The most important thing to do is to record what you ate. If you can do it as you go (a very rare skill) then that will probably limit the damage you cause by making you stop sooner rather than later.
For the rest of us who can't manage recording during the event (including me), the moment your binge has ended, get a pad and paper and write down the things you ate. This is the first piece of vital evidence.
What you ate speaks volumes because there is usually a trend that involves sugar/simple carbs and/or fat. This may be an indication that you nutrition plan is too restrictive or too low/high in some nutrients.
If you can log your food in your calorie program by estimating the quantities, it will be very beneficial. Sometimes, our definition of a binge is exaggerated. If you think you have binged on dried fruit, and it turns out you only ate 300 calories worth, then you probably needn't worry about it too much except to include smaller amounts in your normal daily diet so you mitigate the craving.
Other times, we will be horrified by the amount and calorie content of the food we have eaten. It is helpful to contemplate the amount of carbs and fat that our favourite 'bad' food contains - it may very well put you off eating it next time.
After I logged the food from my last overeating episode, I deducted that I had lost control after I ate 70g sugar in one meal. A good piece of evidence to suggest that I can't handle that much sugar all at once.
What happened before the binge?
The next piece of investigation relates to the circumstances that led to the binge. Make a note of what you were doing and feeling before this happened. Is there anything out of the ordinary that could have been your trigger?
For me, I usually binge when
- I haven't seen the scales go down when I've been working so hard
- I am home alone in the evening feeling bored and/or lonely
- I am pre-menstrual
- I have been looking at an item of my husband's food that I love that is sitting on the kitchen bench for days
- I am hungry and exhausted
- I have eaten too many carbs/sugar during a refeed
- I haven't planned what I'm going to eat, or I don't get to eat what I planned
Why did it happen?
I don't subscribe to the theory that you need to analyze every action and trace it back to some deep emotional issue. The simple fact is you ate too much food because you wanted the feeling of comfort that food gives you and at that point in time the immediate pleasure of food outweighed the anticipated pleasure of being lean. Knowing you have used food since you were a child to cover your feelings of abandonment, doesn't really solve much. What you decide to do from now on matters more.
How can I stop it happening again?
I find my reverse engineering technique to work brilliantly in this instance.
- rely on scale weight as the only indicator of my fat loss progress
- not eat enough food during the day
- don't get enough sleep
- keep high calorie non-nutritious food in plain sight for long periods of time
- eat high carb, low fat
- if I can't get what I planned to eat, chose something that I don't really want
- tell myself that I can't eat this food ever again - this is the last time
- think that I have to wait for tomorrow to start afresh
- be on my own with nothing to do
- not take food with me when I am going to be away from home for longer than 2 hours
- not have an emergency stash of 'on plan' food
- forget to go grocery shopping
Once again - just do the opposite [unless you can't (how do you do the opposite of PMT?) then just being aware helps].
Remember that combining motive (wanting the pleasure and comfort of food), opportunity (your actions, feelings and circumstances) and your weapon of choice (readily available large amount of calorie dense food that makes you want to keep eating) will make a binge almost impossible to resist.
Taking the time to examine the evidence so you can recognise how it all fits together is the key to solving the mystery.
And will hopefully prevent the next major crime.