Binge Free- First Steps

When I realized it was time to stop dieting and start eating, I was excited.  It was not like the excitement you get when you find the next great diet that would change your life forever, though.  It was more of an acceptance; like a relief.

I began by telling myself I could eat what I wanted and stop worrying about calories and macros.

Before I was binge free there were many times I allowed myself to eat what I wanted. The difference was, I did it with the understanding that I would do something later to compensate for eating.  I knew by allowing myself this food indulgence, I would either exercise, skip future meals, eat salad only, or purge to make up for it.  The price I had to pay for eating stayed on my head. No wonder I never felt satisfied with any food! I was too worried about what I had to do to make up for the sin of eating what I wanted.

New Attitude

“I can eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want.  If I want to eat cake for breakfast, I will.  If I want to eat 10 cakes for breakfast, I will. If I want to eat one thousand cakes for breakfast, I can and I will.”

The crazier my statements were, the better I understood the principle.  For a few days, I still found myself eating around foods that I used to restrict, but I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure.  I just took note of this, ate the food I really wanted and went on with my day.  I only had one mini binge in the first six months using this idea.

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These ideas helped me, but your journey is unique to you.  You can do this your way.

1. No food is restricted. There is no ‘bad‘ food. Try to eat what you think is nutritious, but make all meals substantial and don’t worry if you want sweets, eat them too.

2. Don’t “eat around” any food.  Don’t eat an apple to try to satisfy your craving for a piece of cake.  If you want a piece of cake, eat a piece of cake.

3. Tell yourself, “I am allowed to eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want… I can eat now, later today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.  I will never restrict food again regardless of what I eat now.”  Tell this to yourself every few minutes, write it on your mirror, put this as a reminder on your phone.  Keep saying this until you absolutely believe this deep down in your soul.

4. Figure out what you really like to eat. At first it may be sweets or ice cream. It doesn’t really matter. As you get used to not restricting, your tastes will change. After a couple of months, I desired tuna and asparagus. Remember, since you don’t have to restrict, you don’t need to eat fat free or sugar free foods.

5. If you see something you want and begin to feel anxious, like you could binge on it, tell yourself you can eat ten or a hundred of those. Try to picture yourself surrounded by a hundred cakes or a thousand donuts and give yourself complete permission to eat them.  The crazier your picture, the better.

6. While trying to decide what to eat, check to see if you are having thoughts of losing weight or doing something later to compensate for what you are about to eat.  If so, tell yourself, you NEVER have to diet again, you will NEVER have to restrict food again.  Say this out loud, “I will never have to restrict any food again, not today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year or in the rest of my life.”  Let it sink into your psyche that the food you want and need will always be available.

7. Do not judge or berate yourself.  If you ended up eating something you didn’t want, or overate or even had a binge, just take a note of it and go on. You may feel guilty at first, but once you recognize this, you can change it. No matter what you eat, it is OKAY.  You can stop feeling guilty for eating. It is doable and it is imperative when learning how to eat normally.

8. If you want more food before the next meal time – eat. That’s Okay. Fix another full blown second meal and don’t feel guilty or wrong. It will take your body a little while to get it right. This will not last forever. The more you honor your hunger signal, the shorter time it will take for your body to space out meals to about 3 times a day.  It may take a couple of weeks.

9. Don’t think of the food on your plate as the only serving you can have. Tell yourself you can get seconds or thirds or fourths and fifths, or you can pile the food as high as you want on your plate.  The more you allow yourself, the easier it is to be satisfied with less.

10. When you are not sure what you want or how much you might want to eat, prepare one thing that you think you will like and tell yourself that you will re-evaluate after you try this food you have prepared. You will be surprised at how often the first item you fix will satisfy you.  But if it doesn’t, don’t fret, eat something else.

11. Don’t feel bad about wasting food.  I used to put every scrap of leftovers in the fridge and then eat them before they went bad, just so they wouldn’t get thrown away.  But I now realize that eating something my body does not want or need is damaging for me and is more wasteful than throwing the food in the trash. I do not have to be a human garbage can.  Don’t feel bad about throwing food in the trash if you don’t want it.  As time goes by, you will naturally learn how to cook with less waste.

12. Do not beat yourself up, no matter what!  The KEY to success is to not beat yourself up or feel guilty; no matter what you eat or don’t eat. Even if you lapse into a binge because of thoughts of later restriction, don’t talk trash to yourself.  Guilt is not helpful. A determination to not diet and to not worry about the amount of food you consume will take you further than you ever could imagine. Give yourself permission to eat and not be perfect. You will overeat sometimes, especially the first couple months, but normal people overeat from time to time. As time goes by it will get less and less and the food you choose will be healthier without you having to force it.

13. Be open and prepared to learn something new about yourself everyday.

Working though eating issues? See Nourishing Advice for thoughts on how to cope with common advice people may give you.

