When I was in the throes of binge eating disorder, I remember feeling so confused. What was wrong with me? Why was I so out of control? Why did I keep punishing my body night after night?
I would lie in bed, every single morning, sick with regret. Thinking about everything I had eaten the night before, hating myself, vowing to be different. Each day started with a new, hopeful plan, and each night ended in an out-of-control eating frenzy.
I felt so lost and hopeless.
Just hearing the words “Binge Eating Disorder” gave me hope. Finally, a name for what was happening to me! And that must mean other people have the same thing -- I’m not crazy! I felt palpable relief.
The process of self-discovery was so exciting. I felt validated and hopeful, and gained a level of clarity about myself that I hadn’t even dreamed was possible. It was an amazing journey.
The best thing was finally understanding what was going on. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t a glutton. I wasn’t selfish and sinful. I was just suffering, and eating was my coping mechanism.
What I Learned
Bingeing is the result of physical deprivation.
Many people who suffer with binge eating disorder have a history of dieting and restriction. It’s not surprising, since we live in this fat-phobic culture, and dieting is so pervasive.
When you restrict your food intake and eat less than your body needs, powerful evolutionary mechanisms kick into gear in order to help you survive (because your body doesn’t understand what “bathing suit season” is -- it just thinks you’re starving). This means that with each diet, your body gets better at storing excess energy, increases your appetite, and slows down or ceases other bodily functions to conserve energy. (Evidence of this may be present in your own experience: each diet gets harder, you seem to feel hungrier than you used to, you gain weight extremely easily, and you feel tired and run-down.)
Eventually, your body’s need to survive outweighs (pardon the pun) your desire to fit into size 6 jeans, and you compensate for the calorie deficit you’ve been experiencing by eating lots and lots of food -- post-diet binge sound familiar?
Of course you experience this as failure, and take personal responsibility for not having enough will-power or not being a good dieter. And you probably try again next week, with the same sad results. This is the classic diet-binge cycle.
The first steps to curbing binge behavior are creating permission and security around food. This can feel scary if it’s new territory, but it leads to unbelievable freedom.
Bingeing is a sign of emotional distress.
How do you feel when you’re binge eating? Relaxed and happy? Probably not.
Most likely, you feel out of control around food when you’re anxious, stressed, sad, lonely, or angry. It’s just a coping mechanism -- and an effective one, at that.
Bingeing may help you numb your feelings. Feeling stuffed may help you feel safe and comforted. Surrounding yourself with extra layers of food may help you hide. You’re protecting yourself.
Binge eating is a very effective signal that something in your life is out of balance, and you may feel relief from your struggles with food once you address those underlying issues.
Binge eating affects all types of people.
You’re not alone. This is the most common type of eating disorder, and it cuts across socio-economic, race, sex, and cultural lines. It was such a relief to me to finally have other people who understood and sympathized with my daily battles.
Binge eating doesn’t make you a bad person.
In our culture, we are quick to blame the individual for any kind of unproductive behaviors. We see things like binge eating as weakness, and think the sufferer should have more will-power, exercise more, or just stop eating so much. There is little understanding or sympathy for the systemic and emotional issues that create these complex behavioral patterns.
Please know that there’s a reason for what you’re going through, and there are ways to overcome it. It doesn’t reflect your worth as a person, or your personal strength.
Binge eating is completely fixable.
Developing an understanding of why you binge is the first step. Then you work through those issues and develop more productive coping mechanisms. You go through the process of creating a peaceful relationship with food. You learn to trust your body again. You learn to respect yourself again.
Yes, it takes time, and yes, it can be challenging, and yes, you will probably need a lot of support and guidance. But recovery is absolutely possible, and the freedom on the other side in incredible.
It’s a powerful journey that will impact every area of your life. It’s exciting, and rewarding, and sometimes even fun. Once you can stop blaming yourself and look for the actual causes of your struggle, you will find it possible to move forward and experience real relief. We’re here to help you get started.
We provide a one of a kind binge-eating disorder treatment approach to women ages 30+ who struggle with their relationship with food and themselves. We guide our clients to a place of confidence and peace so they can become the women they’re meant to be. This isn't about weight-loss; it's about self-acceptance.
Women's Healing Center in Ellicott City, MD
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