college student

Q & A Friday- How can I stop Binge Eating on Weekends?

i can't stop binge eatingThis question comes to us from Sarah in New York. 

 

Leora,  

I just can’t seem to want to take care of myself all the time.  It’s just easier to not think about whether or not I’m hungry, so if I’m stressed, or particularly tired, or angry at the world, that’s what I do.  Things are fine when I care about myself, when I’m focused on listening to my body.  But I can’t seem to stay in that frame of mind.  I feel so good maybe Monday through Thursday, and things fall apart over the weekend and I binge eat and self-loathe.  This seems to be a pattern for me; without the structure of school I often fall apart and fall deep into hating myself and deal with this by eating a lot.  I hate going through these self-destructive phases every so often, but I can’t seem to break the cycle.  How can I stay positive more consistently?

Hi Sarah,

 I’m so glad that you reached out for support. You ask “how can I stay positive more consistently?” and I will address that, but I’d like to break your question down a little bit because there are a few different things at play here:

  1.  Despite the fact that you want to participate in self care rituals, you feel like often you just can’t when you are too tired to. 
  2. Weekends are a huge trigger for you because of the vast amounts of unstructured time.  

 

I’ll address the first part, which is you being angry at yourself because you are not consistent with the way you care for yourself. I think that it’s really easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” of recovery, “I should always be paying attention to my cues for hunger and satiety, I should never binge, I should always be on it…” etc. But the problem is, that recovery is not perfect, and sometimes you just don’t feel strong enough to do the things that you need to do to recover. And that is okay. In those moments, the most important thing that you can do for yourself is be kind, not beat yourself up and forgive yourself, because that is what recovery is about- learning compassion and kindness for self. So when you are tired, stressed and angry at the world, you might ask yourself, “what can I do right now? what do I have the strength for?” perhaps you have the strength to sit back and relax and watch a TV show that will change your focus, perhaps you can call an inspirational friend, and perhaps you don’t have the strength for anything. If you can’t do anything, that’s okay. In that moment you can just acknowledge it and forgive yourself. Self love and self directed kindness is a way to be more positive more often. When you are kind to yourself you feel better.  And when you feel better you become stronger and your recovery becomes stronger. 

 

Weekends are an extremely difficult time for many people in recovery because of how open it is.  I am of the mind that planning ahead is the easiest way to bypass a binge. Since you know that weekends are your trigger, it might be a good idea for you to write out a loose plan on Thursday evenings of what your weekend is going to look like, what activities you have planned and also to plan your meals. You can also try to make sure that you have lots of activities with good friends to keep you busy. Connection is the opposite of isolation and eating disorders thrive in isolation. If you need to study over the weekend, plan study dates and always get out of your space and go to a library to study. Make sure that you schedule in lunch breaks with actual time parameters around them. Such as: 10am-11- work on x project 11:00-12:30- work on x 12:30-1:30 lunch. 1:30-4pm – work on x project.   Planning in this way will help you to feel more structured and less antsy/bingey. 

 

I  hope that this was helpful and Thank you for your question. 

 

Warmly, 

 

Leora

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. 

Friday Q & A- I’m trying to diet for my graduation, but I can’t stop bingeing

want to lose weight for graduation

Question:

I’ve been trying to be on a diet under 1200 calories a day so that I can look good during my graduation which is two weeks away. For the past few weeks I’ve been exercising on an average of  four days a week and trying to keep my calorie intake in check. But this  this week, things just got way out of hand. I began  craving junk food more. I started buying ice cream bars, muffins, chips and eating it alone all at once. I felt really stuffed and uncomfortable and very guilty afterwards.  I though then that maybe I would binge for one day and then from tomorrow onward, I would start eating clean again. I didn’t work. I ate more  junk. The more I eat, the more I  crave.  It has been about 3 days of bingeing on junk already. i feel like i am totally out of control and i really want to get out of this vicious cycle. My exams are starting tomorrow and i am constantly thinking about food, and i am unable to focus on my revision at all. Please help me.

