Binge Eating: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Ashamed

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Thank you Glo Bar Lovers!

Together we sold a whopping 1100 Glo Bars yesterday! As I mentioned 10% of my sales will be donated to Haiti Relief via The Humanitarian Coalition. That would be a donation of $212.00!!!

However, I have received a few emails from you saying that you missed out and you would like to participate, so I decided to extend the sale and Haiti donation until 5pm EST today (click here for the cart). I will be presenting the donation receipt on the blog tomorrow.

 

Binge Eating: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Ashamed

Each week I receive emails from readers who are struggling to let go of an eating disorder. A large number of these emails are emails about binge eating.

Binge Eating, or compulsive eating, is often triggered by chronic dieting and involves periods of overeating, often in secret and often carried out as a means of deriving comfort. Symptoms include:

  • periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating

  • sporadic fasts or repetitive diets

[Source]

I wanted to take a moment today to discuss my experience with binge eating as I think it is a topic that is often swept under the rug due to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

If you have read my series on Binge Eating (The Unspoken Issue Part 1 and The Unspoken Issue Part 2), you may know that I struggled with it for many years.

My struggles with binge eating began shortly after I started to restrict my food intake. Before this, I had no prior problems with binge eating. I struggled with disordered eating for many years. I would starve myself, over-exercise, and count calories obsessively. It is no surprise to me now that I also struggled with strong urges to binge. Typically once a week (on the weekends) I would get the urge to binge. Sometimes this binge would consist of several hundred calories and sometimes over a thousand. However, the amount never mattered, it was the feeling that was associated with it.

I felt completely out of control.

Afterwards, I would feel so ashamed, I would cry, and I would vow to restrict my intake the next day- and weeks after. During this time, I was also dating Eric and I remember being so scared that he would find out. I was so ashamed I couldn’t tell him because I was worried what he might think. After a few years of dating, I finally got the courage to tell him why I was in a bad mood, and I just told him that ‘I really overate and now I feel badly.’ Of course, he didn’t quite understand the gist of what I was telling him, and I couldn’t expect him to because I wasn’t fully honest about it. It really put up a wall between us for a long time.

It took me a very long time to realize that I would always have problems with binge eating as long as I was still depriving my body of what it needed. In an evolutionary psychology course we learned that it is an adaptive response for our bodies to seek out large amounts of food when in a deprived state. It makes total sense to me now that my body was just trying to get food in any way possible!

You can only deprive your body for so long before it acts out in protest. My weekend binges were in fact a protest against my weekday deprivation.

My body had ENOUGH.

And so this cycle continued for a long time. It is such a hard cycle to break because after a binge the guilt is so high that the only comfort you can think of is feeling empty again and restricting your intake. The cycle repeats itself over and over and the person who struggles with it, sinks deeper and deeper into isolation.

I am here today to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have to live your life with cycles of deprivation and compulsive eating. It is possible to beat it and to eat in a steady cycle.

How did I beat binge eating?

Two things were pivotal to me beating Binge eating:

1) I sought counseling for my eating disorder.

I tried and tried and tried to beat it on my own but I couldn’t. It is so powerful and the emotions and habits tied to an eating disorder are extremely hard to overcome without help. I always, always encourage anyone who is struggling to seek out a counselor. It was a major turning point in my life. The counselor I saw in university made a huge impact on my life. To this day, I remember fondly the nice things she said about me. I should write her and thank her, actually.

2) I stopped restricting what I ate

I honestly do not think that I could have beat binge eating if I didn’t stop restricting my intake. This took me a long, long time to realize and I hope to be able to save some of you some time too. When I finally stopped restricting my intake, I allowed myself to eat when hungry and I stopped counting calories and weighing myself. The hardest part was that I still suffered from binges even though I was not restricting my food! You know why this was? Because old habits die hard. My body did not want to trust me. I had deprived it for so long that I couldn’t be trusted, so even though I was now eating enough food, I still struggled with binges now and then.

This was extremely frustrating for me and I will admit, I relapsed a few times because of this.

