Binge Eating: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Ashamed

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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!!!

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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 }

Jenny January 20, 2010

Thank you so much for this post. While I do not think I suffer from a binge eating disorder, I do worry about everything I put in my body and feel guilty if I don’t work out to burn certain things off – I’m hoping that by getting healthy and learning more about my body I will eventually be comfortable in my own skin and my body will know the weight it wants to be !

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Jolene January 20, 2010

I don’t think I have ever binged before … especially not on one food – I get sick of things way to quickly! I guess that is a good thing!!

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Leah January 21, 2010

Its really wonderful that you can share this. I think you will help a lot of people. I suffered with binge eating up until recently to be honest. It was until I completely overhauled the way I eat.
I binged because of my eating disorder as well, and even once I was “recovered” it was still a problem for me. And there was a lot of shame associated with it.
Thank you for being so honest.

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Kris | iheartwellness.com January 21, 2010

You are a beautiful person Ange! Posts like this is the reason why people feel comfortable on OSG!

XXOO

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Emmanuelle January 21, 2010

Hi Angela,
well nothing to add here, I also suffered from binge eating years ago, and I ended it the same way you did: seeking help, and stop restricting in between binges. I learned to stop eating when I wasn’t hungry anymore, found out I could have a cookie and it was no big deal, and stop there without chugging the whole package :-)

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Kathi January 21, 2010

I am in tears reading this post. It is exactly what I needed to read. I have been struggling with picking a “healthy weight” or a “skinny weight”. Thank you for writing this it touched me deeply today.

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Tina January 21, 2010

I just stumbled across your blog since I see it in so many blogrolls and figured it must be a good one and wow. This post really hit home to me. I too, struggled with binge eating for a few years and felt awful. I finally overcame it once I stopped restricting too and it’s so true that the body can adapt. This is so inspiring and it is great for you to put this out there so others don’t have to feel ashamed and recognize its more common than we all think :) I’ll be back to visit more! :)

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Kristy January 21, 2010

Just….. Thank you…..

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Binge Eater January 21, 2010

I started writing this comment so many times, and then when I saw the comment list was up to almost 100, I though, why bother. It would just get lost in the shuffle. My comment was a bit of a cry for help. I need someone to step in and tell me JUST STOP NOW. I am a binge eater and in the middle of a binge cycle now. It sucks. When I am good, I am veeeeeery good. For months on end. But when I snap, oh man,it isn’t pretty. I wanted to reach out and get moral support, guidance and advice, but I realize that that isn’t your job! : ) I just started a blog in hopes of finding others who suffer. Like you, I am a blogger, and I am pretty sure we have mutual readers, but I need to do this new blog anonymously. It sucks, it really does. I hope to once and for get a handle on this. Thanks for your post and honesty. It truly helps.

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Natalie January 22, 2010

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting this. I have been to 3 different therapists for my EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) and have found no relief. This post has inspired me to not give up my fight to seek treatment. I have an appointment and hope that this leads to recovery for me.
Again, thank you SO much for this. You’re a gem!

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Kari January 22, 2010

I’m so happy (and proud of you :) ) that you posted this. I think you know already how much I admire your strength in making the changes you’ve made, but to share this with others is so incredibly helpful. Your summary of the two choices when considering ED recovery is also so exactly correct…sometimes I half consider directing my patients to your blog :p. I hope you know what an incredible person you are!

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neil January 25, 2010

Thanks for this post. This is one of the most honest, informative posts I have ever read about binge eating. I ll recommend this to a friend of mine.

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Sarah Ikegami February 21, 2010

Angela,
Thank you for this post and for your blog. The “B” word…extremely uncomfortable but needs to be said…out loud! Binge! I have struggled with binge eating. Moments of fear and anxiety caused me to reach for food, anything, really, to calm my nerves. Only, it never calmed my nerves. It left me feeling EVEN MORE fearful and anxious, tired, lethargic, depressed…nothing positive! You are right about depriving yourself and eating to make up for lost time, or rather, lost food. Lately I am reading alot about being fulfilled in life. When we aren’t fulfilled by our spiritual beliefs, family, friends, career and hobbies, it is easier than EVER to reach for food to fill that void. It’s so important to get to the root of the matter, ask ourselves WHY we are reaching for food, WHAT we are really feeling (it probably is not physical hunger) and what ELSE can we do to nourish ourselves.
Thanks for posting, girl, I am incredibly inspired by you.
Sarah

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Jess May 21, 2010

Thank you so much for this post. This is something I have struggled with for a long time, and I am now trying to recover. I started a blog to share my recovery journey, and it is so reassuring to learn that others share the same issues.

