Binge eating disorder has by far been one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my adulthood so far. I struggled really really hard with it for well over 15 years, and have finally learned to overcome it, so I thought that it was important for me to share with you some of the things that have helped me lose over 100 pounds and most importantly, actually manage to keep it off this time. This post is step one of my free fitness series.
*Please note that this post is written by a woman schooled in hard knocks, I am no Dr. or expert, nor claim to be one in any way, shape, or form… this is just me sharing my personal experiences and thoughts about my struggles with an eating disorder. This is also me sharing a trigger warning for any of you that have struggles even reading about certain hardships or even questioning of your faith…I do mention some of the trauma’s I have been through, and strong opinions, so please keep that in mind that they are coming up, while you are reading.*
What is binge eating disorder?
Binge eating disorder is so much more than when someone that eats too much and too frequently. There is an uncontrollable urge, you eat long past the time when you are full, to the point that it can be incredibly painful. Often times these “binges’ are hidden from others because there is a lot of self-shame that can and usually do come with them.
Binge eating disorder can also be characterized by the fact that there is no attempt to counter each binge through exercise, or cutting back calories on subsequent days. The weight continues to increase , or fluctuate, with no end in sight. It’s actually very similar to bulimia, except you just don’t throw up your food, you carry the binges with you in added weight.
For me, binge eating disorder was basically a coping mechanism for uncontrollable anxiety, it was how I dealt with every terrible thing that I had gone through in my life.
My History With Weight:
Before I tell you how I overcame it, I think it’s helpful to share with you where I have been, so that you can really understand me, and my weight struggles, more on a personal level.
I was never what one would consider “skinny” growing up. I was always more considered “big boned”…as if that’s really a thing…but that’s just how it was referred to back then (I grew up in the late 80’s/90’s).
When I was a child, my body grew rapidly, and I was always almost a full head taller than all of the other children in every class that I was in until about eighth grade and all the boys started catching up. Which of course, meant that up until that point, I also outweighed every single classmate by at least 20+ lbs at all times.
I remember always being incredibly self-conscious any time someone my age would talk about weight… my number, and clothing sizes, were never in close in proximity to theirs and being raised in a very vain area… numbers were discussed on the regular, with vehemence about anything that wasn’t “perfect” (perfect was as close to 100 lbs as possible, and that is not even a healthy number for someone my height of 5’7…so you can say that I grew up with a warped sense of a healthy “ideal”).
I couldn’t escape the negative comments…everywhere I went somehow it was an “appropriate topic”…(these were the days before body shaming was taboo) I was getting comments at school, at home, at work, I couldn’t even escape the ridicule at church… so many constant comments I was literally drowning in self-loathing because I internalized every single one of them.
Fast forward to my twenties… I was still fairly clueless when it came to fitness in general…I would try to exercise and eat healthy sometimes, but add on top of that I had a very toxic relationship in my life for a very long time…and I started turning to food to cope with how horrible my life was.
When I say that “I turned to food” you need to realize that I’m not just talking about eating a little bit extra here and there when I was sad or had extreme bouts of anxiety… I’m talking, I would eat so much in an attempt to drown my sorrows, that I had to hide how much I was eating because I was so ashamed of myself… Thousands upon thousands (3-6000 at a time) of calories were consumed in one sitting…and it wasn’t uncommon for me to gain 15-20 lbs in a single month during these times if things were particularly rough emotionally.
Yeah, those “fun size” bags of candy weren’t so fun when I would eat the whole thing in one go and get a belly-ache. I have to laugh about it now… but back then I had a very big problem… and it wasn’t just the fact that my clothing sizes were soaring to new heights (I got up to nearly 300 lbs at my heaviest, my largest pants size was 20 and my shirts were 2xl). The fat-shaming comments were getting out of control too…which caused even more eating… and I could see nothing of myself beyond my flaws at this point.
It was a vicious, never-ending, cycle… it reminds me of a certain character from a movie in the 90’s/2000’s that said “I eat because I’m sad, and I’m sad because I eat”…
I have never identified with a fictional character more than I did with that guy…and that is very sad if you understood just what character I’m talking about (His name is too inappropriate to mention on my mommy blog, but he’s in a certain Austin Powers movie, if that helps).
Steps To overcoming binge eating disorder: Start With A Mental DETOX!
Some of you are going to think this is extreme… the lengths that I had to go to stop eating so much… but my struggles, the things causing all the anxiety, which in turn caused all of the eating…were almost all emotional baggage… and it was time to unload (keep in mind as you’re reading I have extreme social anxiety and ptsd, so some advice should be taken with a grain of salt).
I’d say that my journey took me about three or four years, to really figure it out…and I’m hoping that in writing this, it will help others have that “aha” moment and hopefully it won’t take you anywhere nearly as long as it did me to figure it all out.
