Hi guys - I'm hoping for some advice on how to really work on myself. I just graduated college and I have about two months of doing NOTHING before my job starts, and I want to use this time to tackle some of the food demons that I've dealt with for a decade or so. I'm also trying to lose 20-30 pounds. This will probably be long, but I appreciate anyone who can offer advice or support!
First, some background: 22, female, 5'3, about 150 pounds. Happy weight is about 125. Been paleo for about 8 months. History of chronic undereating/undiagnosed anorexia/EDNOS (age 12-18) and binge eating disorder (age 18-present). I've been in and out of therapy throughout all of this, but only recently (the past year or so) have I really been determined to get rid of this eating disorder and improve my relationship with food. I'm currently not in therapy, because I don't want to get a therapist until I move for my job (consistency is important to me when it comes to therapists) so I'm trying to do some recovery on my own until then.
What I've been doing - all of which I consider PROGRESS:
Where I'm not having too much progress:
I know many questions have been asked related to binging and eating disorders... and I've read through all of them. I feel like I'm in the middle of being deep into binge eating disorder/anorexia and being recovered, and I'm really looking for any advice that may just get me over the hump to "smooth sailing" toward recovery. In other words, I feel like I have many of the tools I need to conquer this, but I haven't yet had that lightbulb moment when everything clicks and I can go about my daily life without constantly having to WORK at not binging or thinking about food all the time. Does that moment of clarity even exist? I really want to take this time before I start work to work on myself and really work through these issues that have plagued me for the past 10 years. If you read through all of this, I sincerely thank you - any help related to weight loss, recovery, or anti-binging is much appreciated.
As always, grok on.
You are doing some great things to help heal your relationship with food. As someone who dealt with anorexia and bulimia as a teen, and with binge eating most of my life, I'll share what's helped for me:
1) I focus on health rather than weight loss. I'd suggest losing the tape measure as well as the scale. You know when your clothes are tighter or looser without stirring up the mental crap that comes with numbers.
2) I don't beat myself up when I have a binge. Realize that whatever you do, it's in an attempt to nurture yourself, however misguided the action may be. Notice what's going on before/during a binge. Ask yourself if there's anything else you can do to nurture yourself - a hug, a walk, a pedicure. If no, ride it out while paying as much attention as you can to what's happening.
3) I know there are certain things I will binge on if they're in the house. I've stopped telling myself that I'm strong enough to be moderate with them now. There will inevitably be a moment of weakness. I won't keep any form of sugar in the house, because that's a disaster waiting to happen.
4) I end up on shaky ground if I start tracking my foods - I end up becoming obsessive. I do much better if I keep healthy/non-binge foods in the house, and spend my mental energy on other things - creative endeavors or whatever.
I think you're on the right track with the journaling and getting plenty of sleep. Just please be gentle in how you deal with yourself. Talk to that sweet, nurturing part of yourself that wants to soothe you with food, and gently explain to her that you'd like to try some other methods. (That come's from a very helpful book I read a while back, but cannot recall the title of.) I know that part of the binge problem can by physiological - with sugar addictions and all. But a large part is mental/emotional, and it does no good to try to bulldoze your way through that part.
- I'm still binging.
I find that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure" is relevant here. The only way I can tackle the binge monster is to try and prevent it in the first place. I keep an envelope of "things to do instead of binging". When I'm feeling lonely, bored, or sad (meaning the itch to binge is coming) I reach into the envelope and force myself to do that activity for half an hour. Usually, this helps take my mind off of binging. Things on my list are: play violin, go for a walk, take a warm shower, color, write a letter to a friend, call my sister, dance to music, etc. Keeping an emergency list helps me when I feel weak and vulnerable...having something pre-prepared makes it easier during a mentally tough time.
What helps me is to start an activity that requires effort for a period of time. I'll start painting, because I know that I can't let paint sit out or it will dry. So it will distract me for at least half an hour.
