Can you undo the damage of a weekend food binge? - Virtua Article

Can You Undo the Damage of a Weekend Food Binge?

By Katalin Russek, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian—Virtua Nutrition

You just returned from a fun-filled weekend reunion with close friends. But along with the laughs and good times, you indulged in wine, sweet treats and indulgent meals. Now that you’re back home, you may feel lousy—physically and emotionally.

Don’t be too hard on yourself—everyone slips up now and then. The trick is to ensure that these slip-ups are a seldom occurrence and not your regular routine.

You can recover from an unhealthy food binge, but you’ll have to do some work to get your eating back on track. With these tips, you’ll start feeling better pretty quickly.

The effects of unhealthy eating

If you indulged in a few days of eating unhealthy foods, you’re probably feeling certain signs of discomfort, including:

Constipation: Foods high in fat and carbohydrates and low in dietary fiber may lead to constipation (difficulty with bowel movements). The biggest culprits are cheese, red meats and processed foods like cookies and crackers that have lots of fat and little to no fiber.

Bloating: Cheese, soups, sauces and processed foods like potato chips and salad dressings are some foods that are notoriously high in salt. But, even bread can be high in sodium. These salty foods can make you retain water, leading to a bloated feeling. Higher-fat foods may also take longer to digest and contribute to bloating as well.

Emotional effects: When you binge on unhealthy foods, it’s normal to feel as though you’ve done something wrong. You may feel guilty and disappointed with yourself. Or, you might have problems concentrating and sleeping due to the physical discomfort.

How do you overcome the effects of binge eating unhealthy foods?

While you may think you should skip a meal or two, that’s actually the worst thing you can do. You need to return to regular healthy eating as soon as possible. Try to aim for healthy foods that include:

  • Whole grains
  • Varied fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Yogurt or low-fat dairy
  • Protein such as lean meat, poultry, fish and nuts
  • At least 6-8 glasses of water a day

You’ll find that a healthy eating plan can also help you in a social setting. There, you may be faced with sugary, salty, and high-fat options. 

Don’t arrive starving or think: “I’ll skip breakfast/lunch so I can eat more later.” Eat your regular healthy meals, then go to the party and eat the quantity you would normally eat. But, be mindful of what you’re eating—do it slowly and enjoy every bite.

Will extra workouts burn the excess calories? 

Some research shows that regular exercise during a period of overeating could protect people from negative metabolism changes. Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training are recommended, especially for weight loss and maintenance. Just be careful not to overdo a workout thinking it will help you burn the excess calories you consumed. 

Updated February 15, 2017

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