Binge Eating: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Ashamed

125 comments

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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{ 125 comments… read them below or add one }

Lexie Bond January 20, 2010

I think it’s hard to recognize that binging is actually a serious disorder sometimes. You mistake it for the occasional “mess up,” but clearly it’s very emotionally related.

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Mama Pea January 20, 2010

I totally appreciate you sharing your struggle with this, Angela, and I completely agree that there is no shame in a biological response to starvation! I wish I didn’t have experience with this, but like you, I appreciate now what I put my body through, and though I may feel embarrassed by my motivations, I am not ashamed of my actions anymore…I just feel really sad for that girl that didn’t love herself enough to treat her own body with respect.

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Kelly January 20, 2010

I used to wake up wanting coffee and to make my diet plan for the day. Now I wake up, drink my water, read your website, and want to be kind to myself and others. Thank YOU!!

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Jackie @ TriToLose January 20, 2010

Thanks for posting this. I’ve struggled with binge eating for awhile – but it’s been hard to admit it to others because it feels more like an excuse. I’m working my way out of the cycle with the help of my best friend and husband. Thanks for putting another face to it – especially as someone who has overcome it. :)

Jackie
tritolose.wordpress.com

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Kim January 20, 2010

I’m a new reader, and I really appreciate your posts about overcoming disordered eating. There is a whole spectrum of disordered eating (I’m at the restrictive anorexic end), but I think so much of the thinking is the same — controlling the body, losing trust in regards to hunger/fullness, letting go of the scale and counting and going with intuition. Thank you for being honest and real about the relapses. Also, thank you for pointing out that the number of calories when you binged was not what was important; it was the attitude. I feel the same way with anorexia; it’s the attitude toward eating. I regularly eat meals that are close to 1,000 calories, because that’s what I need. I still approach them with a restrictive mindset though (counting, stressing, etc). Even though I’m eating enough now and approaching a healthier weight, it’s the mindset I’m working on.

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Megan January 20, 2010

Thanks for posting this. I think it’s super brave to share your struggles with teh world, and I’m sure it’s going to be helpful for ltos of people. :)

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Danielle January 20, 2010

Thank you so much for posting this. I am recovering from an eating disorder and often get stuck in the restricting/binging cycle. I appreciate when people can openly talk about it and be honest with their habits, maybe one day I’ll learn to not be ashamed of them.
Thank you

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Lost. January 20, 2010

Hi there, Angela. Thank you so much for this post. I need people’s opinion on something that has been bothering me for a long long time. The thing is, I struggled with anorexia for about a year (got down to a really low weight) and then slowly … my disorder morphs into bulimia. Needless to say, I feel more like a failure than ever before because all my previous inpatient friends are either doing really well or relapsing. Second of all, I am having a really really hard time to just TRUST my body/metabolism in finding its own set weight – my mind tells me ‘why let YOUR BODY decides when YOU can make it happen …. come on, you’ve done it before and you can do it again and etc…. BUT the truth is, I cannot starve myself anymore – even if I want to, I can’t – And that is the thing that I’m having the HARDEST time to let GO. Gah. Please shed some light into my head. Thank you so so much!

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Paige @ Running Around Normal January 20, 2010

That’s not only SO very brave of you to come out and say, but it’s SO true.
No one should be ashamed of it. It exsists. It’s biologica. When one does have shame about it it can hinder them from getting the help they really need.

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cece January 20, 2010

This post is very timely as I have been struggling with overeating a lot lately and have put on several pounds. I have lost over 140 pounds and need to lose about 50 more…but this overeating , which is emotionally based is getting the best of me…sstarts and stops…
Cece

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melonshot. January 20, 2010

thank you for this post. it was quite inspiring.

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ariffa January 20, 2010

Thank you so much for this post, I’ve been struggling a lot with this lately and knowing I’m not alone is so helpful in itself.

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Jamie January 20, 2010

Wow Angela this is one of my favorite posts you have ever done. This is SO honest and I have definitely struggled with this before too until I realize it is usually a result of not eating enough as well. I am a hungry girl and have worked to try to embrace that!

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Jenn@slim-shoppin January 20, 2010

Thanks for being so honest about that. I had a roomate that I lived with for 2 years, never knowing she suffered from that!

I now understand what she must have been going through.