Because even once I figured out what changes I needed to make…I fell on my face hundreds of times, and had to dust myself off, and pick myself back up and I really don’t want you to have to suffer the way that I did.
In order to detox my mind, I had to make some things right in my personal life that were just not jiving with my soul.
Up until the point of my “aha” moment… I had been trying hard, and failing, at living up to the expectations of everyone around me… it was unhealthy, it was toxic, and I had to really sit back, do some serious pondering, and decide what I wanted out of this life….and I had to do it for ME and me only.
You see, when you are making choices to please everyone else, all it really does is make you more miserable…and the longer you try to live up to other people’s expectations… the longer that you have to live with those choices.
What were some of the major changes that I did for ME?
I got divorced! I’m certainly not saying that divorce is the answer to your problems (I actually believe that marriage, when healthy, is a very beautiful and wonderful thing)…but boy howdy, divorce was the first big step to my personal happiness!
You see, I got married at 19….I was young and stupid and at that point, making choices to please my family and fit in culturally… not knowing that those same choices were going to make me utterly miserable.
I was about 27 years old when I figured out what I really wanted in life, and it was NOTHING like the life that I had.
My goals and my dreams just weren’t a possibility with my “life partner”… so I had to cut ties because that relationship was bringing me so much inner turmoil… let me see if I can figure out the most tactful way to describe that marriage…and yes, I’m sugar-coating the snot out of it or I’ll get sued for defamation.
Imagine that me and my spouse were both magnets that are naturally flipped to having polarity that pushes them apart, we were illsuited (the term for magnets that won’t squish together is actually called “revulsion” and it is rather fitting in this case)… no matter how hard we tried to force ourselves to stay together, it just never worked…and it was utterly exhausting.
Our basic wants and needs, our love languages, financial goals, physical needs, and even our definitions of the kind of marriage (what is and isn’t appropriate behavior) and what we wanted/expected of each other just never lined up… we fought constantly, and it was miserable all around.
Ripping off that Band-aide, admitting defeat in marriage (which was cultural social suicide, mind you), was the first step to getting things in my life in order…and unfortunately, in this very unusual but absolutely necessary case, that also meant having as little communication with the ex (and his family) as humanly possible while still raising children together…I don’t hate anyone, I just wish them well…over there ————> (yes, picture me pointing to a far off land).
Because my inner peace, and being a peaceful mother, is all that I care about anymore, and I just don’t have any fight left in me.
Next, I walked away from a faith that I hadn’t believed in in years.
I can’t even describe the sense of peace that has come into my life from leaving a faith that had been pushed upon me since I was a young child (I don’t blame my parents for this in the least, they were just doing what they were taught, and thought was best, too).
It’s like there were so many people involved in my faith, that I was “accountable to”….that I couldn’t even have a relationship with God because there was just too much going on, and far too much expectation. I had to simplify every single aspect of my life, and yeah, it may be surprising, but I had to simplify my relationship with God too.
Stepping away, listening to my gut/my true feelings, and being accountable to me and only me (and God)… was what my spirit needed to finally be set free, and not feel like I was being pulled in twenty different directions…and I have never felt God more closely in my life than I do now that I’m a “heathen”, go figure.
I could go on and on about my issues with some of the culture, but this isn’t the time or the place… let’s just say that getting away from the extreme perfectionism mindset alone has really boosted my self esteem and self-worth.
This particular faith may bring joy to many, but it (and organized religion in general) is just not for me. I try hard to be a good person and help others every single day, and that is enough for me.
I feel so lucky to live in a country that was founded on religious freedom…so I am now exercising that freedom, instead of just trying to fit in, and it has dropped my anxiety on an insane level.
After that, I went to THERAPY, on a regular basis for about a solid year!
Getting your head right, learning to cope and deal with trauma, is the single most important key to overcoming binge eating…that is after you get away from what is causing the trauma in the first place. Those feelings you are having need out, they’re important, and they need to be validated!
For a very long time I wasn’t allowed to have feelings (mind you, I have been around this earth several decades, so I have had my fair share of toxic relationships)…so I ate those feelings. Going to therapy, and finally being listened to, and truly heard, was instrumental in processing some of the trauma’s that I have been through.
I know that some of you are probably thinking that you have been through too many things, that it’s not possible to ever be happy, or to ever stop eating those emotions… but let me tell you so you know from someone that has lived a little in the last nearly 40 years (some of my struggles are that I have been raped multiple times, lost loved ones, miscarried babies, been cheated on (I once found out my second husband had another wife…and a girlfriend), I’ve been gas lighted, stalked, harassed, the victim in several criminal trials and a couple of crimes I never reported, screamed at until I was crumpled into a ball (on a regular basis), you can name any type of emotional abuse and I have been through it during my life, I even know what it feels like to love someone for years even though they will never love you back … and I have carried every single horrible thing that has happened to me/ my burdens very close to my heart, as empaths often do)… But I’m here to tell you that you not only can overcome these things… and any other trauma that life will throw at you, but you can learn to be happy again!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A VICTIM!
