My Experience With Binge Eating (Full Version)
Sharing my experience with binge eating is tough and is very personal to me but sharing and being open about this subject is important.
As a young woman, the realisation that this topic seems taboo and most people are not willing to share their experiences with Binging.
This may be a longish blog, I recommend reading to the end, you will definitely gain an insight that could help you or a loved one who may be suffering.
I recently filmed a video stream on my Instagram talking about my experience.
I was extremely nervous filming but I felt compelled to openly talk about my issues.
The response was overwhelming and unexpected.
People I have known for years, work colleagues who I saw daily and complete strangers started messaging me. All opening up about their personal experiences with the same issues, Binging.
Suddenly I did not feel alone anymore and realised I was part of a group of people dealing with binge eating.
I have maintained from the moment I started accepting that all was not ok, I had a binge eating disorder. This was characterised by recurrent binge-eating episodes.
I believe strongly that this subject should be something that is spoken about freely and discussed in depth. So many people of all ages are affected by this disorder and usually have limited choices to find out why.
So even if one person were to benefit reading this blog post and gain a new understanding it would make feel I have achieved something by sharing my experience.
Below I tell my story with developing a binge eating habit and how I managed to find a way to finally put a stop to this destructive eating disorder.
After years of yo-yo dieting and self-image issues, I finally managed to turn my situation around and managed to shed nearly four stone.
This was a monumental moment in my life as I felt I had finally found the right balance and was on the right track to achieve my self imposed targets.
I fell in love with the way my new regimes made me feel and started working out more frequently sometimes up to five times per week. This new me enabled me to still eat ‘unhealthy’ meals but inspired me to try and eat a healthier diet on the whole.
In the beginning, food was not the most important factor, It was simply food.
It was at that period in my life after seeing my transformation that I decided to turn my new found passion into a career.
I embarked on a personal training course, which provided a great source of useful knowledge in so many aspects of a healthy lifestyle.
I started changing my perceptions of what eating "healthy" or eating to "lose weight" really meant.
This is where I first entered the calorie counting world.
Most of the PT’s on my course were completely obsessed with calorie counting. Every conversation on food would always involve calories.
Even my housemates were obsessing over calories. Now feeling much better about my self and building back my self-esteem I morphed into this calorie-controlled robot.
My first job at a gym was an incredible experience however it had some negatives.
I was required to wear a fitted sports uniform.
I taught fitness classes to large groups of mainly women.
Being stood at the front of the room, all eyes on me put me under a lot of pressure and made me feel as if I had to look like I was physically perfect and worthy to do my job.
I never felt that way about myself.
Although I had lost a considerable amount of weight at this point in my life I found myself becoming obsessed trying to lose more. It was becoming much more difficult. It is evident in most cases that after extreme weight loss, your body plateaus so trying to lose more weight is challenging. That, unfortunately, is one of the reasons that I turned into a calorie counting robot.
The nightmare began...
I downloaded the much talked about app My Fitness Pal.
After entering my stats the app suggested that should be eating 1250 calories per day.
Bare in my mind, I was still training hard and at this point teaching over ten fitness classes per week.
At first, I enjoyed using the app, it starting feeling like a game trying to control my calories each day.
However, after a short time calorie counting was affecting my positive state of mind and made me start doubting all the milestones I had achieved. This felt wrong.
I felt the app encouraged me to completely obsess over keeping to that ridiculously low amount of calories each and every day.
My life began to revolve around it.
I started making excuses to skip meals with family and friends.
I had to prepare my food so I was able to track everything I ate.
I was obsessed with tracking every single thing I put in my mouth and felt miserable.
Even measuring to the gram of spinach in my salads.
Going slightly over my daily allowance would make me feel extreme guilt.
This also triggered becoming obsessive in other aspects of my daily life.
I attribute this feeling of continuous guilt and that was where my binge eating episodes began.
If one day I went only a 100 calories over my daily allowance, I would feel so bad that it triggered something, the F**k it all effort
I would binge.
What is a Binge and what does it look a feel like?
My binge episode would take place at any time.
It would usually last between 30 minutes and sometimes continue for 2hours.
My binges occurred more at night and usually, it would be when I was alone.
Having a binge would make me feel almost like my body had been possessed and I had could not fight or control it. I became anxious and depressed.
I would eat quantities of high-calorie foods or whatever food I could find in the fridge or cupboard and for some unknown reason, I would usually eat extremely quickly.
It was almost like I was trying to not give my brain enough time to think rationally about what I was doing.
I think many people associate the word binging with ‘unhealthy’ eating.
Someone who has never experienced an actual binge may think that eating a large pizza would classify as one. Strangely when I binged I mostly wouldn't even eat "unhealthy" foods, It was more about eating whatever I could find until I felt uncomfortably full.
