I am a recovering binge eater. I say recoverING rather than recovered because it is a weekly – sometimes daily – battle. I believe it will be a long battle. I have been shrugged off and disregarded when sharing this fact with others – being told that I am fine and there is nothing. Please know, this rejection is the worst reaction you can ever have to someone who is forthcoming about such behaviors. Luckily, I am excessively independent and this didn’t effect me in anyway other than temporarily reducing my desire to increase my interdependence (which is critical to becoming a highly effective individual according to Stephen Covey).
Coming from a long ancestral line of addicts known for episodes of binge drinking – I am genetically susceptible to addiction. This is not an excuse, this is a heightened awareness of what to watch for. After a period of binge drinking – and developing a fear of becoming an alcoholic – I eventually replaced alcohol with food. You might say, but you are not overweight. I once was. Further, my binges did not occur every day (though there were periods of consecutive days) and I maintain an incredibly high level of physical activity (often compensatory).
Food = comfort
My most frequent binges occur when I am under the most stress. I eat for comfort. I eat because it was one thing that I still had complete control over when I feel like everything else around me is falling apart. I eat because food tastes good. I eat to stay awake to get through work demands. I eat for the temporary benefits of increased energy and improved mood. Some individuals might now say that I have shifted to finding comfort with coffee – I may assess this at a later date! I did come to realize that I binged for comfort and I was not satisfied with this behavior, not at all.
Do you eat for comfort? Is it excessive?
How do you stop an undesirable behavior? First, you need to be aware of the behavior. Second, you have to want to change. For a long time, I had no idea that I was bingeing – because in today’s society binges have become a norm and many individuals even binge at every meal. It was when my mind began towards thoughts of compensatory behaviors – specifically purging – thatI knew something had to change. I sought professional help – while this may not be necessary for everyone and I am not promoting it as such.
Are you aware of existing problematic eating behaviors?
Environment & triggers
My most dangerous times are periods of sadness. Specifically when I am disappointed in myself or life. Sometimes this is the result of comments other people make – but more often than not it is the result of my negative self-talk. Therefore, it is critical to catch these negative thoughts early, before they can dwell in my brain and set themselves as real. I use a dysfunctional thought record (DTR) to monitor these thoughts on a semi-regular basis.
Another trigger for me is hunger – I cannot let myself become hungry. This is one reason I tend to gain weight when training for endurance running – it makes me hungry. If I allow myself to reach the point of stomach grumbling, it is likely that I will excessively eat.
Do you know your triggers?
I tell all of my clients – log your food. Write down everything you eat. EVERYTHING. Often times, writing down everything you eat can be enough to increase your awareness and ultimately change problematic eating behaviors. It can be enlightening to see on paper exactly what you eat. Other times, simply writing it down is not enough.
There are numerous additions and modifications that can be made to a food log. Struggling with compensatory behaviors? Begin tracking the engaging in and thoughts of performing these behaviors within your food log – it is important to know the time it occurs and what you may have eaten as either or both can be triggers.
I like hand writing my food log – as opposed to using an app or online system – because I can add whatever I want. I astrick any consumption that I feel is excessive. I highlight anything that I perceive to be a binge.
Other things to monitor include but are not limited to:
- Context – where did you eat and who were you with?
- Mood (& feelings) – what was your mood prior to eating?
- Thoughts – what were your thoughts prior to, during, and after eating?
- Physical pain & illness – did you have a headache, sore muscles, a cold, etc?
- Weather – Sunny or cloudy? Warm or cold? Humid or dry?
I recently wrote about the Recovery Record app, which allows you to track all of these factors and more! I find this app to be one of the best and most useful I have ever seen. And best of all, it does not track calories (unless YOU do it independently). I do not promote tracking caloric intake nor expenditure.
Often times, what you eat is not the determining factor of weight loss or maintenance. When and how much, along with your psychological state, can significantly effect digestive processes and your ongoing psychological state. External and internal stressors have a powerful impact on our eating behaviors.
Further – you cannot spot a binge eater. They come in all shapes, sizes, and socioeconomic backgrounds. There are more of us out there than you may suspect. Be kind to those who express concern with eating – because more than likely there is something going on inside.
For those who may suffer from binge eating – you are not alone. This does not make it easier, but it is always nice to know when you are not alone.
Yours in health,