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Q & A Friday- My Inner Rebel Doesn't Want to Stop Binge Eating

Question: 

Dear Leora,
I’m starting to identify that I use binging to rebel. I get a high from being sneaky and saying a big F-you to my mom, my husband, anyone who ever commented on my weight, etc. I’m doing what I want when I want with no one’s rules when I binge. I’m sure it comes back to my mom “catching” me eating her Snackwells cookies or crackers or ? … then my finding every opportunity to sneak food that she wouldn’t know about. My adult mind knows it’s ridiculous. I’m not “getting one over” on anyone by sneak binging now. But are there substitutes to get that feeling of doing something only I can do and decide? Most times I have the house to myself, I secretly “plan” a binge.
I also find that I’m struggling with the sneaking thing and find its just habit that I sneak good when I’m alone…even if I don’t crave it, it’s what I’ve always done. 
What’s up with that? Any insight would be appreciated! 
My Answer: 
This is such a good question and one that I think about A LOT.  You are NOT alone. I hear this a lot.  Many of my clients deeply feel that rebellious kick inside them  when they begin to heal. They become angry at at me for not corroborating with their eating disorder mind, but for supporting their healthy mind.
Logically makes no sense, right? They are paying me and coming in to my office weekly for therapy, yet they are angry at me. But why? Why would someone want so badly to stop bingeing and then be angry at me when I work to help them stop?  
There are a few different things going on here.
The first is that ED, the voice of the eating disorder begins to get really loud when your wise self comes in for help.  ED mind and Wise mind start to fight. That rebel is part of ED. It doesn’t want to go away and it will fight. 
The other part of this is that the behaviors are not logical because they are not coming from your intact adult self. They are coming from a very young place. Although realistically you know that it doesn’t make sense, your inner child believes that  someone is trying to take your best friend away. Something that has brought you joy and comfort for so long. Bingeing is your security blanket, it’s your favorite and  best coping mechanism.  So of course you are going to fight against that. It make sense.  Our coping mechanisms do something for us that is very important, they soothe us.  So when you believe somewhere that someone is stealing your coping mechanism, you get angry and try to go behind their back to get what you are being denied.  I think it’s likely very old, but also new in a sense. Is there anything that you’re being denied right now that you feel like you have to steal or sneak to get? (sleep? money? time to do things? affection? sex? etc…)  When you can’t get what you need, food is the easiest way to soothe. 
Sneak eating also is a lot about both habit and shame. It’s a habit that you’ve formed, where you know that the moment you are alone, you are supposed to get in what you can. So just being alone can be a trigger. Even if you are alone for moments, like bringing a pan of leftover food from the dining room table into the kitchen. With typical sneak eating, that 5 seconds alone in the kitchen can be you bingeing on leftovers that you weren’t even hungry for because the habit of eating when you are alone is so ingrained. That comes from being told that you were wrong or bad to eat. It makes you feel shame and then the shame builds on itself. So you feel ashamed for eating, your habit of sneak eating kicks in and then you feel ashamed of yourself for sneaking and then you eat more to deal with the shame. 
 
So how to help with that.
There is only one antidote for shame and that is acceptance. 
 
Bring in your adult intact self to talk to your rebel in the kindest and most loving way and remind her that she is safe and she has choice and she can do whatever she wants, but what does she really think would be the best choice for her? And when you come from a kind and loving place, your rebel little girl and even ED (who is ultimately their to protect you) will both realize that you no longer need them, that you have an adult caring self who will protect you and keep you safe. Make sense?  
The other part of this is to tell people around you that you trust that you have been sneak eating, that it’s an old habit, that it has nothing to do with them, but that because of that, you are choosing to air out this secret so it can no longer mess with you. Once the secret is out, you can ask for support. Like not being alone in the kitchen at night. Or whenever you find that you are being triggered to binge eat. Don’t be afraid to ask for support as much as you need. 

I hope that this response was helpful for you. Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? 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. Are you interested in online therapy or coaching to deal with your eating disorder? Please contact me to discuss getting started. 

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Most recent quote from community member: "Unbelievable progress. I had a slice of cake, wasn't that fussed about it and moved on. Cake is just cake! I never thought I'd get to this place. I keep thinking back to an earlier meditation when all the negative energy left down through my feet. That was really powerful. I'm planning to play it again. I've also drawn up a weekly meal plan of healthy balanced meals. This just helps to give me a bit of guidance and planning and eliminates any need for impulsive decisions when I often feel stressed after work. Amazing, thank you so much. I always hoped for hope, but n ow I feel like I'm living hope! I'm so grateful Leora. Thank you."