How Binge Eating Saved My Life
You’re on your way home from work or school, you’ve had a terrible day. Your mind is so overwhelmed, you’re exhausted, and all you want to do is numb out and check out from the day. You feel as if you never got anything done for yourself, and frustrated that yet again another day has passed. You just started a new diet earlier this week, but you’re really craving something that isn’t allowed on it. After making decisions all day long, your mind is now fatigued and all you can think about is how much you deserve the ice cream. You skipped or ate a small breakfast, maybe skipped or ate a very late lunch (in a hurry while still working or thinking about how you needed to get right back to work), and as you eat dinner you are ravenous, so you eat it quickly and maybe more than planned. After you complete your dinner, you still feel hungry not long after, or maybe you start to feel guilty for eating more than you should, so you curse yourself and your plan and start to eat anything in sight. You then feel as if you’ve completely screwed up and proceed to the store to buy the items you previously considered “off limits” and binge on them, maybe even before you leave the parking lot, or somewhere in secret away from your friends and family. You feel as if something has taken over your body, you feel completely out of control, you eat until it becomes physically painful, until you feel numb to life. After the binge, here comes the guilt and shame. You start to beat yourself up mentally, cursing your choices, believing that you lack willpower, that you are powerless, that you have a problem or feel broken. You immediately proclaim that the next day or diet will be different, maybe already making plans to further restrict the next day or rushing to get in extra exercise to account for your binge. The only problem is the binge happens, again and again, driving you insane, driving you further into a downward spiral of feeling hopeless, lost and broken. Does this sound familiar?
I know this scenario because I too have experienced it. Years ago I believed there was no way out. But I am here today to tell you that what I perceived at that moment to be one of the most shameful and embarrassing behavior patterns was a Divine symptom that forced me to wake up and look at my life closer.
Prior to binge eating taking over, I was completely obsessed with controlling and restricting my food. It felt like the one area in my life I could have control over when everything else felt chaotic. What started as a seemingly innocent diet morphed into a very disordered relationship with food. Maybe you’ve been there too, you go on a diet, restricting your food intake, and/or eliminating certain foods. You have good intentions, you want to lose X amount of pounds so that you are “healthier”, more confident, more loved (what your mind tells you) or maybe you read an article or watched a documentary that terrified you, and so now you have eliminated all of your favorite things…forever.
In the beginning, these new diets can be exciting, we put all of our energy into planning and preparing meals and doing intense exercise. We believe that if we push hard enough we will receive all the happiness and joy when we reach our goals in the future, and it will be all worth it. We become obsessed with counting calories, weighing and measuring food AND OURSELVES, We reduce ourselves to standards created by our society that are so flaky they can’t even commit to themselves. So we end up forever chasing some elusive goal, that even when met, we still feel unhappy and not good enough. Even if you were to achieve your “perfect” body, you will continue to live in fear of losing it when approached with this mindset.
Right around the time binge eating started for me, I was at one of the lowest moments in my life. Even though I was below my original “goal weight”, I was still not happy with my body and felt I just needed to push harder. After weeks of trying to restrict my food more and even double up my workouts, my body actually began to gain weight. Yep, my worst fear was manifesting and I felt frustrated and angry at my body. I lost my period, my hair was falling out, I was freezing cold all the time, my digestion was terrible and ruining my life, I had no energy, I felt lost, hopeless, depressed and was having panic attacks at the same time. I had isolated myself from everyone, refused to socialize or ever have an ounce of fun. I had also completely suppressed all of my creativity the last few years and my emotions pretty much my entire life. The obsession with control and restriction began to falter, and I began to actually lose all control, binging multiple times a week.
I was so disconnected with my body that it took myself falling apart and losing all control to get my attention.
To be completely honest, I’m not sure how long I truly struggled with the binge eating…it started out occasional episodes and then continued to grow until finally one day I broke down completely. I struggled some as a teenager with this unwanted behavior as well and was terrified to see it return at the time. I prayed at that moment for a creative solution, a way out, anything that would help me heal. I had also at this time found out I had an autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto’s, which I then had a lot of work to do in healing the false belief around me “causing it” due to my past disordered behaviors, but that is a whole other story in itself. Having an answer to why I felt so “broken” gave me some sense of relief, but I still felt like this was all happening to me, that I was powerless and a victim. I didn’t understand why I was going through this and I felt betrayed by my own body.
