Lil Miss Fitness Freak

"And though she be but little, she is fierce"

The Other Side Of Disordered Eating…

39 Comments

That urge…it’s growing.

Your senses, your senses are peaking. Vision is narrowing.

Your heart starts pumping. I want food. I want food now.

Fridge opens. Cupboards open. Bag rips open…

That first bite just feels so good. Not only is the food tasting amazing, but there is a release that is like a high.

Bite one, bite two, bite 10…

Blankness.

You’ve been here before. You’re now sitting on the floor in a daze not really knowing what just happened.

What you do know is that you feel like **it and that you let it happen again.

Just another day. Just another day that you couldn’t stay in control.

Just another day and another binge.

Another day to feel like you failed.

My friends, this post has been something I have wanted to do for a while as I have been asked about binge eating and how to prevent it  it from a few of my readers. Despite never having experienced this side of the eating disorder spectrum myself, I do have some experience working with those who struggle with it every day and wanted to throw out some information about this invisible eating disorder and suggest some ways to work towards one less binge.

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional on this matter. The things presented in this post are strictly from my experience, what I have learned and what I have seen help others.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has only more recently been added to the list of eating disorders despite it having similar roots to the more traditional eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. I won’t go into too much detail as to what classifies BED as you can check that out by clicking on the tidbit picture above. What I will say is that BED is very real and it is a legit eating disorder. Despite the vast majority (if not all) of those who suffer with BED not being the picture of what we think of when eating disorder is brought up (ie. emaciated), the psychological conflict, disordered eating and negative relationship with food is all the same.

It is the psychological issues that truly form the base of an eating disorder, not the methods or outward manifestation.

An individual suffering with anorexia may feel that her life is too chaotic and uses food restriction as a way to have some control.

In a similar manner, an individual with BED may feel that lack of control and and be overwhelmed but instead of restricting food, they seek food for comfort.

The point I’m trying to make here is that there are many different images of eating disorders because it’s much more of a psychological issue rather then a food issue. Food is simply the tool used to cope with that psychological issue.

Unfortunately for our generation, the world is becoming more and more stressful and for the many who do not have the appropriate coping skills necessary to take the daily hits,  they are simply easy targets for mental illness to take over and disordered behaviours such as binge eating to commence.

I realize that there are many things that lead to eating disorders (genetic predispositions, family, works, etc) but I do believe that general stress is a common theme for a number of mental illnesses.

One thing I want to put out there is that…

If you suffer from BED or have had experiences with binge eating, do not blame yourself and say that you’re a failure. I know that is hard because you feel as if you should be in control of your own body, but the truth is (and you know this if you stop and really think about it) that when in the middle of a binge, you are not really there. A true binge is a full loss of control. You are not present anymore and so how can you blame yourself for something you can’t even remember partaking in?

You can’t, so stop beating yourself up about it.

Negativity and self hate is not going to help you move forward and gain control. Gaining control requires self confidence and self awareness. You need to tell yourself and truly believe that you can fight this.

This takes a lot of time. A lot of patience and a lot of self reflection.

Reality is that you will relapse and that doesn’t mean that you failed. The mind is powerful and you have to be realistic and kind to yourself rather then beating yourself to the ground if you are not 100% cured after deciding to start your journey out of the dark place that is BED.

So how can you help yourself?

Remember I’m not an expert but I have seen that these can help some deal with binges and perhaps prevent them from occurring or at least lessen the extent the episode.

My thoughts:

  • Keep a diary. You need to self-analyze and you need to do this a lot. Write down your feelings every day (not just on the days of a binge) and be specific! Really reflect on those feelings and think about what triggers them. You can then correlate that with binge episodes. By doing this, over time, you may be able to at least know days that you may be vulnerable and then bring out those other coping mechanisms to try prevent an episode from occurring.
  • If you are feeling vulnerable, don’t let yourself be alone. Whether this is meeting up with a friend or just placing yourself in a public place, change your environment to a more social one as you are much less likely to binge in the presence of others.
  • I believe it is very rare to have food of preference for a binge as, once again, you are not in control so you don’t choose what you eat, but if there is a small percentage who do, get rid of it. Don’t have it in your house at all.
  • Work at being more present during the stages of the binge. This is extremely difficult I know, but really work at being more self aware of your body and behaviours when you start feeling a loss of control. By being more present you may be able to remove yourself from the situation and prevent or lessen the severity of an episode.

