Believe it or not, there are people out there that stop eating when they are full. They’ve done this their entire lives. They don’t keep eating until their stomach hurts or they forget about their problems. It’s not that they have more self control, they just don’t have that thing about them that makes them want to eat a mountain of cupcakes.
Me on the other hand, I’ve always been different. I’m like a puppy in front of endless kibble, and if I’m sad or depressed or angry, I will eat until I’m even more so. The thing is, I wasn’t always like this and sometimes I have gone years at a time without this problem. But every now and then I find myself running to the grocery store at 10pm and back home with Ben & Jerries, Cheez-Its, and the entire Netflix collection of the Office on continuous play.
It’s that moment when you think you might throw up, your knuckles hit the bottom of the goldfish bag, or your have to start tilting the pringles because you can’t fit your fist inside. It’s that horrible moment when you think a number of things:
Why am I eating when I’m not even hungry?
OMG I have a problem! I’m a monster!
NO ONE CAN EVER KNOW ABOUT THIS. I need to take the garbage out right now.
Am I pregnant?
Am I depressed? What’s wrong with me?
The truth is. You’re not alone. Around 3.5% of women and 2% of men experience a form of binge eating in their lifetime. And before you get scared and X out of this page because you don’t want to hear that you have an eating disorder. Stay with me. While binge eating is classified as a type of eating disorder by the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), there are times in our lives where we might be overeating or anxious and it doesn’t mean there’s something horribly wrong with us or that we are lesser human beings. Binge eating is also the MOST COMMON eating disorder out there and effects around 30% of people pursueing weight loss goals or treatment.
So why do people binge eat? And what’s classified as binge eating? And why am I just NOW facing this after having success losing weight?
Everyone seems to have too much food over the holidays or on their birthday. But sometimes we feel like eating alone, eating a lot of food alone, being secretive about it, and then feeling an enormous amount of shame and guilt afterwards. It’s that horrible feeling and promising yourself you’ll stop and that you’re done and then finding yourself in the same situation again.
For me, I’ve binged when I’m alone. I’m bored and sometimes I’m not even depressed or sad or angry about much or anything at all. But I know how good filling up my stomach with bad food will feel…momentarily. It’s a type of high. It’s a momentary feeling of pleasure that makes you forget about other problems. But it can destroy you inside and out.
When I was little, I would often sneak food. I was teased a lot in elementary school for having a tummy and if I was ever home before my parents I’d sneak as many Little Debby snacks as I could and eat them like there was no tommorow. Years went by and I got a lot healthier into my High School years. I would go running, 2-6 miles a day and I felt great, I wasn’t obsessed with my body but I was happy that I felt energized and was getting compliments on my appearance.
Even in college, eating wasn’t an issue. The dorms helped with pre-prepared meals and having roommates always held me accountable in terms of not overeating or snacking at night. It wasn’t until after losing 50 lbs and spending nearly 3 years so heavily focused on my body, my caloric intake, and my results that all of those impulses started to come back. For the past year I have truly struggled when I’m alone (usually Sunday nights) to not eat as much as I can.
Do I feel ashamed? Embarassed? Worried? Yeah, most definitely. But I know that sharing my story and finding ways to move forward will mean that I’ll find a solution faster and stop this cycle.
So why do we feel so compelled and out of control with overeating after we’ve made such amazing fat loss progress? Losing weight is a journey that will be more complicated than you’d ever expect. When you decide and committ to weightloss journey, you are transforming more than your body. You are changing your habits, the way you think about everything, the choices you make, and you start to look at your body with new hopes and admiration. Suddenly, you ARE capable of reaching goals and not only looking better but feeling better, too! It’s exciting and the compliments are endless and it’s this high of YEAH I’m taking control of my life! But it’s also terrifying. There are moments when we don’t see ourselves the way everyone else does. We get worried that we’ll gain it all back or that we are just as heavy as we once were. It can take months, even a year or more to truly see how small we’re getting and to stop picking up old bigger sizes when we go clothes shopping.
All of that mental effort can be draining and if we don’t find ways to blow off steam and release some of that tension, our minds and bodies will find ways for us. Same goes for all stresses in life. It’s why disorders exist. We can’t prevent stress, but we can find better ways to work through it and not fear being weaker because of it.
I’m not going to sit here and right a list of reasons why binge eating or overeating is bad for you, you probably know why, with the worst part being the way it makes you FEEL. The way it takes away self-esteem and motivation.
So how can we overcome these impulses to overeat when we’re alone or with other people we’re comfortable with. How can we stop?
- Take 10-15 minutes to write down what triggers you to overeat. Is it being bored? Lonely? Angry or sad? Do you want to overeat when you watch TV or when you get bad news? Understanding what makes you want to start binging or overeating will help you find ways to stop.
- Once your realize what your triggers are, find healthy alternatives. Go for a walk, do 10 jumping jacks, take a nap, read a book, or call a friend.
- Don’t deprive yourself of food during the day so you can eat more at night. I’m SO gulty of this. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to do 60 minutes of cardio and eating 500 calories so I can have 1500 left over for dinner. It’s a great way to set yourself up for failure, overeat and feel lightheaded throughout the day.
- Write down a list of foods you crave when you want to binge and find ways to enjoy them in moderation or healthier alternatives. If you NEVER let yourself have chocolate because you want to lose weight, you’re going to end up invading the local grocery store later. Find ways to have just one of something and enjoy it.
- If you are at a point where you feel like you can’t trust yourself when you’re alone, find someone or a resource to help you. Find a buddy you can text when you want to eat at night or a community forum online.
- Empower yourself and take time after reading this to focus on the fact that you are finding a solution and already closer to ending self-turmoil instead of feeling bad that you’ve admitted you have something you want to work on.
- Check out Top 10 Online Resources for Binge Eaters
- Don’t hide – you are an amazing person and this will be something you will overcome and be proud of. It’s just one more hurdle in your transformation journey that makes you proud to be the person you are.
You can’t fail if you never give up.