Don’t get me wrong, getting your head right takes an insane amount of healing. It takes work, it takes effort, it takes digging down and ripping the scabs off of some of those old scars that you have been coping with (or failing to cope with)… but once you get it out there, it’s like your mind can finally get to a point that you can think about those things and they don’t consume you with anxiety, or whatever emotion they are causing, anymore.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IN SURVIVAL MODE!
Getting the help that I needed to work on what I now know was extreme PTSD, saved my life. I have no doubt that I would have eaten myself to death (or died young of another obesity related illness) if I hadn’t taken some of the steps that I did to heal. It was hard, but it was SO WORTH THE PAINFUL PARTS.
Just remember that when it comes to emotional healing…“THE ONLY WAY OUT, IS THROUGH”… and just take it a day at a time, you’ll get there, you’ll heal too.
You need to have a realistic expectation when it comes to the actual healing process…Don’t expect to have the healing happen overnight… it actually wasn’t until about a year after I finished regular therapy that it really sank in and I started really letting it work its magic in my life.
The next big thing I did was detox almost all of the unhealthy relationships in my life.
I took a good long hard look at what other things, and people, were causing so much of my anxiety and I did a massive culling of my friend relationships (and family…shhhh!) …both on Facebook and in real life (I literally unfriended hundreds of people).
I realized that some people just thrive on drama, gossip, meddling, political nonsense, judgement, and put downs… and life is just too hard already to have to worry about any of those things…so I hit that unfriend button pretty hard (and do so every couple of years if I have been behind on my housekeeping).
I don’t care if it’s your grandma that you need to spend less time with, if a person isn’t willing/or capable of changing their unhealthy mental behaviors (or even if their temper is so bad it won’t even allow you to voice your true feelings)… it’s ok to hold them at arms length for your own mental well-being.
Yeah, I spend a lot of time alone when my kids are with their dad (I’m starting over and working hard on building up healthy friendships and familial relations)… but I find that a bit of “hermit-ism” (if that’s even a word) really suits me.
Think about it, have you ever once seen a fat hermit, on tv or otherwise? There’s gotta be something to that mindset of just shutting the world out and not giving a crap what people think.
Just remember that when it comes to relationships… you have a choice in what behavior you allow people to have when it comes to your feelings.
I’m not saying every single person you know should go, some relationships are more than worth working on and saving… but if you’ve already done the communicating of feelings, and no one wants to work on it (or even cares about your feelings)… that is your cue to take a step back and reevaluate the situation…and detox as necessary.
During my “friends and family culling” I found that sometimes avoiding social media altogether helps me get my anxiety under control…they say that “comparison is the thief of joy”…and when you’re constantly comparing yourself and your situation to everyone else, it’s very easy to get down on yourself or feel judged.
So don’t be above just taking a step back from social media, or skipping a party (or 5), if you feel like that is what it takes to keep anxiety levels low (especially while you’re working hard on healing…be patient with yourself).
When I feel the anxiety starting to flare after some time on Facebook, I sometimes take a break for a month at a time… (especially around the holidays) and it really rejuvenates my soul.
I’m sure I’m a toxic person to others as well, because we all have things we need to work on or just have personalities that don’t mesh together…so I absolutely won’t try to force friendships or people to stay in my life anymore either…because I realize that they may need to hold ME at arms length for their emotional well-being as well.
The last thing that I did was to simplify my life in general.
I have found that my daily “to-do” lists were actually super unrealistic and harmful.. it’s like I couldn’t get it through my head that I’m a single, working, mom of four and thought that I could “do it all”… well guess what? I couldn’t “do it all”. Even some of my career goals were just too big too (at this phase of life anyway)…and it all made me really down on myself.
The steps I took to simplify my life basically boiled down to priorities and expectations… and now that I had detoxed (trimmed the fat) in all the other aspects of my life…I could finally look around and assess what tasks are actually pertinent, and which ones can go.
I no longer have daily chore lists that are a mile long and have me re-cleaning things that are still pretty dang clean… I clean more on an “as needed” basis beyond mostly keeping up on the laundry and dishes.
Since I’m not trying to keep up with other people’s expectations anymore, nor care about their judgments, I actually now have the time, and the energy to be a better mom, and to be a better me, and even time to do some of the things that make me happy…which all makes my self esteem sky rocket.
I had the quiet the world around me in order to learn what I truly wanted and what is truly important to me… and now I wake up every day making myself, and my health, one of my top five priorities… because the thing about juggling too much is that it’s easy to drop things… but if you cut away all the unnecessary stuff… you open yourself up to have time to find balance, time to learn to love yourself, and time to love your life too.