Answer:
Stop! Take a nice deep breath and try to relax.
I know that you want to “look good” for your graduation. But as you’ve experienced, obsessive dieting is going to push you right into a binge cycle.
The immediate answer is to  stop trying to  get back to where you were and decide from this moment to go forward in emotional and physical health, that doesn’t include obsessive dieting. This will help to stop the obsession so that you can think about something other than food. Recover from your 3 days of bingeing. Tell yourself that you are allowed to eat sweets or what you call “junk,” but only one serving each day and at the end of the day, after you’ve eaten a healthy dinner. Legalizing treats will help you to keep from obsessing and take the aura of mystique and shame away from them.
Remain calm, drink water, drink tea.  Wake up each morning and fix yourself a good healthy breakfast– don’t count calories. Something like 2 eggs, 1-2 pieces of fruit and maybe some cheese or a piece of toast and a cup of tea or coffee.   Lunch should be something like a salad or roasted vegetables with protein like chicken plus some beans, plus a fat, like olive oil or full fat salad dressing and some cheese. Or a nice sandwich made with protein and a fruit to go with it and a drink. Dinner could be protein, like a filet of salmon or steak or chicken, a lot of cooked vegetables or winter squash, a sweet potato or yam with butter. Then have a desert. A cup of ice cream or one cupcake or whatever it is. If you are hungry, eat. But ask yourself before you eat, “am I really hungry or do I just want food?” If you don’t know the answer, wait for one hour and then ask yourself again. As far as exercise is concerned, keep exercising, but it doesn’t have to be four days a week of extreme cardio, it can be long walks, water aerobics, swimming, hiking, dancing, anything that you find enjoyable, not punitive.  Care of the self is about loving the self, not punishing the self.

I hope that this was helpful for you. Please do comment in the comments sections with anymore follow-up questions.

Warmly,

 

Leora

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. Are you interested in online therapy to deal with your eating disorder? Please see my website or email me to discuss getting started. 

A recovery story

I’ve been seeing *Emily in therapy for four years. She has written her recovery story and agreed to have it posted.

I actually remember the first time I binged and purged. I was in eighth grade and we were at Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house. My grandma used to make these huge elaborate meals, with like 5 or 6 different pies and all sorts of mashed potatoes and stuffing. My cousin Jenny, who is a year older than me, was there. She was like, everyone’s princess.  Everyone was soooo excited because Jenny had  made the cheerleading squad at her high school and she was in the homecoming court. Up until that year, me and Jenny had always sat there during Thanksgiving and giggle and eat all the pies together. But this year, she barely paid attention to me.  She wore these tight  jeans and kept her portions small. She was like a real teenager.  My mother looked at her admirably and said she was so proud of how beautiful Jenny had become. She also said that it was smart to watch her figure now that she was no longer a little girl. My mom then looked at me and said nothing as I scarfed down my third piece of pie. I had never really thought about it before. I mean that’s what we did on Thanksgiving. We ate my Grandma’s pies. Even my Grandma turned against me. “Eat less pie Emily! Be more like Jenny. Look how thin and gorgeous she is now!”  I felt horrible. My own (not name brand) jeans were unbuttoned to make room for my swollen belly and I felt how greasy my hair and skin had become.  After dinner, I excused myself to the bathroom and I don’t know how or why, but I began searching through the medicine cabinet. That’s when I saw the chocolate ex-lax. I knew what they did and I knew that I could use them to get rid of the pie. I don’t know how I knew to use them. I guess I’d heard of it somewhere… and so I took three pills. I remember thinking that I should take more than it said on the back, but I didn’t want anyone to notice that they were gone.  The laxatives kicked in that night. I sat up all night running to the bathroom. And although my stomach felt ravaged and I was in terrible pain, after my bathroom  trips, I would step on the scale and see how much weight I’d lost. It was amazing to me that the pounds were just dropping off. And that’s how it started.  Later that week, I made myself throw up after eating a milkshake and onion rings from Burger King.

