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i went from dieting to binge eatingThis question comes from Elizabeth in New York City.

Q:  I went on a diet last summer. I lost 40 pounds from June to November by eating exactly 1200 calories each day and running on the treadmill for 45 minutes every morning. Starting around Thanksgiving, I lost it all. I started bingeing at the Thanksgiving meal, and I tried to get back to calorie counting, but I haven’t been able to. I’ll go like one day but then I’ll binge again. I’ve gained back most of the weight that I’ve lost and I can’t seem to get a hold of my eating, and I’m barely even exercising anymore. Can you help me? I feel so out of control. How can I stop bingeing and get  back to my goal weight again? I’m miserable.

A: Hi Elizabeth,

First off, I’m so sorry that you’re on this roller coaster ride. I know how awful and out of control it feels.  Unfortunately, your case is pretty classic. Binge eating disorder almost always starts with a diet. Ironic, huh? I would encourage you to:

1.)Stop counting calories immediately.

2.)Eat at least three healthy meals each day.

3.)Learn your cues for hunger and satiety. Check in with your body and understand if it’s hungry, full, satisfied, neutral.

4.)Eat slowly and mindfully and as you’re eating, continue to check in with your body and see what it needs.

5.)Don’t let yourself get too hungry, don’t let yourself get too full. Try to satisfy your hunger gently.

6.)Bingeing and restricting are both very harsh, almost violent acts that you commit toward your body. Try to be very gentle and give it what it needs.

7.)Don’t restrict any particular food. This doesn’t mean that if you can’t figure out if you want pizza, or tuna fish, or a hamburger for dinner that you should have all three. Remember that there is always a next meal, and always another opportunity to eat. Often, the impetus behind a binge can be the rational, “I’m starting a diet tomorrow, so I’m not going to be able to eat this for a long time…” if you take that out of the equation and remind yourself that you can eat what you want to eat in a moderate and healthy way, you will find that the temptation to binge, the all or nothing mentality can shift a bit.

8.)As with your food, don’t let your exercise be black and white. Allow yourself to exercise 3-5 days per week even if you’ve had a challenging or a bad day with food. If you don’t feel good or are injured, let yourself rest.

9.)Recovering from an eating disorder is all about giving your body what it needs. That can be so hard. Self love and body respect are integral parts of recovery. Even if you don’t feel it at first, that’s okay and that’s normal. But that’s what you’re working toward. So even asking yourself, “if I loved myself and respected my body, how would I honor it right now? How would I treat it? What would I feed it?”

10.)Stop weighing yourself! Don’t let the scale dictate the way you feel about yourself. It’s incredible that we can allow arbitrary numbers (ie: 1200 calories, 120 pounds, size 2) tell us how we’re supposed to feel about ourselves. I blame the school system. But that’s another story…

As you find a middle ground between bingeing, restricting, and exercise, your body will find it’s healthy weight which will be comfortable and pleasing to you. I hope that this answered your question. Good Luck.

If anyone has any other answers, please do feel free to contribute in the comments.

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.

 

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  • amanda

    Thank you so much for this website. I have been seeing a psychologist for a couple of years for a number of issues – but at the heart of many of my issues lie my body and control issues.

    We have been practising mindfulness but I just haven’t been able to get a lot of help from him on how to step by step deal with my binge eating and body issues – that’s where you and your website have come in.

    I love the step by step approach you have given and I think it will be extremely helpful.

    thanks again

  • Zey Bingette

    Hey All,

    Firstly, I have been battling with this condition since May, 2009. Thus, it feels like it has taken thirty odd years out of me. I am tired and worn-out of counting days. This condition is like a drug. It creeps up onto up then under your skin, you try fighting it off for hours etc. Your advice given is useful; however, as the years go by, you start to realize that you can’t fool yourself like you did the year before. You start to know the ways out of it whether its eating spoonfuls of salt and purging, skipping meals. Even though, we know it’s unhealthy. Yes, we have hope…… Yes, we look forward to tomorrow…….. Yes, we love looking boney and skinny…….. I have been to many specialists. I myself am a health practitioner and it’s sad when a cure hasn’t been found. No meds, nor any kind of therapy can help this illness. It’s just a matter of counting days when we binge again.

    Yep, it’s 9:30am and I’ve already consumed in 30min. the things an average adult would consume within a week, mind you I still have the entire day ahead…..

    • Leora Fulvio

      Thank you for sharing your story and I am so sorry that you’re going through this. As Joanna Poppink, Eating Disorder therapist and author says in her book Healing the Hungry Heart, “I can’t take away a client’s eating disorder, I don’t know how and even if I did, I wouldn’t. It’s serving a purpose. To strip her of the eating disorder would leave her exposed and vulnerable to her unbearable fears with no protection…”

      That’s the thing about eating disorder recovery, it’s really, really hard. There are antibiotics to take when you have strep throat, but when it comes to eating disorder recovery, the patient has to be a very active participant. They can’t just receive medicine or receive therapy. They have to do most of the work. Sometimes that feels impossible and sometimes it is. I agree with you that it feels hopeless, but I don’t agree that nothing can help with this illness. I have seen a lot of great recovery from a lot of women who have been bingeing and purging for decades. There are not great medications, but of course psyche meds have a long way to go in all aspects of psychiatric disease, so what we’re left with is inner work and outer behavioral work for ED recovery.