Binge eating is when you eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time. You often eat quickly, feel like you cannot stop and reach the point where you feel uncomfortable. Most people feel ashamed and embarrassed after they binge. That feeling of shame can then lead to more binge eating! This is a hard cycle to break because it is such an emotional and difficult subject. I want to share my story and how I have dealt with this condition in my life.
I have struggled with binge eating for years. I first began binging when I was overweight. I weighed over 360 pounds and was very busy. I had two small children. I was a full-time student. I was in a bad relationship, plus I had a lot of family issues. So, I ate to feel better. Anytime I would get down or feel overwhelmed, I would go to fast food restaurants and buy 2 value meals with extra sauces and a milkshake. Then I would sit in my car and eat all of it by myself. I felt horrible afterward, both physically and emotionally. But I kept doing it over and over again. I felt ashamed of myself and honestly, I still struggle with feeling shame about binge eating today.
The second round of binging started when I began losing weight. I thought I had to “diet” and boy, was I wrong. I thought that if I ate a lot less and exercised a lot more, I would lose a ton of weight. Instead, my body panicked because of the lack of calories and overexertion. I was actually setting myself up to binge. My body thought it needed to save up calories because a famine was approaching. I experienced intense cravings and began binging to make up for all the calories I was not eating normally. As a result, I lost and gained back hundreds of pounds over the years.
So I want you to know I understand. I have only had a handle on my binge eating for about a year now. I know how hard it is and I know how ashamed you feel. Here are some perspective shifts that I want to share with you, so you can also break the cycle of binge eating.
1. Do an assessment of yourself.
You need to identify why you are binge eating. We binge because we feel inadequate in some way. We do not like how we are feeling and we want to alter that state. This can be because of depression, boredom, loneliness, stress, or even excitement. The quickest way to change how we feel is to eat a lot of high calorie, palatable foods. This gives us an escape of our current feelings. It is almost like a high.
2. Stop dieting.
If you find that you are binge eating because of your strict, low-calorie diet, then stop. Put your weight loss goals on hold until you can get your binge eating under control. You will never keep the weight off if you cannot stop yourself from binging.
3. Take control of your mind.
You have to attack your binge eating at the root, which means you must become aware of your feelings and your subconscious actions. I call this the instinctual mind. Your brain is designed to keep you comfortable. It wants you to feel good! And your instinctual mind has learned that binge eating helps you cope with difficult times. So, you must build awareness. Recognize when your instinctual mind is taking over and you are starting to binge. Once you have done this, you can more easily take control of your actions. You must be mindful of what your instinctual mind is doing, otherwise it will always take over. Before you know it, you will find yourself back in the fast food parking lot eating 2 value meals.
4. Have patience.
It took me years to overcome binge eating. Be patient with yourself! All of this is much easier said than done. Remember that your brain is only trying to help you. You are re-programming it to crave healthy coping mechanisms and that is going to take some time. It will be difficult and you will occasionally fail. Do not beat yourself up about it. Pick yourself up and practice being aware next time. If you need help, seek therapy. Counseling is good for anyone! If you cannot afford therapy, find someone you can trust to talk about this with. When you feel a craving for a binge coming on, go for a walk instead. You might just need to walk away from the fridge!
I know that this is a very hard subject. Binge eating is very personal and can be very embarrassing. I had a hard time sharing my struggles with friends and with you guys. Please know that you are not alone. Two books that helped me overcome binge eating are Never Binge Again by Dr. Glenn Livingston and Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen. Check out those books, find someone to talk to, and assess yourself. Once you know why you binge, you will have an easier time saying “no” the next time a craving comes along. I know it is hard, but you can do this. Believe in yourself!