And that was my descent into the dark years of bingeing, purging, taking laxatives, and starving myself. I kept trying to be more like my cousin Jenny who showed up at Thanksgiving every year more and more beautiful, with perfect grades, the captain of cheerleading, with a football player boyfriend. And me, I became more and more isolated. I had put on a lot of weight and I wore all black, smoked cigarettes and had kept my hair dyed black and pierced everything I could. I didn’t really have a boyfriend, though I did sleep with a lot of boys, but no one wanted to get serious with me. I kidded myself into thinking that I didn’t care. But I was depressed. Really depressed. I used to cut myself on the arms and legs sometimes, just so that I could emote because I felt, I believed that I was completely alone. My grandparents seemed to tolerate me, but didn’t have a lot of interest or pride in me. And my mother sort of seemed disgusted by me. She knew about my activities with boys and told me that I had no self-respect.  Food was a lot of what comforted me. I would eat full pizzas on my own after school and wash them down with diet cokes. I’d go days eating nothing, just drinking coffee and diet coke and eating pixie sticks to keep me going. Then I’d collapse, cut school and go to the donut store and eat a dozen donuts in the parking lot, wash them down with diet coke and laxatives, then throw up in the bathroom of the gas station, and then drive around town buying food to binge on and find gas station bathrooms to purge in.  I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like my cousin Jenny. I wanted people to love me and I wanted to be beautiful and cared for. I thought that if I could get thin enough, I’d be okay. But my bingeing and purging  continued all through high school, and shockingly, I still was able to get good enough grades to get into college.

I stopped purging in college, but became addicted to diet pills, marijuana, and sometimes even cocaine to keep me from eating. I finally lost all the weight I wanted to, but my body was breaking down. I suffered three fractures by the second semester of my sophomore year. I realized then that I had to stop with my eating disorder. But I couldn’t. I had no idea how to eat normally. I tried to eat three meals a day, but it always ended with me bingeing. I managed to stop purging, but I was still bingeing and then restricting. I did manage to graduate from college, but my grades really weren’t very good. I barely went to class and when I did, I didn’t pay attention or get much out of my classes. I really wasted my mother’s money.

After college, I tried a variety of things to help me lose weight. I tried different diets, I tried nutritionists, I tried a 12 step group with a food plan. But all of those things made me just binge when I fell off my food plans or diets.  Eventually, I decided to start seeing a therapist. I knew I had an eating disorder and was ready for help. It was really hard at first because I felt like my therapist just couldn’t help me with the thing I most needed help with– I wanted to lose weight, I wanted to stop bingeing. I told her to just tell me what to do and fix me. She gave me lots of assignments, many of them were about eating 3 meals a day, whatever I wanted, but I had to eat mindfully. She sent me to a nutritionist who specialized in treating eating disorders, and she also recommended that I see a psychiatrist to help me get some meds that might help with my depression.  I spent a lot of money. A serious amount of money between all those specialists. But I was desperate. 

Talking to my therapist really felt like a relief. We talked through a lot of the pain, depression, and through a lot of my childhood.  I realized that a lot of my eating disorder wasn’t about the food and it wasn’t about me getting thin. It was about me feeling really badly about myself. My Dad left my Mom and I when I was 5 years old, and I always thought it was my fault. The more I began to understand how I felt completely flawed my whole life, the more I understand that it was a myth– a story that I told myself. And that through that myth that I had conceptualized in my 5 year old mind, I began to act the way I believed I was. I tried desperately to get love and attention from men, but ultimately, I felt so worthless, that I let them treat me like crap– letting them have sex with me then ignore me the next day. My mother said I had no self respect, and she was right. But she never taught me how to respect myself. She never quite let me think I was worthy of love and admiration. I wasn’t any less smart or less beautiful than Jenny, I just believed I was. She had a mother and a father at home. I had no Dad and a Mom who was angry and felt rejected and resentful. She came into therapy with me several times as we discussed her own feelings of being worthless after my Dad left her for a much younger woman.   As I began to understand my own sense of worth, I started to try and take better care of myself. I learned to sit with my feelings, I learned to HOLD myself with respect. That was huge. I didn’t have to be super witty, nor did I have to do everything for everybody to make them like me. I didn’t have to be anything. I just had to respect myself. And so as I did, my eating disorder began to have less of a hold on me. As I talked through all those things, I realized that the drive to be thin was really just a drive to be accepted. So I learned to accept myself. It has been really hard for me to accept all those lost years, it’s like my whole teen years and most of my 20s were stolen by my eating disorder. But in learning to accept, I’m just trying to respectfully mourn those lost years.

