Overeating is a problem almost everyone trying to lose weight faces at one point or another, and an unexpected binge can feel incredibly frustrating.
Even worse, it can cause your motivation and morale to tank, sometimes leading to an endless cycle that can completely derail your progress.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Incorporating a few healthy habits into your routine can help you persevere.
Here are 10 tips to get back on track after an unplanned binge.
Going for a walk right after you’ve overeaten can help you clear your mind and will make your body feel better, too.
It can also help burn some of the extra calories that you might have consumed during a binge.
One small study showed that obese women who walked 50–70 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks lost 1.5% of their body fat, including a significant amount of belly fat (2).
Walking can also improve your mood and reduce some of the negative feelings that may trigger emotional eating.
In fact, physical activity can stimulate the release of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, which can help protect against conditions like depression and anxiety (3).
Summary Walking is one easy way to feel better after a binge. It can help increase stomach emptying after eating, reduce body fat and improve your mood to help get you back on track.
Getting enough sleep after an episode of overeating is a good way to fight off cravings and get the next day off on the right foot.
Studies have found that a lack of sleep may be associated with an increased appetite. In particular, sleep deprivation may affect levels of ghrelin and leptin, two important hormones involved in hunger and appetite regulation.
Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates hunger in the brain, while leptin is a hormone released from fat cells that signals fullness and suppresses hunger (6).
One study of 1,024 people found that sleeping fewer than eight hours per night was associated with a higher body weight. Short sleep duration was also linked to higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin (7).
Another small study found that men who slept just four hours per night consumed 22% more calories the next day than those who slept a full eight hours (8).
Although sleep requirements can vary widely between individuals, health experts generally recommend getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
After an unplanned binge, try going to bed a little earlier than usual to ensure you’re able to fit in a full night of sleep and get a fresh start the next day.
Summary Sleep deprivation has been associated with increased food intake. It may also alter levels of hormones that influence hunger. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
While it may be tempting to skimp on breakfast or lunch the day after overeating, starting your day with a healthy meal can actually help you get back on track.
Not only does it allow you to start fresh after getting a good night’s sleep, but it can also help you get right back into your routine and make healthier choices throughout the day.
What you eat for your first meal of the day is also important.
For example, one study found that eating a high-protein breakfast decreased levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, more effectively than eating a high-carb breakfast (11).
Another study in 48 people showed that eating oatmeal, a food high in both protein and fiber, increased feelings of fullness and improved appetite control more than a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal (12).
Ideally, try to pick a meal that’s high in both protein and fiber to get your day off to a healthy start. You can easily pair fiber-rich fruits, veggies, legumes or whole grains with a good source of protein for a well-rounded and nutritious meal.
Summary Eating a healthy meal can help you start your day off right, making it less likely you’ll binge later in the day. Consuming high-protein, high-fiber foods may be especially effective at keeping your appetite under control.
Not only is drinking enough water crucial to overall health — it’s also key to maximizing weight loss and keeping your appetite under control.
After an episode of overeating, it’s especially important to make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day.
A study of 24 older adults found when people drank 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before a meal, the number of calories they consumed during the meal dropped by 13%, compared to a control group (13).
Similarly, another small study showed that increasing daily water intake by 17 ounces, combined with a low-calorie diet, increased weight loss by 44% compared to a low-calorie diet alone (14).
Upping your water intake may also help temporarily increase metabolism to burn off extra calories.
One study found that drinking 17 ounces of water increased people’s resting energy expenditure by about 30% after 30–40 minutes (15).
How much water you should drink per day can depend on a number of factors. However, the easiest way to meet your hydration needs is to listen to your body and drink when you feel thirsty.
Summary Drinking more water can help you lose weight, reduce your calorie intake and temporarily increase your resting energy expenditure.
Practicing yoga may also promote healthy eating habits, which can reduce the risk of overeating.
One small study looked at the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment for binge eating disorder and found that it helped reduce binge eating and even led to reductions in body mass index (18).
Not only that, but yoga can have a positive effect on your mood to help prevent emotional eating and keep you feeling motivated after an unplanned binge.
A study of 131 people found that practicing yoga for 10 weeks helped improve mental health as well as reduce stress and anxiety (21).
While practicing yoga right after overeating can definitely be helpful, adding it to your weekly regimen may be even more beneficial over the long term.
