A few years ago I was a serious binger. This isn’t a secret and it’s something I talk about a lot, but I’m about the get super real and very transparent with you about it here. It wasn’t an easy behavior to change and I certainly had my share of slip-ups and shed a few thousands tears about it. The important thing though- I got out of it. And I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it in hopes that it will help you, too.
Why was I eating even when I knew I wasn’t hungry?
Why was I bingeing on foods I didn’t even like?
Why was I sabotaging all my hard work during the day to stay on track towards my goals by bingeing the minute I got out of work by eating pop-tarts (in my car, of course. I wouldn’t eat that stuff in front of people because I didn’t want people to know I ate “bad” food)?
Why was I spending hundreds of dollars on personal trainers, meal plans and coaches when nothing seemed to work?
I was convinced that there was something wrong with me.
I had a degree in Nutrition, I was a personal trainer myself, I was a certified Holistic Health Coach…yet I couldn’t get my shit together when it came to my own nutrition.
As it turned out, it didn’t matter how much I knew, who I had as my coach/trainer or how bad I wanted to stop the behavior. In reality, I had to come to a couple harsh realizations in order to get my bingeing behavior under control.
#1 it wasn’t about the food
#2 I was actively doing this to myself and it was up to me to stop
#3 it was going to take A LOT of really hard work to get there
When we binge it’s NEVER ABOUT THE FOOD. We’re not overeating because the food tastes so good we just need to keep eating. In fact, the first few bites of food are the only ones that taste AMAZING, and overtime we may have very little taste experience left at all. So taste actually has very little to do with it at all.
We can’t stop the overeating habit because we’re not identifying WHY we’re engaging in this behavior.
After sitting myself down and doing some serious introspection (and once I decided to stop trying to be a “strong” girl who never felt negative feelings) I realized that I was incredibly stressed out about work, money, relationships, moving away from friends and losing contact with a lot of them, adjusting to life in the city and on top of that I had all these food and body image issues I was dealing with. As it turned out, food was the “easiest” thing to turn to even though it was totally counterintuitive to reach my goal of fat loss.
What I was doing instead of feeling my feelings was covering them up with eating. That way I could get upset with myself about self-sabotaging instead of being stressed about work, money etc. It was easier to be mad at myself than it was to deal with all the other issues that were present in my universe because identifying them meant that I could actually DO SOMETHING about them, which is scary and uncomfortable.
If I wanted to stop bingeing, I had no choice but to drop the superhero cape and let myself feel all the nitty gritty stuff that I was pushing down. THEN I had to take action on them.
After about 7,000 good cries (I’m a big crier. Always have been, always will be!) and months of therapy later (a GODSEND I tell you!) I was ready to take more action to breaking my bingeing habit.
First, I got really good at talking myself out of my bingeing behavior.
I would literally say to myself out loud “You don’t want these pop-tarts. They make you feel sick and you’ll feel like crying after you eat them. Put them away and go lay down.” And so I would. I’d take a nap or I’d check out Instagram or Facebook for a while,or I’d go for a walk. Were those things cutting-edge mindfulness techniques? No. But they were a start. They were a distraction and they made me feel a hell of a lot better than shoving pop-tarts in my face and feeling guilty about it after.
This also helped reinforce that I was in control of the behavior. If I knew the pop-tarts were going to make me feel awful and I chose to eat them anyway, well, that was on me.
After a while, I gradually stopped heading for food the minute I walked in the door and I stopped going to CVS on my way home from work every afternoon to buy my binge foods. Instead I’d get home and hop in the shower, sit down to watch some TV or go for a walk. Food became an afterthought; something I only thought about when my stomach started talking to me that it was feeding time ;o)
Then I came up with a plan- which was to break all of my own rules.
I’d have some chocolate with lunch, I’d have pizza for dinner, I’d have a glass or two of wine at night, I’d eat pancakes for breakfast…I’d do all the things that I told myself I couldn’t do for so long. This helped to retrain my brain to remember that no food was off limits and there was room for everything in my diet if I wanted it. If I had chocolate at 11am it wasn’t going to kill me. If I had pizza for dinner I wasn’t going to gain 5 pounds of fat overnight. I was OK. Food was safe and I was safe around it.
I also stopped paying for coaches and meal plans because I realized that stuff wasn’t helping me; in fact, it was hurting me. In other words, I began trusting myself to do what I knew was right for myself and my body. After some time I fell into a routine that just worked.
I ate what I wanted, when I wanted even if it wasn’t “fat loss friendly.”
I intentionally bought food that I used to feel like I had no control over like peanut butter cups, Oreos, chips and cereal, and I’d keep them in my cupboard for weeks at a time whereas before I would eat them an in one day.
I became able to go into the kitchen thinking I want to grab a couple cookies, open the cabinet and realize that I didn’t actually want them, close the cabinet and walk away.
I became able to have pizza and wine for dinner and not feel an ounce of guilt.
If you had asked me three years ago if I thought any of this would be possible I’d probably laugh in your face (then go home and cry about it)! I never thought I’d have the amount of food freedom that I have now.
Complete FOOD FREEDOM is possible. Do the work, dig deep and you’ve got this!