How To Recover From A Day (Or A Weekend) Of Binge Eating

Feasting or even binge eating is fairly common in people everywhere. Here's how you can recover the next day

6 min read
How To Recover From A Day (Or A Weekend) Of Binge Eating

We've all had days where we eat a whole bunch of chocolates, or chips, or pizza, or biryani, or lasagne, or basically any of the unhealthy junk food that you've been telling yourself NOT to eat.

Whether it's all of the above dishes, or none of them, whether you tend to indulge just once a week, or many "just once-a-weeks", the bottom line, is sometimes we indulge, and sometimes we feast. The science says so too!

According to this 2021 study, most people around the world, above the age of 16, reported gaining weight during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

"You should eat healthy, don't eat that extra scoop of ice cream, you don't NEED to have that bowl of deep-fried snickers..." - The voice in your head.

So, instead of beating yourself up, today you'll learn how to reduce the worst effects of a binge, recover from the binge faster, and how to avoid binge eating as much as possible.


First, How Long Was Your Binge? (Also, Drink Water)

Here's what binge eating has to do with your health.

(Photo: iStock)

The first thing we need to look at is how long your binge was, and how heavy it was. A 2017 study found that three days of excess calorie intake (exceeding daily energy requirements) resulted only in a change in total body water (TBW) and not a change in total fat mass or fat free dry mass.

In short, most of the weight gained after a binge day or two, is water weight. This is because of two factors:

  1. Increased sodium levels in your blood lead to increased thirst because your body tries to maintain your sodium levels at homeostasis. Give into your thirst and hydrate a lot. If you need an electrolyte drink, get one. Don't force yourself to drink water to an uncomfortable point, but increase your water intake, because it'll also help rid your body of the extra sodium.

  2. Increased carbohydrate intake leads to more glycogen being stored in your muscles. Glycogen lets you perform explosive bursts of activity, but while it's in your body, it retains water in a 1:3 ratio in your muscles. So for every gram of glycogen stored, your body will hold onto 3 grams of water.

These two factors combined make you weigh more immediately after a binge.

So, tl;dr: hydrate a lot and avoid stepping on the weighing scale the day after a binge. If you do check your weight, remember that a lot of it is water weight or Total Body Water (TBW)

Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and keep hydrating. Hydration will help eliminate any excess salt and gas build-up. The water will also help prevent dehydration as you return to eating healthier.

On the topic of the weighing scale...

Avoid The Scales and Self-Sabotage

It's easier said than done, but avoid the urge to weigh yourself the day after a binge. I

(Image: The Quint)

It's easier said than done, but avoid the urge to weigh yourself the day after a binge. If you do weigh yourself, just remember that a lot of it is water weight. Ideally, also use this chance to clear out your kitchen of trigger foods or any leftover junk food.

It's not the food itself that's "good" or "bad", but whether the food's nutrient profile fits what your body needs.

So, unless your body NEEDS a large dose of sugar or nutrient-void calories, put the chips and chocolates away.

In fact, toss them out. Rid your food stores of all trigger foods, because self-control and "will power" to not eat junk food is a myth.


That's what this study by the American Psychological Association confirms.

Will power is a limited resource. You don't have an infinite store of will power. It's far easier to treat the problem by removing it at its cause - the presence of trigger foods within easy reach.

So, while you remove the trigger foods, keep in mind that you're not trying to PUNISH yourself. Treating yourself with a punishment mentality can lead to unhealthy associations with specific foods. And on that note....

Don't Punish Your Body

As for exercise, pick weights or yoga over heavy cardio.

(Photo: iStock)

Speaking purely from a biological point of view, following a day of bingeing with a day of starving yourself leads to your blood sugar falling drastically and making you want to eat sweet things.

After a meal loaded with carbohydrates your blood sugar rises to unnatural amounts, because you've consumed well beyond your daily required intake of sugar.

This falls soon after because insulin is released to counter the sugar spike. The subsequent fall in blood sugar, can lead to hunger and cravings for more food. And these cravings will often be for instant or quick sources of energy - like sugar, according to this 2019 study.

Denying your body the sustenance it needs at this point will only make you crave food more, and in all likelihood, you'll binge again.

Start the day after a binge with a high protein, moderate fat, low carb meal. A couple of eggs fried in butter usually does the trick for me, but you can add some stir-fried vegetables or fruit as well to your breakfast.

Avoid going overboard on the fruit, because too much fructose will cause a sugar spike again. Ease back into eating healthy. Prepare yourself mentally to feel a little low energy physically the day after a binge.

Now as far as exercise goes, pick weights or yoga over heavy cardio. Your muscles will be loaded with glycogen, which lets you perform explosive activity that requires bursts of energy.

However, prolonged moderate or slow-paced cardio will deplete your glycogen stores far more than simple weights or yoga. Ease back into your cardio or HIIT routine, and make the most of your full glycogen stores by lifting heavy things.


Sleep Is Kinda....Essential

If you sleep less than five hours a night, you'll feel hungrier and have stronger cravings for unhealthy junk food.

(Photo: The Quint)

If you sleep less than five hours a night, you'll feel hungrier and have stronger cravings for unhealthy junk food. That's the simplest, fastest way to tell you what this 2013 study found.

The study states that inadequate sleep leads to dysregulation of brain activity which leads to an increased craving for high-calorie foods.

"...sleep deprivation significantly decreases activity in appetitive evaluation regions within the human frontal cortex during food desirability choices... This change in brain activity is further associated with a significant increase in the desire for weight-gain promoting high-calorie foods following sleep deprivation, the extent of which is predicted by the subjective severity of sleep loss across participants."

The 2019 study that we mentioned earlier also found that sleep dysregulation in women with no obesity lead to increased appetite and cravings for larger portions as well as high-calorie food.

Which, in simple terms, is unfortunate. So, while it's advisable to avoid regular sleep deprivation, this is doubly true after a day of binge eating. Get adequate sleep the days after a binge, and let your appetite normalize.

Check out our story on how to get better sleep here.

And finally...

It Happens, But Start Working On It Not Happening

Binge eating happens for many reasons. It could be a psychological trigger - maybe you find comfort in food when you're low emotionally.

(Photo: iStock)

Binge eating happens for many reasons. It could be a psychological trigger - maybe you find comfort in food when you're low emotionally.

It could be a physical or physiological trigger - maybe you've missed getting enough calories for a fair few days or you've missed sleep so your cravings go up. It could even just be a reason as simple as you being on vacation, or wanting to indulge yourself occasionally.

The important thing is to identify what caused it - whether it was sleep deprivation, hunger, trigger foods, emotional eating, or just the occasional indulgence when you're on a break or vacation.

Once you identify this, write it down. Journalise everything. It'll let you look at your patterns objectively, and if it's an unhealthy pattern you can fix it, and if it's something harmless, you can handle it as you see fit.

The point is, if psychological or physiological distress is causing you to binge eat regularly, it can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and several other lifestyle diseases.

Left unchecked, this could lead to an early death. Taking several steps slowly and steadily should help you fix the problem at its root, and ideally live a healthy, happy life. But only if you start working on it.

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