Sunday, February 3, 2013

Binge, restrict, repeat: stopping the cycle.

I have received several emails lately asking me how I stopped binging.. Most of these emails have come from young women who suffered from a restrictive eating disorder and are now developing a binging problem. This post will be directed towards this group; however, the message can be applied to anyone in recovery for any eating disorder and/or addiction.

When it comes to binging, most of us feel shame, regret, and a certain degree of self-hatred. And binging is especially strange and difficult for those that once had anorexia or bulimia and later develop a binging problem. To spend so long telling yourself that food is the enemy, only to develop the problem of not being able to stop eating is a big change.

When I first started binging, I did not understand what was happening. I was anorexic, yet I occasionally snuck away at night to eat jars upon jars of peanut butter? It didn't make sense to me.
I approached my dietitian, and she told me that my body needed this food in order to recover. I had deprived myself of too many calories and nutrients, and my body was going to get them any way it could.
I was not okay with this explanation, but on some level I understood the reasoning.

However, as time went on, binging became even more of a problem. I noticed that as I moved farther into recovery from anorexia, I was moving deeper into binge eating disorder.
Binging was no longer about getting my body calories and nutrients. It became a way for me to fill a hole, to numb whatever feeling it was that I wanted to avoid.

If my boyfriend and I had a fight, I would binge. If my mother relapsed, I would binge. If I didn't make a good grade on a test, if I wasn't the best in the workout that day, if my friends did not ask me to hang out.. Soon, everything became a reason for me to binge. I couldn't picture going to bed at night without binging.

And how did I combat this horrendous habit? By exercising and restricting, of course!
I was not going to let my body gain all the weight that I had surely put on the night before by binging! I  would tell myself that the day after a binge I would have to revert to restricting.
The night of a binge I would consume maybe 2500 extra calories, on top of what I had already eaten that day, so it made sense to me that the day after a binge I should consume 500 calories or less, to balance it out.


Even if I did eat only 500 calories the next day, the following day I would binge, thereby repeating the cycle.

If you really want to solve this problem, you have to get to the root of it.
You cannot possibly get better by continuing to punish your body.
You must ask yourself, "Why did this binge happen? Did something trigger me? Did I just want to eat? Did I not let myself eat as much as I wanted during the day today (if the binge occurs at night)? Is there something that I feel pressured to do? Did I binge because I feel inadequate about something?"

Think over these questions, giving yourself ample time to answer them. Maybe write down your thoughts- that has always helped me. And then what?
Yes, I know that must be so hard, knowing that you screwed up so bad and you can't counteract what you have done. But trust me, forgiving yourself is the key to stopping this destructive disorder.

I remember hating myself so much for binging. Little did I know that this self-hatred was the reason behind my problem!
My eating disorder began to melt away as I learned to forgive myself, allowing myself slip-ups, and appreciating all of my small accomplishments.
I finally let go of binge eating when I realized that I did not HAVE to be perfect nor did I have to be thin.

Eating disorders cannot exist if you accept yourself. No one struggling with an eating disorder loves who they are; that goes against the whole idea of the disorder.

So my advice to you is to cut yourself some slack. Appreciate the things you do right. Write down 5 things you love about yourself. Write down reasons to appreciate your body. Allow yourself to eat the food that you fear the most, the food that you binge on. Eat it throughout the day, in small amounts. If you overindulge on this food, don't give up. Continue to eat it, even if it scares you, because isn't that what recovery is about: facing your fears, stepping out of your comfort zone, and exploring the world around you?

One last thing, you are going to fail. You are going to mess up. It's not going to be easy. But you can get through this. You can get better. You can recover.

Just keep swimming.
xoxo Haley