I guess the point that I’m really trying to get across, to drive home, is that once you allow yourself the freedom to become your authentic true self, it’s so much easier to find inner peace.
I’m sure that plenty of people will think that some stuff is just plain nonsense (probably think I had a mid-life crisis or something, lol), and that is more than okay, you’re entitled to your opinions.
I’m just trying to get people to open their eyes, and do some serious inner reflection and pondering… but once you realize that a healthy mind is the first step in having a healthy body(whatever that healthy mind may look like for you)… it will make it much easier to get your weight under control.
I mean think about it. If you don’t get the anxiety induced binging eating under control…it’s a constant uphill battle trying to “lose the weight”… because you are literally drowning in a sea of calories.
No one can exercise enough to keep up with a non-stop flow of food…
Yep, the first step to fitness is getting your mind healthy… but there is so much more to it. Over the years I have had to develop a large amount of little habits that have added up to being at a healthy body fat percentage for the first time in my life (& I have maintained it for about a year, so it was time to share my journey…my pants size is currently between a 2/4 now and my shirts S/M…which is quite the change from 20 pants & 2 XL tops).
Find that inner peace, take out the garbage, simplify your life… and don’t ever let anyone take it away from you…because we only get one shot at this life and it would be a shame to live the bulk of it in regret.
Three other things that I wanted to mention when you are thinking about your own life and what detoxing you need to do… remember that your job needs to not be a source of contention when at all possible. You spend too much time at work to hate what you’re doing, so sometimes a career-change may be just what the Dr would have ordered…you know, if you go to therapy…lol.
Also, your home needs to be your refuge from the world…not an extension of that chaos… so I don’t care if you need to live in a van and completely start over to get your inner peace, sometimes it’s necessary to make drastic changes if you want drastic results.
Sometimes you do need a little bit more of an extra boost, my familial brain chemistry is very prone to depression, anxiety, and addictions, so I took that into consideration too. Sometimes a chemical imbalance is going on, and it needs to be addressed as well. My anxiety was out of control because I had extremely unreasonable expectations for myself (on top of all the expectations of everyone around me) on top of the whacky natural brain chemistry…so I have literally had to take a chill pill to help get my anxiety levels to a manageable point… luckily, I have become obsessed with exercise too, and those natural endorphins really help do the trick to balancing my mental well-being.
My rule of thumb, on decision making on when to walk away/change course for something (now that I’ve had a little bit of experience in actually being able to make my own decisions),…is that “if you have to keep questioning it, the answer is no…it’s not for me”…
I may have definitely ruffled some feathers with being so frank about my experiences, thoughts, and feelings, but boy if you had seen how unkempt my own feathers got when I was figuring it all out, you wouldn’t care too much. #iwasarollingdumpsterfire
I wish you all the best on your journey to find yourself, your peace, and genuinely hope you get your spark back!
Do you still binge eat after overcoming binge eating disorder?
For those of you wondering if I ever still binge eat… the answer is absolutely yes I do, once in a while I do catch myself out of control… but the glorious thing about having an understanding of my anxiety and also having figured out my emotional baggage (with many carry ons)…is that…
I now let myself feel those feelings, I don’t try to hide them or pretend they are not there, I process them, I get help when needed or do a little writing/venting therapy… and then I get busy with life and get back to my daily goals and loving on my kids… and those binges don’t control or define me anymore. That behavior was part of my life for so long that it will always be a part of me, but now that I understand it better I can manage it.
You see, the thing about self awareness when it comes to anxiety and what is triggering the binge eating behavior, is that after a while you kinda become hyper aware of what is causing your anxiety…and you develop healthy ways to cope or deal with it. I learned (or rather forced myself to learn) to turn to fitness most of the time instead of food, and I now have a passionate love for taking care of myself, both my mind and my body, and that is never going to change.
That’s all I have to share with you guys today, and if you made it this far, you are a freaking champ!
This post is the first of many when it comes to fitness, so I will be sharing all of my tips and tricks in my new fitness section of this website, so make sure to head over there and I will keep writing about it until I have shared every possible thing I can think of to help you in your own fitness journey.
I do share everything for free (and it takes me a ridiculous amount of time and effort to do so), so I only ask that you please share my posts via social media or even email my direct links to others that may find it helpful.
Honestly, what I wrote about today may be directly targeted towards binge eating disorder…but there are so many other anxiety based eating disorders (and behaviors…like alcoholism and drug use) out there that some of these thoughts might help with too, so keep that in mind.
As I write the series, I will be adding direct links to some of the next steps for my fitness series, so check back soon for those (the pics are direct links to the corresponding posts).
For those of you that would like another option of a “pinnable image” to share on Pinterest, here you go. Thanks again, so much for the support!
*This post was written on 10/21/2021, and will be updated periodically to make it a more user-friendly experience.