Forgive and Forget: Three Steps for Moving On After a Binge

By Katie, 5:45 am

Sometimes it just happens. Maybe I’m exhausted after a long, stressful day at work. Maybe I just received some terribly upsetting news about a close friend or family member. Perhaps I just spent hours fighting off some anxiety about an upcoming social event. But for whatever reason, sometimes it just…happens.

I bolt. I emotionally check out for the evening, using a massive bowl of ice cream or cereal (or both!) to facilitate the zoning out process. I feel better for about 5 whole minutes, after which I am overrun with guilt about the whole thing.

Recently a reader and I were chatting through e-mail about how to handle the whole post-binge-guilt thing. This reader had just come off an overeating episode and was really struggling to just accept what happened and move on. She was getting so caught up in her past stumbles that it was inhibiting her ability to move forward.

She asked if I had any advice, and I told her I thought the old adage “forgive and forget” might be useful here. Except instead of forgiving someone else, in this case we need to forgive ourselves.


Forgive and Forget: Three Steps for Moving On After a Binge

Step 1: Recognize that I overate for a reason.

Each and every time I turn to the ice cream bowl, it is for a legitimate reason. I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t providing me with something – most often short-term comfort, a way to check out. No, using food as an emotional relase is not a healthy coping strategy, but it’s still a coping strategy. It’s giving me the break or release I’m looking for.

I find that it’s easier to forgive myself when I recognize that it wasn’t simply a lapse in will-power or resolve; it was a way (albeit an ineffective one) of comforting myself.

Step 2: Explore the reason.

So I recognize that I overate for a reason, but sometimes in the moment I have no idea what that reason is. While I usually don’t try to dissect the situation in the immediate aftermath – when my judgment is obviously still a little cloudy – once the storm has settled I do take some time to reflect. I question what I was feeling in the minutes, hours, or even days before it happened. What exactly was the trigger?

Step 3: Make a plan.

I am totally a Type-A personality, and here’s where it really shows. I find that I am only able to move on once I’ve established a new course of action for the next time a similar situation rolls around. I think through how I can take better care of myself, how I will sit through the difficult emotions instead of running away from them, and who I will reach out to for support.

Granted, I’m not always successful with following through on this plan when the situation arises, but the very act of outlining a strategy gives me the confidence to forget the missteps of the past and press forward on my journey toward well-being.

Because in the end, there’s really no reason not to forgive and forget. The guilt doesn’t get me anywhere except deeper into my own mess. But when I forgive myself for struggling and then refuse to dwell on the episode, I’m able to pull myself back up, dust off my knees, and pick up right where I left off.

Do you ever struggle with post-overeating-guilt? How are you able to forgive and forget?

**This post stemmed directly from a reader’s question. If you have a question you’d like me to address here on HWS, feel free to e-mail me at and I will do my best!

**Stop back tomorrow for a super fun Giveaway! (I am very excited about this one!) :-D

42 Responses to “Forgive and Forget: Three Steps for Moving On After a Binge”

  1. Candice says:

    Overeating and mindless eating are my biggest hurdles. I try to keep a list of things in my mind that I can do instead of turning to food for comfort. For example, take a bath, go for a walk, clean, etc. Things where food doesn’t fit into the equation. It’s hard, but I’m making progress and I actually eat a lot more mindfully than I used to.

  2. This is really timely for me. I binged on some cookies last weekend, and just totally emotionally checked out of the situation– before I knew it, I had eaten about 8 cookies!I was so mad at myself, but I didn’t stop to think WHY I had done it. These are great steps for figuring out why the binge happened, and then moving ON!

  3. This lady wrote a bit about emotional eating yesterday I think.

    • Katie says:

      Thank you for sharing this! I’m actually not familiar with this blog but am excited to check it out!

  4. Am I crazy or is it good that this actually happens once in a while? The urge still creeps up on me on occasion, but now that my mind is in such a different place from where it used to be, I have trouble beating myself up a whole lot for it. It makes me feel bad, but only until I say to myself, “Alright…enough. You know better.” And then, like you said, I try to figure out and deal with the real problem. I don’t like to give my tendency to binge more power than it deserves by dwelling on it…and I think it just might help me sometimes by making me realize there is something else going on.

    Just a note: I really have to be careful if I’m especially stressed out on my drive to work. After I drop the baby off, I have an hour-long commute, and it’s the perfect opportunity to binge. I’ve done it so many times…(had a commute in college too. The wrappers in my car weren’t pretty.)

