I've managed to stay binge free for one year by learning to listen to my body and decode what it was trying to tell me all along. Before I get into how I did this I want to address the elephant in the room. Binge eating disorder (or BED) affects as many as 5% of our youth. It is THREE TIMES more prevalent than both anorexia and bulimia combined. This is a terrifying statistic. Honestly I had no idea that SO MANY people like myself were struggling to develop a healthy relationship with food from such a young age.
I was about 12 when I started being more "food conscious". I started eating more in size and in secret as well. I would hide snacks in a suitcase under my bed so that my ambien induced step-dad wouldn't eat them all.
I would push around the food on my plate during dinner but would destroy a two bags of chips, some candy and half a pack of soda in one hour sitting alone in my room.
I remember the first time someone commented on my eating habits approximately a few months before this behavior began. Something as simple as "are you going to eat MORE hot cheetos?" in a condescending tone while looking at me up and down was enough to send me into a shame-induced secret eating frenzy where food was my only comfort.
It eventually evolved into eating more openly and with more likeminded people. I would often binge with my mom or best friend at "all you can eat" type restaurants and once the feeling of overwhelming fullness started going away I'd be planning my next meal.
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by: Eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time;
Feeling a loss of control around food;
Eating at a rapid pace;
Eating until uncomfortably full;
Eating even when not hungry;
Feeling of shame about amount of food eaten;
Usually these symptoms generally persist multiple times a week for months or years in order to be diagnosed. I displayed all of these symptoms without realizing it. I knew I was out of control eating but I had always thought it was just because it'd be hours in-between eating and I felt like I was "starving".
It's taken year to realize that I had a problem and that the root of that problem was my anxiety and depression.
I've struggled with my mental healthy since about 12 years old. I've been on all the major and off brand prescriptions and it's something that I will always struggle with. The only difference is that I no longer let it control my eating habits. Now when I'm feeling down I try to go out of the house and move around, even something as small as a trip to target with my husband or playing a little volleyball on our driveway. When I feel like all I want to eat I try to make sure I'm hydrated first and think about my current state of mind which has been a journey in itself.
I didn't stop binge eating and lose nearly 100 pounds by not addressing my mental health.
It took a lot of effort to get the point where I could regain control of my eating habits. There were so many times I felt I was doing so good but I'd slip and feel so ashamed of myself. I knew I had to keep going or else I would be killing myself with food. I had to set reminders on my phone to eat something small every 2-3 hours so that I wouldn't get so hungry I could eat the entire McDonald's menu in one sitting. I constantly told myself "it'll be there later" and that "I can have it anytime I want to". Giving myself permission allowed by brain a chance to stop making food a prize and acting impulsively. I gave up strict calorie counting and began to listen to my body more. I still relied on using a kitchen scale with portioning out snacks to regain control over what a more normal portion size looked like as my "intuition" was severely distorted. It's inevitable to succeed 100% from the start, so naturally there were times I'd still find myself unable to avoid a binge.
After failing at preventing a binge I'd try to find the silver lining in the situation, a way that I could make it a learning experience rather than something I would beat myself up over for days to come. I would ask myself "how did I get so hungry I that ate this much?" usually I had ignored my reminders to snack and may have had an early dinner the night before so it had been 12+ hours since the last time I had eaten anything. I would ask myself "how do you feel right now?" usually I'd feel great for a few minutes to maybe an hour and then the miserable overly full "I'm gonna pop" feeling would set in. I tried to remember that for just a few minutes of mind numbing fullness, there would be consequences to my actions. Not punishment that I set out to discipline myself into "eating right" like timeout for a toddler.
I quickly learned that I needed to have a game plan and to try to stick with it as much as reasonably possible. Sticking with the reminders and allowing myself to have a little bit of each food craving I began to notice that when things did come up like an impromptu lunch/dinner with family or friends, I would tend to over eat but not to the point of binging. I could stop myself at a more reasonable point and ask myself if I felt satiated and if I felt I needed more food or maybe just to remind myself to hydrate.
Food can be fuel for the body, it can be love, it can bring happiness. However ultimately, food is food.
With these changes I've gone 365 days without binging and I feel so much better about myself emotionally and physically as I've gone on to lose 90 pounds of what I like to call "binge weight".
You are never alone in this, there is an entire community of amazing people fighting the same fight as you are. You deserve to live a life where you have a positive relationship with food.
*This blog does not substitute help from a licensed medical professional who specializes in eating disorders
Hudson JI, Hiripi E, Pope HG Jr, and Kessler RC. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3):348-58. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040.