One last tip that I was told actually helped during an episode was drinking a full bottle of carbonated water (or just water can work too) when you are feeling that impending binge coming on. The bubbles in the water on top of the pure volume of liquid hitting your stomach at such a fast pace will make you not feel good. In fact, this may sound extreme to many as you will probably feel slightly nauseous, especially if you’re a female. So why am I telling you to do this? Well, it may be what you need to bring you back to reality and gain some control because you’re feeling uncomfortable already.

Isn’t that a bit extreme?

Yes. But so is binge eating. I in no way support the idea of making yourself feel bad in any way, but I have been told this method helps if you are able to know that binge feeling before it takes over.

Once again, take that as a simple option, I’m not telling you to do these things if you disagree.

I feel like I have so much more to say on this issue, but I’m going to cap it at that. Please, if you take anything away from this post let it be that it’s not you letting it happen. You are not allowing this behaviour to occur. Therefore, it’s not something you can say is your fault. Take the time to work at discovering your triggers and promise yourself that you will not verbally abuse yourself if you aren’t perfect while you are trying to help yourself.

Love yourself even in those dark times. They are hurdles. Hurdles that you can overcome. I believe in you and your strength.

-Chelsea

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39 thoughts on “The Other Side Of Disordered Eating…

  1. I struggle to understand this disorder…like what makes this different from someone who just eats a lot or is addicted to food. I think that by making this an “eating disorder’ the government is making up for the obesity crisis/trying to justify it

  2. I’ve never faced an eating disorder, my mental illness is depression and just reading ” I believe in you and your strength.” brought me to tears. You’re amazing Chelsea.

  3. Pingback: Posts That Piqued My Interest #8 | One Step Closer

  4. This was really well done 🙂

  5. Love it. This post is coming at the perfect time for me. I’m just in the beginning of my weight loss journey and you have been a huge inspiration for me. My biggest fear right now is falling off the wagon and bingeing on pepperoni pizza and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Just another inspirational nugget I will keep in my back pocket for my moments of weakness.

  6. I’ve been a reader for awhile now, and want to say thanks for being an honest, real person and for writing about the important things from a forgiving place

  7. This post did it though. I sobbed as I read through it because your words make my heart ache through their recognition and truth that I connect with and can’t let go of. Thank you for your openness and honesty and for making me feel less alone in this battle. I can’t wait fo more posts

  8. You’re amazing! I love reading your story! Although I’m struggling every every day I read this and know I can do it some how some way!!! That’s for your inspiration!

  9. Another beautiful letter to us all from you. What has moved me again about you as always, is of course the words of advice and support but more importantly for me the fact that you want to make me (us) “feel less alone in our crazy”. Because for me the driving force behind my need to overeat is this feeling of aloneness. I have spectacularly dived into an abyss of sugar and butter at the moment but I feel as though you’ve stepped into my inbox again (because only you know this toxic secret that we carry) and talked me slowly back up. Thank you. Your generosity of spirit never ceases to amaze me and I wish that you didn’t have these struggles with food (although not bed in your case).

  10. No one states it better than you do. I savor every word as you really understand and articulate this struggle so well. As I enter my 55th year tomorrow and I so ready to get this war behind me and am making steps to do so. Oh, and can you please be my therapist? 🙂

  11. You couldn’t have picked a better time to post this. Today is “Day 1″ once again of being binge free and your words hit home with me.

    I am constantly counting calories, starting new workout programs etc. I feel like I am either on track or off.

    I am never sure if this actually helps or hurts me. Sometimes I feel it helps me not to undereat and then again it pressures me too much.

    I wonder if working on habits in combination with not bingeing actually is better in the long run.

