So, imagine you realize you have an eating problem and finally decide to seek help. You go through some intensive therapy—maybe even in-patient—but when it’s over, you’re still bingeing. What do you then? That’s what HealthyGirl.org reader Lucia, 22, wants to know.
Q. I went to treatment almost a year and a half ago for binge eating disorder and depression. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity for recovery as I know many people hardly get a Saturday to themselves. However, I am still bingeing. I was armed with the illusion that if I could just be grateful enough, present enough, and allow myself to gulp color, all would be cured. This is not the case as I have been absolutely obsessed with food since I was a (much more adorable and approachable) 3-year-old.
I am absolutely terrified because I am transferring schools and I know that if I am bingeing it is literally not worth it for me to pay the money to be there. I need a plan. Do you still plan out your food everyday? Do you have any food that is “off-limits”? —Lucia, 22
A. You’re right, you do need a plan. But I hope you’ll try not to worry too much about whether it’s the “right” one—those of us with eating issues tend to have such black-and-white thinking (“There is a correct choice and if I don’t make it, it’s all ruined!”) that we can get paralyzed. And the fact is, as long as your plan involves taking steps toward healing—moving forward bit by bit no matter how hard it gets or how scared you are—it will help you.
I was just telling someone the other day how I never received therapy or treatment specifically for eating issues; the path I took was more winding, and pretty slow: I started with self-help books in my teens, moved to talk therapy in my early 20s (and stuck with it), then went to a support group. It was during the three years I spent going to weekly (or sometimes twice-weekly) meetings with other binge eaters that I made the quickest progress—those years got me to the point where I finally felt I was recovered from binge eating disorder.
I don’t know what kind of treatment you received, but I do know that it makes sense that finite “treatment” may not enough to heal us completely from something so deeply rooted. A lot of research shows now that binge eating may be genetic—it takes time to reprogram our brains and bodies to no longer require excess food to deal with life!
To answer your specific questions about the way I live and deal with food now: No, I don’t have any food that is off limits, and I don’t plan my food out every day anymore. But those are both things I used to do. For a long time! They were important steps in my recovery process that helped me get to where I am now, a point at which I don’t obsess over food for the most part, rarely feel out of control, and eat intuitively more often than not. Getting here from where I was when I was bingeing three or more times a week in front of the television, downing a half-pound of peanut butter M&Ms and a bagful of fast food at a time was a series of small steps that took several years. Each step was important and served it’s purpose.
For your next step, maybe you could read a new book about your relationship food. Or find an outpatient therapist or support group. As long as you take a step, any step, you’ll be headed in the right direction!
Now, to the rest of the HealthyGirl.org community: What were the steps you took toward recovery, and in what order? I think it’s helpful to see that we all have our own paths, but they all lead to the same place: Sanity about food and more happiness in life! xo…Sunny