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Kathryn May 26, 2010

Thank you so much for sharing your story!
I have overcome anorexia and gained some weight. But after being used to the unreasonably small size I was, i have started to restrict again. Restricting definitely causes binging. I felt the exact same way you did, and it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who feels that way. After my body was in a state of malnutrition, it had to learn to trust me, and I might be falling off the wagon again. Your advice on binging has helped so much and I love all of the advice on your website. You are gorgeous and your story is unbelievably inspiring to me!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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Tess May 27, 2010

Wow, what to say that hasn’t already been said! lol This was a great post. You are so insightful and inspiring.

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Kati June 9, 2010

I stumbled upon your blog today and I am so happy I did! I struggled with an eating disorder for several years, which included a lot of binge eating (whether it was due to emotions, depriving myself, over exercise, etc). I finally stuck with a therapist for 2 years and since ending with her this past fall, I am at a better, more balanced and healthier place. I did like what you said about “old habits die hard” though. Despite being healthy and no longer obsessing over food and calories, I have had the occasional binge from time to time. While it is frustrating to me because I just want them to stop completely, it is unrealistic to think that this will happen. After years of binging, it takes time to break that cycle. It is nice to know and hear that other people continue to have these issues even after regaining some control over their disordered eating. Thanks for your sharing your story. I will definitely be following this blog from now on!

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Natasha June 15, 2010

Back in Janaury, I stumbled upon your blog, which led me to a few others such as “Healthy Tipping Point”, and “Carrots n Cake”. I have struggled with an ED sine I was a teenager, and after many failed attempts to get better without success, I had pretty much resigned myself to struggle the rest of my life.
I can say with 100% honesty that discovering your blog changed my life.
Not only does your blog give me a daily therapy session, but the blog world has exposed to me what recovery CAN look like. So many healthy, beautiful women eating healthy food, exercising for the FUN of it, and leading happy lives not consumed with thoughts of food 24/7!
Most importantly, I have learned to love myself for who I am at this exact moment in time, not for who I will be 5 pounds from now, or after one more workout, or after one more day of starving myself….This is my mantra!!!

“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.”
-What a simple concept, but so many of us fight what we are!

You are an inspiration, and I can proudly say I am purge free and eating properly for what will be 3 months on June 25th. I am what recovery looks like, and I LOVE IT!!!

natasha

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Danielle June 20, 2010

Thank you for this, for being so frank and open. I am currently struggling with the issue of binge eating and have started seeing a counselor for it. Sometimes I feel dismayed at the amount of energy required to not only overcome this specific problem, but all of the triggering issues that have led me here. I’m resolved to heal though it’s hard sometimes!

Your bit about it puttig up a wall between you and your partner rings home especially for me. As horrible as bingeing makes me feel emotionally and physically, I also dread the wall this compulsion puts between my boyfriend and I. He knows something of my problem, but I’ve never given him the chance to really understand because I have never been totally honest (out of shame!). I do dread having someone close to me, who ostensibly loves me, suddenly being given pieces of he puzzle that will change what they feel toward me. I dread being “revealed” as greedy and monstrous, despite being a ‘normal’ weight, and to all outward appearances having normal habits. The process of overcoming these fears and being self-caring enough to open up to others is very hard.

I’m not sure if you chronicle it elsewhere on your blog but how did you go about fully revealing your problem to your partner? Was it very difficult or was it easier than you thought, once you actually resolved to do it?

That is the killer thing with this problem, is how it seems imperative to hide it, and the resulting shame and fear that comes with hiding. So it’s really meaningful to read something like this, and to see that a happy ending can be possible. Cheers to you!

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Felicia October 6, 2010

Thank you so, so much for posting this. You are an amazing woman who is helping many women, more than you know, and you can add me to that list :) I needed to read this and I’m so glad to have found your blog. Thank you again!!

