Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you spent time with loved ones today and savored your time off work to be with your family, make memories, and give thanks for all your blessings.

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house for the second time ever this afternoon. This first time was three years ago. George and I wanted to make everything ourselves from scratch. It turned out so great… perfectly timed preparation of delicious food just as our baby went down for nap so we could all enjoy dinner. We even joked that it was so perfect that it should be our first and last Thanksgiving we host!

This year, we were a lot less ambitious. We made the turkey, rolls, and salad, but we purchased a few sides and delegated everything else. A small part of me felt like I failed for not doing it all, but you know what?! I was SO much less stressed and I could actually enjoy this day with family!

I’m always so excited for Thanksgiving dinner and enjoying the company of family, but I dreading the post-Thanksgiving binge tummy ache. We tried to limit the menu to avoid this, but with all the turkey, stuffing, rolls, and pie, it’s easy to overdo it until it becomes an all-out binge.

What is a Binge?

A binge is overeating in a short period of time. It’s overindulging way past the point of being satisfied, even full, often leading to physical discomfort and feelings of regret.

Unlike a planned “cheat meal” that’s used as a reward to sticking to a healthy eating plan, a binge is usually unintentional. It’s periodic and might happen while on a cruise with an all-you-can-eat buffet or during food-centered holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

A consistent pattern of binging may be a sign of a more serious eating disorder that requires medical attention.

What to Do After a Binge

1. Don’t weigh yourself

It’s tempting to see just how much that food baby weighs, but seeing an inflated number on the scale can be discouraging and make you feel like you lost all of your progress.

2. Forgive yourself

You might have feelings of shame and regret, but what’s done is done. You can’t undo it, so forgive yourself, move on, and don’t let one slip up turn into a downhill slide. One binge will not undo your diet or all your hard work in the gym. Reflect on how you’re feeling after the binge to gain insights on the experience to prevent binging again in the future.

3. Get moving

Resist the urge to collapse onto the couch! A walk around the neighborhood can increase blood flow to the digestive tract to speed up digestion and also clear excess glucose out of the bloodstream. Light yoga and some twisting poses can also aid in digestion. Now isn’t the time to do anything too intense or that food might not stay down! Wait until the next day when you’re fully digested to run or lift weights; use that excess glycogen to your advantage to fuel a more intense workout.

4. Drink water or tea. Avoid alcohol.

Hydrating keeps things moving along in the digestive tract and also prevents the post-binge bloat. Ginger and peppermint tea can alleviate the over-stuffed feeling. Avoid alcohol which actually slows down digestion and can prolong the discomfort (not to mention even more empty calories on top of what was consumed during the binge).

5. Get back to healthy eating ASAP

Plan your next healthy meal. Stick with lean proteins and fibrous fruits and vegetables to improve the efficiency of digestion, and avoid high-fat foods that can slow down digestion. A binge spikes your insulin, which is followed by a drop in blood sugar so you may wake up extra hungry the next day.

This Spicy Cabbage Soup the perfect meal to get in lots of veggies without weighing you down.

6. Implement prevention strategies

Keep tempting foods out of the house. If you plan to indulge, pre-portion foods so you enjoy them without the guilt of accidental overeating. When you take a bite of a treat, chew it slowly to savor the taste. Sometimes the first three bites taste the best when you eat mindfully and you may be satisfied without eating an entire slice of cake. Practice mindful eating to differentiate between true physical hunger and emotional hunger.

Before a Binge

If you anticipate a binge, as is more common around the holidays, try some preemptive strategies to counteract the effects of massive overeating.

1. Do an intense resistance workout

The food you eat is either used by muscles or stored as fat, which is referred to as nutrient partitioning. Doing a heavy resistance workout depletes glycogen stores in the muscles, so when high-calorie and high-carbohydrate foods are eaten in the post-workout period, the nutrients are preferentially partitioned into muscle to replace glycogen stores and improve muscle recovery. Because leg muscles are the largest muscles in the body, a heavy leg workout will have the greatest effect on carbohydrate tolerance and nutrient partitioning.

2. “Second meal effect”

By eating a small meal full of fiber and protein a few hours before the binge, your body will have a higher tolerance for carbs. This pre-meal will also ensure you’re not ravenous, decreasing the chances you’ll go back for seconds (…or thirds or fourths) of indulgent, high-calorie foods.

3. Water, water, water!

When you’re well-hydrated, you’ll have a greater feeling of fullness and be less likely to overeat. Hydration will also prep your digestive tract for the pile of food that’s about to be dumped on it to keep digestion moving along.