Battling the Binge

Sometimes, when I think about my past, — and specifically, my battle with anorexia — it feels as though it was another lifetime ago. And yet interestlingly enough, the more I ponder it, it can vortex to front-of-mind like it were only yesterday.

But for the most part, I have achieved the healthy, 14-years-into-recovery balance of putting my past into its rightful place: to rest, into it’s little box at the back of my mind.

But sometimes, little moments or a word or phrase – or even a sight or a smell – will spark a memory from that little box. And all of a sudden, I’ll be taken back to a moment in time, long ago, when I was not the young woman I am today.

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

And over the weekend, I had one of those moments.

My special gentleman and I have been watching the terrific, albeit very dark, show: Yellowstone. I don’t know if you guys watch it, but if you don’t, I highly, highly recommend it. Everyone in my family is watching it. But I digress.

I won’t give anything away — but I will link the clip here if you want to watch — but there’s a moment when John and his grandson are talking about dreams. And the grandson is recounting a scary dream he had.

But the grandfather, John, likens dreams to a “soup” – a jumble of your memories and your imagination. And then he says something that made me stop and pause the show to write down.

“But the thing about this soup is, you can change the ingredients.

So profound. And it immediately opened up my little box, and made me think about that, not in terms of dreams, but in terms of my recovery.

Because that’s the secret to recovering from an eating disorder, an addiction, a bad habit….you’ve got to change the ingredients.

For me, that looked like, changing my environment, getting rid of the toxic relationships in my life, GOING TO INPATIENT TREATMENT, following a meal plan, having a support system, throwing away any triggering clothes – or “measuring sticks” jeans. I quit watching the TV shows with waif-thin leads (hello, The OC), and most importantly, I put God at the center of my recovery, and of my life.

I changed the ingredients.

Because isn’t that the truth? That, recovery or not, we keep doing the same exact thing expecting different results…we end up pounding our heads against a wall in frustration at why things aren’t magically changing?? It’s because we’re making the same soup. We’ve got to, literally spice it up.

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

I’m going to share something that I’ve only ever shared once on this blog, and that was my battle with binge eating. Not bulimia. But binge eating. It’s actually a super common thing for women coming out of severe restriction, such as anorexia. If you imagine a pendulum, during the anorexia it had swung about as far as it could go in one direction, so the natural consequence is for it to swing just as far in the other direction.

And just strictly biologically speaking, I had spent the last 2 years of my life starving, and so my body simply didn’t trust it not to repeat that same destructive behavior, and so naturally, it compensated.

And yeah, for those first few years of my recovery, I really struggled with binge eating. And it was a terrible, shameful season of my life, that I am so grateful not to be enslaved by anymore.

It was always at night, and it was always alone, and I would just eat anything I could get my hands on, until it physically hurt – and then I’d spend the next day, not only incredibly uncomfortable, but full hating myself, full of disgust, and shame and regret. And so I would then restrict throughout the day, or kill my body at the gym, only to repeat the process, if not again that night, one day soon.

It was truly hell on earth. Hell.

So why am I sharing this? Well, the more and more people I’ve talked to after coming out of this pandemic have lamented over how, during lockdown, they really turned to food for comfort, and now, they’ve developed bad food habits that they just can’t kick.

And listening to them, my heart goes out to them, because, I have certainly been there. To the extreme.

Because, let’s face it: every single one of us – doesn’t matter if we’re a college student, a parent, a single-in-the-city, an Olympic athlete – we all have a relationship with food. And this lockdown certainly didn’t make that relationship any easier, am I right?

And aside from God and family, food is one relationship that you’ve got to get right.

And so I wanted to just share how I changed the ingredients, and finally kicked binge eating once and for all. (And coming from someone who’s relationship with food has literally run the gamut, I can firmly say I am at peace with food – where I eat three full meals with snacks – and that is one heck of something to celebrate, if I do say so myself!)

Step one: I decided that I wanted to change. Like, I really wanted to change. And this is really where, like recovery, it has to begin. No one can want to change for you, you have got to want it for yourself. I had finally grown sick and tired of letting my life be run up and down by this binge cycle, and the terrible self-hatred that accompanied it…I wanted my life back. I wanted to be free. I wanted to change. And so I decided to do just that. And I dove in head-first to resetting my relationship with food.

Our relationship with food is deep seeded with strong emotional components. So much so that we probably aren’t even aware of it. For starters, how we were raised plays a huge role. Those habits we learn as kids become ingrained in our psyches. – So whether you were encouraged to be part of the “Clean Plate Club,” or were rewarded with sweets, or incentivized by an extra this or that, those habits become a part of our make up, both good, and bad.

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

And if I was going to reset my relationship with food, I had to first understand what my personal relationship actually was.

And that takes work, but is the key to success.

So I really examined – I wrote it down — for a week — every time I put something into my mouth — what emotion am I feeling? (I’ve created a worksheet below to print off).

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

Am I bored? Sad? Angry? Stressed?

And I promise, you’ll start to see patterns. Maybe every time you were stressed you reached for something salty/crunchy like chips. Or you had ice cream when you were feeling lonely or sad. You get the idea.

You’ll notice things.

And then here’s where the magic happens.

Once you realize what those “trigger emotions” are that cause you to binge, or restrict, or make unhealthy choices in your life — find non-food ways to replace them.

This has worked wonders for me.

If I’m lonely – I’ll call a friend — actually call, or FaceTime.
If I’m bored or feeling restless, I’ll get some fresh air. Take a short walk.
If I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I’ll make a game plan and prioritize my “to do” list to make life more manageable.
If I am feeling sad, I’ll do something nice for other people.
If I’m looking for comfort, I’ll go get a 10 minute, $7 chair message at my local nail salon.

