The last few days have been really hard for me. I've been beyond stressed out. On top of it I've been feeling depressed. Life feels overwhelming and I found myself eating my feelings again. It's something a lot of people ask about. "Is it possible to lose weight and keep it off if you suffer from BED?" My answer most days would be "yes". On my hardest days, it would probably be "I'll let you know in a few more years" because I can feel pretty out of control sometimes.
However, when I look back over the years at how much these binges have changed, when I'm in a good healthy state of mind, I can clearly see that it's just a constant and gradual evolution. It is not easy. It is not sexy. I would say that Binge Eating Disorder is probably the least sexy disorder out there so who wants to even talk about it? Well I do!
I'm tired of the shame. I'm tired of feeling gross and unsexy and like I have to hide this part of myself because people may find me unappealing and possibly even reject me. The more I learn about why we turn to food and seem to lose control, the more I start to look at it as pure science instead of some mysterious and disgusting part of myself that I must try with all my might to suppress.
We are programmed to seek out as much food as possible. We are programmed to respond to mental stress with hunger! It is biological! Here's why: our primal brains recognize two types of stress.
Physical stress, which is marked by stress followed by actual movement, and results in our primal brain believing that we are in immediate danger and must flee quickly.
Emotional stress, which is marked by stress followed by sitting still, and results in our primal brain believing that we are in a state of famine and are concerned about where our next meal is coming from. Add on top of this that, if we are chronically on a diet, we are often obsessing about the foods we "can't" have which tells our subconscious, primal brain that this food is really important. Our primal brain responds by overriding our conscious mind and rational brain and MAKING us eat that food as soon as we have access to it.
Add to this primal instinct the fact that we also are seeking out a pleasant mental state. That's why when things are just peachy, we can often resist the cake in the fridge. But after a stressful day, not so much.
In some ways, like with our primal brain, we are such simple creatures. In other ways we are so complex.
So, anyway, back to my own struggles. The past few days I have felt almost completely out of control. Now, like I said, when I look back on what my old "out of control" used to be compared to what it is now, it's a relief to see how far I've come. My old "out of control" would've involved half a large Papa John's pizza, a giant glass of soda and a big ole piece of chocolate cake for dessert. We are talking easily 2000 calories over and above what I might've allotted for myself that day. And I would feel so out of control, feeling like I didn't even know if I was done eating for the night because that "demon" inside me might hijack my body again and MAKE me eat something I didn't even want to eat. Now, my "out of control" is something like 2 oz of raw organic cheese and a serving of organic crackers made from seeds and then maybe a piece of chocolate out of Phoenix's Halloween bag after dinner. Now, I can floss and brush and say "I'M DONE!" after these "mini binges" and know that I really am done but these are still binges nonetheless. Even though they probably only amount to about 500 calories, they are still over and above my allotted calories for the day and, most importantly, they are eaten almost out of compulsion, not a deliberate decision with my rational brain....and that's when I get scared. Like a recovered alcoholic, as someone who has always struggled with BED and has lost 100+ pounds, there is ALWAYS an underlying fear of "relapse".
But the last few days have reminded me just how in control I am now. I have a method of sorts for bringing myself back to a good place. It's comprised of things I've read in countless books as well as things I've learned work from personal experience. Here's the short list and I'll add more if other things come to me.
-I stop restricting calories. In fact, my calorie restriction has gotten down to almost nothing in general lately and I've recently decided that I will eat to my maintenance level for now on and depend on exercise calories to eventually reduce my weight a little. It will take a long time but I don't care. I'm sick of feeling hungry and thinking about food all the time. Now, I understand, this wouldn't work as well for someone who has a lot more to lose but that person would also have more calories to play with in a day! I'm sick of only having 1400 calories for a whole day! It's no way to live because I am, by nature, a hungry gal!
-I focus on what I SHOULD eat. I keep having to come back to this. It isn't rocket science but here's the problem, healthy food is often more work to prepare, more money and not always as tasty as processed food that has been designed IN A LAB to make us crave it and become addicted to it. They even have a term for it, it's called "the cravability factor". I like to first remind myself through reading and watching stuff about how these food manufacturers are trying to take advantage of me and this helps me get good and pissed off because I am no one's fool! Then on to the good food. I take a good omega 3 supplement, I eat lots of fresh stuff and really nourish myself.
-I never ever ever let myself get too hungry. This used to be my hard fast rule all the time but life happens and sometimes I would find myself going way too long between meals. However, when I'm nice and balanced and in a good place mentally and physically, I could handle this. When I'm in a not so good place, I binge. So I get back to making sure I'm consuming something protein rich and nourishing as often as I need to in order to never get very hungry. This works better than I can even express.
-I flood myself with information. I watch documentaries about eating healthy. Hungry for Change and Food Matters are two that I always recommend people start with. Forks Over Knives is good too although I don't agree that vegetarianism is always the best choice for people....like me, I need my meat. I listen to podcasts and just find whatever I can to not just inspire me but inform me and make the effects of healthy food and not so healthy food more real in my mind.
-I move!! I exercise more. Not to burn more calories but rather because exercise makes me feel good and often curbs my appetite. I also try to get up and move when I feel mentally stressed. This not only helps lower my stress level, it also sends the message to my primal brain that my stressor is some kind of external threat, like maybe a predator. This makes the primal brain turn off the fat storage mode and turn on the fat BURNING mode because chubby girls can't outrun lions very well.
-I listen to hypnosis and guided meditation CDs. Well, they're on my iPod now but that's what they used to be back in the day. This is something I've done here and there for years. I believe it can really help. Some people are a little freaked out by them. Hypnosis will not persuade you to do things you wouldn't ordinarily do. All they do is put your brain in a more open and receptive state to receive and internalize information. I have CDs on everything from eating healthy to learning to love exercise and quitting addictions. They won't single-handedly "cure" an issue but they're just a nice big chunky drop in the bucket of change.
-I get back to my spiritual self. My wonderful boyfriend is kind and "awake" enough to keep guiding me back to this when I stray way. I am, by nature, a task oriented person. Give me a checklist and a pencil and watch me make shit happen! When it comes to abstract things like "nourishing my soul"....not sure how to put that on a checklist. It doesn't feel productive at the time. But once I've gotten back to that place of spiritual well being, I am much more centered and, as a result, much more productive.
So there you have it. BED isn't something that will go away overnight or possibly ever. But learning the root causes of it (which requires taking the time to truly educate yourself) and really tuning into your body and what you need will help you reach a place where you are much more in control and healthy.
For me, that's where I am finally back to after a few days of feeling like I was losing control. I could feel myself regaining control and balance yesterday and I woke up today feeling energized and completely back in control. And that's another great thing about this evolution!! Over time you will KNOW when you're about to lose control and when you're back to a good place because you become more in touch with your body and your mental state. So even when you're out of control there's this little glimmer of hope because you possess that power now. Stick with it. BED isn't a life sentence of obesity. Learn your "disease". Because it's not even a disease! It's nature gone a little awry in this new world we live in! And you DO possess the power to change it. I'm living proof.