It’s a typical Thursday morning, class went well, meetings were good and I’ve done all the little things that keep me on pace for what I want to achieve for the day. I have all my food planned for the day, most of its prepped and I’ve been laser focused on my goals recently. However, I feel like something is just a little off. Something made me think of having some MOD pizza even though I haven’t really been craving it. I eat my lunch and feel full but I’m still feeling the desire to eat MOD pizza. I realize what is happening, the Call of the Binge has begun.
I don’t know how many of you would consider yourself binge eaters or even know much about what binge eating is. For a lot of people, they might think it’s something that is 100% under someone’s control and it’s just laziness that causes someone to binge. Trust me, at one point in my life I was right there with you. I always thought a binge was a lack of willpower and lack of true focus on your goals. Even when I was dealing with binge eating around 25 I thought it was 100% in my control, I just didn’t have the willpower I did when I was younger. I thought I was lacking the goals of fitness I had for football and strength training. This thought process continued for the next 3 years as I had binges and my weight went up and down like crazy. Mentally I was beating myself up and punishing myself with exercise after these 1, 2 or even 5 day binges. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t control myself and didn’t have a clue what I was actually going through.
The day when I realized what binge eating really was and that I had this disorder was when I was in a nutrition coaching program and the nutritionist I was working with talked me through what was going on. It actually was a huge relief to know I actually was dealing with something bigger than a lack of willpower. For basic idea of what binge eating comes from it is most of the time an emotional response to whatever is going on in our life. We are either using food as a reward or punishment or a safe place for an emotional state we are in. Binges can be super short, can be super long, and can come from time to time or happen quite often. It really depends on the emotional trauma you are dealing with. There are varying degrees of how much the disorder affects you and it could be different for the person depending on how much emotion they are dealing with at that given moment. There are 2.8 million people who deal with this disorder and it’s the eating disorder men deal with the most.
Since I’ve learned about the disorder I have done a lot of reading, used a ton of different strategies and honestly still deal with it more often then I like. I’m going to walk you through my most recent binge and give strategies on how I would try to overcome this and things I have used to help me come out of a binge in the past.
MY LAST BINGE
It lasted two days and it really wasn’t triggered by anything but a reward response. I’ve had binges triggered by a ton of different things in my past but reward is probably the most common in the last year. I have always had a tendency to reward myself with food for accomplishing certain weight loss goals, awesome workouts, staying focused and other basic daily things.
The feeling I got was a pull towards “needing” something that was a unhealthy. I wanted that high dopamine response for all the awesome eating I had been doing. I had gone 24 straight days of hitting my macros and I honestly thought I was past binging at this point but it hit me hard. My thoughts then were consumed by eating things like chocolate, pizza, fries and other salty/sweet combo foods.
TIP #1: The first thing I should have done here is sit down for a second and write my goals down while drinking a big bottle of water. Letting my body and mind relax would have allowed me to think a little clearer but instead I kept fighting it by working on projects.
I fought the feeling for about 2 hours. It definitely was dominating my thoughts but I kept working on projects. I finally caved and ran to Target to buy some sweets to indulge the craving.
TIP #2: Instead of going to Target with a plan, I just went which was dangerous. I should have went with a plan of the foods I was craving and listing down 1 thing to buy.
I ended up buying Sweedish Fish, a white chocolate bar, a bag of sweet cajun train mix, and Reese Peanut butter cups. As you can see, that was a ton of calories. If I would have went with a plan, I had a better chance to leave with most likely just 2 of those items.
I went back and hammered all those foods. If you’ve never binged before, it’s almost an out of body experience. You can tell yourself you shouldn’t be doing this but really you have no control over your actions. The dopamine response centers are so high (almost like a drug would do) you can’t stop the desire to have more. You also devour the food so fast you have no chance for your body to respond.
TIP #3: Slowing down. With binging for me, it feels a lot of times like I’m not going to get these foods again so I eat them as fast as possible so I don’t miss out on any of it. Since I do abstain from them so much it puts a mindset for me that I won’t get more. When I tell myself it’s ok, I can finish all the food even if I have to eat some tomorrow, it allows me to slow down. Many times I don’t want the food the next day but it lets my mind relax and not feel like it’s missing out.
I was so sick to my stomach it was hard to function. All those sweets made me feel horrible and I knew I had to coach and wanted to workout. I promised myself that I was done and I’d get back on track for dinner that evening. So I went in and coached but didn’t have good energy because of how my body felt. I skipped my personal workout because I just felt sick to my stomach. As I was driving back home though, I couldn’t stop thinking about bad food so I stopped and got Jimmy Johns. Even though I wasn’t hungry and I was sick to my stomach. A lot of times when you’re really deep into a binge, you just keep eating no matter how you feel. This is how you know it’s not a food problem, that it’s an emotional issue. If it was a food problem, you’d stop when you were stuffed. But when you fight through that feeling you know your emotions are 100% in control of this binge.
