This article is written in partnership with Noom—they’re dedicated to making healthy living easier for us all, and we’re honored to work with them. ~ ed.
We’ve all had “unhealthy” days (sometimes several in a row) where we binge on exactly the stuff we know we should be having less of.
Afterward, it’s easy to self-flagellate, letting our inner critic tell us things like “I’m a failure. I’ll never be able to reach my goals!”
But this is the perfect time to practice being kind to ourselves.
“I just consumed 5,000 calories in 24 hours! How can I possibly be kind to myself now?” you ask.
We get it.
Mentally beating yourself up feels like it’ll help you not to binge again, right? But how many times has being mad at yourself actually led to you changing your behavior?
Well, it is scientifically proven that punishment does not work to change our behavior. Yes, that includes punishing ourselves.
So, instead of mentally raking yourself over the coals or punishing your body with restriction and extremism, try replacing your self-judgment with this question: “What is the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?”
Keep asking yourself that each time you realize you’re stuck in a self-critical spiral and do more of what comes to mind.
The truth is, if we’re looking to build healthier habits, there is no “on” or “off” track. Bumps and twists and turns in the road are simply a part of the journey.
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That being said, if you need a little help with getting your groove back after a less-than-mindful day, weekend, month even…here are a few good places to start:
Although we often look at it as the end of the world, the occasional slip up is actually a blessing in disguise. It’s a great opportunity to learn about ourselves and identify areas we need to work on. So take a moment to reflect upon what tripped you up, how you reacted, and what you could do differently next time. Take this opportunity to reconnect with yourself, right where you are.
Maybe meditate, spend some time breathing, or do some journaling if you’re finding yourself feeling disconnected from yourself.
Here are a few journaling prompts to get you started:
- What was going on around me that triggered me to binge?
- What was I feeling at the time? Anxious, sad, angry, worried, scared, helpless, hopeless, frustrated, lonely? Remember, our thoughts create our emotions which trigger our behavior.
- Have I been restricting foods lately that has caused me to binge on them?
- What did I binge on? What attracted me to those particular things? Do I tend to restrict or have negative beliefs around these things?
- Where am I not showing up in my life right now that is making me want to turn to food?
2. Let it go.
Now that you’ve uncovered and reflected on some of the reasons behind your binge…Let. It. Go. Seriously. It’s in the past. There is absolutely no benefit you can gain from hanging on and ruminating over the ins and outs of your less than glorious moments once you’ve faced them.
“Letting go isn’t lazy. Letting go isn’t giving up. Letting go isn’t the easy way out. Letting go isn’t always fun. Letting go is the most courageous thing you can do. Letting go is wise. Letting go enables life, energy, love and learning to flow freely.” ~ Michelle Margaret Fajkus
3. Don’t wait.
Rather than let an unhealthy day turn into an unhealthy weekend, or an unhealthy weekend turn into an unhealthy week, use your next moment, your next meal as an opportunity to make a healthier choice. Ditch the “I’ll start tomorrow!” mentality, because tomorrow never comes. There’s only today. Just as it’s essential to let go of the past while learning from it, it’s important to make constructive changes now rather than at some imaginary point in the future.
4. Set an intention.
Before you get to work, think about what is it you want to accomplish going forward. Also, remind yourself of your why. There’s no point working toward a goal, whether it’s getting fitter or losing weight or just making healthier choices if you don’t have a why. Your why is usually the feeling behind your what: you want to feel stronger or more energetic. It may include others, too: you want to be able to enjoy kicking a ball around with your children or go for a run with your partner.
To set yourself back on a more sustainable path toward healthy behavior, remind yourself of the bigger reason you’re doing this.
Keep your what simple, too. You don’t have to compensate for yourself. Remember, be kind to you! Set out to take small, actionable steps, in the present moment. Start tracking your food again, from today, or pack a meal for work that morning so you don’t need to eat out. Set those goals again and make a plan to follow through.
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5. Move your body.
No, your goal isn’t to sweat off the wine you enjoyed or burn off the cheesecake you indulged in. Moving is simply a good strategy to help you reconnect with your body and help you make other healthier choices for yourself and your well-being again.
It doesn’t have to be extreme, in fact, it’s probably better if it isn’t. Go for a comfortable walk, get some air into those lungs. Reconnecting with nature is a great way to ground into our bodies and get a little perspective, too. If you find your mind wandering to those self-critical thoughts again as you move, come back to kindness. If you can’t get outside, maybe just put on your favorite music and dance in your bedroom, or do a few yoga stretches.
6. Don’t restrict.
When it comes to eating, don’t try to compensate. Restricting your food intake will more likely eventually lead you to overdo it again. Instead, make it a point to eat regularly throughout the day, focusing on the choices you’re making, rather than the quantities you’re consuming.
The first day or two after a binge can be weird for our appetite. Sometimes after a binge, we are hungry, sometimes we may not feel hungry at all. Either is okay, as long as you are not mentally restricting because of the calories you consumed before.
Listen to your hunger. There is no right or wrong here, just kind and unkind choices.
7. Drink water.
…lots of it. Drinking water is important for so many reasons, including helping support your body’s natural detox abilities. Fill up a reusable bottle and keep it with you to encourage you to sip regularly throughout the day.
8. Reach for fresh food.
Chances are you didn’t overdo it on kale. This means your body has likely been deprived of some important vitamins and minerals. Make it a point to feed it with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to give it a healthy dose of the nutrients it’s craving, and to make you feel good too!
9. Fill up on fiber.
Sometimes an unhealthy few days can throw our digestion out of whack. Make sure to get enough fiber throughout the day by filling up on vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.
10. Celebrate yourself, as you are.
Take a moment to celebrate your self-awareness and courage. It takes both of those things to even recognize and admit your less than healthy behavior.
Sidestepping our tendency to self-punish, facing the fears and triggers that cause us to behave the way we do, and taking steps to make kinder, healthier choices is no mean feat! We’re working some serious mental and emotional muscles in the process.
As we continue to embrace the journey of lifestyle change, this cycle is likely to happen less. But even if we do find ourselves back at step one, we should always act from a place of kindness and self-forgiveness to reestablish loving, healthy boundaries for ourselves.
“We must remember that food is not an enemy.
Our bodies (no matter what they look like) are not enemies.
Our emotions (no matter what they feel like) are not enemies.” ~ Brandilyn Tebo
Find out more: how & why Noom’s mindful approach works >>