However, the body CAN learn new tricks. It took me about a year to finally stop the binges even when eating normally. My body finally learned to trust me again and it didn’t feel the need to ‘store up on food’. I know for a fact if I was still restricting my intake, I would still be struggling with binges. It is an adaptive response, don’t forget.

Another thing I had to realize was that the goal weight that I wanted to be was not realistic. It is obvious to me now that the weight I wanted to be at could not be achieved in a healthy manner because obviously I had to starve myself to get there!

Ultimately I had to pick one of two choices for myself:

1) To starve and try to achieve my goal weight and struggle with binges and all the horrible emotions that come with an ED,

OR

2) To let the ED go and to give my body what it needed. This meant that I would likely gain some weight and I would have to learn to love myself as I was meant to be.

This was no easy task, but I chose 2.

I can confidently tell you today that I am happier than I have ever been in my life and I know I would not be at this place had I not decided to turn a new leaf. Am I as thin as I once wanted to be? No, but I can tell you the happiness I now feel is better than any other feeling in the world.

We have to realize that each and everyone of us are different. Our bodies are different. Some people are meant to be muscular, some bigger, some smaller, some taller, some curvier, some shorter.

We have to find out where our body will be happiest. I believe that is one of the hardest things for a woman to figure out, but once you do you will never go back.

We are all beautiful in our own UNIQUE way!

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{ 124 comments… read them below or add one }

Jocelyn January 20, 2010

I talk about binge eating disorder openly on my blog and have a secton dedicated to it..

it’s not an easy thing to overcome…thats for sure. There are always those thoughts and feelings in the back of your head and it triggers it..

I hope some day I can get to my goal weight and feel comfortable enough to not go back and forth!

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Stacey January 21, 2010

Thanks for this post Angela. This is one of the most honest, informative posts I have ever read about binge eating. Thank you for sharing!

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jime January 23, 2010

ciao angela again
sorry if im writing too much but i just like so much all the things youre doing to help and just everything bout your site THANKS a lot for such an inspiring post Im really focused now on beating my eating disorders theyre just life ruiners and I just have got one life so I better beat them now .
GRAZIE MILE

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Jessica @ The Process of Healing January 20, 2010

I think that is most inspirational, true, and honest post I have ever read anywhere in the blog world. Thank you for opening up and sharing your personal experience, I know that must be so hard. Binge eating is an awful thing to have to live with and I know so many people struggle with it and suffer alone in silence. It should not be like this. I wish this world was not the kind of place it is in that unhealthily and unrealistically skinny women are considered “beautiful” and everyone is “supposed” to look like that. Of course so many women (and men) are going to end up with eating disorders and struggles emotionally and physically when they compare themselves to this crazy ideal image and that is unattainable without killing yourself (for most people). Like you said, everyone is different!! We have to learn to love our bodies as they are because we only have this one body, we should treat it right.
And it’s also good to know that there is scientific reasoning behind binge eating – it’s out of our control sometimes!

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is January 20, 2010

This is so inspirational and true. There is no reason to be ashamed about something, especially when so many people suffer from it.

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K January 20, 2010

Great post!
Do you think that becoming a vegan has helped you with this? To me, becoming a vegan would be the MOST restricting diet out there, so I find it interesting how it has helped you!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 20, 2010

I know that many people would assume this as well. I actually eat many, many more foods now as a vegan than I did as a non vegan. It opened my world up to so many new foods and recipes and I am forever grateful for that.

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Ruth January 20, 2010

This is eerily timely for me. Just last week I decided to get help to stop binge eating. I developed it exactly the way you did. I’m so relieved that there’s a way out that doesn’t involve more calorie counting!

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Jessica @ The Process of Healing January 20, 2010

Good for you!!! :)

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Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble) January 20, 2010

Thanks so much for this post. I, too have struggled for years with the binge/restriction cycle, and I am just getting to the point of full recovery. And it feels amazing!

xoxo
Kris

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Gillian January 20, 2010

This is why I love your blog Ang! I had totally felt alone in my binge eating and deprivation until you had talked about it on here – like you said it feels shameful and embarassing when you are going though it. I am now eating PROPERLY – have been for better part of a year – although as you noted its hard to break old binging habits – I have had less and less of these moments as the months have marched on. Its been the last months or so that I haven’t wanted to binge at all like I used to. I don’t stress over my food like I used to as I know I am putting the right nutritious eats in me!

