I was cruising the internet last week, reading cooking and fitness blogs, when I came across a post that instantly intrigued me.
The blogger and cookbook author had written an article about how she quit binge eating, and about her binge eating experience, and so much of it rang true to me that it actually made me a little uncomfortable. Because struggling with binge eating, especially when it happens regularly, freaking stinks.
I struggled with binge eating for about 8 years, and a number of those years I met the criteria for full blown binge eating disorder.
I haven’t been a binge eater in more than four years now, and sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that it was part of my life, which is why I think that post made me nervous: I don’t want to go back there.
Binge eating is eating large (for you) quantities of food in a short amount of time, feeling like you have no control and cannot stop. If you’ve been there, or are there now (some studies suggest there is a correlation between binge eating disorder and type 2 diabetes) I thought sharing how I stopped might be helpful, because there were times I thought I’d never be able to end this behavior.
Emotional support, dieting and binge eating
First of all, you should know that food was something I turned to for emotional support when I was growing up, before I ever developed a binging problem, so I think I was more susceptible than some other people to binge eating.
Second, I fell into a pattern of restrictive eating and near constant dieting. This is what I believe really turned me into a binge eater, and mirrors the experience of many other binge eaters I’ve encountered. Your body is designed to eat, and when you start keeping food from it, it often rebounds by overeating.
That leads me to the number one thing I had to do in order to stop binge eating: I had to stop dieting. Every single time I dieted, I ended up binge eating to the point where I was uncomfortably full, and would do it day after day.
In order to stop dieting, though, I had to work through some fears, namely that I would gain weight if I stopped dieting (and years after the fact, I can tell you that I did not). I had read a bunch of different books that talked about how allowing yourself to eat enough and to eat regularly was very helpful in ending binge eating behaviors, but I still had a really hard time doing it.
I had to get comfortable in the body I had, which meant addressing my self-esteem and self-confidence issues, and I had to get comfortable experiencing unpleasant feelings, which in turn would allow me to stop using food to numb or avoid my feelings.
It’s not overnight; back then I was always looking for a quick fix, thinking the right diet would help my overeating issues, but it simply made things worse. The fact is, my binge eating slowly became less and less frequent over time, and finally it just petered out.
If you’re struggling with this, please know that you can have a healthy relationship with food. See a counselor. See a registered dietitian. Find a way to eat that works with type 2 diabetes but also allows you to feel like you’re not constantly restricted (because that restriction can trigger binge eating, in my experience).
It’s so hard to put worries about weight on hold, I know, I really, really do. But binge eating wreaks havoc on your blood sugar and body, and you’ll be healthier and happier in the long run if you give your body permission to eat regularly—once your eating has stabilized you can work with a professional to figure out the safest way for you to manage your weight.
It stinks. It’s awful. It also doesn’t have to be that way. Know that you’re not alone, and you get the help you need.
Check out the National Eating Disorder Association for more resources and immediate help.