Recovery from binge eating is possibly one of the trickiest of all eating disorders to bounce back from. It affects millions and is difficult to define and diagnose. What is a binge exactly? Who qualifies as a binge eater? I certianly know a lot of people that “over eat” on ocassion, perhaps even “binge” but I would not call them binge eaters. But maybe someone else would. I guess depends on whose definition you are going by .
I believe the problem and prognosis to be self diagnosed. It is a problem if you believe it to be a problem for you. That I believe is the rule and definition. There are binge eating definitions that you can look up online, and I tend to like this description by Chris Fairburn in Overcoming Binge Eating:
“It starts off with my thinking about the food that I deny myself when I am dieting. This soon changes into a strong desire to eat. First of all it is a relief and a comfort to eat, and I feel quite high. But then I can’t stop, and I binge. I eat and eat frantically until I am absolutely full. Afterward I feel so guilty and angry with myself.”
I get a lot of emails from people who are specifically dealing with binge eating issues. Here is one reader who asked me a specific question about recovery from binge eating.
How did you cope getting off the bingeing.. slowly? Its a filthy habit isnt it?
Yes binge eating certainly is a filthy habit, as you described so well. Binge eating came into my life after years of being able to “successfully” starve and purge, or use other addictions simultaneously to act out my obsession and compulsion. It consumed my whole life – I would leave work and go straight to a store to stock up on groceries and then I would race home like a maniac, sometimes beginning the binge while I was still driving. The phone doesn’t get answered, I do not even undress. I act like an addict trying to get their fix, oblivious to the rest of the world.
During this period, I was actually always trying to recover, trying to stick to a food plan or just a regimented diet. So many binges were followed by strict eating periods – that became fewer and shorter. I believe that those “restricting” periods – healthy or otherwise – were part of the problem.
My body was stuck in the binge/starve cycle, coupled with my mental obsession over the food that I knew would be “off limits” to me once the binge was over. It was the all-or-nothing mentality that kept me stuck, hopeless and destined to fail.
After being stuck in this downward spiral for many years, I started to recognize that perhaps it was the balck and white thinking that was the problem. Perhaps there was no “perfect” food plan and that all of my efforts to diet and restrict were in fact causing the problem.
I got to a point where I was mentally, spiritually and physically exhausted. I just could not do it anymore. I moved to my favorite city – New York – a place where I had dreamed of living my whole life, and my world had become the size of my next binge. This was devastating to me. I had no ability to experience and enjoy this beautiful city. I went from the grocery store to my apartment, full of self loathing, depression and no desire to live.
Finally, I just gave up. I gave up on the diets, the food plans and anything that was designed to focus, control and restrict my eating. I made a single minded and determined effort to shift my attention off food, weight and dieting. I knew that “what we focus on we become” and I used this principle to guide my focus OFF food and weight.
I stopped weighing myself, stopped eating diet foods, stopped creating meal plans and researching anything food related online. I wanted to live, not be a slave to food and the scales.
This of course was not an overnight process, but I can tell you that once the mental shift was created, the results were faster than expected.
The more I ate food that I actually liked, the more the obsession lessened.
The more time I spent with friends talking about things not food related, the less I had the desire to binge.
It has now been over three years and I have not had the need to binge, diet, starve or purge in that time. No desire at all. There have been thoughts at various times of wanting to “lose a few pounds”, start a “cleanse” or go on a “quick diet”, but I have NEVER acted on these thoughts, because I know what they lead to. You can read more of my eating disorder recovery story , binge eating disorder treatment or common eating disorder questions .
Recovery from binge eating requires a shift from the dieting and all-or-nothing mentality, followed by a determined and single minded effort to get better, to move towards recovery and to not entertain self destructive thoughts.
Do you suffer with binge eating? Do you have any questions regarding binge eating disorder recovery or useful help to offer sufferers? Share your thoughts!