  12. Never has someone been able to nail that binge “reasoning” for me like you have here. Thank you, as always, for your gifts of language and honesty! It have struggled lately, with the “good and bad” of my food choices. I feel that the lessons you found are another tool I can use to process those struggles for myself.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  13. As always, anything you write, I love.

    I’m in my third year of recovery from bulimia and binge eating, and it has been a long and rocky road. But that anniversary feels like more of a cause for celebration than any holiday or birthday. For me, it felt very forced at first. But I wanted to heal and feel whole independently of food, so I forced it for my own wellbeing. Now, I marvel in the changes and gains I’ve made over the past 2 years. I’m actually happy–genuinely happy–and my happiness isn’t dependent upon my weight or my body. It’s just something that exists. It’s my default state-of-being. I NEVER thought I would feel this way. I saw other people who were happy, and I didn’t understand. But after a lot of work, it clicked, and gradually I didn’t need to console myself with food.

    Thanks for sharing and for letting me share. You are lovely. XO

  14. Thank you for sharing your extremely insightful thoughts on why we binge, and this is true of more than just food. One component, and maybe you plan on touching on this in future posts, is the chemical addiction that comes with wanting carbs/sugar, etc, because this is definitely a big piece of the problem as well. There are a lot of different nutrition/life plans that advise people to cut out things like white flour/dairy/rice/caffeine/sugar/alcohol (more to determine their food sensitivities/allergies) but find that after being on a plan like that, most people find that their sugar/carb cravings are gone. So I think the chemical component is important too, and I hope that you’ll address that in the future. You are truly inspirational and brave for sharing your innermost feelings. Thank you so much!

  15. As usual, you hit the nail on the head. After 3 months of binging, which was triggered by depression (triggered by a massively stressful year), I am finally back to tracking my food and exercising regularly. I have about 15-20 pounds to lose to have a healthy BMI. Despite my academic achievements, I have never been able to use logic to control my binging and then subsequent restricting. I would always see food, as you said, in black and white, where if I ate something “bad” early in the day I would consider it a failure and go to the store to buy more junk food. I really liked your lines about the cravings never going away. I think a lot of people don’t understand that – they think that if you don’t have sugar for 2 weeks it gets easier, etc. but for me that’s not true, at least for me. I’ll always want to have more food to ease my anxiety, and there will never be enough food, much like an alcoholic will never have enough to drink. Unfortunately, my addiction is one that affects my appearance in a way that is unacceptable in society (ie weight gain). I spent 30 days in a rehab center this August for my binge eating, surrounded by drug addicts, and even those people were concerned about gaining weight. Not that they were no longer injecting themselves with drugs – but weight gain. Anyhow, I digress. Thank you as always for putting so much of yourself on this blog, and for writing what so many of us need to hear. I am forever grateful to know that I’m not alone.

  16. Food is an ever-present balm. I still binge, though I have maintained my 20lb. weight loss for 3 and 1/2 years. I went from gratified to satisfied to anxious (about my ability to maintain– “for LIFE”) and finally to actually having to deal with whatever feelings I have. It has been peeling back the layers of the onion. Emotional eating? For me any emotion will do. Good news: bingeing episodes are farther apart and do not last as long. Don’t judge them. Just get back on track and be kind to yourself as you would to a friend who confided in you seeking help.

    This is a wonderful blog.

  17. I completely relate to this post. I’ve found that writing a journal twice a day–once in the morning and once in the evening–has been tremendously helpful. I just start this last week and have been binge free for the past four days. I type it up so that I can write as my thoughts come in just a stream of consciousness kind of way. There is no judgement and no over-thinking. I write about my feelings, my goals, etc. And I always read the post before. I’ve found that journaling keeps me accountable and allows a catharsis of any yucky feelings or thoughts I might have. It’s allowed me to see deeper into myself and understand why I binge. I don’t have any cravings hardly at all anymore, because I realize that binging does not align with my goals and only holds me back. Though I am new to it, I HIGHLY recommend journaling for anyone struggling. It has been a lifesaver for me thus far.

