Binge Eating Disorder, The Holidays, and Everything Else
Binge Eating Disorder, what it is? It’s a very common eating disorder that a lot of people suffer from. Half of the people don’t even realize that they suffer from it. Binge Eating Disorder doesn’t discriminate either and can affect anyone.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. Binge eating disorder is a severe, life-threatening and treatable eating disorder. Common aspects of BED include functional impairment, suicide risk and a high frequency of co-occurring psychiatric disorders. NationalEatingDisorders.org
Social Stigma of BED
Many people suffering from binge eating disorder report that it is a stigmatized and frequently misunderstood disease. Greater public awareness that BED is a real diagnosis—and should not be conflated with occasional overeating—is needed in order to ensure that every person suffering from BED has the opportunity to access resources, treatment, and support for recovery. (BingeEatingDisorder.com) It mostly is overlooked as overeating. However, it goes much deeper than that.
I suffer from BED. I don’t like to say suffer, because I’m not really suffering I would say it’s a challenge I’m faced with. It wasn’t something I was always aware of consciously either. Yes I knew that eating in large amounts quickly wasn’t normal but I didn’t do it all the time so I didn’t think it was an issue for me. I only realized it was an issue while learning about plant based nutrition and studying holistic healing alternatives. I kept wondering “What’s going on with me?” There would be weeks at a time that I would go off the deep end, eat so much food in bulk and never feel full. And if I did feel full I still wanted to shove my face with a lot of cookies, cakes and snacks. It would be literally uncontrollable, I couldn’t stop myself. Afterwards I would feel so ashamed and ugly. I would obsess over what I just ate and would think “if only I could stop maybe I’d be skinny”. I would even wish I had the will to purge up the food but it was just so damn good I couldn’t imagine doing that. I would think “out of all the eating disorders I, of course, have this one”. As terrible as that may sound, it’s the truth.
I used to be a heavy smoker too, 2 packs a day for 18 years. Yes 18 years. When I had my son I quit cold turkey no questions asked. Since changing my lifestyle, I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes now. What added on to my binge eating was the fact that I quit smoking and I was subconsciously replacing one with the other.
Here’s a classic example of what my Binge Eating Disorder looked like:
I would wake up in the morning with the will to eat healthy and clean. I’d make my morning green smoothie, go for a brisk meditative walk, take a yoga class, drink tons of water, have a coconut water, eat a healthy wrap, salad, or sandwich for lunch. Snack on nuts. Eat avocado toast, have a nice healthy dinner, (for example – quinoa pasta sautéed in garlic and a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and broccoli). I would eat celery, apple slices, grapes, strawberries, everything so healthy, so nourishing. I would make those fancy smoothie bowls you see on Insta. Then I would put my son to sleep, unwind and start reading or watching TV, and it hits. This uncontrollable hunger. I would walk to the kitchen and I would start eating anything I can get my hands on. Not all vegan food is healthy. And even when I make muffins or cookies and they are healthy, eating the entire batch in one sitting is not. I would eat so fast and basically graze my kitchen. I would say to myself “oh my period is coming” or “I’m on my period to validate my binge eating”.
I would think to myself: “here I am, I ate right, took care of my body, and here I go again ruining it with a huge binge eating episode that puts me right back at square one”. Self-sabatoge my friends…can you relate?
It’s so frustrating. Around the holidays it doesn’t get easier unless you know how to handle it, face it, and consciously decide to work through it. Because this struggle doesn’t come out of thin air.
Today, I pay attention to my feelings and where they come from. I ask myself these questions: Why do I feel the need to eat in excess like this with no control? What am I letting get out of control in my life that it is manifesting in this way? I know where my issues with food and body image stem from. It was a childhood imprint and from that one imprint has been leading the way to this. The difference now is that I am in control. I control what I want to eat and what I don’t want to eat. I have the choice. I realize this now.
Say I’ve argued with my husband or had an extremely stressful project for work, in those moments I wouldn’t go straight to binge eating, usually I’d have no appetite. However, once those feelings subsided and things settled, I would then find myself binge eating, almost like rewarding myself or believing somehow I was showing myself love because I would think “well I deserve this”. It’s a constant battle. Even the fittest of the fit struggle with this. I guarantee you more than half the people you follow on social media are dealing with this disorder but feel so ashamed to share with you their hardships. You know why? Because most people want you to believe they are leading these wonderful lives with no problems and have their ego is say “look at me I’m perfect”… Bet your bottom dollar it’s the very sad and complete opposite.
Depression is also a trigger. Although I didn’t realized I was depressed my extreme anxiety led me to depression. It was like I was stuck on some sort of cycle I knew I needed to get off of.