The binge eating doesn’t go away overnight, and it continued to stick around until I began to implement more compassion towards myself, my body, my habits, and release the limiting beliefs, old stories, victim mindset, self-judgment, and attack towards myself.
- I had to learn to become more embodied and connected to what I was actually feeling in my body. Scary, I know. ( Yoga and meditation helped me tremendously here, find a compassionate teacher ❤ )
- I had to learn how to enjoy and relax into life more, even among the uncertainty.
- I had to begin to work on releasing all the fear and anxiety I had around food and allow myself to begin to eat in a way that supported, nourished, and fueled me.
- I had to be okay with experiencing pleasure and joy, to rediscover and express my creativity, to begin to release all the fear around stepping into my authentic truth, speaking up, and allowing myself to be fully seen.
- I had to let go of all the stories of how I thought I was “supposed to look” and who I was “supposed to be” (according to society) and actually begin to explore who I am in this exact moment and begin to love and appreciate that.
- I had to release all control. (binge eating is an interesting balancing act, as this “out of control” behavior shows up when we attempt to excessively control and restrict in other areas of our life, i.e. controlling our expression of emotions, creativity, withholding our authentic truth, our appetite and consumption of pleasurable foods)
I began to shift my perspective towards my situation and begin to ask:
- What is it that these symptoms are here to teach me?
- What is it that my body needs at this moment?
- Where is life asking me to grow and show up?
- Who would I be if I could release all of the obsession with food and my body?
- How would I utilize all the life force energy being spent on criticizing myself and worrying about food if I let all that go?
Most importantly, I had to forgive myself.
Binge eating used to bring me intense feelings of shame, but now I feel grateful for its teachings. It forced me to look at how I was treating myself, to slow down, to begin to heal and rediscover balance in my life.
This type of work takes time, but if I could leave you with a few tips to start with that can make an impact today, they would be:
Self Compassion & Embodiment
Self-compassion is a practice that entails being more kind and gentle with ourselves, knowing and understanding that there will always be difficulties in life and that we can overcome with extending the same compassion, love, and kindness to ourselves as we would to a friend going through a difficult time. It acknowledges that we are not alone in our struggles, that all human beings are imperfect and as a collective, we are all going through similar struggles. It also includes a mindfulness practice, where we observe discomfort, thoughts, and feelings without judgment and without over-identification.
Highly recommended read: Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
Embodiment is being in the body you have right now. Learning to love, care for and accept it exactly as it is in this moment. Our emotions, feelings, desires, hopes, dreams, fears, pain and love all reside and live within the body, and to suppress and ignore them further disconnects us. With binge episodes, you are disconnected from the self, so taking a moment to reconnect to your breath and body through a meditation, talking with a friend or professional, dancing, art, yoga, or even just taking a few moments before eating to take 3 deep breaths and set the intention to eat more slowly and mindfully, enjoying each bite and savoring it.
I know the thought of dealing with these components may seem completely overwhelming, but I ask you to take a deep breath and know that you are so much stronger than you know. It doesn’t have to be a huge and heavy task that you try and do all at once. Start to play with the self-compassion component, practice slowing down and being more present with your food. Maybe try some meditations and yoga with a gentle and compassionate teacher, begin to explore what it feels like to reconnect to your body and how it feels, as it is always communicating with us.
Bonus tip: binge eating occurs also when we aren’t eating balanced meals or enough food throughout the day. Try experimenting with eating a larger breakfast and lunch with normal or maybe slightly smaller dinner if it tends to be large and see how you feel, trying as best as possible to be fully present with our food and eating in a soothing and relaxing environment. However, sometimes…binge eating has nothing actually to do with the food itself. Our imbalanced relationship with food is often a direct reflection of our imbalanced relationships in life and disconnection from our body’s wisdom.
Meditation I recently recorded infused with Reiki energy, intended to help you cultivate self-compassion towards unwanted behaviors such as binge eating: https://youtu.be/MPQ621HpicE
If you need support on your journey, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org