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You just spent a weekend eating and drinking far more than usual. The result? Your stomach aches and you're full of food and regret. Reboot your system with this advice from registered dietitian Beth Czerwony.

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How To Reset After Overeating

Podcast Transcript

John Horton: Hello. Welcome to the Health Essentials Podcast. I'm John Horton, your host and guide on this journey to find ways to live a little healthier. Each week, I'll be joining you with one of our many experts here at Cleveland Clinic to share tips that can help you feel your best. As we dive into today's topic, though, let me set the stage with a story.

I recently moved, an ordeal that comes with more stress than boxes, which says a lot. So how did I cope during moving week? Well, I ate, and I ate a lot. Basically, I felt terrible. Odds are, you've been here, too. But there are things that you can do to reboot your system and little tips, and luckily, our good friend, Beth Czerwony, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic, is back with us on the podcast to chat about it.

Beth, welcome back. Thanks for joining us again.

Beth Czerwony: Yeah, thanks for having me.

John Horton: Today, we're talking about kind of if you overdo it when you hit the kitchen. Let's start with just like how common of a problem or an issue is this for people?

Beth Czerwony: I mean, it can be very common. It really does depend on how well you manage your stress, and so a lot of times, people really will go to food as something that's soothing. So it's not uncommon to have food binges periodically.

John Horton: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's one of those things. I think you just naturally — you get nervous, and a lot of people will start reaching for that bag of pretzels or chips or candy bar, or a whole pizza in my situation.

Beth Czerwony: Yeah. I mean food is part of what we do. It's part of our culture and so it's much more acceptable than if you're sitting there drinking or smoking or anything else. So, really, eating is so common to us. It's really easy to have that be the go-to.

John Horton: Yeah. Yeah. We break bread together, it's what we do, right?

Beth Czerwony: Absolutely.

John Horton: All right. All right. Well now, let's start with the idea that you do that and then you have that guilty horrible feeling that comes after it when you're looking at that empty bag or box or whatever. What do you do then?

Beth Czerwony: So I always want people to know that food is neutral, right? There's no good foods, there's no bad foods. There shouldn't be judgment when we're eating foods because if you eat something and say, "Oh I cheated on my diet," or "I'm bad for eating this," that can set you up for additional binging or purging. So I think the first thing is, going in and ... like really working on your relationship with food, right? I mean, if it tastes good we're going to eat it. You have it, move on. Give yourself some grace.

John Horton: So how can you do that? How do you start reset and recover?

Beth Czerwony: So I think, again, if we go back to trigger foods, just kind of getting some of those out of the house, if you really feel like they're preoccupying your attention and you're really trying to go back to them, just get them out of the house, and having more healthy foods around so you're less likely to kind of go to those things. But I think the other thing is separate yourself, perhaps, from the food. Go for a walk, go for a bike ride, go for a run. Do something a little bit more productive than focusing on that food.

John Horton: What does exercise do? If you do eat a ton, I mean I take it exercise just gets your whole system kind of moving a little bit and you start, you can burn off some of that?

Beth Czerwony: You can burn off the extra calories, so then, that way, if you're feeling a little bit guilty because you consumed too many calories and you're afraid of weight gain, it'll definitely burn off the circulating sugar that you have, so that's one thing.

The other thing too is it's going to increase your serotonin so it's going to make you feel better by being active. So instead of you feeling better because you're eating the food, you're actually feeling better because you're doing something action-oriented, and that's going to be overall better for not only your physical health, but your mental health as well.

John Horton:What about your digestive process? I mean, I thought like moving around, does it help with the digestive process, too?

Beth Czerwony: Physical activity really does increase that gut motility and so the more that you can exercise, the faster the food's going to go through your system, which means it's going to get out of your system, so you don't have to worry so much about having these extra calories, the extra fat, the extra sugar. It's just going to help you to kind of almost like detox naturally a little bit so that you can get back on track a little bit faster.

John Horton: What are some other tips that you can just do in the short term, like right away to help your body reset?

