April 23, 2009

Maybe you were home alone with a tub of Ben & Jerry's. Or you were at happy hour with friends and a free buffet.

Whatever the circumstances, you indulged in a binge, and today, you're likely feeling a range of emotions: guilt for having blown your healthy eating plan; anger for sabotaging your workout efforts with a foodfest; depressed over your lack of self-restraint.

But before you sink into self-defeat, here's a reassuring reality check: Even the biggest binge won't pad fat to your frame. "It's what you do over the long run, not what you do in a day or even a few days," says nutritionist Mindy Hermann, R.D.

Here are some guidelines to putting a binge behind you and getting back to your game plan:

1. Hide your scale. Weighing yourself after a binge is a masochistic act -- and one most of us can't resist. "Chances are you've eaten too much salt or sugary high-carb foods, causing you to temporarily retain water," says Hermann. Refuse to allow a meaningless number to discourage you -- kick the scale under the bed or toss it permanently.

2. Beat the bloat. Today, pass up high-salt foods (including frozen entrees, crackers and many cereals), and get enough protein from sources such as chicken or egg whites. "The way protein's metabolized will help your body shed water," Hermann says. Also, choose high-fiber carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread to help maintain your energy.

3. Let hunger be your guide. There's no denying the importance of breakfast - as a weight stabilizer and a nutritional necessity - but if you awake still stuffed from a feast the night before, it's actually OK to hold off eating for a couple of hours, says Hermann. Drink a glass of orange or tomato juice to start your day off on better nutritional ground.

4. Lose the calorie calculator. Ingesting significantly fewer calories today to make up for yesterday's binge seems as if it would make sense, but it doesn't. "You can't cancel calories," says Hermann. And not eating enough today only puts you at risk for another refrigerator blowout.

5. Make a light lunch. A healthful, low-fat lunch -- a spinach salad and a turkey sandwich -- can give you a psychological boost as well as a nutritional one.

6. Enjoy your food. In the middle of a binge, you often eat so quickly that you're not even enjoying what's going down the hatch. "You can gobble down a candy bar, not even tasting it, and you've just ingested 300 calories," points out Hermann. Today, eat slowly, enjoy your meals minus the distraction of TV or the Internet, and note how much more pleasurable eating can be.