TIP #4: Being aware of the fact that it’s emotional can help you reduce your food intake. Since you know it’s an emotional trigger, doing your best to buy less food and know that after the first few bites you’ll feel ok, you just have to know in the moment to not buy more food or have it in the house.
Sleeping that night was tough. My body hurt, my stomach was so upset, my mind was wrecked from knowing what I had just done to my body. I wanted to throw up but was also aware I didn’t want to create another type of disorder by causing myself to throw up after binges.
TIP 5: Take a moment to write down the top 3 things I think could be causing the issues I am having. This way I can be aware of it all and even though this might not stop the binge, it might help me get out of the binge quicker.
The next morning I woke up ravenous. My insulin levels were crazy low after being so high the day before. This instantly started my mind into the thought of getting carbs. I was hoping to wake up and feel normal but definitely wasn’t. The morning after is always the toughest for me, if I can eat good that morning I should be able to come out of it very easily but if I don’t eat well then I’m in for a bad day. When my insulin is low I have very few good thought processes. I went to Panera and ordered a Cinnamon Crunch Scone, Cinnamon Crunch Bagel and chocolate pastry. This obviously didn’t start my day off right.
TIP 6: Start the morning off with a lot of water. If you binged the night before, don’t make any choices until you have showered and drank a least 32 ounces of water. It makes a world of difference for your thought process.
After each binge meal, you always think you are going to get back on track at the next. It’s not the same as being a lazy or gluttonous eater. If you eat that way, you might say oh crap I had a bad meal Friday night, then you’ll just eat crappy meals until Monday when you get back on track. For binging, you are so out of control you would do anything to get it back to normal. So I was hoping to get lunch back in control. It was Friday so Nate and I had a meeting until 11ish and by the time that meeting was over I couldn’t wait to eat again. About half way through the meeting I had already mentally started to plan out what I would have. Buffalo Wild Wings or Panda Express where on top of my mind. I chose Panda and went straight there after the meeting. The whole drive I kept telling myself I didn’t need it, but again, it’s like an out of body experience. No matter how aware I am of stuff going on I can’t honestly change what I’m doing at certain points.
TIP 7: If you’re with someone tell them what is going on, it helps a ton. Maybe they can go to lunch with you which will help you reduce food intake, maybe they can talk through things or just the feeling of it not being secretive takes away a lot of the feelings as well.
The secret side of binge eating is one of the worst parts. You try to hide it from people around you which makes it worse and worse. Being open and honest about it, doesn’t make it go away but I’ve found helps me come out of one much quicker.
When I got back to my house with the Panda Express I turned on some TV and just blocked the world out. This mindless eating just adds to the equation of what is going on.
TIP 8: Try to be as mindful as possible while eating. No TV or other distractions, concentrating on the process of eating sometimes wakes you up out of what is going on and halfway through a binge you’ll just stop and throw it all away.
That evening I was struggling mentally with all the crap I had done to my body. This made it even worse. You start to feel very guilty, very pissed at yourself, and it doesn’t help the process of forgiveness at all. It leads more and more into the strong emotional swings and digs a hole that’s even deeper.
TIP 9: Try not to punish yourself for the binge. Forgive as soon as you can or else it’ll keep going.
That night going to bed was just painful. Both emotionally and physically. I prayed to help me forgive myself. I wrote in my journal and I did as much mindset stuff as I could before bed to help me clear my mind. I knew if I didn’t work on this, the binge would carry on. Luckily I woke up the next morning and the fog was lifted. When I’m in a deep binge, it feels like there is the constant fog all the time and when it’s all done it feels literally like a fog was lifted. Now for the damage control from the past 2 days.
TIP 10: When binge is done, throw it all away, done save for left overs. You need to get that crap out of your house as soon as possible.
If you read this and you realized you have some of this going on I hoped this helped bring some things to light for you. This was not meant to be something to be a cure or diagnoses at all, it’s just part of my story and some strategies that have helped me from time to time. If you haven’t dealt with this I hope you now have a better understanding what others can deal with and you might have someone in your life that deals with it. Pleas share this with them to help them feel a sense of understanding.
I deal with binging less and less luckily over time. It’s helped that I have built in a lot of strategies to help out, I’ve worked on not rewarding with food and I have lower outside stresses than I once had. Binging does not just go away, it actually takes an effort to understand and learn about what affects you the most. Try to be as present as possible, get good at creating a steady diet over time. Extreme diets are the worst for people who binge, you need something consistent that controls you insulin levels. Take small improvements over time and don’t be afraid to talk to people about it.