    • Katie says:

      I hear ya! My car has been and can be a very scary place. How crazy is it that we were struggling with many of the same issues in college but never knew it??? If only I had had the confidence then to be more open, we could have helped each other! But better late than never. :)

      • Better late than never is right. I’m not really sure if I would have even known what was up with me then, though…I kind of just though I was fat and had no will power. :(

  5. Tina says:

    This is creepy! Today’s 30 DSLR topic is forgiving ourselves. We are on the same page so often. I even almost used the same image. LOL

  6. Katie I totally agree that we need to forgive ourselves in these situations. I actually first read about that concept in the book The Four Day Win by Martha Beck — have you heard of it? She has a lot of useful information in that book about stopping overeating/binging. She has exercises to help you start to look at yourself from outside your body — that way you can see yourself as a hurting human being who needs forgiveness and compassion. It was really powerful to read!

    • Katie says:

      I’ve never read that book, but I have a ton of respect for Martha Beck. I will definitely look into The Four Day Win – thank you for the suggestion! :)

  7. back when i did the most important step for me was the forgiving piece. if i overeat now i don’t really feel guilty, more just frustrated with myself for not paying attention to how i felt during eating and recognizing when to stop. but i never feel guilty anymore!

  8. Sarah says:

    Most of the time now, I don’t feel guilty anymore. I mostly try to stay away from post-binge guilt because it’s what keeps in locked in a binging cycle: I feel low, so I eat; I eat, so I feel low. I did that for YEARS. Now, most of the time I just try to have a post-binge plan, which mostly involves moving my body a little, eating healthy, and maybe waiting a little longer to eat until my stomach empties out a bit.

  9. Josie says:

    i struggle with that guilt after almost every binge. i really like the point you made about how a binge can be overwhelmingly about seeking comfort. i tend to completely focus on my “lapse of willpower” and ignore the fact that i binged because i was seeking comfort- the very root of the problem.

  10. Holly says:

    I think making a plan is KEY. For me, it’s essential to do this for the day immediately following a binge or a night or eating too much, because it can easily turn into a 3-4 day binge if I don’t plan ahead. The next day, i always make a plan to hit the gym – not for punishment, but it makes me feel GOOD. And it’s something positive I can do for my body. I also try to have healthy, pure food available at all times, so I’m not tempted by comfort food. I love what you said about guilt not getting you anywhere – so very true.

    • amanda says:

      Holly I agree with you on doing things that make you feel good for yourself after a binge. I was reading in one of Geneen Roth’s book about post binging. We need to make sure to nourish our bodies and be gentle with them. Sort like when you comfort a crying child. You don’t yell at them and say you are horrible. No, you try to calm them down and give them the help they need.

      • Katie says:

        EXACTLY! I completely agree with both of you. I wasted so much time punishing myself for overeating. Now I finally realize that what my body really needs is to be nourished and taken care of.

  11. Lauren says:

    Your posts are always so moving. Thank you for always being so honest and helpful. Love you Katie!

  12. Great post – and although I’m trying to let go of the guilt, your three step process makes a lot of sense on HOW to figure out how to avoid it in the future.

    Thanks for your take on it! :)

  13. I struggle with this too often. I hate the guilt or regret I have after. That’s why having a plan or schedule with my eating always helps.

  14. Sometimes I still struggle w/ the guilt after a binge. However, I’ve come so far. It used to just spiral out of control. Like, one guilty binge would leave to “SCREW IT!” Know what I mean?

    • Katie says:

      I totally know what you mean. I have lived by the “screw it!” mindset for far too long!

  15. amanda says:

    I totally struggle with the after binge. This weekend was the first time I was able to get over the guilty hump. It was basically because I started to look at is more of a gray issue and not just black and white. Meaning I didn’t say to myself, well you f**ked up and now you will pay (with exercise, guilt, low blow to self esteem, etc). Nope, I said…okay well I binged and it wasn’t the worse one but it wasn’t best one (not that a binge can be a best one lol). I know why I did it and I am working on ways to solve the issue when it comes up again. Right now my binges have been fueled by being lonely. My hubby is in Afghanistan and I have been missing him a lot on the weekends when we use to do stuff together.

    • Loneliness can be such a huge trigger. It just makes you want to find comfort in something, and food can be the most easily accessed. I hope your husband is able to come home soon!

  16. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me– I’ve been struggling with intense cravings for M&Ms for the past few days…and this is actually the first time I’ve been able to not give into those cravings. In the past, I would have bought a large bag of candy and eaten the whole thing, and then felt totally dejected, derailed and worthless: like I was out of control.
    This time,however, I was able to think rationally about my cravings and make a conscious effort to eat healthy food instead. I mean, I REALLY want M&Ms, but I know that eating them will not give me the feeling that I think they will in the long run. I know that staying on track and not indulging today will make me feel so much better about myself tomorrow. I’ll feel strong, and in control– like I can make healthy choices and not sabotage myself.

    Thanks so much for this post…I think a lot of women feel guilt over feeling guilt associated with overeating. It’s nice to know that other people have similar experiences when it comes to emotional eating

  17. [...] a great post about feelings associated with overeating, check out Katie’s post on Health For the Whole Self. Reading her post this morning partially inspired me to write about what I’m feeling right [...]

