Binge eating was a part of my life since I was a fairly young child. It progressively got worse as I got older and faced more and more responsibility in life.
Poor body image and low self-esteem were my ‘normal’. I always felt ‘less than’ those around me. As I got older I learned how to ‘look’ confident without actually being confident, so people around me had no idea. I was really good at hiding from the world.
I’m happy to tell you that I haven’t binged in over six years. That was something that I really thought would never happen. I had failed so many times at trying to get it ‘under control’ that I was certain it was with me forever.
How did I finally stop binge eating?
It all started when I decided to appreciate and show gratitude for my binges. Don’t stop reading! I know that sounds crazy but hang in with me.
I noticed that my urges to eat always surrounded change in my life. It could be a change in mood (argument with someone), change in surroundings (starting new class/job), or change in the status quo (new club, new friend, new guy.) It wasn’t always a bad change per se, just some kind of change or stress.
Historically, after a binge I asked myself questions like, “Why can’t I just stick to a freaking diet?” or “Why don’t I have any will power?” I always felt terrible, berated myself, and made a vow to start again…on Monday.
Instead of those questions, I started to ask different ones like, “I wonder what that was about?” and “What am I trying to solve here?” and “How is eating like this serving me?”
These more curious compassionate questions led me to a new set of answers. The biggest one being that I was eating to take care of myself. Again, I know that I’m sounding crazy, but hang on and hear me out. I was ‘taking care of myself’ by eating massive amounts of food until I felt sick and hating myself for it? There’s no sense in that! I was hurting myself with food.
So, I started to pay attention to my body. I started to take a deep breath and say “What do you need sweetie?”
At first this conversation with myself had to happen AFTER the binge. I wasn’t yet able to connect with my needs so I ate first, connected after. After the food was eaten, I was calm enough that I could realize what was wrong. I felt like I was two different people – one who wanted to stop and one who didn’t. So I opted to let myself eat, and then use the tools. As long as I did it with compassion, I was usually able to sort out what was going on. “Okay binge, what did you need to tell me?”
In time, I learned to check in before I ate. I could see the road leading to a binge and interrupt it with compassionate questioning BEFORE I was staring down the food. I had to make an agreement with myself though (one that I still have by the way) – if I asked the questions first, I was still allowed to eat. You see, as soon as I told myself that I couldn’t, I felt like I HAD to. So, removing the possibility of the binge entirely was never an option. Over time, my binges started to include less and less food and the episodes got further and further apart.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start with compassion and the understanding that you are trying to be kind to yourself, even if you know that it’s not the best solution. “OK binge, what did you need to tell me?”
- Figure out what led up to the binge. What happened in the 24 hours before? Who did you see? Who did you speak with?
- Look at what might be happening in the next 24 hours. Are you going somewhere? Were you supposed to be going somewhere?
- What need were you trying to fill? Are you tired? Lonely? Angry? Sad? Excited? Nervous? Worried? Do you have too much going on right now? Is it PMS? Do what you can right now to fulfill that need (even if you already ate). That may include booking an appointment with a professional to help you.
When you start to recognize patterns, you can start to figure out what happens before you dive into the food. For me, it’s almost always poor body image. I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see. So that’s my cue to take care of my needs. By doing the investigative work first, you can figure out what corrections need to be made. If you’re trying to stop a leak, you should find the source of it first, right?
And don’t forget to take care of your caveman hunger. That is a BIG reason for overeating and willpower has nothing to do with it.
Until next time,
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.