Food has become a source of nourishment, instead of a source of comfort or entertainment in my life. No emotions attached.

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

Other practical things:
Don’t keep “binge food” in the house.
Sit down for a full meal, three times a day.
“Close the kitchen” after dinner.
No food is off limits — (I eat dessert every day!)
Don’t skip meals, even if you aren’t suuuper hungry.
Give yourself grace if you slip up, and get right back on track with the next meal.

But here’s the thing: yes, all those strategies are well and good. And yes, they are great tools that truly help.

But…none of it will be successful without the biggest factor of all: God.

I got to the point where I literally had to hand it over to God and say, Look — I can’t do this alone. I need You. Help me

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

So many times, those things that we’re feeling out of control of — be it food, be it alcohol, be it online shopping, or gambling, or pornography, or promiscuous choices — they’re all simply an attempt to fill a hole in our lives that only God can fill.

Every morning, I have to wake up and purposefully and intentionally spend time with Him. I have to seek Him, seek His love and seek His help. And doing that makes literally all the difference.

He gives me strength. He gives me clarity. And He gives me wisdom to be able to recognize what emotions I’m feeling that may make me want to make poor decisions.

There is such freedom when life is no longer ruled by food. So much joy when we can see food as the resource it is, and keep it in its proper place in our lives.

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

Because it will never love us back. It will never solve our problems or alleviate our anxiety or need for control.

Only the Father can do those things. And take it from the gal who’s been all over the culinary map. Food is just fuel.

Binge eating - it’s a cycle of utter hell that so many wrestle with for episodes, seasons, years. But it’s time to BREAK THE CYCLE! From Top Eating Disorder Recovery blog, how she combatted binge eating after overcoming severe anorexia. An inspiring and helpful article full of practical and impactful advice! #recovery #anorexia #bingeeating #eatingdisorder #health #mentalhealth #food #diet #bodyimage #wellness

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17 thoughts on “Battling the Binge

  1. Working at home a lot with the fridge RIGHT THERE has been tough. My mind often gets confused about food, thinking that, well, I should eat this or that because it’s good for me and will help me lose weight. too late I realize that just reducing calories is the answer. I guess my relationship with food is less than optimal.

    The box in your head where the “bad things live” reminds me of an article I wrote years ago called The Memory Warehouse where sometimes the Jumanji drums start beating and the box opens and nightmares careen inside my skull for hours- the time I did this or that. It’s a special form of self-torture I think we all know!

    Good read tonight.

  2. I watched that gif with the puppies eating popcorn much longer than I care to admit haha! I’m glad you’re helping to spread awareness of binge eating disorder. I’ve struggled with BED for most of my life.

  3. All good advice. And you’re right about Yellowstone. It’s top notch in every category (acting, cinematography, etc.) but the writing really makes the show stand out. Kinda like The Sopranos go west.

  4. Such great concepts here!! The dogs pulled me in, too…ha! But I did read your entire blog, and you’re exactly right on binge eating. Being “purposeful and intentional” on spending time with God is how we can battle the temptations Satan throws in our laps…we can only get through this in His strength. Thanks for the encouragement, and I pray He will continue to triumph in the binge battles of your life!!

  5. I didn’t realize until I read your post that binge eating has become more of a problem for me during this pandemic. My relationship with food has changed, and I’m going to keep a log now of how I’m feeling when I want to eat but I’m not even hungry.

    Thanks a million, Caralyn! Really. This isn’t just a mushy comment. You’ve opened a window here!

    PS. After watching one of your talks, my wife wants a copy of your book. I’m going to get her one, but we shall take turns reading it!

    Blessings.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. It is an important topic that many ignore. You are absolutely right, we all have a relationship with food. I have been in the midst of food battle these past few months. I will save this post as it is very motivating and helps me want to make some changes. Thank you again! God bless! 💕🌸

  7. Amazing post. So true. So many things that are relatable. The clean plate club. That was my mom. (God love her and thank you God for her) She was the youngest child of a depression era mother and it was a SIN to throw food away because my grandmother had, indeed, gone hungry and the first four of her ten–that’s right, I “said” ten–children were sometimes hungry too…The emotional eating. The replacing one addiction for another. The slips. The bruising, battering falls. The promises broken…to yourself…to God…and, yet, it is because of God that you keep getting up, that you are able to put one unsteady foot in front of another, as you stumble toward hope and healing, escaping the clutch of addiction, of whatever form, within the manner that the Lord leads you to.

  8. “Because it will never love us back. It will never solve our problems or alleviate our anxiety or need for control.”
    And neither will any of the other addictions you mentioned: alcohol, online shopping, gambling, pornography, promiscuous choices.”
    Like Augustine noted, there is a God-shaped vacuum in every heart that ONLY He can fill, and we will never be at rest until He is there where He belongs.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

  9. Yes, I think the struggle with food, is something others experience in other areas!

    Thank you, yes, I embrace your perspective and example – of observation, and of the broad, proactive will to change 🙌🏼

  10. Thank you for this inspirational post. You are so cool to have overcome a struggle with cooking as an art! Indeed that is a life’s journey, and sharing as you do here will surely help us all. May you continue to keep blessed! Praise the Lord that He saved you to speak of His healing. Many thanks!

  11. So much ‘meat’ in this post! Thanks for sharing your learning, from your own struggles, wins and other experiences. Your authenticity shines! As does your love and reliance on God. I love the clip you shared too … coming through a season of healing for burnout, I understand the need to choose your ingredients wisely.
    Blessings to you sweet lady,
    Carole

  12. Thank you for sharing this. So helpful to others. No pain is ever wasted. God comforts (changes) us so that we can comfort others. i Corinthians 1: 3, 4

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