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“It didn’t come to be natural to me, but when I learned to treat myself better, I found my whole life changing for the better.” MD

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Your Body Is Brilliant

I am an American, so when I say your body is ‘brilliant’, I don’t mean the British version, where it’s wonderful or even awesome.  I mean it’s ‘smart’ as in highest IQ ever.  Your body understands microbiology functions that PhD level microbiologists don’t understand.  It functions to keep you alive in ways that scientists are still trying to figure out.

Your body understands how to function down to the atomic level.  It does this everyday; breathing, digesting, keeping your heart beating, healing.  It tells you to cover up when you are cold and fan yourself when you are hot.  In other words, your body does a lot of stuff automatically to keep you alive, stuff you don’t even know how to explain.  So why do we feel we have to tell it what and how eat?  Isn’t hunger one of the basic functions of our body?

Do I need to know how many calories I should consume each day?

You think you know how many calories, fats and carbs you need, but on any given day, it could be different than the day before.  Your body knows exactly what it needs to function optimally.  It knows every fraction of a calorie you consume.  It knows, to the microgram, how many calories and how much protein is in that piece of chicken, and it knows exactly how to break it down and use it for your benefit.  It knows how to break down donuts and use them for your benefit too.  It is adept at using any food you put in it to keep you functioning. Why?  Because that’s it’s job.

I used to think I had to keep track of every gram of food that went into my mouth. Counting calories and carbs was a way of life.  But if my body knows how to process every scrap of food it eats, I thought, “it probably knows exactly how many calories are in that box of donuts I polished off this morning.”  I keep thinking I can tell my body what it needs to eat, but in reality, it tells me what it needs, I just don’t listen.

Its kind of like an emergency room, it doesn’t care what you look like or how you feel emotionally, it’s only job is to keep you alive and out of pain.  That’s what the body does all the time; whatever is required to keep you alive at a cellular level.  So, if  it thinks food will be restricted, it will go into emergency mode and compel you to eat now to keep you alive a little longer.

When you are in this mode and eating furiously, your anxiety may be high, but your body doesn’t fret. It uses what it needs and stores the rest for later. How smart is that? To know that it needs to store some for later because there may be a famine in the future is not just smart, it’s survival.  It evolved that way. Its coded to eat when the food is fresh, the harvest is in, the pig has been slaughtered. The trouble is, in our society, the harvest is always in, the meat is always freshly available, the garden is never brown.

My version of why we get cravings                                                                                      

When we tell ourselves we will diet tomorrow, skip a meal, work food off, or in some other way restrict food to make up for eating now, we give our body a message.  The message is, ‘Hey, I’m eating now, but I won’t be eating in the future.’ So, the body does what it does best, it keeps you alive by compelling you to eat more now.  It gets your dieting message loud and clear- “You are feeding me now, but you are thinking of restricting the amount of food I can have, there must not be a next meal coming, I better make you eat as much as you can right now so we can store some up for later when food will be restricted.”

This is what we anxiously call a craving.  And when you feel that craving, you panic because you think you will eat too much.  When you do eat too much, you feel guilty. Then you assuage that guilt with promises of being ‘good’ and staying on your diet the next day.   You have just fallen into the whirlpool of ‘binge-diet’ eating, trying to control your food intake until your body takes over, then feeling guilty for losing control, and  trying to take control again.  Your mantra becomes, “I will go back on my diet and stop eating sugar and junk food tomorrow.”

Then, the next day after you have been ‘good’ all day, you may come home and tell yourself you deserve a treat or a special meal.  You probably eat with entitlement, but not without guilt. You only feel justified in eating because you did not eat enough earlier.  You’ve already paid the price for being able to eat now, as if you can only eat after you restricted food for a time, or eat when you promise to limit food in the future.

This is where I was for years.  After seeking much help, going to treatments and counseling, reading books and blogs, it became clear to me that my body does not distinguish between my desire to eat less to lose weight and a scarcity of food. It treats them both the same. Whether I am thinking of restricting food or there is a real food shortage, my body reacts the same way. Why? Because it’s job is to keep me alive. And it does that job very well. So I knew I had to start trusting my body and letting it tell me what and when to eat.  It was not easy, but it was much easier than trying to control the uncontrollable urge of a craving.

How can you start trusting your body and stop cravings?

Tell yourself you can eat anytime you want, that you will never restrict food again. You will not skip meals, you will not eat low calorie versions of real food. You will not try to burn off calories just for the sake of burning off calories. Tell your body you will eat whatever it wants.

You will be surprised that it doesn’t want chocolate cake all the time. It doesn’t always want high fat, high sugar food. It only makes you crave that food when you try to restrict it.  At least this is how its works for me.

In my experience, cravings cannot exist when I allow myself to eat with no guilt, no remorse, no shame, and no thoughts of restriction in the future.  Its not that I will never overeat again, but overeating does not have a hold over me like it once did.

For tips and advice on how to take action to stop bingeing now. Click here.

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Everything is Okay.  This includes the appearance of my body and the appearance of everyone else’s body” MD

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Binge Free – The Beginning

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.”

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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

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