My name is Elizabeth. I am from Australia and have been struggling with binge eating just over 6 months now.
It started when I competed as a Fitness Model– I was on a very restrictive diet and was allowed “cheat meals” once per week- these cheat meals became binges. After my comp the cheat meals/binges became more regular now they are just a way of life. I get stressed out easily and am often alone- my partner works away, I look forward to eating & get enjoyment & a thrill out of it. I can’t go into the city without visiting my favourite chocolate store and that leads me to a binge. I can’t seem to find any help or anywhere that doesn’t cost a fortune! My binging is affecting my self esteem, my career and my relationship.
What should I do to stop this cycle?
I want you to begin by looking at semantics here. When we begin to use words such as “cheat” to describe food and what is essentially giving ourselves nourishment and keeping ourselves alive, we begin to think of eating as a game. Eating is not a game and it’s not a competition, it is one of the ways that we stay alive, along with breathing and elimination. Eating and cheating should not be in the same realm. You eat to stay alive, you cheat to gain an advantage over someone dishonestly or deceptively. So how is eating cheating?
It is not. You are never cheating by eating. You are working to stay alive and ultimately healthy.
Given that change in definition, let’s begin to look at how your mind has formed an expectation around your eating. You think that you are only supposed to be eating a certain way, however, you then begin to think of food as a competition, as something you need to get ahead in. That makes sense given the fact that you compete with your body for a living. You then have to “cheat” to get ahead, you believe that have to cheat in order to give yourself appropriate nourishment. In order to begin healing this, I’d like you to begin to not think of food in terms of cheat foods or safe foods. All foods should be allowed, however, you need to learn to put boundaries on them. So instead of one day a week having a cheat food, telling yourself that you are allowed to have chocolate every single day, but not a binge amount, an appropriate serving. An appropriate serving is 1-2 squares. Tell yourself that you can have one square at lunch and one at dinner, or whatever is deemed appropriate. Your food should be mostly for nourishment and healing, but indulging in foods that are pleasurable is always okay. It is okay to eat for pleasure! But pleasure and bingeing are two different things. Eating for pleasure is mindful eating. You sit down, you put that piece of chocolate in your mouth and you really taste it. Try a mindful eating meditation. You feel the sensation of the chocolate on your tongue, you let that taste sensation go to your brain. You allow your senses to take it in. You breathe into it. Binge eating would taking that chocolate, shoving it in your mouth, barely tasting it and scavenging for more in attempts to escape feeling a certain way. Try to reframe your thoughts around food to healing and nurturing and nothing is off limits or cheating. However, there are some foods that would not be nurturing to you. For instance, perhaps things made with gluten give you a stomach ache. Before you eat something, ask yourself, “is this nurturing or punishing?” then, depending on the answer, decide what you’re going to do. Chocolate might be nurturing in some instances and punishing in others. For instance, if you know that you are going to eat chocolate in an abusive way (ie: binge, then beat yourself up for bingeing) it’s punishing. But you might be able to eat chocolate in a way that is nurturing, (ie: sitting, savoring and enjoying a small amount then walking away from it.)
The way you talk to yourself about food is the first step in healing. I hope that this was helpful to you. Please do comment and let me know how you’re doing.
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.