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angela @ A Healthy Fit January 20, 2010

Such a great post. So honest and real! I too have been struggling with ED and body dismorphia. I made the first huge step and told my husband & mom after Thanksgiving. This Friday, I am seeing a counselor for the first time.

This is one of the scariest things I have ever had to admit or do. It’s so nice to know that you can change your thinking. Thanks so much for being an inspiration.

Maybe one day I can write openly and honestly about it in my blog.

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Jessica @ The Process of Healing January 20, 2010

Good luck!! I wish you the best!

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AGS January 20, 2010

Good luck — and congratulations. For me, just talking about it, and telling someone was a big part of getting to a healthy place. The secretiveness ate (pardon the pun) away at me. . . honesty and openess became my friend.

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Bronwyn January 20, 2010

Good luck! Admitting it to yourself and to others is the hardest first step. :)

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janetha b January 20, 2010

angela~ great post on binge eating. i think this post is something several of us can relate to! thanks for sharing your story.

i also clicked out of reader to let you know that TODAY is national granola bar day! and hey~ they never said WHAT nation.. so let’s pretend it is the USA and canada :)

xoxo

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*Andrea* January 20, 2010

aw i love this post! thank you! i have/do struggle with this and it’s such an awkward/uncomfortable subject for some reason… i like how you framed the 2 choices.. i want #2 as well! its so weird to me that you can know one thing yet your emotions can lead you to forget it all and choose a harmful thing like a binge grr

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AGS January 20, 2010

Great post.

I struggled with this for about 2 years. My boyfriend (husband now) helped set me up with a good counselor. I remember being so angry at him for figuring out what was going on. But I did want to get over my eating disorder, so I said I’d trust him to get me set up with someone. My eating disorder — and it took me some time before I’d admit it was an eating disorder — was a result of other trauma, and it took me some time to work through both the symptom (binge eating) and the cause (the painful past). It took me about two years to really get to a “good” place with food.

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Sophie @ yumventures January 20, 2010

This is such a wonderful and motivational post. I struggled with binge eating for a while as well, and I found that instead of focusing on weight loss, I decided to focus on making my body strong. That even meant gaining some weight (muscle weighs more than fat, after all) but by loving my body I am ending up sleeker and toner than I would by restricting my calories. Your story is along these same lines, and truly inspirational! Thank you :)

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Brooke January 20, 2010

Thank you for being so open and honest. I started a post on my blog about this yesterday but then put it in my “drafts” and have not published it yet. I to struggle with this especially after years of anorexia and bulimia. I do notice that when I restrict my calories during the day my body wants everything and anything I will put into it. I am working on stopping this cycle for good also. First step is the breakfast I just finished…no more skipping meals!

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Lauren @ Eater not a runner January 20, 2010

Thank you for posting this. I still struggle with binge eating, although not as much now that I try to not restrict. I feel like it will always be a challenge though.

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N January 20, 2010

I used to binge eat a lot and now it’s only occasional, usually when I’m really stressed.

When I did binge it was always on chocolate and fatening foods, nothing healthy. I still find that habit hard to break.

How do you overcome that? restricting myself of those foods only makes me want them more and binge more when I do have them.

I’d love to be able to reduce my intake of fatty foods without feeling like I’m missing out and bringing on a binge.

Thanks x

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AGS January 20, 2010

Even though I’m at a “good” place with food, sometimes I struggle with past behaviors. I started calling myself a “healthy person who is learning” a little while ago. For me, binge eating is an impulsive, out-of-control, driven feeling, and I’m trying to learn how to handle those feelings.

I start by saying out loud: “I’m stressed out” (or angry, or sad). I actually say it quite loud and emphatically (if no one is around). Then I pretend I’m in a classroom and say (out loud, because this helps for some reason): “What am I going to do about it?” I usually then put on some kind of music — this helps me the most — or I drink some tea. Both activities calm me down and make me pause long enough to think about what is going on. The “urgent/driven” feeling dissipates.