Let’s look at symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder:
- Eating in excess or to the point of being overly full.
- Eating large amounts of food even when you’re not hungry and know you’re just bored.
- Not letting anyone see you eat because you’re embarrassed.
- Depression, irritability.
- Feeling like you’re worthless.
- Feelings of anxiety, anger, hopeless.
- Has constant struggle with weight.
- A very strong need to be in control.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
- Having severe guilt after you binge eat, hate yourself, and wished you didn’t fall back into the trap.
- Trying to compensate your overeating with excessive exercise, starvation, or purging.
- Gaining weight but note not all people who gain weight or are heavier binge eat.
The word diet should not be in your vocabulary if you have BED. That word is a trigger. You may find success with dieting for a short time but that quickly leads to a dead end because you will inevitably binge eat.
There is good news. There’s a way to manage it.
How I Handle On Coming Binge Eating Episodes (especially around the holidays) and how you can too:
What I pay attention to now is how I feel when these urges come on. What’s going on inside of me that is making me feel I need to do this, to eat this way, to be glutenous. Is it emotional? I ask “what feeling is making me want to binge eat? What is the real reason behind it? Am I really truly hungry or am I trying to fill a void? What is my soul trying to tell me? What do I need to face? How is binge eating helping me?” I literally stop and ask myself these questions. I would think, “Did I restrict myself nutritionally today? Did I not allow myself to have something? (and thus justify a binge)”. I know I don’t want to binge eat and I get so mad at myself when I would because I would “do good all day”. When you’re binge eating you’re allowing food to control you. Food does not control me, I control the food. I respect my body. I want to have a healthy relationship with food. And so I do.
Counting calories is a trigger. I can’t count calories or feel like I’m restricting myself or depriving myself. When you’re in the counting-calories mindset and have BED you don’t want to binge on carrots and apples, you want the worst kind of snacks – the chips, the cakes, the (vegan) ice creams. Everything that I feel like I’m “depriving myself of”, an illusion that feels very real in those moments.
When I find myself standing in the kitchen at night alone, looking at the cabinets and fridge I meditate. Even if it’s for 5 minutes. If I’m truly, genuinely hungry I’ll grab fruit, nuts or raisins. I know some people will say, “well you shouldn’t have anything bad in your house” or “you shouldn’t have unhealthy snacks”, but Hello! I’m human. And sometimes I do eat the apple instead of the cookie but most of the time I would look in the cabinet and gobble all, the cookies not just one. So meditating helps me. I’ll jump up and down for a few minutes until I feel like I’m back in control. I ask my guides and angels for help because I know I shouldn’t be up eating at 2am when my body needs adequate rest or I shouldn’t eat a dozen donuts at noon.
I don’t restrict myself during the day. If I want a piece of chocolate I have a piece. If I want one of my delicious muffins, I have one. I’ve learned mindful eating. Mindful eating is a technique that helps you control your eating habits. I pray over my food, I show gratitude for my food, I eat slower, I don’t use my phone while I’m eating, I don’t watch TV while I’m eating. I sit and eat every meal with my family and we talk positively with each other. Never talk bad while eating, food is energy.
I’m still working through old wounds that are healing and it takes time. I’ve learned not to be so hard on myself and understand not everyone is perfect, and rightfully so.
I don’t get on the scale everyday. If I’m trying to lose weight I get on the scale every other week and I tell myself the number on the scale doesn’t define me as a person. I’m only looking at the number to do some tracking. I go by my clothing and will notice if it’s fitting me differently.
For this time of year I don’t put unrealistic goals on myself. I know Thanksgiving and basically the months November and December aren’t going to be “eating clean months” so to speak. I know it’s ok to eat whatever I want as long as I’m not abusing myself in the process. I don’t keep my focus on “this food is going to make me fat” or “I’m so heavy, I just can’t lose weight”. And who wants to really work out on Thanksgiving? We don’t always have to have perfect days of eating or perfect days of anything. Each day we are presented with new challenges and each time we have the choice in how we are going to get through those challenges.
Now I’m not saying because of the holidays you can binge eat. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying you don’t have to be so drill sergeant with yourself. I posted 7 Options For Better Healthier Holidays because these are some of the steps I use to help me keep my binge eating in check. I notice when I snack on foods I make with better ingredients I don’t have the usual guilt that follows an episode. It helps my mind stay right when I cook with foods I know are good for me and my family. We have the right to enjoy ourselves. It’s just like alcohol, one or two drinks are good but you know you went overboard when you’re bent over the porcelain god. We don’t have to go there.
Are you dealing with an eating disorder? What are some of the things you do to deal with your disorder? Please share your story with me and let’s take this walk together.