Q&A: How To Stop Food Binges After Drinking With Friends

I received an interesting question today in the comments section to my post about the causes of binge eating. Lucy asked, “Why do I binge after drinking alcohol on an evening out with my friends?”

Both the question and my reply about how to stop binge eating in this situation were pretty long so I figured they could have a whole post to themselves. Let’s start with Lucy’s question. She says:

“I have a problem with binge eating that only happens after I have been out drinking with my friends. I’m fine when I’m out but at the end of the evening I cannot seem to stop myself going in a store and buying a lot of chocolate and such, then I eat it all when I’m home. There is a convenience store right by my apartment and I live alone so there’s nobody to stop me.

It’s not comfort eating, it’s like I feel so happy and comfortable at that time, I don’t care what I weigh. But in the morning I regret it so much. I enjoy going out and I don’t want to stop drinking – I’m not an alcoholic, we’re talking like once a week, but a massive food binge once a week is enough to stop me losing any weight and I do need to lose. How can I stop myself from doing this end-of-the-evening binging?”

It’s not about emotions

The first thing I would say is that I don’t think this is about your emotions. It’s not about being happy, it’s an effect of the alcohol. It’s just like sugar in that it gives you a blood sugar spike and then a crash. In fact, with alcohol the crash can be worse: “When blood sugar levels drop, the liver normally begins to produce glucose from stored carbohydrates to compensate. But drinking alcohol blocks the liver’s ability to produce glucose.” (about.com on alcohol and diabetes)

So I guess what’s happening here is that your blood sugar level begins to fall as you travel home, and your body becomes like a little child screaming for candy. You need to avoid getting into that situation.

Here’s what I’d do:

1. Eat something while you are drinking. I guess you’re not having a meal with your friends, right? Or if you did it was early in the evening? So carry something low carb and satisfying like a pack of nuts or jerky in your purse, and eat that maybe a half hour before you will be going home.

2. Have plenty of low carb food in your refrigerator that’s ready to eat as soon as you walk in the door. I mean things that have zero preparation time and don’t even need to be heated. Peeled boiled eggs. Cooked chicken. Canned fish that you can just open the can and eat with a fork. That kind of food.

3. Write yourself a letter reminding yourself that the alcohol has sent your body into a blood sugar spin and asking yourself to please not buy anything from that store tonight because you will regret it so badly and it’s not what your body really needs. What your body really needs is the chicken or whatever that’s waiting for you in your apartment. Have that letter in your purse too. Then if your feet still carry you into the store on your way home, you can take it out and read it before you put anything in your cart – and turn around and walk right out again.

Of course, this is just my opinion and I’m not a doctor. But I think you’ll find those things will help. You don’t say what kind of diet you’re following, whether it’s a low carb diet or not, but in this situation I think eating carbs would be a bad idea. You’ll just want more and more until you’re running for the store again. So stick with low carb food at the end of your evenings out – and enjoy!

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2 comments on “Q&A: How To Stop Food Binges After Drinking With Friends

  1. C

    Sure, alcohol contains a LOT of Sugar, but you don’t IMMEDIATELY go into “withdrawal” after you stop drinking alcohol! (OMG – HEROINE, one of the most addictive drugs in the world, requires days without the drug in your system for you to develop and feel withdrawal symptoms). Your body & mind have suddenly agreed ‘that the party is over’ and just wants to feel normal again, especially as you prepare for bedtime (if you’ve had alcohol before, you KNOW you’ll have to get up AT LEAST once in the middle of the night to urinate, and your mind/brain remembers having to perform this bodily function – getting out of the warm bed to go to the LOU).
    The other part is that as you get into this LAZY / BATHROOM going mode of drunken behavior (remember, as your body tires – these effects will be exasperated), your mind is programmed to Get Something Else On Your Stomach to help reduce these effects (unfortunately, the alcohol has already been absorbed by the stomach and is now being removed by the Liver).

    1. Rosemary C Post author

      Yes, I think you’ve misunderstood. I didn’t say anything about withdrawal symptoms or suggest the person was addicted to alcohol. I’m just talking about a blood sugar spike that is caused by insulin. Pure alcohol doesn’t actually contain any sugar (although some alcoholic drinks do). See the article at about.com that I linked to in the post.

      There’s a difference between a “crash” and the time a substance takes to leave the body. I don’t have experience of heroin but after a blood sugar spike a person starts wanting another “hit” as soon as the level drops beyond a certain point. If you have trouble understanding this in terms of a blood sugar crash, consider what happens to smokers after they finish a cigarette. It takes about 3 days for all of the nictoine to leave the body, but a smoker will start feeling they “need” another cigarette long before that!


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