I’ve been 100% free from any eating disorder behaviors since September 18th, 2010. That was the day before my 28th birthday. I am not afraid of Ed any longer. I know that I have the tools to work through whatever life should hand me. And if I do relapse, I know that I can’t lose the recovery that I have. 

*Name has been changed.

If you have a recovery story that you would like to be published, please send it to bingeeatingtherapy (at) gmail.com

Q & A Friday- How can I avoid binges in the college dining hall?

This one comes to us from a reader in Vermont.

Question:
I am a junior in college and struggled with bulimia last semester. It got pretty bad but over the holidays I was able to recover and am now doing much better. However, now that I am back at school, I am finding it difficult to avoid binges in the dining hall. It is an ‘all you can eat’ system, with many many options at every meal. I usually find that I eat a healthy meal, but then fall to temptation for desserts, and end up eating a lot of chocolate chips or oreos or other desserts even when I am not hungry, just out of greediness. I am afraid of falling back into my old habits and I really want to avoid that since I feel so much better now. I have found several things that help with binges outside of meal times (drinking tea, water, making sure I get a protein-filled breakfast, etc.) Do you have any tips or advice on how to avoid dining hall binges, and how to avoid getting up for seconds or thirds out of greediness instead of out of hunger, particularly for desserts and sweets?
Thank you so, so much I really appreciate your help!

D

Hi D,

First off, congratulations on your recovery from bulimia. It’s awful to go through and challenging to recover from.

You’re certainly not the only person suffering from dining hall overwhelm. With an amazing amount of choices, and long leisurely meals that accompany the college lifestyle, it’s hard not to have some trouble with bingeing in school if you are prone to it.

1.)Before you start your meal, set your intention about what and how much you are going to eat.

2.)Make sure that when you make your meal, you eat enough. Don’t skimp or restrict.  This will set up a binge. Have a good amount of protein and a lot of vegetables and salad and perhaps a cup of soup, food that will take you a long time to eat so that you have food on your plate for a while.

3.)When you go up for desert, grab some fruit, an apple or an orange, or a grapefruit,  something that is relatively labor intensive so that it takes you some time to unpeel and to eat.

4.)Make sure that you have some healthy snacks in your dorm room or apartment so that you don’t have that sense of “I have to eat as much as I can now.” I went to a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of the woods in Upstate New York in the 90s. There was no way to get food between meals as there were no stores around or public transportation to get off of campus to get food. If you didn’t have a car, you were screwed. This kind of set up a hoarding mentality around food where we would eat as much as we could at each meal or make loads of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to keep in our rooms in case it was too cold or snowy to walk to the dining hall later.  Making sure that you  have  a good supply of healthy food in your room will save you from thinking that you have to be full or that you have to eat as much as you can in the moment because you might not have food later.

5.)Don’t restrict yourself. No “I can’t have any desert or any chocolate” because that line of polarized thinking can set up a binge. Instead, say something like, “If I want it I can have it.” Before you get up, ask yourself if you really want it and if you really need it, if the answer is no, try to sit through it and let it go. If the answer is yes, get yourself one or two cookies or one small serving and eat your choices slowly and mindfully, savor them. Tell yourself that you can have another serving tomorrow, so that there is not a feeling of, “I have to eat all these cookies now because as of tomorrow, no more cookies ever again.”

6.)Whenever you get up, always have your tea cup with you so that if you find you are getting up compulsively because you are anxious or fidgety,  you can refill with herbal tea rather than compulsively getting food.

7.)Don’t stay in the dining hall that long. Go in for a short amount of time, eat a healthy meal, then get up and leave when you are done.  If you feel you’re missing out on social time, just tell people that you’ll catch up with them later. It’s important to take care of yourself implicitly. Your social life will suffer more if you are dealing with an eating disorder or an obsession with food as will your studies. Taking care of yourself around food will help you all around, even socially and academically.

8.)Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough can make one reach for sweets for energy and alertness.

I hope that this is helpful. Does anyone else have any good tips for dealing with the dining hall? Please post 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.

