My story, the 3 steps I took to stop bingeing + Q/A
*NOTE: This blog might trigger those easily effected by eating disorder/binge eating talk. My intentions here are to share my story and tips in hopes of inspiring others to heal!
In this blog post I want to share a little of my own binge eating disorder story, explain my view on binge eating and how it works in the body, give you a simple lay out on how I stopped binge eating + answer some questions I received from you!
Binge eating defined: the consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time, typically as part of an eating disorder.
^^This sounds a LOT less harsh than what a binge actually feels like.
Did you know, almost every human currently has or has had a distorted view of food? As we get older, food gets more and more confusing. The junk foods we ate growing up, paired with getting older, paired with less activity, paired with drinking/late nights = disaster for physical and mental health.
So, we want to change it .. and here is where the extreme diets begin to fly in, promising all types of insanely quick results via restriction/heavy workouts. Results that never last and often lead us to .. BINGE!
Binge eating is the body’s natural response to restriction. You lose control during a binge and the guilt and fear you feel after are SO powerful. Powerful enough to lead you back to restriction and back into the cycle that never stops until you take the steps to gain back control. These steps are quite easy when laid out for you + when you give yourself an honest chance to catch up, fuel up, rest up and get back to an even, content and peaceful place in mind and body.
For me, binge eating felt more like this: I would get to a point in my diet, restriction, workout regime etc where my body was just TOO low .. I was just TOO restricted and my body’s fear took over. I would lose control of all sense of right/wrong .. and begin uncontrollably forcing food (junk food) into my system, often eating amounts so large, calories so dense and food so terrible for me that I felt I had no other option then to purge afterwards. Subsequently, feeling shame, guilt, fear, depression, anxiety and following up with another round of severe restriction and over working my body to make up for the binge… which (of course) led to yet another binge. Over and over and over .. In a cycle that beat me lower and lower each round (inflammation, terrible digestion, mood swings, low libido, anxiety/depression, steady weight gain .. it just s*cked all around!
Oof, even writing that was hard! I don’t usually think too deeply on my past eating disorders - not because I am embarrassed or afraid, but simply because I have healed and that part of my life no longer serves me! BUT, I do think that story telling, relating and sharing is a HUGE part of healing - healing for you and healing for me! I don’t want anyone to ever feel afraid to talk openly about their disorders/fears associated with food, body, mind .. because we all have them!
Let’s dive in...
STEP 1: How to know you are in a binge/restrict cycle.
STEP 2: How to stop bingeing (the physical part)
STEP 3: How to make sure you never return to binge eating. (the mental part)
I was in denial for a long time during my eating disorder. I would call my binges “cheat days” or “treat meals” .. It felt normal to eat junk and “work it off” the next day at the gym. But after a few months of diving deeper and deeper into my binge/restrict cycle, I knew in my heart that I had to handle this now or I would ruin the rest of my life. I just didn’t know HOW! Food scared me, the idea of “eating normal” scared me and those feelings of fear were real enough to keep me in my binge eating habits longer than I ever expected!
I had a pivotal moment in my eating disorder .. I had found plant based and these women were claiming to be eating “abundant food” - none of them counted calories, none of them limited carbs and they were all 5-10 years older than me, looked amazing and were BEAMING with energy, positivity, self love and a pure zest for life. I was in my early 20s and had NONE of that… so I felt this URGE and desire to go for it!
There are several heavy and light binge/restrict cycles - and all in between! You could restrict or “eat clean” during the week and pig out on the weekend, you could restrict all day because of a busy schedule and binge eat at night, you could binge eat a few times a month, you could go months on a heavy dieting plan and binge out later only to restart the diet again .. the binge/restrict cycle is just limitless and unique to each individual and there is no 1 single “way to binge” or “reason to binge” .. some are more mental, some more physical and usually they are a mix of both!
Being honest with yourself is where the magic begins. Eating disorders tend to be very controlling .. they trick you into thinking how you live is “ok” .. they brain wash you to think that if you just make up for the binge, you can X it out and everything will be ok. Eventually your binge eating feels more comfortable than anything else and the fear you feel in CHANGING that cycle is so intense that most times, people don’t change and prefer to stay in those old habits.
Making a solid decision to get uncomfortable and heal.
But how do you do that?!
I knew the first step was to HALT the binges. Almost all binges stem from UNDER eating/OVER working the body/mind .. so the simple answer to halting the binges: rest more, X out heavy activity and eat more wholesome foods and enough of them. Simple, yet so scary for someone with an eating disorder!
The moment I gave myself the freedom to begin EATING more and I gave up my 2 hour daily forced gym session was the moment I felt better (but also felt worse in a way)… I was beyond scared to stop working out and even more scared to EAT more! I had this idea in my head that I was going to gain weight and that just really screwed me up! I had a mantra through my first month of plant based eating: “GIVE UP AND GIVE IN!” Give up every old pattern you hold onto and give in to all things abundant and plant based!