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Amy Ramos January 20, 2010

Thank you for the update on the glo bars! I am sooo looking forward to eating (my very first) one.
And thank you for this post on binge eating. Lately when I have gotten home from work, I feel the need to eat and eat and eat even though I will be making dinner. Last night, I had some chips while watching TV (bad, I know) and started munching away. Before I knew it, I had 1/2 the bag! I think I will be changing my habits as to bring some of those chips with me for my lunch so I do not feel deprived.
I know it is a daily battle, but I need to take baby steps. Thanks again!
Also, I got some great info on what to eat before a race. I am doing a 9 mile race in April and I was at a loss at what to eat (and wear!).
Looking forward to those glo bars.

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Christy January 20, 2010

I agree, health & over all happiness are much better feelings than a day staying in your ‘calorie range’

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Mo January 20, 2010

With every post that I read, I learn a little bit more about the journey toward self-acceptance. Thank you!

About this part:
“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.”

You really should drop her a note. Imagine her joy in knowing that she helped you to THIS extent and that you are now helping readers all over the world?!?! I think that it would be life-changing for her!

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Nicole, RD January 20, 2010

Angela, this is very well-written, as always. Thank you for having a voice for so many people who suppress these feelings of guilt and loss of control. You are an inspiration!

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Rachel January 20, 2010

I really appreciate you posting this, Angela. It takes a lot of courage to be honest about such a personal issue, and many women (and men) struggle with this on a daily basis. Thank you!

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Trish January 20, 2010

This is a wonderful post! Thanks!

I’ve gone through the exact same thing. It took me forever to figure out that the major reason I was binging was because I kept starving my poor body.

And even after starting to eat more, I,too, still had trouble with binges.

I wouldn’t say I am completely over it yet – but I am making great progress. Everything just makes sense now and I know I need to care for my body and actually feed it. I can’t go on starving – there’s no way you can keep it up.

I’ve been trying hard to fix it all – and have had a counselor helping me. It’s a long process. But I am in my 30s and have had an ED since high school. It takes time.

It’s so embarrassing, too, to eat so much – thousands of calories. I would eat a whole bag of cookies and was so ashamed that my family would know. They’d wonder where the food had gone. And I always would binge when nobody was around. I would literally wait to they went to bed or went out.

I started out starving myself for the longest time to lose weight. But I couldn’t keep that up. That’s when the binges started. I always look at woman who are painfully thin and who appear to be starving themselves to be that way. You just can’t keep that up forever. Something has to give eventually.

And life is better with food. I eat so much now – and haven’t gained an ounce. Crazy. I spent so long binging – then starving to keep my weight down. Now I can eat three meals, a couple of snacks – and it works like a charm. You can eat and have a great body too. There’s no need for that craziness.

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Ariana @Artarra January 20, 2010

Thank you so much for this fantastic post. I have read all your blog post from the beginning on and they are really inspiring. You are such an admirable and gorgeous woman!
The line between binging sometimes and struggling with a serious eating disorder is really small. I realised that it became worse as I started to weight myself every day – 0.2 grams (sorry, not thinking in pounds ;-) ) more and I started to starve – and this leads always to binging, as you explained.
Therefore the most important part to overcome this circle was to stop weighting – I am weighting myself about once a month now – and this is soooo much better than daily.
Your blog was a huge help to find my way to healthy eating – thank you!

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liane January 20, 2010

Thank you so much for sharing your struggles. It reinforces in me the knowledge that I am not alone, that others have similar struggles and the knowledge that these can be overcome is truly inspiring.
I can’t properly explain how your blog and the sharing of your personal experiences have helped me and merely saying “thank you” doesn’t seem adequate, but Thank You.

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alyssa January 20, 2010

thanks for being honest, comforting..but most of all, thank you for being the inspiration that i think many of us need. everyone knows that they should accept themselves as they are..but it seems so much more powerful and possible coming from someone that actually knows how you feel.

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thedelishdish January 20, 2010

HI Angela! cant say how refreshing your thoughts are! its so great that other girls out there also realize that being healthy is so important and will actually give you the energy to make the most of your life! thanks for sharing :)

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Lisa (bakebikeblog) January 20, 2010

Anglea – what a honest and eloquent post. Thankyou so much for sharing your experience, and allowing others to relate to it (including me!)

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Anne @thefitbridesmaid January 20, 2010

Angela

Again you’ve hit me with another topic that hits so close to home. It’s amazing how many people are out there struggling with it. I feel as if I’m getting better (way improved in the past year). Yet just the other night, I could barely think about the 20 minute tv show, since my mind was thinking “When will Matt (bf) leave the room, so I can go sneak another serving of ice cream?”

Thank you for being so honest.

