One of my favorite things is opening up my HealthyGirl.org email inbox in the morning and find notes from readers. It doesn’t matter how busy things are in my life away from the site—seeing proof that you guys read and get something out of it in a real way is so fulfilling. That’s all to say: Thank you for reading and commenting and being a part of this community, and if you have a question or something you want to say more privately than in a comment, you can email me.
Speaking of email, I recently got one from 20-year-old Carly (who wrote in once before when she was found herself obsessing over the number on the scale) who’s made some real progress, but is wondering why she still has occasional big binges…
Q: I’m 20 years old, and I’m struggling with binge eating. I’ve been reading Healthy Girl for a long time, and you answered one of my questions about daily weighing on the blog before. (Thanks, by the way!) I started seeing a therapist and a nutritionist, reading books about overcoming binge eating, and really working hard to get through this. I go through periods of time where I do great, with no bingeing and hardly any emotional overeating, and I think I’ve won the battle, and then out of nowhere I’ll totally backslide and have a terrible binge. I was wondering if this has ever happened to you?
Even though I feel like I have all the tools to resist bingeing and to understand why it happens, every once in awhile I still succumb to the binge monster. I’m starting to feel like this is never-ending battle that I just can’t win. Did you ever have times where you thought you were done with bingeing, but it happened again?
A: Yes. Absolutely, 100%, yes, this has happened to me. I’ll get back to that in one minute, but first let me say, Hooray! Hooray for you that you have moved on so far from focusing on weight and body size to taking all of these amazing steps for your insides! It’s so great to hear that you are not only reading books about bingeing, but that you’ve also reached out to professionals for help. It’s so hard to do, and takes a financial commitment, but I know what a difference it made in my life.
Now, back to the direct answer your question: There were so many times throughout this journey when the bingeing would subside for days, weeks, even a couple of months, and then, seemingly inexplicably, I would find myself in the middle of an out-of-control eating session. Sometimes there was a clear reason for it. I could trace the binge back to a certain event or phone call that took place a few days before—let’s say I had a difficult conversation at work, but didn’t take the time to fully process them emotionally, or didn’t use the tools I had like journaling, and the stress or pain would “sneak up” on me and push me to the food. But other times, there wasn’t one specific event that preceded the binge, and it truly seemed to come out of nowhere.
I used to wonder what the heck the wrong with me that I couldn’t stay on the “right” and healthy path. But what I eventually realized was that I was on the right and healthy path! Every misstep was a part of the journey. It all mattered, and I was right where I was supposed to be. Here are a few key things I learned:
1. Recovery is never neat, tidy, or “perfect.” Nearly every binge eater I have ever met has had a winding road to getting sane about food—one peppered with moments when they “fell off the wagon” or slipped. It’s normal, and just the way things are. It doesn’t matter how dedicated or smart or determined a person is, we cannot be perfect. Try to believe it, and let go of the guilt and disappointment. What you’re going through is normal.
2. Getting sane about food can take a while. It’s different for everyone, but considering the fact that many of us have a predisposition to binge eat that’s based on our freakin’ genes, it makes sense that our journey toward learning a new way to deal with life (and in some cases, recover from a serious mental and physical illness—since that’s exactly what eating disorders are) might take a while. For me? It took about 15 years.
3. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, getting healthy about food is always worth it. For me, recovery from binge eating is very different than I thought it would be all those years ago when I first started wishing for it. It’s really…imperfect, and normal and sometimes messy, just like life. But guess what? The guilt is gone, and so is the shame, and the obsession. More often than not, food has it’s proper place in my life, as an enjoyable source of nourishment. Living with this kind of freedom around food is amazing—I highly recommend it.
Even though the journey to get here can be frustrating, and longer than you might like, keep on stepping forward. You’ve already made so much progress, Carly. Give yourself permission to enjoy the process and to believe that it’s only a matter of time. xo…Sunny
Now, a Q for all of you: Have you ever gotten frustrated by “slips”? How did you remind yourself not to expect perfection and let go of the guilt?