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Polly April 29, 2012

Hi, So I am a vegetarian and have been trying to go vegan for about 6 months. I have noticed that ever since then I have been overeating, having binges and feeling out of control when it comes to eating. I live in a small town where there are no therapists that deal with eating disorders. Do you have any advice? Thank you.

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Katie A May 9, 2012

Thank you

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Bek @ Crave July 13, 2012

I love this post and have read it twice the past couple of days. I like you was very restrictive and slowly have become less restrictive but I never fully committed. These past few weeks I decided to allow myself whatever I wanted when I wanted and to eat when hungry etc. I know this bingeing/overeating thing is just a phase of recovery but honestly I can’t stand it. I hate being controlled by food and putting this terrible stuff in my body- but my body wants it. I guess after years of prohibiting in my body and mind is making up for lost time? The only thing is I don’t think it’s healthy for this to continue for a long period of time. I’m just hoping I make it through this period with little weight gain or that the weight gain is just temporary. Sorry I am just a bit down and felt like you were experiencing then exactly what I’m experiencing now!

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Rodney Knight July 19, 2012

Gaining the trust of my family and friends was the most difficult thing to attain after I disclosed to them the news of my recovery from my eating binge disorder. Now I feel like a winner!

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kaila August 8, 2012

I was just diagnosed with anorexia binge/purge type. I know it’s because I’m trying to get down to an unrealistic weight, I restrict then binge. But I’m a model. What can I do? Nothing. I’ll just have to live like this.

I had a massive 2 week binge where I gained 15 lbs. I have no time left to get back down to the weight I need to be. I haven’t even been able to show my face at gigs because I’ve eaten myself up to 150 lbs (while I am usually 135).

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Nicole February 18, 2013

Hi, I’m 14 and your blog has made all the difference!! I binge eat, and sometimes it’s hard because I gain weight and never lose it. OR I go on an all healthy phase and almost starve myself I love the recipes because cooking takes my mind off of bingeing, and then I get a delicious treat at the end! Thanks for all the advice.

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Ashley March 2, 2013

I really needed to hear exactly this, right now. Thank you so much.

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just me May 3, 2013

Hey Angela! i like your story and it really made me cry of the fact that i can totally relate to your past behavior just that im in it now and im so hopeless .. any advice how to beat it if you’re allergic to many foods that you crave? i certainly am and everytime i still end up binging on things that virtually kill me because of how severe the effects of allergies are …

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Angela (Oh She Glows) May 5, 2013

Hi there, Thanks for your kind words!
Is there any way you can find alternatives to the foods you crave but are allergic to? For example, if you can’t eat peanuts what about trying out sunbutter or something with a similar taste/consistency? I’ve done that a lot with my vegan diet (finding similar tastes and textures) and it has helped a lot with cravings. good luck!

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Christina August 28, 2013

This really hit home for me, thank you.

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SM January 22, 2014

This was such a helpful post for me. I am currently trying to eat “intuitively” and I am binge eating more than ever. I am hoping that my body will slow down and eat normally soon! I find myself to be out of control when it comes to nut butters, nuts, and dried fruit. Did you have a specific food that you ate/craved more than others?

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Lauren February 6, 2014

I’ve found myself struggling with some binge eating habits myself lately.
Just wrote a blog about my journey and struggle with food:
laurenmarie-lifesjourney.blogspot.com/2014/02/battling-eating-disorders.html

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Paige Cunningham February 15, 2014

I know this is not a new post, but I just came across it. I just wanted to thank you for posting it, as I have just recently made appointments with a registered dietitian and a counselor specializing in eating disorders. I have been struggling since I was 17, 6 years, and have finally decided to take charge of my life and choose number 2. Thank you for the inspiration, you are wonderful. I pinned this to read when I need a reminder :)

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Amanda May 8, 2014

I am struggling with ED recovery right now. I’m a few months in and my pants are a little snugger than I would like. Out of instinct yesterday I turned to My Fitness Pal and pledged to track every morsel but overnight, I realized that is part of what got me to this bad place. Today I begin again, listening to my body and giving it what it needs. I’ve read your blog off and on for a few years and something pulled me back here today and made me search for your ED related posts.
Thank you so much for writing this post, it gave me exactly what I needed today.
<3 Amanda

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