Something is happening right now. Last week I was at home looking after my Mum and whilst I was there, a lot of feelings of frustration and hurt were coming up. This is all in relation to some issues I had growing up and being back in the home I grew up in, repeating similar events from before has massively triggered me. During the time I was there I felt really in tune with my body, I was really busy and I felt like I was coping. Then in true Alice fashion, the emotions of the situation caught up with me a little bit later. I’ve always been like this, whenever I hear bad news it’s rare I’ll cry immediately which seems strange considering I’m such an emotional person but usually I emotionally react a little while after. It’s like my brain tries to protect me because it’s so “full up” of other anxieties, I become numb towards the pain and then when I’m less “full up” I process these thoughts/feelings and react. This time this reaction has been binging. I haven’t binged in a long time. At my lowest points I binged and restricted daily whereas now it’s happened only once this year, before now. It’s been two days. My head hurts, my mouth is sore, my stomach is sensitive and I need to figure a way out. So here I am, figuring it out whilst also hoping to share some pearls of wisdom on the topic. I’ve done a lot of recovering from binges. I’ve done a lot of waking up and feeling guilty about the night before and vowing to restrict to make up for it. I’ve done a lot of exercising from a place of self-hatred. I’ve done a lot of wondering what is wrong with me and why I don’t have enough willpower to not let this happen. I’ve done a lot of realising that none of these tactics work. You cannot stop yourself binging by hating yourself.
It’s important to say here that binging is not inherently wrong. It’s your body urging you to respond to something bigger, it’s a way to numb and distract yourself from what is going on, it’s a reaction to something, it’s a way to cope. Very rarely is food the actual issue, instead there is something else a lot more emotional going on which is manifesting in your relationship with food and your body. So what can you do? Here are a few of the things that I have done in the past which have helped me recover and recuperate after a painful binging period.
1) Drink water
I am always left feeling super dehydrated after a period of binging and find that the following day it is so important for me to get a lot of h20 back into my body. Also, soothing teas can be really helpful. I’ve found mint tea really helpful to aid digestion and your standard breakfast tea is such a comfort.
2) Wear comfortable clothes
Wearing tight clothing is only going to serve as a constant reminder that your body is in pain. Where clothes that you feel great in and as a act of self-care towards yourself. Leggings are life.
3) Get some fresh air
… or have a shower or brush your teeth. Basically do something that completely gets you out of the binging space both physically and mentally. Use the activity as a chance to be present and check in with yourself and your senses. Whenever I binge I feel completely zoned out and this works as a really good way to help feel back in tune with yourself.
4) Tell someone
.. or write it on a blog for the world to see. Just kidding 😉 Telling someone what you are experiencing is really important. Think about a close family member, friend or partner who you trust and share what you are going through, with them. Binging is a secretive behaviour and speaking up about it, lessens the power it has over you. I used to be so terrified of telling people but I have only ever been met with compassion. People are learning more and more about BED and the people that love you will want to help, I promise.
As I mentioned before, binging is a reactive behaviour. Once you have had a chance to check back in with yourself, start to think about the reasons why this happened. Was it a reaction to a physical/mental restriction during the day? How are you feeling? Are you stressed, tired, bored, upset? Journaling can be great for this. You don’t have to write chapter and verse if you don’t want to, but jotting things down can be a good way to process your thoughts at this time.
Once you’ve reflected on why it happened. Respond to it. What can I do next time this emotion or feeling comes up? Is there a better way for me to deal with it than turn to food for comfort? Should I take a nap, go for a walk, talk to a friend? As I mentioned in my Emotional eating post, food is a source of comfort and it is even more likely that we will turn for food for comfort instead of other coping mechanisms if we suffer from restrictive thoughts and behaviours around eating. Do not beat yourself up for binging, in that moment it was the quickest way your body could deliver you comfort. Even though right now you probably are feeling far from comfortable this was your body’s response to something and it was trying to help you.
7) Be kind
This is the most important point. Being mean to yourself after a binge is only going to lead to further restriction = further binging. You cannot diet yourself out of binging. It’s not that you are “losing self control” around food. It’s that your body is responding to something & turning to food. Removing all binge food from your house will not stop the binges, if anything it’ll make you want to binge even more when you come into contact with these foods. Be damn nice to yourself. That means not weighing yourself or over exercising or not eating. Treat your body with respect and try and tune back into intuitively eating in the aftermath of a binge. Your hunger cues may become a little skewed whilst your body settles down but when you feel hungry.. eat. I promise that if you skip food to “make up” for a binge, you will binge again.
Please know that you aren’t alone in this. There are so many people who suffer with binge eating disorder that are too afraid to speak up about it. It isn’t a glamorized disorder. It isn’t represented enough in eating disorder conversations. I hope in sharing my experiences that it helps you to feel you have an allie. If you ever need someone to talk to, please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to help in any way I can. These moments will always come and go in my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% “cured” from binge eating. It can be easy to become caught up in the idea of a perfect recovery where we feel completely secure in our bodies and completely at ease around food. I don’t know if that will ever be my reality. But that’s okay. This is a journey, and not a destination.