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Bronwyn January 20, 2010

ASG-Those are pretty much my tricks too!

N – I’d like to add. When I first started trying to recover, I would binge quite frequently, as angela was saying. But I knew I was on the right track. And honestly as time past, the binges became less and less frequent.
Although I’ve eaten too much (usually for good reasons like Christmas, or fun times with friends) I honestly don’t think I’ve “binged” in a very long time.

And important thing is to let go of the guilt after a binge, just carry on like a normal day, if you can.

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N January 21, 2010

Thanks for the tips! xx

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Ameena January 20, 2010

So great of you to share your story for those suffering this terrible problem! I hope others can overcome binge eating as well as you did.

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Heather (Where's the Beach) January 20, 2010

Thanks so much for your honesty. I have never struggled with eating disorders (thankfully), but could easily hedge toward some form of eating disorder simply by trying to eat healthy. There are so many, should eats, don’t eats, can’t eats, out there. I mean, can we even eat anything that won’t harm us in one way or another??? Same with exercise, I lean towards overtraining in an attempt to maintain health. So many fine lines out there.

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Jil January 20, 2010

Such an amazing post, Angela!! It’s true — if only we, as women, weren’t wired — in this day and age — to think that all of us are supposed to weigh the same amount, have the same measurements, the same pants size, etc….society has made it seem like all women should weigh ____ or wear this certain size pant…and that is just not the way it is. Everyone is beautiful in their own way.

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Shannon (The Daily Balance) January 20, 2010

fantastic post, angela! Per usual, you continue to inspire all those around you ;)

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Marisa (Loser for Life) January 20, 2010

Thank you for sharing your story! I can definitely relate to a lifetime of dieting, restricting calories and binge eating. It does bring with it feelings of shame and self-deprecation. But, I agree with you- your body CAN learn new tricks to overcome this inner battle! Glad you sought help and were able to get yourself to a wonderful place – inside and out :)

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Heather (Heather's Dish) January 20, 2010

what a great post. this truly spoke to me because i’ve actually done all of the things you mentioned here, all the way down to dating my husband and not being able to convey what was actually happening with me. this is going to help so many people, and i’m so thankful to be following your blog! you have such a heart for women and their needs – thank you :)

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Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg January 20, 2010

This is such a great, honest post that will truly help so many people. Thanks for being such a great inspiration, Angela!

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katherine January 20, 2010

I know this is going to make me sound like a total cheeseball, but I can confidently say finding your blog was probably the turning point in my relationship with food. I’d been to a therapist who helped tremendously, but the fact that I was reading the blog of a smart, beautiful and hilarious woman balancing a fulltime job (I’ve been reading since before you quit your previous job!), a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship with herself and her diet gradually shifted my mindset to a much happier place.

I’m slowly learning to enjoy food, appreciate my body and accept that I may never have “it all” like I thought I would. At this time last year, having it all meant a great job, a great marriage, and most of all, being at my goal weight. How crazy that I based so much of my self-image on my weight!

Now I exercise when I want to, but I’m also learning that walking 4 miles a day (to-from work) and sitting in the sun can do more good for my body than slogging through a grueling workout while berating myself for a binge the night before.

Your blog got the ball rolling for me and, slowly but surely, I’m keeping the trend going for myself.

Thank you!!

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Janna (Just Flourishing) January 20, 2010

They way you write about such personal and emotional subjects, so poignantly and honestly, really amazes me.

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Haleigh January 20, 2010

Thanks for sharing this with us, I know a lot of us can relate. I struggled with restriction and then feeling the need to consume every piece of chocolate in sight. I finally got out of the cycle when I let myself eat what I wanted. This is such an emotional topic so it is refreshing to see some one write about it so openly. Kudos to you girl.

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kate January 20, 2010

Kudos to you for your Haiti relief efforts!
I absolutely agree that the key to freeing yourself from binge eating is having a no restriction rule.

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Estela @ Weekly Bite January 20, 2010

Angela, this is a fantastic post! So many suffer from this! And this post will help!

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Gabriela January 20, 2010

This is such a great post…I struggled with disordered eating for awhile and still occasionally binge, and it’s so great to know I’m not alone and to think about it this way. It made me realize I still have a lot of things to work on in accepting myself!

