A friend of mine calls it the “Halloween hangover” – when you wake up November 1st feeling sick to your stomach – and sick to your heart – after gorging on sugar Halloween night. If you’re feeling badly, I want to offer compassion. It’s hard not to eat sugar on a holiday that celebrates it and seems to offer it everywhere. So if you ate a little too much sugar, please – be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself.
Not only does self judgment break our own hearts, but it keeps us from learning, growing and changing. That’s because when we shame ourselves for making a mistake, the brain moves into fight or flight. We get tight and tense and lose access to the higher regions of the brain where we can learn, grow and choose differently next time.
So being kind to yourself is not only merciful, but also the ground for creating new, healthy habits. If you’d like more practical tips, here are some ideas on how you can care for your body, mind and heart after a sugar binge:
How to care for your body:
- Don’t fast or skip meals the next day. I know it may feel counterintuitive to eat when you’re feeling bloated (or guilty about what you ate yesterday), but skipping meals only exacerbates the binge cycle and disrupts your blood sugar. Skipping meals is often a subtle form of self punishment or a way to “make up” for a binge.
- The day after a big sugar binge, eat light meals of cooling foods. Think lots of vegetables or broth bathed soups – foods that are alkaline to the body and easy to digest. One of my favorite light meals is sauteed vegetables and herbs in butter (I like onions, zucchini, garlic, carrots, green onions, basil, and ) over creamy millet. I use a 3 to 1 ratio of veggies to millet. I also like scrambled eggs in butter with lots and lots of veggies.
- Drink tea. If you feel bloated, peppermint tea is soothing to the digestive system and tastes good on cool fall days. My favorite is grandma’s tummy mint by Celestial Seasonings.
- Try taking some probiotics. In my experience, they help stabilize the digestive system and clean out the excess sugar.
- Eat other tastes. After eating so many sweet foods, you may feel soothed by eating foods from the other flavors – especially sour, pungent, or bitter foods.
- Eat fermented foods like plain kefir or fermented vegetables. They’re full of probiotics and are soothing to your digestive system.
How to care for your mind:
- Bingeing is *not* about will power! We don’t binge to hurt ourselves. Neither do we binge because we don’t know better – this is not about knowledge or even skill. We binge to meet an unmet need or because of deep emotions that are stirred up inside us. So uncovering your needs and honoring them, and feeling and mixing your emotions is how you heal the desire for sugar at the root. (This is what I teach in my sugar programs.) What need were you trying to meet when you ate sugar?
- If you’re still stumped, try using the free Binge Rescue worksheet to uncover more about what drives your bingeing. (It’s also helpful for preventing a binge in the first place.)
- We all have different “parts” inside – and their needs can be very different! Which part of you binged on sugar – was it your inner rebel, the part of you who says, “I want to eat whatever the heck I want?” Or your inner child, the part of you who wants to play and be little? Learn how caring for these parts can soothe the need to binge.
How to care for your heart:
- Be very, very kind to yourself. You are not your bingeing, what you eat, or how much you weigh.
- Drop the judgment. Please don’t add guilt onto the pain you already feel. In Eastern teachings, this is called adding the 2nd arrow. While, yes, the 1st arrow – the binge – hurts, we shoot ourselves with a 2nd arrow when we judge ourselves for it. This only compounds our pain. We can’t always stop the 1st arrow, but we can choose not to nail ourselves with the 2nd one…
- Forgive yourself. As painful as it may feel, a binge isn’t the end of the world – it’s just proof of our tender humanity. As Jack Kornfield put it, “Life is so hard, how can we be anything but kind?” If you’re caught in self blame, soften into your grief. Blame can be described as a lazy form of grief – when we blame ourselves, we aren’t feeling our more tender feelings of regret, sadness, or frustration. It’s by feeling these more tender feelings that the blame and judgment softens.
- Feel your grief. If I had to offer 1 tool that heals a sugar addiction, I would choose grief: it’s that powerful, from the brain level up. It sounds counterintuitive, but one of the primary ways we learn from our mistakes is by fully registering feelings of futility: that what we’re doing isn’t working. This is done through grief. In my experience, regret is a different animal than guilt or shame. Crying our tears – accepting what we can’t change (like the sugar binge that already happened, or the fact that our body is super sensitive to sugar) is what helps us move forward and change what we can. It’s how we stop banging our head against the same wall and feeling the same pain. I invite you to read more about this process in the post, how grieving heals your sugar addiction.
- Soothe the voice of despair - the voice that says, “I’ll never change, I’m a fat cow, or I’m a broken mess.” Despair is a form of fight or flight (it’s the “freeze” response.) It happens when the pain of life feels too much to bear – when this happens, our brains go to defend us. Ironically, one of the ways they defend us is by attacking ourselves (or others.) The key to softening self attack – and despair – is to open to our vulnerability. This can’t be forced, but we can invite it in ourselves. I share more about softening despair and moving out of self attack in The 30 Day Lift.
- Hold yourself tenderly. When the voice of your inner critic rears up – and you feel its tug at your insides, telling you all the things that are terrible about yourself – stop. Pause, slow down, and put your hand on your heart. Whisper softly to yourself, “Sh, sh, I love all of me.” (My friend Maureen taught me this phrase. It’s incredibly powerful and soothing.)
And here’s how to do all three – how to care for your body, mind and heart by putting your sweet, sweet self to rest. It’s the foundation, your base camp – both for growing self love and for soothing the need to binge.
For further reading:
- You may like this video post on how I befriended my little sugar binge devil.
- You can walk away from a binge
- Soften the impulse to eat sugar
- Why feeling your sugar cravings more, not less, softens them
Wanting more hands on help?
- You may enjoy reading this article on how to recover from a food binge.
- No one is perfect. That includes me. Here are 3 things I learned when I went back to eating sugar.
- Go here to download the first few chapters of my book, Overcoming Sugar Addiction. It’s been called “the best sugar book out there” as it explains the how of giving up sugar. You can also buy it on amazon here.
If you’d like a gentle, compassionate program for the first 30 days on a low or no sugar diet, The 30 Day Lift is for you. The 30 Day Lift is intentionally different than any other sugar detox program, as it focuses on healing the emotional and psychological roots of sugar addiction, drawing from neuroscience, self compassion, and developmental psychology.
This is what helps us outgrow a sugar habit (versus trying to “be good” or control our habits with will power, which doesn’t work.) Right now, I’m leading a group through the 30 Day Lift with the next online class session Wednesday November 6th. Learn more here.