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Q and A: Upping My Calories Causes Me to Binge

Posted Nov 12 2009 10:00pm

Hi Kelly,
I’m trying to recover from bulimia right now and am really struggling with reducing binging. I’m seeing an eating disorder therapist who says that I have to increase my calories to at least 2000 in order to
stop binging (I’ve already increased them to 1500, which is significantly more than before and I’m not underweight), but I’ve been finding that trying to increase over 1500 directly leads to binge/purges. I feel like it would be more beneficial to focus on reducing the binging first and then work on increasing caloriesslowly…how did you go about doing this? Did you try to stop the
binging first? My biggest underlying problem with eating is actually restricting/being rigid about food intake and I feel like tackling the two issues at once is too much.

I guess I don’t totally know what I’m asking…I guess how you went about the recovery process? I really like your blog and think you’ve accomplished so much already at 23! I’m 22. :) Thanks Kelly!! ~Rachel

Thanks for your kind words- that means a lot!

The first thing you have to realize is that your binging and purging episodes have nothing to do with the amount of calories you eat- it has to do with the anxiety- and your anxiety causes you to binge and purge. The calories themselves aren’t triggering you, its the fact you are scared to eat that many. You have to deal with why you are scared, and why you get anxious when you eat more, which is probably because its a disruption to your food routine, which sends you into a tail spin.

Messing with calories to stop binging and purging is like treating the symptom instead of the disease.

What my counselor and I did first was find the level of calories at which I was comfortable eating first, and then compromised to a point where I was at least at an amount we could both be comfortable with (me to not gain weight, he so that I wouldn’t die) made sure i ate that, and then moved onto the binges. He checked my intake for the first 10 minutes, told me to up it about 200 every other week or so, and as we tackled my issues, those increases weren;t a big deal. Sometimes they were, which meant I was having a bad week- so it soom became glaring obvious to me that my fear of calories had to do with control- when I felt out of control I was scared to up them, but when I was doing good it was no big deal.

Moving your calories up and down isnt going to cure you. Ill say this a million times- it has nothing to do with food. Once you figure out why you feel the need to torture and punish yourself, and why you think that is going to make your life better, even though it obviously isnt since I have never ever met a happily well adjusted anorexic or bulimic or binge eater and I defy you to find me one, you wont feel the need to do it anymore. shifting your calories up or down a few hundred calories isnt going to fix anything- it will keep you nurished and alive- but is not the key to recovery. You have to tackle your issues, not your diet, for the bulimia to fade.

You are giving classic eating disorder talk, “I feel like it would be more beneficial to focus on reducing the binging first and then work on increasing calories sowly…” Is that really your motivation, or are you scared to gain weight? Whats the difference between eating 2000 calories and 1500 calories in terms of cutting back on binging? You are going to have to figure out how to stop binging either way, and if not eating 500 calories was the key, you would be recovered, correct? Those 500 calories are to make sure you live- not to stop you from binging. The binging and purging from the 500 calories is because you are scared, and to ever kick this, you have to not be scared- you have to realize that calories don’t mean shit, your weight doesn’ mean shit, and if you stuff yourself full of food and then vomit, no one is going to love you more than they do now, you will not be any more successful, happy, accomplished, beautiful or smart. You will just be angry, depressed, unhealthy, emaciated, and eventually dead. Get mad. This thing is sucking the life from you, and you are accepting it. Don’t blame 500 calories for your binges- its a bigger issue, and if you keep putting the blame on calories you are never going to find a happy relationship with food, and will never be able to move past the place you are in now.

I dont mean to sound harsh, but someone has to be- and Im talking about me and you towards this, not me being harsh to you. The tone comes from knowing exactly what you are going through and the attitude I had to get for me to be able to beat this. You arent to blame, chances are there are some situations, whether you are aware of them yet or not, that have affected the way you feel about yourself that probably werent under your control. Don’t let anyone ever dictate the way you feel- especially food. Psh- what is food? Its fuel for your body. What is weight? It is not a sign of how strong you are, or how much people admire you, or an indicator of how successful you will be. Its the amount of space you take up- who cares? You need to work on your relationship with you, and how you feel about yourself. Eat your 1500 calories, or 2000 calories, and you are going to be triggered to binge and purge no matter what (thats why he/she raised the calories, yes?) so focus on what is really causing you to binge and purge. Each time you get the urge try and figure out why- its not the calories. It might be the way the calories make you feel, the anxiety you get, you had a rough day, you are pissed and dont want to fight anymore- whatever it may be it has nothing to do with those 500 calories.

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