When it comes to binge eating we have to look at why it happened. Are we cutting calories too hard, is our training too demanding which requires more food intake, are we stressed, or do we need to just be more dedicated to the goal and embrace the struggle (contest prep related).
Sometimes an adjustment to the plan can reduce the likeliness of a repeat and ongoing binge cycle.
Now, depending on the extremity of your caloric intake overshooting, with the knowledge we have about effective nutritional strategies you can actually soften/eliminate the effects of a binge.
Here’s an example…
Daily Dieting Intake: 2,500 calories
Binge: 6,000 calories
Excess: 3,500 calories
Spread the excess over a 3-7 day period (depending on how large it is).
3,500 / 7 days = 500 calories
So, if you reduce your daily dieting intake by 500 calories for a 7 day period following the binge, from an energy input standpoint you have balanced things out to your standard weekly caloric intake, whilst eating 2,000 calories per day rather than 2,500. One thing to note however is that daily protein total intake and frequency should still be maintained on these lower days.
Using My Fitness Pal, log everything you consumed during your binge. Wow, that was tough to admit to right? Now, move some of those foods across the week in your food diary with a target of around 500 calories accounted for ahead of time for each day.
In most cases people binge on sugar/fat which leaves plenty of room to hit your daily protein targets without being concerned of actual daily protein intake being effected.
A simple example of this is eating a large pizza in one sitting. What you’d input in My Fitness Pal is 2 slices per day over 4 days, or maybe 1 slice per day over 8 days. By doing this, when you wake up tomorrow and start tracking your macros you will already account for this slice of pizza, and eat less calories to hit your macros for that day.
By spreading meals out like that you won’t jeopardise your daily protein intake requirements (if you logged the whole pizza into the next day My Fitness Pal would account for too much protein already consumed for that day) and will limit the effects of reduced energy after a binge, often brought on by fasting or starving a day or two later.
In the case of fasting you’re losing the muscle retaining benefits of consuming adequate protein per day. By spreading out your binge over a few days you are more than likely only tracking 10-20g of total protein accounted for ahead of time each day, so you’re in a much better place.
If things are getting too technical and challenging to hit your daily dieting macronutrient targets on subsequent days, you could simply track daily protein and total calories, rather than protein, carbs, and fat individually.
Overall, binge eating is not something we want to work into our diet, but rather learn from where possible, and then work around it in a smart and effective way which can reduce the mental stress associated with falling off your plan.
Consider this the next time you unexpectedly overfeed and need to make up for it without killing yourself. Armed with this knowledge you may decide to give into overfeeding for a social event or quick psychological break from dieting, but stay mindful about it and limit yourself to 3,000-4,500 calories rather than the 6,000 calorie example, resulting in less to make up for in subsequent dieting days.
It is important to note that in some cases simply going back to your normal diet the next day is the best option. Other times adjusting your daily dieting intake to a more manageable (higher) intake is ideal. It really depends on your goals, current mindset, and priorities.
If you are dieting towards an event and need to maintain your pre-structured weekly caloric deficit, you can use this strategy to your advantage and still have decent training sessions.
No doubt aggressively over consuming your daily dieting intake will have you feeling pretty sick in the process, which is another reminder to stay on track in the future.