- Because of my binges, I am 20-30
pounds over a healthy weight (for
Be patient with yourself and realize that it's not just about weight/numbers. You said yourself that this is a mental battle. Your improvements won't always show on your body. Take note of those accomplishments, too. Be kind to yourself and understand that mental health is necessary to get the ball rolling. If necessary, get rid of the measuring tape and just go by how you feel in your clothes. You are more than a sum of numbers and if you stay focused on your weight and measurements, efforts to lose weight may be thwarted by feelings of failure and inadequacy...setting up the self-defeating cycle.
- Because I am overweight, I have terrible body image and I don't want to leave my house until I'm thinner.
This is a tough one. Very, very tough. You know what? Don't put off buying that special dress, makeup or purse (or fill in the blank) "until you lose weight" as a prize. Dress to feel confident about yourself. Get your nails done. Get a new haircut. You can be full of life and beauty at any weight and you deserve to feel good about yourself. Just because you are overweight doesn't mean that you are any less deserving of experiencing the beautiful things life has to offer. If you dress it and fake it til you make it, it might give you the confidence boost to meet your goals. Dressing well also helps you get into that mindset that you need to take care of yourself and give you motivation to continue doing so.
Hi guys. I'm writing this to self-plug, but just to let you know about what I do. I write two blogs on women and paleo nutrition, with a special focus on eating disorders. I come from a background of disordered eating myself, as well as being a trained eating disorder advisor for many years, and a functional diagnostic nutritionist. I openly welcome women and men to email me to talk about their problems and how I might help them. Please feel free to shoot me a line from either one of my blogs: www.paleopepper.com (where most of my eating disorder stuff is archived) www.paleoforwomen.com (where I put more of my scientific and neurobiological research)
Best of luck, guys. It really is possible, and I do believe in you. I did it, and so, so many women I've talked to have done it.
A year ago, I would have said I had no answer since my binge career covered 40+ years.
Now, however, I can't make promises but I can tell you I found a solution for myself.
In the 6 months since the last step above, I have splurged and safely returned to my "formula" of meat, vegetables and fruits many times. I no longer have digestive upsets from my splurges, nor do I lose control and have massive binges as I used to. What happens is that the neo-treats taste amazingly good at first but there is vague disappointment when they hit my gut and within a day or 2 I am happily back to my unprocessed foods. I even have neo-stuff in the fridge and cupboards that my grandson bought and it doesn't bother me.
I hope you're able to find your way to a solution that works for you; at least I can tell you it's possible.
Hi, Paleoette. Do not lose hope. It looks like you are doing many of the right things, but I'm going to relay a few things that I believe are critical to overcoming your eating disorder. I'll try to make it quick, but it's going to be dirty. The first thing I would suggest is to get yourself an active, personal (people you see face to face) support group. This is so critical as it keeps you accountable. The second is positive affirmations, which includes writing and memorizing 3 of them, and then reciting 2-3 upon waking, before bed, and before meals. It sounds selfish, but for someone experiencing the cripplingly low self esteem and personal doubt that accompanies an eating disorder, it is one the best things you can do. Don't sweat the small small stuff, take baby steps, and accept that you can never be perfect and no one on the planet is- appearances can be deceiving. Set daily goals and stick to them. Set new ones frequently but keep in mind and adhere to the old ones (if still relevant) as well.
You need to give it enough time without relapse to build positive momentum. This will build your confidence and ability to trust yourself, which is critical for long-term success. As far as I know, the 21 day rule works pretty well for establishing new habits, so give it at least 21 days without obvious eating disorder behaviors- severe caloric restriction, or bingeing/purging.
I won't sugar coat it and tell you that a light switches on and you have zero compulsion to slip back into bad habits. However, I will tell you that once you make the decision to get better, the will to overcome defeats that compulsion. At first you have to consciously fight it- every moment of every second of every day. But with dogged determination, what was once active fighting will become passive and unconscious, and the desire to regress back to old habits will be fleeting. Please don't give up- everything can get better if you want enough and take action.
