This 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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