I used to be hungry all the time. My hunger wasn’t about food, but I used food to try to satisfy it. Nothing filled it up. No matter how much food I stuffed down my throat, there was no satisfaction, nothing to tell me that I’d had enough. It’s like when a light switch doesn’t work and you want to go to sleep, but can’t turn off the bright light. A pathway in my brain said, Feed me, but never switched off to say, Ok, that’s enough. Another part of me would say, Stop eating, but it was a condemning voice that said..
“You are such an idiot, why do you do this to yourself, you are such a loser.”
I ate even more to quell that voice. The more I ate, the guiltier I felt. Still hungry, I told myself, I’ll just eat everything I want now and make up for the extra calories tomorrow by eating less or exercising more. That is what I wanted to do, but never did, at least not for more than a few days.
For years, I would get home from work and stand in my pantry and devour everything I could find until I felt so sick I had to vomit to get some relief. When I didn’t vomit, I laid on my bed and berated myself and swore that tomorrow I would eat properly. Sometimes I looked at diets or food plans online, printing lists of acceptable foods to eat. With raised spirits, I told myself, I can do this! I’d get up in the morning with a new outlook, drink an instant breakfast, eat salad for lunch and make plans for a healthy dinner. All the while counting those nasty little calories. But when I got home, I would overeat or binge and start the ‘guilt, self-loathing’ cycle all over again.
One day I realized that the voice accusing me and telling me I was a malfunctioning person could be wrong. Instead of my whole persona being flawed, maybe my thinking was just incorrect.
“Maybe the thoughts I have about being defective don’t really mean that I am defective. Maybe the thoughts are flawed. Having flawed thoughts does not make me a flawed person. I feel like I am defective down to the core of my being most of the time. But just because I feel a certain way doesn’t make me that way. I feel like I don’t fit in with most ‘normal people’. But what if I’m wrong about that? Maybe I am really a good person and I’m just telling myself I am bad because of all the crap I went through as a kid or because my brain is shaped a certain way or my DNA has an extra chromosome or some other reason I don’t even know of. Maybe I have just convinced myself that I am different from ‘normal people’, especially when it comes to eating. And maybe I don’t feel like I fit in with others because I am telling myself I don’t fit in. And maybe I can change those thoughts. Maybe?”
With this new idea, I realized that breaking out of the spiral of overeating-binging-loathing-dieting-overeating did not have to be about changing my eating behavior. To break a cycle, only one thing needs to be changed, and who said it has to be your eating behavior? A big part of the binge eating cycle is guilt and self loathing associated with overeating.
“What if I could change my thoughts instead of my eating behavior? Eating does not HAVE to make me feel guilty. I choose to feel guilty when I eat too much or eat a forbidden food. And if I have a choice to feel guilty, I also have the choice to NOT feel guilty. I don’t have to berate myself.”
I thought, like most Americans, that if I could diet and lose weight, I would be healthier and happier. It makes sense; dieting leads to weight loss which leads to feeling good about myself which leads to no bingeing. The trouble was, it never worked that way for me. I would drop a few pounds, start feeling good about losing weight, then eat a donut in a weak moment and end up sick from raiding the refrigerator. Then on to a bingeing episode which could last months.
“What if I could get out of this cycle by stopping the guilt and self-loathing part instead of trying to diet or change my eating behavior? How would this work?”
I stopped binging the very first day I began to think and say out loud, the thoughts below. Stopping bingeing is the easy part. Learning how to live a better life and accept who you are takes more work. But it is worth it. And you can do it!
• I will not feel guilty for any eating behavior, that includes overeating and bingeing.
• I will not feel guilty eating any type of food. All foods are good.
• I will not think about restricting any food.
• I can eat what I want today, later today, tomorrow, next week, next year, for the rest of my life.
• I never have to diet or restrict food again.
• I will not judge myself based on my body size or my eating.
• I will eat what I want, when I want, in the amount I want.
• I will not make myself eat anything I do not want.
• No matter what I eat, I will always plan on still eating whatever I want at the next meal or the next time I want food.
• I will not plan to restrict food or exercise to ‘make up’ for eating now.
• If I eat too much and become uncomfortable, I will take note how it made me feel physically, but I will not berate myself or feel guilty or bad for eating.
• I will stop using words like fattening, sinful or decadent in regard to food.
• I will not count calories or macros or fat grams or anything else associated with controlling my food intake.
It took me about a year to understand that eating like this was more important than losing weight. Losing weight has always been my main focus. And to that end, I tried to eat what someone else said I should eat by following diets and food plans. But when I began to trust my body and eat what I wanted, it didn’t take long for my body to start to repair itself and begin wanting healthier foods naturally.
I gained a few pounds at first, but after a year, my weight is inching down. The weight doesn’t matter that much, though. What matters is, after many years of bingeing and restricting, I now eat whatever I want and I don’t eat anything I don’t want. I am strong and healthy and my body is adjusting its weight to reflect that. I don’t force myself to eat a healthy meal to get some dessert. If I want dessert only, I eat the dessert. I put no restrictions on food or eating. My meals are typically healthier than they have ever been, not because I force myself to eat well, but because I naturally want to eat well. Sometimes I still have cravings, but usually they are for things like chef salad, ice-cold watermelon, or hot homemade soup.
You can make a change now. Binge Free First Steps
If I did this, you can too!
“I don’t need to compare myself to others. The space I occupy on this earth is just right for me. No one else can fit into it and I cannot fit into anyone else’s space. I will strive to be my best, but will always appreciate who I am and where I am right now.” MD