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!