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skinnyrunner January 20, 2010

what a gret post! you said everything so well. binge eating is a touchy, personal subject that seemingly every woman deals with in some way, and i love your points and tips!

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Eve (Nutrition by Eve) January 20, 2010

This is a fabulous post – I work with many clients who are binge eaters and it’s nice to see someone talk about their issue so publicly. Not depriving yourself along with seeking therapy are two things I always recommend immediately. Thanks for being so open and honest.

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Becky January 20, 2010

Thank you so much for posting this. You have no idea how much I needed to read this TODAY. I’m on day 5 of trying to eat intuitively – not dieting/restricting/counting calories and actually listening to my body. I am struggling so much with this because I feel like I’m eating so much (even though it’s probably actually a more healthy “normal” amount of food) but am still binging and it makes me want to go back to counting calories. I still have a long way to go before I find my healthy balance but your post gave me hope. Thank you.

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Ashley January 20, 2010

Great post, as always. I’m not quite sure how you write such in depth and thought inspiring posts EVERY single day, on top of everything else you do. Pretty amazing! My senior year of college I lived with 2 other girls that both had ED’s. One was really severe. It was so so hard to see what they were both going through, especially one of them. I’ve been friends with both of them for a long time and wish I could pass along your blog without making them feel weird about it. I never had an ED or had problems with binge eating really, but definitely always concerned about the scale, etc. I feel like, in the last year or so I’ve accepted myself a lot more. I know in my head I have nothing at ALL to worry about and I am a balanced, healthy eater and work out a normal amount. Still that feeling when you know your body has gained a few pounds or even if it’s just retaining water…I hate when I get down on myself at that point! My hubs is great and always telling me I have NOTHing to worry about, he loves my body, etc etc. Just hoping I can be completely comfortable one day!! Thanks for all that you do with your blog..I’m sure it has helped SO many people!
—On another note, as SOON as I get a job I’m ordering Glo Bars for sure!! ;)

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Mandy January 20, 2010

I always like reading your stories about binge eating. Because one day I hope to finally get over it. It’s such a hard thing to admit, but it’s even hard to stop.

Now it’s easier to control once I’ve started feeding my body properly.

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Morgan @ Life After Bagels January 20, 2010

hmmmm I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself for some serious binge cookie and popcorn evenings . . . I don’t do it because I deprive myself, I do it to fix my stress. It’s absolutely uncontrollable at the time I’m doing it and then I feel so mad at myself afterwards. I know I need to find a better outlet for anxiety.

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Jamie in Arkansas January 20, 2010

This post is exactly why I love your blog! Open, honest, heartfelt and informational. :) Thank you for inspiring us all.

Even though I have not been diagnosed with an ED, I struggle with binge eating (and have for years), but I’m not going to let it get the best of me! I just forgive myself and start again. God’s grace is an amazing gift.

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Ruby January 20, 2010

Thanks hun, you inspired me to finally write about my eating disorder. It’s so true about the choice between the two – and although now it seems so simple, then it was incredibly hard!

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Katie O. @ Fit to Wed January 20, 2010

Thank you for such an honest, open and inspirational post.

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Katie @ Health for the Whole Self January 20, 2010

Thank you for having the courage to speak so openly about binge eating. As you say, there is a lot of shame and embarrassment involved, which often keeps people from getting the help they need. But the only way to fight that shame and embarrassment is by discussing the topic freely, and treating it as the legitimate health concern that it is.

Thanks for your courage and inspiration. :)

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Beth @ DiningAndDishing January 20, 2010

Great post Angela!! I have never done anything as serious as what you describe but I certainly restricted too much in college and it would come back to get me later when I was STARVING. Such an unhealthy pattern to get into! I think your honesty will help a lot of girls open up about this kind of thing.

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Carbzilla January 20, 2010

Really fantastic post, Angela. You can see that you really touched so many of us.

It took me years of therapy and experimentation to separate my emotions from the act of eating. I also had to let go of an “ideal” weight because that just wasn’t realistic for me.

Thanks again a million times for being such a wonderful example for so many.

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