Beth Czerwony: I say stay hydrated. Sometimes, we think we're hungry and really we're just thirsty, so having things that are zero calorie beverages is going to be one way of doing that. Plus, again, it's going to help flush all the extra junk out of your system, so you're going to end up feeling a little bit better. Also, again, like looking at those triggers and saying, "OK," when you were moving and you said it's easier ... it's easier to order a pizza, right, than it is to cook. I mean we've all been there, we've all done it, so maybe the next meal, say, we're not going to order pizza, maybe we're going to order something healthier.

John Horton: So we've talked about some things that you can do, which are great tips. What should you not do?

Beth Czerwony: Yeah. So I think the first thing is we don't want you to purge, right? We don't want you, after you've eaten quite a bit, sometimes, there might be the idea that, if I purge, then I'll feel better, I'll get rid of it, but then, that's really going to set you up for some bad behaviors because that's going to cause more damage to your body over time.

The other thing is, we talked about exercise and that has to be a healthy balance. We don't want you going for long runs either and making it feel like you have to burn all these calories because you had two pieces of pizza because, again, then, you're going to have this relationship with food that isn't going to be healthy.

So any kind of extremes, we don't want you to do. So I don't want you to starve, I don't want you to purge, I don't want you to over-exercise. I think just, again, finding that balance and just going to be like, "OK, get over it. Like, I made a mistake."

John Horton: Should you, like, when you have one of those times, should you avoid stepping on that scale for a few days and just kind of let your body kind of naturally reset?

Beth Czerwony: Yeah, I think if you've had some disruptions in how you normally eat for a little bit and then you go back to your normal eating behaviors, your body is going to go back to that set point. So it's where it's most comfortable. So as long as you're not continuing these behaviors, you're not going to have that weight loss stay, you're going to actually go back to your normal usual weight. So I would say wait a little bit. Kind of notice too how are your clothes feeling. Like if you normally feel, "Oh, your jeans are feeling a little bit tighter," and then you kind of cut back and get to normal, "OK, you've got a little bit more wiggle room." That to me is going to be a better indicator because if you get so stuck on the scale, then that is going to, a lot of times, you just end up focusing on the wrong thing and then again you can do extremes. And in a healthy way to make the scale go where you want it to be, where if you're looking at just overall health, being stronger, sleeping better, like those types of things, I think that those are going to be better indicators of overall health than just your weight.

John Horton: How long does it take for your body to kind of get back to that just kind of natural place where it normally exists?

Beth Czerwony: Yeah, I mean, I think it depends on how long your binge was. So I mean, if you were just doing it for the week because you moved or the kiddos are going back to school and they have different eating behaviors, I think it depends on how long. So if it's a short term, it's going to give you a couple days. Maybe a week at the most. But if it's something that happens quite frequently and you're binging several times a week for many, many weeks, I think that that's more of a problem that you need to get professional help, support from mental health providers and dietitians and even like support from your friends. I think that you really kind of get a pulse on how frequent you're doing it.

John Horton: Yeah. And that's great advice because I think you're right, you're finding the root cause as to why you are crutching on that food and kind of resolving that, whether it's a temporary thing that was just a one-off as you're dealing with a stressful situation or whether it's something that's kind of throughout your life and that you need to deal with, and figuring that out it sounds like is key.

Beth Czerwony: Absolutely.

John Horton: Anything else, Beth, that you want to share? Any other bits of wisdom?

Beth Czerwony: I think, again, just really monitoring your intake. Track it, see what's going on. I mean, if you want to fix it, how do you know what's wrong until you identify the problems? And so again, don't beat yourself up.

John Horton: As usual, Beth had the answers and shared them in her own special way. That's why we always keep asking her back here on the show. So bottom line with this: Don't beat yourself up. Put that energy into making your future meals nutritious. Until next time, be well.

Speaker 4: Thank you for listening to Health Essentials, brought to you by Cleveland Clinic, and Cleveland Clinic Children's. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, or visit clevelandclinic.org/agpodcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician.

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