer clear of any foods that may disrupt your tummy further. Big culprits include gluten, dairy products, coffee, refined sugar, carbonated beverages and acidic foods like fruit juice, pasta, alcohol, fatty meats and chocolate. Fruits, vegetables, green teas, almonds, lentils and avocados on the other hand are all more alkaline and won't upset those prone to acid reflux. “Focus first on eliminating known problem foods and then decide if there are any others that you may need to avoid for a day or two to restore balance,” says Minchen.
Keep Lunch and Dinner "clean"
There is absolutely no need to put yourself through a full-blown cleanse post-binge, but eating “clean” whole foods the day after overeating will make you feel refreshed and put you back in the right frame of mind to reach your goals. Minchen suggests whipping up meals comprised of a good balance of protein, fiber-filled carbs and fat. Here are some examples that fit the bill:
A grilled salmon fillet with one cup quinoa and three cups leafy greens dressed in an olive oil and lemon dressing.
A baked chicken breast with half a sweet potato topped with one tablespoon of butter and two cups steamed broccoli.
Four cups of leafy greens and other veggies topped with grilled steak, 1/4th of an avocado, 1/4th cup dried cranberries and balsamic vinegar
Don't Starve as Penance
If you’re hungry between meals, eat something! Don’t deprive yourself of food just because you overdid it yesterday. “Skipping usual meals or snacks the day after a binge will only increases the desire to overeat again,” says Minchen. She recommends reaching for snacks rich in protein to promote satiety, like plain Greek yogurt with berries, organic turkey slices with avocado, a Quest Bar, or two eggs with a piece of fruit.
Shun the Scale
The scale is not your friend the day following a big binge. It may display a number higher than what you’re use to as a result of the extra food sitting in your stomach and the water retention brought on by eating those salty pretzels. “Many of my patients find it defeating and discouraging to step on the scale after they’ve binged because it makes them feel like they lost all their progress, which isn’t typically the case. Wait two days before weighing yourself to see what the lasting damage is,” advises Minchen.