Anyone who’s ever binged late at night knows what the morning after feels like: Bloated, sluggish, hung-over, heart-burny, and most of all guilty. The physical effects feel bad—but the guilt, the guilt is the worst.
There were several times in my mid-twenties that I called out sick (from a job I loved!) because a binge the night before made me feel like I simply couldn’t face the day. Couldn’t face other people. I couldn’t stand to look at myself, let alone have other people look at me. Sure, I felt fat, but the feelings weren’t really about anything physical. It was like I felt so nasty and ugly about myself on the inside, that the only way I could process those painful feelings was to place them on the outside—blame them on my body.
In my late teens and early twenties, before I had a real grasp of what was going on and how to help myself, I often spent the day after doing a fast—or drinking tons of water to hopefully “flush out” whatever it was I’d poured into my mouth and belly the day before. That usually just compounded the guilt, because I was never a starver and usually “failed” at these little attempts to fast. Even when I did succeed, it didn’t make me feel any better on the inside. Rather than a gentle forgiveness and nudge forward toward health, those fasting and water-soaked days were actually punishments. I was trying to atone for the “evil” eating I’d done. But you can’t. And you don’t have to.
I thought about all of that this morning after reading a comment that HealthyGirl.org reader Deanna left for me. She wrote: What do you suggest for “morning after” feelings? Let me explain: Eating has been going better, but yesterday, yikes, not such a good day. I woke up feeling bloated and sick. On a positive note, I went walk/running anyway. It wasn’t a great exercise session, but at least I was out in the fresh air and doing what I know is good for me. I ate a moderate breakfast, but, somehow, the demons in my head are really loud on days like this. Maybe they feel louder today because they haven’t been there for a while. I don’t want to go back to feeling like this on a regular basis. That is how I used to live. Suggestions?
Here’s what I’ve come to believe, Deanna. Every binge, every day spent emotionally eating, is an experience to learn from. Slowly but surely over the years as I read more, went to therapy, and started support meetings, I came to believe that I was right where I was supposed to be at any given time, even if that meant I was bingeing. No, of course the Universe didn’t want me to harm my body with extra food—but if I was emotionally eating, my body and mind were obviously trying to tell me something.
So, I started treating those morning-after binge times as times to reflect. To journal a bit, to ask myself, “Hey, what was going on that made you suddenly turn to food like that after so many weeks?” or whatever. I’m telling you, having a gentle, curious, forgiving attitude made me feel better so much faster than buckets of water or pounds of guilt ever did before. And, bonus, I actually started learning something from those “slip ups” with food. I learned the warning signs for binges. I learned what I needed to do—namely, take some time for myself, journal, exercise, meditate—in order to avoid them.
Now, on the rare occasions when I turn to food emotionally, the guilt doesn’t ever have a chance to kick in. Miracle of miracles, my default setting has become gentleness, forgiveness, and curiosity! And I’m able to quickly implement other, healthier tools, to help myself deal with life—because the guilt and self-hate are no longer in the way.
Now I’d like to open it up to the rest of you: How do you deal constructively with the “morning after”? Have you been able to learn something from your binges and have a sense of understanding and forgiveness for yourself? xo…Sunny