  18. ou are my kindred soul!!! Everything you write could have come straight from me, albeit, WAY less eloquently written! I have struggled with gaining and losing 30 pounds for the last 20 years (wow, to see that number written down makes it seem even sadder that I have dealt with this for so long). When I have the weight off, I am happy, free, confident, adventurous, fun, have hope and self love, etc… When the weight is on, I am depressed, have no confidence (in any area of my life, ironically, not just about my appearance) feel hopeless, don’ want to leave the house, and sadly, loathe myself.
    For me, it is a vicious cycle of dieting (feeling full of hope that this is the time it’ll stick…) and binge eating, which leaves me exhausted and in a REALLY bad place, emotionally. Ironically, I was not a chubby kid. In fact, I got a lot of positive attention for my physique, which made me terrified to ever gain weight. My mom’s side of the family all struggle with their weight and for as long as I can remember, I was warned about these genes that were just waiting to express themselves. Hence, my first diet at age 12… I was 5’7″ and 125 lbs. I put myself on a strict 1,200 calories a day, low to no-fat diet, to prevent this inevitable and imminent weight gain (I was a child who was very involved in sports, so that was clearly not enough to sustain me). I REALLY believe that this is what started my struggles. Every diet has an equal and opposite binge just waiting until you are stressed out or anxious or too warn down to fight it off any longer. Then, of course, when you do manage to finally break the binge (a day, week, month later), it’s time to start that really strict diet again to repair some of the damage, which just means that you are back to the beginning of the starve/binge cycle. Ugh. I sometimes daydream about being able to go back in time and tell my 12 year old self that I am beautiful because my heart is kind and full of love, and to just chill the hell out and trust my body. I would warn her to NEVER look at a calorie or fat gram or read about diets… Just eat the way you know is instinctively right… wholesome, nutritious foods most of the time (because that’s when your body feels it’s best), treats in normal to small portions and have NO guilt. Move on. LIVE life… stop thinking about the damn food when you are supposed to be out making your day great, having adventures to look back fondly on, as you lie exhausted and content in bed each night. Also, move your body every day because it FEELS good!! Only do what you love, though. Rollerblade or hike or ride your bike because you love doing those things. Don’t run because it burns the most calories… you hate running (unless you are playing tag, lol). If I could add up how much of my life has been spent thinking about food and diets, well, let’s just say that number would be alarmingly, unhealthily, sadly high.
    I have a sister who lost 50 pounds about 8 years ago, and it was largely accidental (I know, I’d hate her, too, if she wasn’t so darn lovable!). She was pregnant, so for the first time in years, she couldn’t diet. She also didn’t want to give herself permission to gain 100 pounds, so she decided to listen her body (for the first time, maybe ever) and resolved to eat smaller portions of what she really wanted (no “bad” or “good” foods or restricting anything). She continued to eat this way after her daughter was born and when it was all said and done, was down 50 pounds (with one heck of a gorgeous physique)! She has lived this way for 8 years now (3 kids later and the weight is still off) and has told me too many times to count, that the single, biggest, most important thing she did was to NEVER allow herself to binge. Does she overeat on occasion? Of course! This is life, after all. She said it helps to use imagery. For instance, if your cell phone screen is cracked, are you going to throw it at the wall and then hit it with a sledge hammer until it is pulverized into dust? Of course not… that’s just crazy. So why do we turn one huge meal or that second doughnut turn into a days long bender? Well, this is probably been the single biggest struggle in my 36 years her on this planet. I, like you, work on it and struggle with it every day. This blog and your book (which, BTW, I am counting down the days until I can get my hands on it) help so many of us in SUCH a profound way. You are SO special and the work you do is so important and I thank you for sharing such an intimate part of yourself with us!! Sorry this is so long… I actually had to cut myself off!

  19. you manage to articulate so generously and forgivingly and intimately what so many of your readers have felt (or are feeling) at some point in their lives. This ability to convey emotion and need is unique and special. You are the Geneen Roth for our generation (wear that title proudly, because it is so true). Thank you, a million times, for your words!

