I have a confession to make.
I used to binge eat. A lot.
I’m not proud of it, and it is something that I’ve struggled with for entirely too long.
It’s hard to admit to doing something that you’re embarrassed about, especially if it’s unhealthy. It’s hard for people to understand what struggles you’re going through if they’ve never had the same experience as you.
I know, I’ve been there. But I’m ready to share my story on this huge road block right in front of the path to a healthy lifestyle.
Here is how I finally learned how to stop binge eating. For good.
The cycle I couldn’t break.
A few years ago was when I was at my worst point. I was probably binge eating 2-3 times a week.
I would plan my binges. I’d decide to myself that I had a stressful day, and I deserve something to help me feel better. So, I’d stock up on a huge bag of chips and a couple bags of candy. They would be gone by the end of the day.
Afterwards, I felt miserable. I felt disgusting and I hated how I kept doing the same thing over and over, even though I swore the last time would seriously be the last. I just wanted to stop binge eating once and for all.
It never was.
I was stuck in a cycle that I couldn’t break from.
How do you stop a feeling from completely overpowering you?
I tried to stop, trust me. And it’s a whole lot harder than it seems it would be.
I could be at work, doing my work thing, and the urge to binge hit me. I would suddenly start thinking about junk foods. Cookies, chips, anything that was pretty much forbidden to me.
I would try to push those thoughts aside, and think there is no way I’m binging again. I’ve already done it too much this week anyway.
But those nagging “let’s get junk food” thoughts were still there. The more I would try to ignore or disagree with my own brain, the stronger the urges got. I fought and fought them until I finally gave in.
Once I had it set in my mind that I was going to binge, I didn’t change it. I actually got excited, knowing I would soon be eating my favorite foods, and I would shut this inner hungry bish up.
Again, I’d hate myself when I finished and I swore I wouldn’t do it again.
The realization that made me think.
But during my years of this terrible binging cycle, I noticed something pretty significant.
I mostly binged when I was dieting.
When I cut out foods, and started to diet, I craved the foods I wasn’t allowed to have even more. The cravings just kept getting more intense, and I caved. And binged.
Now I get that some of you are lucky. Some people can crave something, and one serving would satisfy that craving.
That was so not me.
I thought something was wrong with me, that I just am so weak and have no self control.
How do these people just eat 2 cookies and be satisfied? I would be pulling my hair out trying to sneak 6 more!
When I was dieting, I never went more than one month without giving in to an urge to binge. After that first time of giving in, I was on a downward slope and my binges became more and more frequent.
When I wasn’t dieting, I didn’t have as many cravings or urges to binge. I did every so often, but not nearly as much as I did when I was dieting.
So I was stuck. If I tried to lose weight, my binges became more frequent. If I didn’t try to lose weight, I was unhappy with my body. My weight loss goals seemed impossible, because I couldn’t get control over food. Food ruled over me. No matter what I just could not stop binge eating.
I thought that there has to be a solution to this. I just can’t keep living this way.
The discovery I made.
When I felt like I was at my lowest point, I discovered a book called “Brain Over Binge” by Kathryn Hansen.
This book has seriously changed my life.
It has made me really understand why I was binge eating.
And that was because I basically formed a habit. Each time I caved to my cravings and urges, I rewired my brain to continue to crave more.
Habits are weird y’all, it’s a cycle that reinforces a behavior each time it’s completed. If you do something often, chances are your brain will expect you to do it again. Especially if it’s something your brain sees as highly rewarding, such as tasty food.
Okay. But why did I crave in the first place? And why were they so intense?
The answer is simple.
When I started a new diet, I began to limit my calories and eliminate junk food. My body was used to getting more calories than it was getting when I was cutting, so my brain started to freak out a little bit.
The “animal brain” took over and was like “Yo! We need some nourishment up here! Salt and vinegar chips sound good, please eat some.”
The difference between the animal brain and the human brain, is the animal brain is wired to survive. It doesn’t have any rationale and isn’t level headed like a human brain.
So when I began to eat less, the animal brain thought something was up, and wasn’t too thrilled. It thought that there was some kind of food scarcity or something, so it sent me signals to find food, now.
Yeah, weird right?
I mean, why would your brain think you need junk food to survive?
It all comes down to habit again, and how they are formed. Repeated behavior becomes a habit, and gets wired into the brain. Habits are hard to break and high sugar and high fat foods are addictive. Not a good combination.
Now obviously the human part of the brain was like “Wait, this isn’t such a good idea. I’m trying to eat healthy!” But the animal brain acts like a two year old throwing a temper tantrum, and Just. Won’t. Quit.
I had to figure out how to separate the two “brains”.
The control I gained.
It was hard for me at first. This book didn’t help me stop binge eating immediately. Each time I felt like I wanted to binge, I always reminded myself that those thoughts did not come from me. I didn’t want to binge. It was just that part of my brain that was used to getting its way.
The human brain has thoughts, feelings, and desires. The animal brain does not, it has more of a survival instinct.
Once I realized that these urges weren’t really me, and that just because I’m not eating what I used to, doesn’t mean there’s a famine, it became a little easier to ignore them.
Of course, I have binged since the book. But as time has passed, the episodes have become less frequent.
And I was able to lose weight without giving in to a binge.
I can finally say that binge eating is behind me. I’m done with it, and it is no longer part of my life.
This way of thinking may or may not “flip a switch” for you, it was more like a flip a switch and the bulb blew, had to replace the bulb and try again, kind of situation for me.
But eventually I gained control.
A lot of good things take practice, and this just might be one of them. It might be easier than what I went through, or harder. It depends on your situation, I guess.
But I highly, highly recommend this book. It will change the way you think.
An additional resource that goes along with the book is a guide to give you some additional help. Think of it as part two of the book!
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