The post binge shame hangover. Have you been there? Surrounded by wrappers, empty bags, boxes or cartons. Or maybe you hide the evidence along the way (something I did in my younger years) so the only evidence left is how full you feel. But the heavier feeling is the shame, embarrassment, disappointment and judgment you have for doing it “again”. Same story, different day. Or maybe this time was a different story with the same ending. Oh, how I know this feeling well. Waking up the next morning feeling dehydrated, miserable and frustrated. Wanting to feel better but not wanting to tell anyone what I had done, often turning to food again and the cycle continues.
What if I told you that you could choose a different response to a binge?
Are these responses what you usually hear in your mind?
“I can’t believe I did it again”
“Why did I do that?”
“I am a failure”
“I am (or I feel) disgusting”
“I was doing so well, I can’t believe I’ve ruined all my progress”
“Now I have to start over”
“I will never figure this out”
“I can’t let people see my like this – I need to cancel my commitments”
“I will never be able to wear those pants”
“I have to make up for what I did”
Oftentimes these responses seem natural. They are what you are used to thinking after a binge and these responses lead to the feelings of shame, frustration and judgment. But here is the beauty – responding this way is a CHOICE. It may seem like that is how you have to respond, but it isn’t! You respond this way because because you take it personally.
You are associating yourself with the binge. That the binge somehow signifies a weakness or a failure on your part. Like the action is a reflection of who you are. But that isn’t true! NONE of the above statements are true.
A binge is a signal that something is going on that needs to be looked at. It is NOT a reflection of who you are. It is a reflection of your thinking.
When you are in shame and judgment about your binge you can’t objectively look at and examine what was going on. If you can step into the role of the Compassionate Observer (we will talk about this in a future blog), you can look for patterns, investigate what you might have been thinking, and really see the binge for what it is. A response to a thought – or series of thoughts.
Here are some replacement responses to try – they might feel awkward at first, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong. It just means they aren’t familiar. The next time you have a binge – try some of these:
“What could this binge be signaling?”
“What was happening right before the decision to binge?”
“What need might I have been trying to meet?”
“Are there any patterns with this binge as compared to others?”
“Was I eating in response to intense emotion? If yes, what was it and why was I unwilling to feel it?”
These questions set you up for getting curious with your actions. You separate yourself from the behavior and get to work like an investigative journalist.
And like all good journalists, you get out your pen and paper, or your laptop. Start writing. Answer these questions. Focus on what was happening before, the urges that you heard to eat, and any still small voices that might have suggested there was a different way, a different choice to make.
Next, find someone safe you can talk to. Shame thrives in the darkness. Talking about our shameful moments with people who have earned the right to hear them is the best way to dissipate the shame and understand what the signal was trying to tell you. A trusted friend, family member, coach or therapist. Start to explore this from the perspective of curiosity rather than judgment and see what you discover.
If you don’t have anyone to confide in, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you. A binge is simply a reflection of your thinking, and the great news is that your thinking can change – especially when you become aware of it. Get curious, share, and discover how quickly the shame dissipates when you talk about it.