  20. Though I’m typing a comment to you, I’m really laying in the middle of the floor reeling from this post. I had to stop reading it several times and make myself come back to it because all of it was SO TRUE and I needed to hear this so badly. Maybe the most true thing I’ve ever read in my whole life. I’ve never equated over eating with binge eating. I always thought of binge eating as being passed out in front of your now empty fridge cuz you just had to eat all the things in it. This made me come to terms with how malicious I become to myself when I “mess up” and how, almost daily, I tell myself I’m too far gone to lose any of the weight I have. This was like a therapy session – well actually better cuz no therapist has ever laid it out so simply.

    Thanks for your honesty and your transparent journey. I feel like no one ever addresses this stuff. They tell you if you want to eat better then just do it! it’s not that hard! when it’s the hardest thing in the world and you can’t explain that to someone whose relationship with food is healthy. Ugh. Seriously I’m gonna go lay in the middle of the floor.

  21. omg, this is the story of my life. it’s just so hard. you’re making my eyes well up.

  22. SOmetimes I believe you are in my head! Other times, it’s like a best friend/psychologist is talking to me.

  23. These are such wise insights into the world of food addiction and binge eating. I’m recovering myself and still slip. I’m proud to say that I’m becoming less hard on myself when I do slip. Thank you for being so candid and honest with your experiences, it really helps to know we’re not alone doesn’t it? I myself have lost 70ish pounds over the past two years with 50ish more to go. It sometimes feels like it will never happen, especially in hard moments. But I’m so lucky to have people in my life (bloggers too) that lift me up, tell me, “Keep going” and empathize with the real struggle.

  24. Chelsea I consider it a true blessing that I stumbled upon your blog (thank you howsweeteats). Your messages warm my heart and strengthen me in my battle with my own mind. Sometimes I hurt and I feel broken but your stories, which are honest and full of light, help me feel more alive and more connected. I can’t thank you enough and I hope you know how truly special you are to the world.

  25. jeeeeez. I love you, girl.

    I don’t particularly binge eat by the standard definition, I more so eat what I want when I want. Which is mostly donuts, burgers and tacos. Sometimes I think I’m just too comfortable being the way I am. A couple of times a month I’m reminded that I don’t want this (the being overweight part.) And I mean REALLY reminded, sick and crying in bed type. Stubbornness is also a big part of it. That skinny girl ate a scone and an iced coffee, the world is unfair and I must make it fair by ALSO eating that scone and having an iced coffee. It doesn’t ever end. But you make it a little bit more easy. Thank you for that.

  26. After another nerve wracking day at work today I could barely contain myself as I waited for the medium-sized ooey gooey double cheese pizza to arrive. I did my usual gobbling down of a slice before the delivery man had even pulled out of my driveway before descending to the family room and hoovering the remainder.

    And then I read your post. And then I cried while saying yes, yes exactly get out of my head Andie. I have struggled with binge eating for over 10 years. I am aware of my emotions and my triggers and the actions that follow and I’m aware that they are irrational and that I am not eating out of hunger, I am eating my emotions. Eating my anxiety.

    The next time that these feelings come up, and they will without a doubt, maybe tomorrow maybe next week, I vow to sit with those emotions, let myself feel uncomfortable. That is something I’ve never allowed myself to do is to be uncomfortable with the emotions that have led to my binge eating. What’s the worst that can happen? I cry, I maybe shriek, I have a full blown temper tantrum and throw myself on the floor!

    What a fantastic feeling it will be to overcome my emotional need to stuff my face for the first time. How powerful will that make me feel, take that you calzone you!

    As usual you bring clarity, comfort, a sense of validation that I am not crazy, I am not alone in my feelings. Thank you for your courage!!

  27. Chelsea, There’s a reason I always come back to check in on your blog, and why I’m so thrilled to find a new post: I can always relate. When I’m staring guiltily at the empty bag of cookies and still wondering what’s for dinner, you get it. I’m just starting to learn how to voice my emotions instead of bury them(and/or eat them), and I always know I can come here for encouragement.

  28. Beautifully insightful and articulate, Chels – as always. It’s taken me 20 years to overcome my binge eating disorder; I know that I’ll always be learning more about myself and my relationship with food. Such a wonderful community you’ve created here.