Anne

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Heather @ Mrs. Southern Bride January 20, 2010

What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing. I can identify so much with what you have shared! Eating healthy has been such a battle for me, so I am so thankful to relate with much of this, because it helps me realize my own potholes in my thinking.

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Becca Dressler January 20, 2010

Thank you for sharing your story. My sister had an eating disorder in college and reading posts like this helps me to relate to her better, and all girls really. Because in some small way or another, we all have an obsession with food–whether being “too healthy”, eating too much, eating too little, overanalyzing food…you get the picture. I’m still learning to love myself, and I’m by no means fat or overweight–my husband helps me love myself more every day! Reading blogs like yours helps me not feel alone in these feelings and really uplifts my thoughts. Thank you again.

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Lori January 20, 2010

This is a great topic and definitely hits home with (probably) all of your readers! Thank you for sharing!

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Michelle @ Eatingjourney January 20, 2010

For me over-eating and then binging was revolved around two things:

1. The sense of deprivation I felt due to health issues and not being able to eat certain food

2. Surpressing emotions

When i feel stressed, uncertain, tired, insecure, etc. I ALWAYS want food. It took nine hard months of getting real with myself and THROWING out the scale to listen to my body–but more importantly my emotions.

It’s not easy, because food keeps down the real issues that many of us don’t want to deal with. Dieting robs us of knowing what our body needs, wants, desires.

I love that you wrote ‘don’t feel ashamed’. The guilt and depressions after a binge (as you know) is intense.

Thank you for writing this. You are one of the reasons that I am on my path to recovery.

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mohina January 20, 2010

thank you so much for talking so openly about ED. your blog has helped me in more ways my attitude about myself, not being afraid of food, wanting to be fit, strong and healthy. i am currently putting back on the weight lost through retriction and have stopped bulimic actions. light bulb when i ate sat down took time to enjoy and cook my food the starving stopped. still finding it tough weekly weigh in with ED team to make sure am not loosing. one thing i would like to point out to the other ED learn about the side affects to the heart etc from diet and vomiting, really shoked me into stopping. thank you from LONDON

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G.G. January 20, 2010

Beautiful post. Thank you for this!

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Lindsay Perrone (goodiesgalore) January 20, 2010

Its such a treat hearing your story, even after having read it before. I am such a binger so its amazing to hear success stories. I start therapy next Friday! woot woot. (im a therapist hopper.)
thanks ang!

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Hillary [Nutrition Nut on the Run] January 20, 2010

You inspire me more than words can tell. Thank you for helping Haiti and constantly working your a** off. You rock!

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Caitliin January 20, 2010

thanks for this post because this is something that I have recently been struggling with. Just when I think I am over binging–something bad happens and I binge again. Vicious Cycle.

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Nicole January 20, 2010

Thank you for such an honest and inspirational post. You are an angel :)

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Janessa January 20, 2010

Excellent post Angela! I struggled with anorexia in high school skipping breakfast, something small for lunch, and picking at dinner. To this day, I don’t feel hunger pains when I should be hungry so I have a very difficult time eating intuitively. Has anyone else had a similar result? It’s been almost 9 years since I developed ED. After I graduated high school, I began binge eating and after 4 years of college, I’m still not clean :-/

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mohina January 21, 2010

you loose hunger signals as hormones etc out of whack so yor body adapts for this nagative situation. to get hungeer signals back to “normal” have a routine where you eat somethimng roughly every four hours three meals/ snacks any order as long as you are getting your reqquired calorieseaten through the entire course of the day. my advice spread food out through day and night so you do not leave yorself open to long periods without food which trigger binges. its hard sometimes to eat when not hungrybut remind yorself that you are teaching your body and that you will be able to in the future have theose hunger signals working as they should do. good luck.

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Vanessa (Last Night's Leftovers) January 20, 2010

I understand those feelings all too well. I consider it such a blessing that I was able to escape from the clutches of my binge eating/bulimia/body hatred problems by accepting myself and giving my body what it needs. Thanks for posting this. ♥

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Sahar January 20, 2010

This was such an inspiring blog post. It brought tears to my eyes, because I am trying to recover from just the same thing. Thank you for posting about this!

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Meredith January 20, 2010

Angela, thank you for being so open and honest with your struggles. I started crying at work today as I read your words, relating to everything you said. I am so sick of hating myself and my body and have been contemplating therapy for some time. Your experience has motivated me to get the help I need and start loving myself again. Thank you so much for being such an inspiration!

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