This e-mail came in from a reader named Jen who shared her story, and wanted to know how I stopped binge eating. Figured some of you might want to know, too, so here you go!
Q: I’m almost 30 and mostly very happy…I quit my corporate job to become a life coach, regularly exercise, write, work on my feelings, etc. I’ve got two great cats and a live in boyfriend of three years. I’ve been through therapy twice, I’m life coached on an almost weekly basis, and yet i STILL struggle with binge eating. I’m still within a healthy weight range, but bingeing doesn’t feel good, as I’m sure you know.
Sometimes I feel so hopeless and don’t understand why I can’t come up with consistent strategies to deal with my anxieties in other ways than eating. I would love it if you could tell me the process of stopping bingeing, the different stages, what you did, what you do now, etc. I want to be free. I feel so free in so many of the other areas in my life, this just feels like a big black hole that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to climb out of! —Jen
A: OK, wow. Were we the same person or something? I, too, had plenty of therapy and was in a really good place in my life as I approached my 30th birthday. From the outside looking in, I suppose everything looked great. I was doing pretty well at work, was dating often, my weight was stable at 181. But I was still bingeing. Not nearly as often as I had in my teens and mid-20s. And not as severely–a binge had turned into something like a big quesadilla with too many tortilla chips for dinner versus six candy bars like it used to be.
But, like you said, even that few-times-a-month bingeing didn’t feel good. I knew that I’d reached a wall in my growth as a person. That I’d never be as successful, as happy, as healthy as I wanted to be if I didn’t push past these last remnants of emotional eating.
So, I sought out a free support group and started going to a meeting every week. Then very, very slowly I started adopting other healthy behaviors that people in that group were doing. I dedicated 10 minutes each morning to reading something self-helpy or inspirational. Then I added five minutes of quiet, deep breathing (you could call it a form of meditation) a few days a week. Then I started looking at what my trigger foods were—things that always seemed to lead to a binge. And I started avoiding those foods most of the time simply to make things easier on myself.
For a while, I even planned out my food each day in the morning, to erase any of that “Should I? Shouldn’t I?” anxiety throughout the day. I opened myself up to accept help and support from other people: reached out and became good friends with some of the people I met at the group I went to. I got a gym membership and started working out at least once a week.
Three and a half years later, I’m recovered from binge eating disorder, I’m 30 pounds lighter, I’m married to my best friend in the world and–with the exception of an occasional emotional eating slip here and there!–I no longer rely on food to avoid or cope with my feelings. I’ve got way better tools in my toolbox now. Things that actually help me cope in a positive way.
Jen, thanks again starting this conversation. To the rest of you: Please feel free to e-mail me or comment here to share your stories or Qs. We can become our own support group of sorts right here on HealthyGirl.org!