    All the best to those of you on the journey to beat binge eating. You’re all amazing!

  29. I love your blog so much, and what a great post. Having struggled with an eating disorder myself for so long, I’m really appreciating life in recovery free from the constant worry about how many calories I’m eating, whether the food I consume is “good” or “bad”, how much I weigh, and whether my appearance is the defining measure of my worth as a woman. It’s taken so long to separate “bingeing” from the body simply feeling deprived, malnourished even. I wonder what your thoughts are on the idea that binges only happen in the presence of dieting/restriction, ideas promoted by such individuals as Geneen Roth (“for every diet there is an equal/opposite binge”) and Gwyneth Olwyn (her site, youreatopia.com, is a tremendous resource for many of the topics you address, as well). Anyway, thanks so much for being such a beautiful and inspiring individual!

  30. This is exactly what I needed to read today.

    You are SO my soul sister. I feel as if you were describing me! I have such a struggle with food and maintaining weight. I totally rely on it to provide with me pleasure, just as you have described. But food cannot provide the true satisfaction that I seek and I think I’m finally realizing that. I didn’t even realize I had those expectations! But you are so right. There are a lot of us out there who enjoy stuffing our faces… hoping that a second cupcake will be that much more satisfying but it so is not. It’s so not worth it.

    Food is a passion of mine and always will be. I love to be creative with my cooking and baking but now I think I can set that boundary between worshiping food and simply enjoying it. I have been trying to eat healthy on again off again and ALWAYS beat myself up when I have one slip. I need to stop doing that. I need to realize that having a slice of pizza every once in a while is perfectly fine!

    Thank you for your words.

    • I’m so happy that you enjoyed this post! Never ever beat yourself up for simply enjoying something and also if slip ups happen, it is what it is and you move on without putting that huge pressure and guilt on yourself. It’s one day, the next day is a fresh one to start. Starting positive will be the way to end positive. I wish you all the best!

  31. It’s so crazy that so much is written about binge eating all over the internet, and yet, to me, you’re the only one who really gets it.

    Thank you.

  32. This post is simply magnificent. Touching, human, and beautiful in its truth. Thank you so much for writing and sharing.

  33. Thank you for showing that vulnerable part of yourself to the masses. Like many others who commented here I too have followed you for some time. I too wonder how you managed to put into words what I’ve felt for ages but could never verbalize. You have a gift in the ability to share so eloquently those experiences and feelings. After reading this post, couldn’t help but respond to say Thank You. Thank you to someone I will likely never meet, but who has made an impression.

  34. Thank you so much for addressing the things I struggle with most. I have been a binge eater since middle school. It haunts me like I am a drug addict; I makes me feel so ashamed that I cannot admit this to anyone but my husband. Just this week, I ate an entire bag of stuffed pretzels, and I think that I am beginning to feel/internalize how this practice does nothing for me; it numbs me for a bit, but the sickness, pain and shame come back with full force and lead me to make further bad decisions. I have started a weight loss plan AGAIN where I allow myself the things I crave, and I am hoping this helps foster a better relationship with food. It didn’t 8 eight years ago, but I am a different person now truly, and the things I’ve learned about me are AMAZING and to be celebrated…..
    Thanks for sharing so eloquently.

  35. Thank you for this inspiring blog! I have been fighting this battle for a while and I know what you are talking about. Thank God I already lost 22 pounds but I still got a long way to go, I just started my blog on losing weight, just sharing some advices that worked for me and trying to inspire people to change habits (has worked for me) rather than jumping from one diet to another – I also hope it helps me to keep on the right track!
    Elle

  36. Unbelievable …. you said everything and said it perfectly. Thank you ever so for sharing your ride with us. I appreciate it (you) so much!!!

  37. Thank you for putting words down so eloquently that seem to truly capture my thoughts and all there really is to weight loss and living healthy and just living.,

  38. I had to break this into several readings because it hurt so much. The truth of it all, the way I related, it all just hurt, like staring into light. Thank you for sharing this. This post was very healing for me.

    Onward we all trod, to health, to self love.

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