Friday Q & A- I feel desperate to lose weight and I can’t stop binge eating.

i want to lose weight but i can't stop binge eatingQuestion: Submitted via email by Diane from New Mexico

Hello,
I am 26, female, 5’7″ and weigh 180lbs. I would like to be between
150-160. I am very active but struggle with Binge Eating at night.
Sometimes I throw it up when I’ve really lost control. I am so
distraught at the thought of living with this forever. It’s painful to
live in secrecy and have it interrupt my life. I need help, but am so
busy (2nd bachelor degree student full time, working part time and each
check is taken by bills). Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed but can
usually manage the stress. I am desperate to lose weight and stop binge
eating, I need to lose weight for the military too but can’t seem to
“get a grip.”
Do you have any advice? I need help but don’t know what is going to
work. I’ve talked to a few counselors and only one session with a
specialist (can’t afford). I will continue to purge as long as I binge
because 30lbs is excruciating. I have found books help but it is
difficult right now during my hardest semester. I should be studying
right now!!! I ALWAYS fall back on binging. I hate it, it makes me cry.
Anything at all is appreciated.

Sincerely,
Diane

Answer:

Hi Diane,

Thank you so much for your question. I’m so sorry that you’re struggling the way you are. It sounds like  you are having an  extremely difficult time right now.

I think that it is great that you are currently seeking support via therapy or counseling. It’s understandable that an ED (eating disorder) specialist might be too expensive for you.  Have you looked into student services? Often the therapists available to college students have some training in EDs and usually they are free. If there are none available with specific ED training, that’s still okay. Understand that your eating disorder is a symptom of your stress, anxiety and everything else that your going through and as you work through all those emotional issues, you will find it easier to beat your eating disorder.

1.)Don’t live in secrecy anymore. You are absolutely not alone. Millions of women and men suffer from binge eating disorder and bulimia. Find out free support groups in your area such as overeaters anonymous or eating disorders anonymous or ANAD. You might find that you get a great deal of support from other people who are dealing with similar issues as you are.

2.)Get rid of your scale. Do not let an electronic or mechanical piece of equipment on the floor dictate what kind of a day you are going to have. It’s not fair to allow the numbers on the scale to tell you how you should be feeling about yourself. You might find some liberation and freedom from not weighing yourself.

3.)The idea of losing 30 pounds is very overwhelming. Rather than having a number in mind, try to reframe your perspective from, “i need to lose weight” to “I want to be healthy and feel good about myself.” Weighing yourself, bingeing and purging certainly have not helped you to feel good about yourself or healthy. However, adopting healthy habits just might.

4.)Set one mini goal for yourself each day. Such as:

Today I’m going to eat three fruits

Today I’m going to drink 8 cups of water

Today if I get the urge to binge, I’m going to call someone or get online for support.

5.)Give up dieting. For most people, dieting doesn’t lead to weight loss, it leads to compulsive dieting and binge eating. When you restrict what you are eating, there is a part of you that will lash out against the restrictions and binge.

6.)Start every single day with breakfast. Having three solid meals each day significantly reduces the instance of binge eating. Don’t worry about yesterday and don’t try to compensate for the day before. You can’t go backwards, you can only go forward. So go forward as a “normal eater.”

7.)It seems like you do a lot of your binge eating and purging in the evenings when you should be studying. Procrastination is an amazing trigger for binge eating. Here is a previous blog post I wrote on this exact subject.

8.)On a practical level, get all of your binge foods out of your house. If you notice that there are particular foods that you binge on, clean out your cabinets and refrigerator and have mostly safe foods in your house. When you are studying and tired, it’s hard to make good choices when all the temptations are right in front of you. Keep lots of healthy non trigger foods in your house.

9.)Be kind and compassionate toward yourself. When you binge eat, remember that this is an indication that you are going through a hard time and need something like self love, or compassion or kindness. Binge eating is a symptom. When you binge eat, it’s probably because there is something challenging going on in your life. The irony is, that when you binge eat, you are sending a signal to yourself that you need love and compassion, not anger and punishment.  Yet, when people binge, they tend to berate themselves rather than give themselves the compassion and soothing that they need. That of course begins a horrible cycle of bingeing, self punishing and self hatred and then bingeing again to diffuse the self abuse. If you find yourself in your behaviors, try to stop and ask yourself why. Ask yourself what it was that you were actually needing and trying to give yourself when you binged. See if it might be possible to give yourself that.

Thanks so much for your question. I hope that you find something here  helpful for you.

Warmly,

Leora

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.