I am a very healthy eater. I truly crave things like fruits, veggies, whole grains, other light, healthy things. But I also have a problem: compulsive overeating. It is because of bingeing that I have difficulty maintaining my weight and sometimes drive myself crazy. I think that this is a serious issue that many women face, but that is one that is not talked about as frequently as it needs to.
My first episodes of bingeing began soon after I lost 25 pounds of Weight Watchers at the end of high school. When I got to college, I was presented with so many food choices that I couldn’t control. I ate more than I needed to feel satisfied and ate many things I’d classified as “bad.” I would berate myself for making “bad” choices and would then restrict myself – only allowing myself to eat a turkey sandwiches and salads because that was what was “healthy.” Naturally, my body rebelled and I binged a couple times a week. I felt so low that I once unsuccessfully tried to make myself throw up.
Since leaving college, I’ve shed about 10 to 15 pounds and am now in a healthy weight range. It has been difficult for me to maintain my weight because of bingeing. In the last three years since graduating college, I have managed to get my bingeing sessions down from two to three times a week down to one. I’ve learned to say, “No” to myself and to deal with emotions in other ways. I can also recognize when eating one thing will be the gateway to a binge and can sometimes stop myself before it happens.
Early on when I finally felt comfortable enough to explain this to my now husband, he said, “What’s the big deal? You look great!” The big deal is that this is hard work and I want to be at the point where balanced eating, which includes both healthy, delicious foods and indulgent, decadent foods, is my norm. I’m tired of clean and lean eating, followed by a huge binge, succeeded by guilt and even leaner eating to make up for my “bad” day.
Why do I binge? As time passes, I’m starting to understand why. After a lot of thought, some of the reasons I’ve come up with are:
- I still restrict my eating too much (even though I don’t feel deprived until I get the insatiable urge to binge).
- I eat my feelings (stress and boredom are two big ones).
- I have many deep and painful issues that I’m still working on, and overeating is my body’s way of telling me that I still need to deal with them.
- I am a control-freak. I try to control everything in my life, and eating is where my inner-rebellious self lashes back out at me.
I would love to be at the point one day when I don’t even feel the urge to binge, but until then, I need some strategies for when I do. I once read something really helpful on how to deal with a binge. It outlined three steps to help bring down your anxiety when you feel that strong urge:
- Do a non-compulsive physical activity, like dancing or weeding, for five minutes.
- Spend five minutes writing down what you are feeling and why you don’t want to engage in this harmful behavior.
- Do a relaxing activity, like reading or knitting, for five minutes.
- At the end of these 15 minutes, rate your anxiety on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being, “I can’t stand this any more!”. Repeat the three steps until you feel more relaxed.
This has helped a couple times, but the trick is to actually do it every time I feel that overpowering desire to eat until I fall into a food coma.
One thing that has worked for me is asking myself, “What feeling or emotion am I trying to escape?” Even if I can’t pinpoint the cause of the binge, asking myself this question gives me enough perspective to put away the food and do something else.
I know that compulsive overeating is going to be a life-long battle for me, but I know that I am slowly but surely getting in control of it. As I continue to dig deep in my past and my emotions, the fewer urges I have to binge.
To those of you who have struggled with bingeing or are working on it like me, what insight have you found? What helps you stop a binge in its tracks?