Binge foods could look like bowls of cornflakes, spoons of nut butter or literally eating chunks of cheese.
I would keep going back for more food until I felt physically sick and bloated.
What was triggering my binging episodes?
I have discovered over time that there were many different triggers for me.
Some mornings I would wake up with the urge to binge and spend my day anxiously trying to push the thoughts away.
I inevitably would give in to the urge just to get rid of the anxious feelings that would accompany binge eating only to feel worse afterwards.
On these days, as a type of remedy, I would try and get an hour of cardio in at the gym or at home just to delay the feelings so I could try to resist the binge.
Another trigger was eating my meals really fast. I think this has a lot to do with the brain almost preparing you for a binge to come.
Other triggers would be when visiting friends or family homes. Being in a different environment with a bigger choice of food available would have easily set me off. Even things like seeing a bowl of chocolates on a table would be enough of a trigger to start binging.
I felt as if there were a set of unwritten rules surrounding food that did not apply to me at that moment because I was outside my home.
Having a bowl of chocolates in my house would be an absolute disaster knowing that I would eventually end up eating the lot.
Seeing a bowl of chocolates in someone’s home also triggered unpleasant feelings of jealousy thinking that the bowl of chocolates did not affect them in the same way it affected me.
Feeling guilty over eating something "unhealthy" or going over my calories was probably one of my biggest issues and would usually be one of the triggers pre binge.
Other issues in my life as a binger would be "I have already ruined my diet today so now I may as well carry on, tomorrow I will start again".
It kind of felt like I had given myself permission to indulge on all the food I knew was 'off-limits' until I went back to the diet restrictions the next day.
When calorie counting (using MFP) if you go over your daily calories then the numbers show up as a negative and change from green to red. For some reason even seeing the colour change to red also acted as a trigger.
I felt like I had already failed before I started. Therefore punishing myself by going on a binge again.
What would the aftermath of a binge look like?
A typical night time binge would usually end with me falling fast asleep similar to when you feel sleepy after a big meal.
Strangely though by eating anything and especially eating restricted foods during a binge sometimes made me feel happy, almost relieved. It felt as if I were being set free to eat as much as I wanted. There was always that little inner voice saying ‘stop’. I usually did not.
The next morning I would always wake feeling horrible about myself.
I would try not to eat or eat as little as possible to counteract the damage I had caused from the previous night's binge. Going to the gym and trying to do as much cardio as possible to make me feel better about myself became a priority after a binge episode.
It was like when you are told you can not do something, and it just makes you want to do it even more! I would usually feel extremely upset not only that I had binged and felt bloated but also the feeling of disappointment and shame in my lack of self-control.
I would describe binging as a form of self-harm, as that is how it felt to me.
Why did I not discuss this with anyone?
I did eventually confide with my family but only after suffering alone for a long time.
I briefly felt embarrassed because I did not imagine they would understand or be sympathetic. Surprisingly they related my struggles with similar situations of their own.
How did I overcome Binge eating?
I did plenty of research trying to find answers.
I looked into different therapies, read countless articles of how other people dealt with this disorder and watched countless youtube videos of peoples personal experiences. Podcasts and audiobooks were also good sources of information.
A turning point was when I came across a book called
Brain Over Binge written by Kathryn Hansen.
This book changed my binge eating ways.
I have not binged in three months and do not fear binge eating anymore.
Kathryn's own experience with binge eating was so relatable I found myself literally agreeing with her out loud! The book was super interesting and gave an amazing insight on how to stop binge eating.
I also decided to put a firm stop to calorie counting.
I sometimes feel tempted to calorie count again but I know it is not good for my sanity.
Just to clarify calorie counting can be a useful tool for many people.
I did learn about what macronutrients were in my foods and about portion size while calorie counting. So that is a plus I suppose.
However for the small minority of people who either are more prone to addictive behaviour or already have a strange relationship with food I highly recommend avoiding calorie counting at all costs! The year before I found the book I was convinced that calorie counting was the only way I would lose weight even though I had already lost 4 stone without knowing what it was in the first place.
I have decided that I will put no restrictions on any food or eating habits and eat sensibly as much as possible. Yes, I will probably relapse from time to time. I am not a robot.
If you got this far, I want you to know that you are not alone.
Many people (particularly woman) suffer from this and most do not talk about their issues.
I promise you even though it seems completely impossible you can stop binge eating!
Try to develop a healthy relationship with food. Food should not be feared, it should be enjoyed and most importantly used for its sole purpose of fueling our bodies.
I do still have days where I struggle or have self-image worries.
If I had not gone through this experience I would be none the wiser.
If you would like to share your story or have a chat with me about your experiences, I would love to hear!
Please leave a comment below or find me on Instagram @healthylivingellie. You can also find me on Pinterest where you and come back to read this at any point
I hope you can take something positive away from reading this blog.
I will be posting more soon!