Good morning lovelies!!!! My apologies for getting off track again with blog posts.
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m wrapping up this whole weight loss, dieting, blogging, searching, researching, and experimenting thang, but before I say “Au revoir,” there’s quite a few things I’d still love to share with you.
The complication is that I’m distracted with a new and wonderful lettering/calligraphy/bullet journaling/watercolor painting hobby (yes, I have an Instagram account for that! @loveslettersandbujos.) I’m having so much fun that it’s hard to stop to write anything anymore, which is a great thing I suppose.
I try to make good on my promises to you. Lucky for all of us, my kids have a snow day today so I’ve gained back three hours of my life while they rest peacefully in their warm beds. Thus, a new HGK post today!
I’d like to share with you my own personal story about binge eating disorder and what I’ve recently come to understand, in the hopes that what I’ve suffered may help at least one person in their own binge eating agony.
I began eating in a disordered way at roughly the time I began to walk and talk. Seriously. I had a mom who loved me very much and did what a lot of loving mothers do, she set about to control the size of her young daughter’s body by anxiously “watching what I ate” as if the world depended on it. Restriction was completely and totally normal in my life.
I’m forty-seven years old now, and I don’t remember a time in my life when food wasn’t a really wonky issue for an extended period of time.
And until this past year, I never heard an explanation for my weird food behaviors other than:
(a) there must be something very wrong with me emotionally and/or psychologically (I’m an emotional eater)
(b) there must be something very wrong with me physically and I’m a food addict with a defective brain (I’m an over eater)
and/or (c) there must be something very wrong with our food supply because it’s the food’s fault that I can’t stop eating it precisely when I’ve consumed 1500 calories a day and therefore cannot maintain a svelte body. (It’s the food!)
I am not here today to debate the merits of any of the above mentioned explanations for why I’m chubby. I’m simply here to tell you my story and it’s up to you to conclude what you want to about your own harrowing experience.
I STOPPED BINGE EATING like six months ago.
It happened very suddenly.
It happened when I STOPPED RESTRICTING WHAT I ATE IN AN EFFORT TO BE THIN.
All these years I kept thinking that I had found the answers. All of those times when I came on this blog to tell you about the new diet that I was experimenting with and how it seemed to be working and how I was losing weight and yadda, yadda, yadda.
Well, I always ended up in the ditch again, eventually, and with Bright Line Eating it was no different. We’re all part of a really broad community of folks who are very engaged, vocal and outspoken about their health and weight experiences. And I was one of the most outspoken of them all. I kept asking questions about what I was doing wrong that I wasn’t able to stick to my new diet for more than a day or two at a time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t receive a single satisfying answer until it was far, far too late.
But what somehow miraculously came my way my were the titles of some books and some links to people on social media who all had the same and quite shocking, to me at least, conclusion:
There is nothing wrong with you.
You are not broken.
In order to stop binging you must stop restricting because it’s actually the restriction that’s causing the binging, not some defect inside of you.
If I stop restricting, I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Am I going to gain a ton of weight?
Will I ever be able to stop eating sugar, flour, etc., etc. once I start?
What will happen to me?
But it felt like I didn’t have any choice in the matter. I had tried everything. I had gone on perhaps the most restrictive diet of them all, the food addict’s diet-no sugar, no flour, weighing and measuring every ounce of food and still, the end result was NO LASTING PEACE WITH FOOD.
I had looked everywhere. I had turned over every stone. I couldn’t have wanted something more. I simply wanted to follow the plan.
But I just didn’t have it in me.
I decided that this was insanity, and something inside of me said “Wendy, you need listen to yourself. This is crazy. Why are you holding on to doing what someone else is telling you to do when it’s so obvious that you are not finding the peace with food that you had hoped was there, that was promised to you, that seemed like it would be so easy?”
So I stopped.
I stopped dieting.
I stopped restricting.
And just like the books said, the binging stopped too.
It had been there all along, the messaging that diets were really, really bad for you and that people actually come in all shapes and sizes, only I wanted to believe that I was a unicorn. I would be one of the chosen ones to lose the weight and keep it off forever, by simply following the plan, dammit!
But in the end, I had to make a decision. I had this newfound knowledge about why restriction causes binging. It’s both physical and psychological.