I never knew healing my binge eating disorder was as simple as eating enough food. I dove deep into my healing via slowly incorporating more and more plant carbs and fats into my diet and completely omitting dairy/meat. I began gaining confidence in eating this way and each week got easier and easier! I felt amazing within the first 1-2 weeks and from there my passion grew. My mind felt clear, my digestion was SO fluid, I felt lighter and free, the inflammation in my face/hands was almost gone and I had more energy than I had ever felt in my young adult life!
But would this stick?! Is this going to work forever? Why am I still having bad thoughts about my body/food and will they take control again? Even though I felt so much better PHYSICALLY, the demons in my head were still blowing up! And this is where the next step came in: mental health work!
Finally having enough energy to THINK, I knew that the underlying causes of my binge eating / heavy dieting needed to be dealt with. I could eat as wholesome as I wanted but if my mental health was still a mess, then I wouldn’t feel great for long!
I never learned how to cope with my mental health disorders. I have had anxiety/OCD my entire life and have only tried working on them via a few mediocre therapists who prescribed me the drugs (drugs that eventually turned into harder drugs and my addiction - this is a big reason I am personally against pharmaceuticals - just my personal opinion!)
So basically, was pushing extremes my whole life: extreme relationships, extreme addictions, extreme dieting, extreme binge eating, extreme fitness.. I never knew how to relax and enjoy my life, myself, my family, hobbies and passions. Slowing down was what I needed! And somehow through that slowing down, I found NATURE!
I began to walk a lot more, took my first mini hiking trip, started an outdoor / at home yoga practice, began daily meditation, started to journal, talked so much more with my family/Damon about everything that was on my mind and from there I learned more about myself than I ever even thought possible… just by BEING with myself and giving myself what I deserved. Rest, food, adventure and love!
Each individual has their own mental health issues and each will have their own healing journey/mental health helpers. This could be anything from painting to photography to professional help to yoga to hiking to prayer to learning how to play guitar!! The mind heals and expands when we give the physical body what it wants and needs, including filling our days with things we love! What do you CRAVE - what would make you feel fulfilled??
Once you have the energy to DO more good in life, you WILL. True energy via plant foods and rest is where my healing took place!
Q: Do you think binge eating stems from missing something important in your day to day diet?
It most certainly could be the root cause!! Whether that be a specific vitamin or an entire macro nutrient (carbs or fats usually) .. this is why I love eating plant based - the plants we eat provide every macro/micro nutrient we need (so long as we eat enough/a solid variety!)
Q: What do I tell myself to not binge?
This is where the bad vibes begin.. Telling yourself things isn’t going to make you not binge! First step is to cater to your food intake/rest .. chill out, eat lots of wholesome food and dive into intuitive eating/mindful living! There is no self talk that will make you stop binges .. there is usually heavy physical/mental burdens that are causing the initial binges to occur .. cater to healing those!
Q: What are some of the triggers of binge eating when eating plant based?
UNDER EATING - as plant based vegans, we need to eat MORE. Our foods are a lot less calorie dense than meat/dairy/junk and therefore, we need to eat a lot more to get the energy/fuel we need! Most folks don’t follow this and continue to try to eat limited carbs or fats, low calorie meals, veg only meals etc .. this just won’t cut it! Abundance is key :) It might feel scary at first - but I promise, eating enough will cut those binge feelings out in full!
Q: Do you ever still get the urge to binge?
I don’t! I have definitely under ate and felt heavyyyyy cravings. But because I now know my body and what it needs so in depth, I am able to call myself out and say hey, slow down and EAT or you will eventually hurt yourself!
If I under eat now, it is accidental. It is never caused by fear of food but only by a too busy schedule / too much on my mind. This rarely happens (just a handful of times over the past 5 years) because I am usually right in tune with what my body needs!
Q: Did you find a connection with your mental well being and binge eating?
100% yes. I was definitely physically UNDER eating but this was also causing turmoil up in my head .. my mental health was at it’s lowest during my bulimia and it took a lot of time and consistency to begin healing that (and I am still on that journey!) .. I think mental health healing is a forever kind of journey <3
Q: How do I know if I am really hungry or not?
Do you feel heavy cravings? Obsessive food thoughts? Low energy? Slow digestion? Mood swings? Low libido? Foggy brain? — you are under eating/over working yourself! It is FEELING these things. You should feel: high energy, flowing digestion, clear mind, normal sex drive/emotions, a craving for movement/life!
Q: How to work with your mindset if you want to binge eat at night?
You don’t need to “work with your mindset” .. you EAT!! Trying to not eat when you want to binge is a recipe for disaster! Just let yourself eat and make that definitive decision to then eat again in the morning and fluidly all day long. It is truly as simple as eating enough food consistently, for life (to halt the physical binges) .. and then you will have enough energy to focus on mental health healing down the line.