To get started, try taking a yoga class at your local gym or yoga studio. There are also plenty of online videos and other resources you can use to try yoga at home.
Summary Yoga can help promote healthy eating habits and may help prevent emotional eating by reducing stress, depression and anxiety.
Vegetables are rich in many of the beneficial nutrients your body needs, including a range of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Loading up on veggies post-binge is another effective strategy to help prevent overeating.
Vegetables are high in fiber, which moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, helping promote feelings of fullness (22).
Studies show that bumping up your fiber intake can help you regulate your weight by influencing you to eat less.
One review found that when people increased their fiber intake by 14 grams daily, they consumed 10% fewer calories on average and lost significantly more weight (23).
Another study showed that people who ate more vegetables lost more weight and felt less hungry compared to a control group (24).
A good rule of thumb is to fill at least half your plate with veggies at each meal.
You can also try incorporating more veggies into your snacks to cut cravings and reduce the risk of overeating. Carrots with hummus, roasted chickpeas and baked kale chips all make delicious, nutritious snack options.
Summary Get back on track after a binge by filling up on vegetables. They’re high in fiber and may help promote weight loss and feelings of fullness.
After a big binge, planning out what you’re going to eat for dinner may be the last thing you want to think about.
However, skipping meals may actually slow your progress and enhance cravings, increasing the likelihood of another binge.
According to one study in 14 healthy women, eating three meals per day instead of two helped sustain feelings of fullness over the course of the day and even increased fat burning (25).
Another study of 15 people compared the effects of eating a single meal per day or spreading the same number of calories over three meals.
Not only did eating one meal per day increase levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, but it also had other adverse effects on health, including higher fasting blood sugar and delayed insulin response (26).
Whether you’re used to eating three meals a day or a larger number of smaller meals, the best thing you can do after binging is get back to your normal routine and stick with what works best for you.
Summary Skipping meals may increase hunger and appetite, leading to a higher risk of overeating. Adhering to a regular eating pattern may be associated with less binge eating.
Setting a regular exercise regimen can come with a multitude of health benefits, but it may be especially useful after an episode of unplanned binging.
One study in 84 obese women found that a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exercise was more effective at reducing binge eating frequency than CBT alone (27).
Another small study in people with binge eating disorder reported that six months of regular exercise stopped binge eating altogether in 81% of participants (28).
Exercise may also regulate your appetite to help keep your food intake in check and prevent overeating.
Try hitting up the gym shortly after a binge to stay motivated and get back on track.
Even better, make exercise a regular part of your routine. Try finding a type of physical activity that you actually enjoy.
Summary Exercising after a binge can help you get back on track. It may influence hormones that affect hunger and can improve your mood. Develop a regular exercise routine to help prevent yourself from binge eating in the future.
Mindful eating is the practice of paying close attention to the way you feel while you eat, instead of just mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth.
It’s all about recognizing how you feel while eating and enjoying the taste, texture and smell of your foods.
One review of 14 studies showed that practicing mindfulness effectively reduced incidences of both binge eating and emotional eating (31).
Another small study found that when women with binge eating problems were given combined mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy, they experienced improved eating behaviors and increased self-awareness (32).
To start practicing mindful eating, minimize external distractions and try eating and enjoying your food slowly. Learn to recognize when you’re feeling full to know when it may be time to stop eating.
Summary Try eating mindfully to help curb your binge eating. Mindful eating has been shown to reduce binge eating and emotional eating. It may also help reduce food intake later in the day.
Boosting your intake of protein-rich foods can have a powerful effect on regulating your hunger signals, appetite and feelings of fullness.
In fact, a study of 19 people showed that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% reduced daily calorie intake by 441 calories on average, and also led to significant decreases in body weight and fat mass (34).
Protein may also impact levels of hormones like ghrelin that can influence hunger. In fact, one study found that eating a high-protein meal reduced levels of ghrelin more effectively than eating a high-carb meal (11).
Ideally, you should make sure you’re fitting a good source of protein into each meal and eating high-protein snacks throughout the day.
Some examples of protein-rich foods include meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds and dairy products.
Summary Increasing your protein intake can influence certain hunger hormones to promote feelings of fullness and reduce calorie intake.
Slipping up and binge eating while you’re on a diet can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to slow your progress or hinder your weight loss.
Instead, let go of the guilt, forgive yourself and don’t let it impact your motivation.
The simple tips above will help you get back on track and continue toward your goals.