If you're wondering what my "credentials" are, I'll give them to you. I was extremely anorexic, underweight, and malnourished from the ages of 12-15, and have been totally recovered at a healthy weight for the past 7 and a half years. I am literally over 100lbs heavier now than I was when I was 15, I'm also taller too and I was told that I would not surpass 5'6" because of my prolonged and severe anorexia at a critical stage in life (I'm now 160 and 5'10"). Those were absolutely the most dismal and desperate days (years, actually) of my life. It is exhausting to live like that both physically and emotionally, but don't be foolish and think that it can never get worse. No matter how bad off you currently are or have been in the past, it can always get worse (trust me). It is up to you to prevent this from happening. I do believe that if it doesn't kill, it will only make you stronger.
Best of luck.
P.S. Sorry for the sloppiness of this. I am writing quickly and trying to condense a lot of thoughts and personal experience into something short enough to still be readable.
I too have the binging problem. Once I fall off the wagon, I convince myself I need to take advantage of the situation and eat everything possible that I normally wouldn't allow myself. This even continues past the point where I know I am full and have a stomach ache.
One thing that helps me with at least ending the binge and perhaps delaying a relapse is to set a firm time when the binge will end (hopefully not too far in the future) and then fast for 24-36 hours to provide a clean break. Here is more detail:
Danny Roddy's advice derived from Ray Peat's research about sugar has really helped solv my binge eating disorder. Sugar without the fat actually made me feel A LOT better. It may help to check them out.
There are a lot of really great answers here. I only have one thing to add, and that's to cultivate patience. You're doing yoga, which is great. One of the things I like about yoga (at least with my teacher) is we talk about your inner fire - the flame of your life force. As you breathe through your yoga exercises, try to visualize this life spirit within you. As you heal, your body and your spirit will ever so gradually come together until you will realize that you are your body, you are your spirit, it is one and the same, and you can finally inhabit your body fully. When you walk, you can meditate, like in yoga, breathing deeply. I would concentrate on these - walking and yoga - rather than on honing your body through sprints and weights exercise at this point.
I know all this might sound hokey, but I have been where you are - in a place where I rejected my own body and just wanted it to be something other than it was - and RIGHT NOW. Running compulsively, binging, restricting, the whole nine yeards. It is devastating. I could hardly tolerate being in my body a minute longer, I hated it so much. It is possible to recover, I have. I never thought it would be possible for me to look in a mirror and actually like my body, but I can and do. As someone else said, we are all different and we are all imperfect. What we need to be able to do is embrace our uniqueness and inhabit our bodies here and now, not in some more perfect future.
THere was one exercise I did that was very powerful and helped at one point - go into the bathroom and look into your eyes. Deeply. For a long time. There you are. You are worthy of love. You are incredible. It is your life, your spirit, your body. You can bring them together. It won't happen in two months, three, even six maybe, but everything you are doing is helping. Be patient with yourself.
I feel with you. I really do. When i was 13 i slowly developed an eating disorder too and i have until just a few months ago (im now 18 years of age) been on a starvation diet. A year ago i started having trouble with binge eating too, but this has only given some 4-5 pounds of surplus weight luckily.
Its tough to say what'll work for you to conquer it really. Given that i'm not through it yet. The paleo diet has helped part of the way imo. I'd advise you to think about what triggers you: Is it boredom? then find something to do, take a walk (this is hard i know, even as i say this i think of instances where i SHOULD have but didn't do this) is it when you feel bad? It is also important to be in a socially happy enviorment. If you live in a place you don't like or hang out with people who doesn't 'fulfill' you, this could actually be contributing to your binge eating. It could act as a way of filling a social void. But above all i'd say: Don't try to compensate too much for your binges. Focus on attaining a normal relationship with food. Imo its a good idea to cut out fruits, 'snacks' like dark chocolate and nuts etc as they are easier to binge on than real food. And hey - you're already a long way. Admitting that your eating is disordered, and your fed up with it and want to have a normal relationship with food is a huge step. One i first took half a year ago.
Dial in the micronutrients. Add in: Organ meats, bone broth, gelatin.
Get your D tested & sun or supplement to 50-60 ng/ml.
Many folks are deficient in Magnesium, zinc, selenium.
Make sure you are getting sufficient A & K2.
Measure hips & waist once a month.
Try some EFT for the binging/cravings/image issues. Works wonderfully!