DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and these are my experiences. Please please seek help if you are suffering from an eating disorder or mental illness. HERE is more information about how to do so.
After I wrote about my story a few weeks ago, I received no less than 20 emails from different FFF readers with similar experiences. I wanted to give each of them a BIG shout out because there is no way I would have ever had the balls to open up like that during my disordered eating. You are all stronger than you think (on the inside and out ;) ).
Today’s post is on how to overcome binge eating; a very common question since my last disordered eating post…Again, after you read through if you have more questions feel free to shoot me an email or use the comment section to ask! I am very open about answering :P
Before I start I just wanted to reiterate…
I thought that the day I stopped counting calories was my light at the end of the tunnel, but I still had a long journey ahead of me.
Binge eating was probably the most stressful and embarrassing part of my eating disorder because you just feel like you have absolutely control. No control about your thoughts and no control of your actions around food. Remember, I went from being in complete control, counting every little morsel that went into my mouth, to absolutely no control and not being able to lasso it in.
I know this can be triggering for some, so stop reading if that’s you!
When the binging started.
I remember this vividly. I was sitting in a group therapy class with multiple other young women who went to the U of M and we were sharing stories of our highs and lows. *I just have to say that it takes a lot of balls to go to a group therapy session.* I had no idea what kind of disordered eating everyone else had, but at the time I really only knew about anorexia (what I had) and bulimia. The first girl to go started sharing a very graphic story about her binging and purging. Like 9,000 calories worth of binging on dorm food. I was mortified. I didn’t even know that existed and I told myself that I would never and could never let myself go like that (remember at the time I was in complete and utter control of every calorie that went into my body).
That day I told myself that group therapy wasn’t for me. Summer was coming and I continued 1-1 therapy and my antidepressant. I was actually on an uprise, putting all my energy towards defeating my eating disorder. I stopped counting calories, and set myself the goal of “intuitive eating.”
Things were getting much better going into my senior year. Overall, I felt happier and much more comfortable around food. That’s when the binging started. When I got comfortable. I was no longer depressed, but was now sort of “obsessed with food.” I remember I would wake up at 3AM at eat my breakfast because I couldn’t sleep and was literally obsessing over my breakfast. Because of that, my whole entire eating schedule was off, which lead to major binging at night.
What a Typical Binge Looked Like
For me binging was more of an oral fixation than anything. I love the sensation of crunchy foods, cold foods, etc. When it comes down to it, my binge eating was due to the fact that I could not read my hunger cues and I had no self-control. My binging usually took place at night, after I had a beautiful day of eating good-for-you foods. It was usually on some sort of sweeter (but healthy) food that I would consider my dessert (at the time). Nothing is “healthy” if you eat an ungodly amount of it in one sitting.
I would go into the snack or dessert with the intent of just having a handful or a serving and end up going WAY overboard. My handful of raisins would turn into 1-2 cups + something else. Or if I had made a batch of cookies- bam those were gone. Same thing with grapes. I would freeze grapes, hoping that because they were frozen, it would take me longer to eat (which is suggested for intuitive eating). 3 pounds later or almost 1,000 calories, the entire bag of grapes. Gone.
What I Binged On
There are really only a select few things that I binged on. The first one that makes me the most upset is the gum chewing. I have always been a gum chewer, but gum was almost like a sweet safety net for me. Instead of having dessert (which is clearly more calories than a stick of gum), I would pop a piece of sweet sugar-free bubblegum to get my fix. 6 packs later…yes. You read that correctly. 6. packs. later. My stomach would be so gassy, bloated, and uncomfortable that there was no way I was leaving my house. I know you are probably thinking, how can you binge on gum if you don’t actually eat it? Well, gum does have a caloric value. The crazy thing is, I wasn’t really able to realize what I was doing, while I was doing it. It was only afterward when I would lay in my bed, in pain because my stomach was so bloated.
A few other common foods I couldn’t control myself around was grapes, cereal, and raisins. It was hard for me to buy anything in bulk at the time from the grocery store because I was scared to death that I wasn’t going to be able to control myself and eat the entire thing. I’m not sure why I chose grapes and raisins, but I can tell you that today- both of those things just look and sound so unappealing to me. And cereal/granola. I could never sit down and have just 1 bowl. More like 3 or 4 giant bowls. That was and is my favorite after dinner treat.
Like I stated above, my recovery included 1-1 therapy, an antidepressant, love, and support from my family, and will-power from me.
I started dating Blake in January of my senior year (2012) and at the time I was going back and forth between binging and restricting (never purging). I felt extremely guilty and embarrassed because I was hiding my binging from him (only doing it when he wasn’t home) and Blake is the person I share everything with. We soon moved in together and that’s when I told myself, NO MORE. I told myself I was not going to let this thing run my life and make me feel guilty around Blake. This is when I decided to change.
Blake’s eating habits are very different than mine. He eats 3 meals but eats what he’s craving. I could never eat just 3 meals (I am a small- 6 meal kind of girl), but I was never really able to “just eat what I was craving” because I was on such a rigorous diet for so long. Blake eats a lot of meats, veggies, eggs, and fruit and he doesn’t like dessert. Well- I LOVE dessert, so I would make huge dinner and eat that, but then go for my real craving 1 or 2 hours later.
So, I decided to start feeding my body what I was craving when I was craving it. I’m not saying that I would eat dessert for dinner every night, but if I knew I was craving granola, I would make myself a Greek yogurt and granola parfait, and be absolutely content, not feeling like I needed to have 4 bowls of it. Because- if I didn’t give my body what she was craving, I knew that after dinner I would fall into the binge trap and eat it, a lot if it, anyways.
One thing that really helped me through this entire process was believing myself and staying positive. Every day is a new day. Things didn’t change overnight, but I didn’t stop until I got what I wanted –> normal-like eating habits. Another thing that helped me recover, was sharing my experience with someone else. My sister was the only one who really knew what was going on, but the situation really comes to life when you say it out loud.
Tips for Recovery
- Eat what you are craving when you are craving it.
- Surround yourself with normal eaters. What is a normal eater? Someone who eats intuitively and probably doesn’t even know it!
- Challenge yourself. Go out to eat, go to bars, and pt yourself in situations where it’s uncomfortable. If you’re craving a donut for breakfast, order the damn donut and feel good about your decision.
- Write down your goal and don’t stop believing. Every day is a new day and you need to stay positive!
- Share your story with someone. Say it out loud and tell them and yourself what you are going to do to overcome it.
- Know that your eating habits don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. If 6 small meals work for you, do it. If you like to eat pancakes for dinner, do it.
So that is that. It’s been almost a good year, and I am feeling good about my eating. I binge like a normal person (in moderation) and I am now able to let my mind think about other things, rather than obsessing over what I feed my body. I am like a whole new woman and I wake up with a kick-ass attitude every single day. I know what it feels like to be trapped in your own mind. This is why I am able to wake up and feel so free and thankful to be happy and healthy.