I’ve had a few emails recently from people struggling with binge eating. I haven’t been binge-free for very long, but I want to do what I can to help those who were in the same position as I was because, let me tell you, it’s a whole heck of no fun.
1. I stopped counting calories.
Many of you are probably too familiar with the restricting-binging cycle. Every time I ate over my calorie limit, even if it was by a measly 20 calories, I’d feel terrible. I’d feel guilty. I’d feel ashamed. I’d hate my body. I’d hate myself. And then I’d eat more to get rid of all of the guilt and the shame and the hate.
When I stopped counting calories, I lost the ability to measure my life by a simple number because I had no idea what that number was. I was forced to define myself and what I ate by different measures. I began to define myself by my blog, my half-marathon training, my schoolwork, my friends, my aspirations–the things that are important in life. I began defining what I ate by the quality, the taste, and the experience. Eating food should always be a great experience. I fall in love with food every time I eat. What’s the point of eating food that you don’t enjoy?
2. I forgave myself for my mistakes.
Every time I binged, I’d feel so terrible the next day that it’d send me into another spiral of despair. Even after I stopped counting calories, I still had many binges, all accompanied by guilt, shame, anger, and self-loathing. Only when I started looking past these binges did those feelings, and the desire to eat, start to dissipate.
I had to realize that what happened in the past, will always be in the past. I couldn’t change it. But I could change my future. I would eat an extra serving of spinach at my next meal. Or I would take a walk after dinner and enjoy the sunshine. I did something that would benefit me in some way, rather than berating and beating myself up for something I did in the past.
3. I stopped restricting foods.
If not counting calories was scary, this was even more terrifying. I already ate a ton of ice cream, chips, and everything else under the sun when I was restricting my food intake, and now you’re telling me I have unlimited access to them?
I won’t lie, I had a lot of ice cream and cake and crackers and everything “bad” those first couple of weeks. But, once my body realized that those foods were always available to me, it stopped craving them. Do I still get cravings for chocolate and ice cream and chips? Yes. Do I still eat these foods even if I’m not craving them? Of course. Chocolate makes the world go ’round. (Fact.)
But now, every time I have a serving (or two), I’m satisfied with just that serving. I have no need to eat my weight in them because I know that if I want more tomorrow, I can always have more tomorrow.
4. I shifted my mindset from eating for kicks and giggles to eating to fuel my body.
Although this was not the primary factor in my decision to run a half-marathon, one of my goals was to learn how to fuel my body properly. My runs after copious amounts of ice cream were never extraordinarily fun. My runs after a nutritious salad with a lean protein source, whole grains, and veggies were always much more fun.
(I’m not saying go out and run a half-marathon. But it was extremely helpful for me to have a performance goal to strive for, one that my body needed nourishment for, rather than a goal that was looks-oriented.)
5. I began trusting my body.
Just stop and think for a second. Every second that passes, your heart beats. Your blood circulates. Your lungs expand, and then contract. Your eyes whisk across these letters, sending information to your brain to process it.
All of this happens without any conscious direction from you. It’s been happening for centuries. So why should our food intake be any different?
Your body needs nutrients. It needs vitamins and minerals to keep itself alive and functioning properly.
I distinctly remember a day when, after a night of a ton of ice cream, all I wanted for breakfast was blueberries. Copious amounts of blueberries.
Having those kinds of days every now and then made me realize that my body knows what it needs. I want spinach and fruit and chicken and eggs because it gets nutrients from them. I just needed to listen.
Likewise, sometimes I want chocolate and ice cream and cupcakes because my body gets pleasure from them. I listen to that, too. But when I’m satisfied? I stop.
6. I’ve grown to love my body and love myself.
Before I was on my restricting-binge eating cycle, I had anorexia. I was eating 600 calories a day, working out 3 hours a day, losing weight, hair, and myself in the process. I was skinner than I’ve ever been, even as a child.
But I was miserable. I was tired and grouchy all the time. I was anti-social. All I cared about was food and not eating it.
Even after my anorexia had passed and the binge eating started, I would still be attempting to reach the unnatural weight I once was. I was still miserable, I was still tired, and I was still grouchy. And I was still obsessed with food.
My body was not meant to weigh so little. I was not meant to be a stick-thin woman. I was not put on this earth to try to be a stick or to obsess over food. And you know what? I’ve grown to love me.
There are days where I look down on the itty bitty flab on my tummy and wish I had washboard abs, but at the end of it all, I can look in the mirror and say, “Girl, you look good.” And even more than that, I’m able to enjoy my life. Not only can I eat without a care, but I can also go out with my friends, and frolic in my backyard with my puppy, and work towards my goals and my dreams and being the kind of person I want to be. Because that’s why I was put on this earth.