You’re annoyed with yourself. Really annoyed. It was meant to be one small piece of chocolate to relieve a hectic day. Yet it turned into a rather large slab of the stuff; then 3 biscuits; and somehow the tub of ice cream also came out. Damn that Ben & Jerry’s…
Yes I’m talking about the almighty sugar binge.
For me, binges weren’t usually the ice cream type. It was usually a low fat fruity yoghurt, 2 muesli bars, a few handfuls of granola and then I’d pull out the biscuits, chocolate or cake.
I used to start off ‘better’ and then progressively get worse as I got increasingly frustrated with myself. It was like more sugary unhealthy foods were meant to more appropriately sooth my increasing rate of self-bashing and frustration for eating to unnecessary excess.
Laura those three handfuls of granola were ridiculous, you need to stop this. Ok well let’s just eat that piece of cake to feel better and then that will be it.
Yeah flipping right!
Whatever the food of your choice, the outcome is the same. You feel frustrated, annoyed, shameful, and possibly a bit sick. Too full, uncomfortable, embarrassed, and desperate.
You might also have even eaten something that wasn’t yours and be aware you need to go and replace it before they notice (I did this often because I usually didn’t stock biscuits but my flatmate did!).
All of this I describe is just the emotional downside of it all. Heck knows what that rather large concoction of sugar is doing physically inside your body.
So pain aside, what can you actually do? Like right now.
I seriously hope you’re still reading because I’ve got 7 practical and mindset shift steps to sort you out immediately. Read on my sugar guzzling friend and come out a new person…
1. Balance your blood sugar
Ok let’s start super practical. You’re possibly on a sugar high with an impending crash due over the next two hours. Your temptation might be that you deserve to starve yourself for 12 hours to try and balance out the calories, but this is going to take you right down the wrong path – both physically and emotionally.
Plan to steady your blood sugar with a healthy protein based snack or a full meal about 2-3 hours afterwards. It will help reduce the crash and steady you out again.
I know when I ate a stupidly sickly cupcake once on an empty stomach once, I felt so jittery for the hours afterwards I couldn’t wait to eat a proper meal to steady me out again. I wasn’t that hungry but I could tell my blood sugar was out of whack. Listen to your own body and respond accordingly.
2. Be aware of all sources of fructose and isolated refined carbohydrates over the next 48hours
Without getting overly restrictive (because this feeds binge behaviour), just be aware of all the sweetness passing your lips afterwards (e.g. sugar, dried fruit, juice, sugar substitutes etc.) and avoid eating what I call isolated refined carbohydrates e.g. a plain rice cake or white bread roll on it’s own.
The fructose will drive cravings more through your palate and increase your sweet preference whilst the refined carbohydrates will drive cravings through blood sugar unsteadiness. These two things are a little different in terms of what’s going on in your body, but keep an eye on both for a few days after to reduce the chance of a binge round two.
3. Green yourself up
When you eat a lot of sugar, your body needs to process it. To do this, it uses up a range of vitamins and minerals that you get from the rest of your healthy (or not so healthy) diet. Thus after eating sugar, there’s a strong a case for you to get coloured goodness (especially of the green kind) back into your body to replenish all that’s being used up.
This is a prime time to whip out that spirulina powder, add extra greens to your dinner or whack some extra spinach in your smoothie. Nourish and soothe. Your body can cope with the sugar onslaught but it will thank you more if you eat well to aid rather than starve yourself.
4. Talk out loud
Ok nutrition practicalities aside (the easier bit), let’s move on to the more serious matter of making yourself feel better in the moment.
Ever spoken out loud to yourself? It’s rather fun, try this one first:
‘I just ate [list it ALL] and do you know what, it’s OK!! HA!’
Then notice any self judgment you hear yourself e.g. You are not a good role model for your kids when you eat like this or you deserve to be overweight acting like this.
Mine at points has been…You can’t write a blog about sugar habits when you eat this much sugar!!
‘I notice you self judgment. Thank you but I am choosing to like myself today no matter what I decide to eat’
If you feel a bit crazy talking to yourself, then confined in someone close who knows you well and will accept whatever happens with loving words and a realistic perspective.
This is part of my role as a coach helping people with sugar, but because I’ve got pretty good at it, friends now tend to spill their sugar sins on the fly. I’ve become a magnet for sugar confessions let me tell you.
Laura, today I ate three (medium sized) Lindt bunny’s in a row. Then I had some chocolate log, a coke and 5 bananas. That’s ok right?!!
I actually feel blessed that instead of people feeling scared of telling me they ate loads of sugar (which used to happen I suspect), they feel comfortable, accepted and normalised by telling me.
Of course, there’s likely action to take to avoid this becoming regular behaviour, but in that moment when it’s done, my primary goal is to make that person feel OK.
5. Add some other sweetness to your life
It’s often the case that overeating sugar is symptom of something else going on or just a lack of other sweetness in our lives (fun, self care, connection).
In the hours after your binge, commit to take one action to add something in over the next few days. Even if it’s just a hug, some meaningful human interaction, some love, laughing, dancing or even a flirt!
Write it down and make it happen.
6. Understand and consider the term ‘validated learning’
Now this is clever. I’m going to take a term from a business book a read a few years ago and let you use it for post binge mindset healing.
The term ‘validated learning’ comes from The Lean Start Up and is defined as process in which one tries something and can clearly quantify its effect afterwards e.g. in business you learn through testing the sales of your drink that using the phrase ‘sugar-free’ on your product sells 100 more units of it a week than when you didn’t use it (like what I did there?).
Anyway, back to your sugar binge. Use this experience as one of your ‘tests’ and validate your learning if you can. For example, you could say ‘when I’ve had less than 7 hours sleep and I skip breakfast, I binge on 3x as much sugar in the evening as when I’ve had enough sleep and eaten breakfast.’
Or ‘when I say I can have only 1 biscuit, I eat 3 and feel annoyed but when I allow myself 2, I actually only eat two and feel better about myself.’
Both of these are valuable learning.
Progress can be measured in the amount of ‘validated learning’ or lessons instead of just measuring the reduced amount of sugar grams you eat over the week. So effectively this binge can equal more progress in your lower sugar journey because you’ve learnt something valuable than if it hadn’t happened.
You just need to make sure you acknowledge the learning, ideally record it and take logical action on it i.e. don’t keep doing the same thing again.
7. Remind yourself you’re human and normal
Sugar is addictive. It’s middle name is binge. If you didn’t overindulge in it ever, you’d probably be less normal that you are right now for going a bit over the top.
Accept that you’re human, this is temporary and it will pass. You can choose how you feel in this moment. Sugar doesn’t need to be making you feel bad all the time and your body will cope.
I really hope this helps you with whatever you were feeling before you read this and I’d encourage you to print it out for yourself in times of need but also share it with others who may find it helpful.
Any other tips or things you do that you want to share? Did you relate to any of this?