  18. Sarah says:

    Ahh I could have used this post Monday morning. I love your steps :) Journaling helps me explore those reasons behind the binge because once the temporary relief is gone those feelings that drove you to binge are still there. And now you feel guilty because you binged! Next time I binge or do something I feel that I need to forgive myself for, I’m going to remember these steps. Thanks Katie!!

  19. I have definitely been working with this when I overeat. it’s hard to sit there, having done the deed and try to figure out why i’ve done it, especially the emotions behind it. because those are usually the ones you’re trying to hid from.

  20. McKella says:

    I almost always feel guilty for overeating, and though my husband says I don’t eat more than a normal person, I feel like I overeat quite a bit, because I rarely feel hungry and I eat anyway. I’m a full-time nanny for six kids plus I help take care of the house, cars and animals plus dealing with my husband’s and my own business, so I’m very busy and sometimes I feel eating is the only break I get, and I often eat while doing something else and there’s always a million distractions and I keep eating because I’m not satisfied. It’s really frustrating.

  21. Jessica says:

    of all of the things that i have struggled with – guilt is my worst enemy. i have carried guilt all of my life, it is a very powerful thing. on the other hand…it makes it that much more awesome feeling when there are times when you can kick it’s awful, no good, butt to the curb!

  22. Also being a Type A personality, I can really appreciate your steps. I think it would make someone in that situation feel a bit more in control – which is something that can feel utterly lost in the midst of emotional eating. When I eat in a way that doesn’t make me feel happy or healthy, I try to remember that my body is much smarter than I think it is. It doesn’t allow one day of less than stellar choices impact my entire well-being. Health is about a gamut of choices and I try to focus on making the next ones better.

  23. Hope says:

    Katie, this is a great post! Now if I could only learn to actually make a plan after overeating. I always forgive, forget and don’t dwell on it, but sometimes I feel like I take my moments of overeating *too* lightly. You know what I mean?

    However, I still try to make good choices, even though I definitely have my moments of weakness. :)

  24. Katie says:

    Oh-ho, I think this rings true for so many of us. Thanks for posting about it.

  25. Hayley says:

    I can so relate to this post…I don’t think I’m quite as bad about beating myself up after a binge, primarily because I know it gets me nowhere (it’s taken years for me to even get to this point and I’m not totally self-bashing-free). I subscribe to the Normal Eating website/forum and I remember the author saying something one time about remembering that as individuals WE are not bad or wrong or horrible…it’s the BEHAVIOR that is bad not ourselves. Sometimes this helps to remind myself of this. I think what upsets me after a binge is that I feel like I KNOW when a binge is coming on, I KNOW what I can do to avoid it, I KNOW that what I need is not food and that food won’t satisfy my true need, but I’ll still use it to numb out or eat for reasons other than hunger. When I feel those disgustingly full, “Why did I do that AGAIN!?” feelings creep up that’s when I tend to get annoyed with myself. It’s hard not to feel that way, but I’ll try to switch my thinking up to, “What can I do next time I’m in this situation?”

    Great post as always Katie! i love reading all the comments, too. SO good to know I’m not alone…

  26. As usual, your timing astounds me. ;) Great post and such a good reminder that you need to take care of yourself rather than punish after a binge. There’s obviously a reason behind it, and while figuring it out can be tough sometimes, the only thing to do is love yourself and plan out it is you can do that’s beneficial rather than harmful. Thank you so much for your amazing posts!

    • Katie says:

      Thank YOU for reading and responding to them! That’s what makes it all worthwhile! :)

  27. [...] Kate shares on a topic that so many women struggle with – moving on after a binge. [...]

  28. such a great post and so to the point. it is so easy to get caught up in just the act itself without recognizing where it came from, and without that, it won’t ever stop. i am trying to have a list of things to do besides eat (if i am not hungry)… journal, go for a walk, think about what i am feeling and how i am reacting, and then move on from there.

  29. nina says:

    I totally believe in acceptance and forgiveness like you mentioned in your post. When I started to recover from my eating disorder, I would treat myself like a child, even talking to myself like “what do you feel like eating baby”. And if I happened to eat what I thought was “too much” – I would talk to myself just like I would a child, saying “oh how cute baby, you were hungry and tired, you can still have whatever you want today”.
    I know this seems weird – but it continues to work!!

    • Katie says:

      I don’t think it seems weird at all! In fact, I was just reading a post today on a blog called ED Bites in which she talks about learning to be her own parent. Very interesting stuff!

      • nina says:

        YES! I read that post too. It truly worked for me in recovering from the eating disorder. The challenge is to apply it to all areas of my life!
        PS I just found your blog and love it!

        • Katie says:

          YAY! It seems like we have very similar experiences and outlooks about this kind of stuff.

  30. Angie says:

    How very helpful! I just applied this! Progress!!

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