Here it is in a nutshell.
THE PHYSICAL CAUSE OF BINGE EATING
Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to SURVIVE. Most bodies will not let starvation reign. And you need to understand this: eating 1200-1500 calories per day is STARVATION. Sure, most of us can do it for a little while. Maybe even for six months or a year. But few can do it indefinitely (the unicorns). And the only way to remain thin is to starve (unless you never dieted to begin with and have the metabolism of a 13-year-old, in which case you probably don’t read HGK).
But like I said, we are programmed with very strong biological reactions to starvation. Chemicals will be released by your body into your bloodstream that will make you totally preoccupied with food and you won’t be able to resist consuming calories. Your body wants to live and it’s got mad skills to make it happen. It’s going to get those calories come hell or high water. Thus the phenomenon of “I’m good all day and then I just lose it with food at night.”
And not only that, your body wants a cushion of FAT. The more times you’ve dieted and lost the weight, the more it wants insurance in the form of fat. Your body doesn’t know that in this day and age, famines just don’t happen ’round these parts. All it cares about is that it lives when the famine comes again, and we’ve taught it to expect famine.
And that’s just the body’s physical response to dieting.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSE OF BINGE EATING
What about the psychological response?
In the book Intuitive Eating, I first began to understand the term “Last Supper Eating.” It goes like this: We think we’re fat and the answer is “I must go on a diet.” So you find yourself a guru and your diet du jour. Perhaps, like me, your last few diets told you that you were a food addict and that you shouldn’t ever have sugar or flour again, and so you make up your mind to dive in.
Perhaps you remain sugar and flour free for a few months, maybe a few days, or for most people, a few hours. You’re hungry, and your body is sending off very strong chemicals that make it almost impossible not to eat. Perhaps it’s “time” to eat again according to your plan, and you engage in preparing and eating a “sensible meal.” Or maybe you’ve eaten everything allowable on your plan for the day and you’ve got nothing left.
You’re mind is racing. Your stomach is growling. Your body is screaming for more food. You are most certainly NOT SATISFIED. The debate begins. You know it well.
“I shouldn’t eat anymore.
I shouldn’t eat that.
I’m so hungry.
Maybe just a little won’t hurt.
I’ll start my diet again tomorrow.
I’ll have just a little right now and then I promise, I’ll never ever not ever eat flour or sugar (or cheese or meat or wine or whatevertheeff) again starting tomorrow.
I feel bad.
I just messed up.
I’m bad. I’m weak. I’ve failed again. I didn’t earn my star today.
Gosh, I might as well just eat more, because I swear, I am not doing this again tomorrow and this is my last time and I know it is and I’ll be better tomorrow. I need to get it all in now. This is the LAST TIME I’M EATING (INSERT FOOD NAME HERE) EVER!”
This, my friends, is the binge-restrict cycle, and it is alive and well in 21st century cultures all over the world.
And there’s a quick way out of it if you’ve got some serious balls.
STOP RESTRICTING AND DEAL WITH IT.
All of it.
Deal with the confusion.
The body shame.
The learning how to eat again.
The learning how to really listen to your body. Learning to honor and love yourself because you are worth it and you don’t deserve to be tortured into hunger and thinness during this one short life. Because you deserve to enjoy food and to not be made crazy by it.
I promise, you can actually have a totally normal relationship with food even after all of this nonsense.
Because you enjoy eating “healthy” food and you’re also a freakin’ human who enjoys pleasure.
And that’s okay. Remember I mentioned that there is nothing wrong with you and that you are not broken? I really mean that!
And the healing. It comes.
You won’t need to binge because (a) your body won’t be starving anymore and (b) why would you stuff yourself with anything when you can eat whatever you want to at any time in the future (notice I said “you can,” not “you will” or “you will eat all the foods all the time” because that doesn’t feel good either and we all know it).
I see healing happening all around me now. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not an easy answer. It’s most likely not the answer you want. It’s not the road to thinness. And there’s a lot that goes into the way this works on your body and your brain that you can learn about by reading and studying up on Intuitive Eating if you want to.
But if you simply want to end binge eating and start having a normal relationship with food, it’s pretty much a guaranteed road to recovery.