The beautiful thing about writing a blog is that I get to share some personal experiences with you. Rather than just coming from a ‘therapy perspective’, I get to express views from a personal place too…and indeed, personal experiences of recovery and progress are powerful because they bring hope – hope that no matter how bad things may get, progress is possible.
Binge eating disorder has been a huge part of my life – with dichotomous consequences. On one hand, it has been the most painful experience, bringing with it feelings of shame, disgust, guilt, desperation, panic and loneliness. My relationship with food was all-consuming, and for a few years severely affected every area of my life. The bingeing led to weight gain, which led to insensitive comments, which further propelled the shame and disgust that I was already drowning in. In fact, I am not sure what was worse: the insensitive responses from those around me, or the embarrassment behind the fact that I was a intelligent girl who just couldn’t get grip on her eating. I felt as if there was no way out. I was stuck. The struggle became harder with passing time, until I got to a point where any form of food restriction would make the bingeing worse. Geneen Roth was right when she declared another rule for the universe: that for every diet there is an equal and opposite binge!
On the other hand, the recovery process changed me as a person for the better. It wasn’t just about breaking free from binge eating and establishing a healthy relationship with food; but rather it was about discovering myself, it was about understanding the concept of compassion, kindness, empathy and non-judgment – both for myself and others; but perhaps one of the most significant realizations for me was that it was both OK and vital for me to shine my light. When I was strong enough to look past my body and food issues, and serve as a psychotherapist anyway, some beautiful things started to happen. I realized that people valued me for me. They valued me because of the way in which I was able to help them, and for me, this was a turning point.Prior to this, everything in my life revolved around my relationship with food and body-image. When I shifted my focus from my issues to my inner calling and creativity, things started to change. It was still challenging, but gradually change came about. Here are some of the things that I did to bring about change:
- I took the focus off the weight and put the focus on self-nourishment. I have to admit that this process took me a while, and in the beginning it was easy for me to slip back into my old patterns again. For a long time, I believed that I would heal if I could just discipline myself where eating was concerned. I believed that if I ate healthily, my eating would normalize. It didn’t. In fact I got worse, and this is because the problem was never the food in the first place. The problem was that I was always restricting myself where food was concerned. My restrictive mindset, which focused on perfection was my primary binge trigger. (Please note that I am not saying that healthy eating triggered my bingeing. Indeed there are some people that heal when they change their diet. What I am saying is that this strategy did not work for me because it was my perfection mindset that needed to be changed). Once I stopped restricting and started going easy on myself, my attitude towards food started to change. This was scary for me because I was convinced that I would continue to gain weight. But I didn’t. What actually happened was that I gradually stopped bingeing. I found that I wasn’t obsessed with controlling my food all the time. It became easier for me to tune into my hunger and fullness levels, and in time I automatically started making some healthier choices – not because I should, but because I wanted to. I started to self-nourish myself in as many ways as I could. I would eat in a way that was both physically and emotionally satisfying – and sometimes this meant eating hot carbs in the cold weather! It also meant eating cake on celebration days, having nutriblast some mornings and eating leafy green veges. Most eating was inspired by what my body was calling for! I am convinced that this first point of self-nourishing is how I truly started to heal.
- I gradually started to work on accepting myself the way that I was. This was hard, but I knew that I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to recover. The more that I fought with myself, the more I felt compelled to diet and then of course the more frequent my bingeing became. If I wanted to stop bingeing, I had to work on accepting where I was. This didn’t mean that I was necessarily happy with where I was, but rather I stopped fighting with myself. This acceptance opened the door to working with myself in more of a gentler manner.
- I allowed myself to further myself as a person and focused on becoming a good therapist. Alongside working on binge eating recovery, I started to focus on other areas of my life, such as propelling myself as a therapist. (I know this isn’t the case with everyone, but it was with me)…I started to recognise that there was more to life than just my experience with food and that I could engage in creativity via my work. This helped tremendously in building my self-esteem.
- I accepted that this process was going to take time and that I would make mistakes.
I did make mistakes. Lots of them. When the bingeing became unbearable, I got to a point where I was no longer concerned about weight loss. The only thing I was bothered about was stopping the binge-eating because I could feel my health was significantly declining. I knew at that point that this process may take time, and I was ready for that. I was committed to improving my relationship with food – even if it took time, and even if I made mistakes.
- I stopped restriction. I allowed myself to eat whenever I was hungry, and I allowed myself to eat until I lost interest in the food that I was eating. Surprisingly I found that there was a point where I started to lose interest in the food. Prior to this I would try to portion control or ‘eat until I was 80% full’ or only eat three meals a day, and I would eventually end up bingeing. Once I stopped restriction in every manner and allowed myself to eat, I soon lost the preoccupation with food, and I naturally ate around 3 meals a day.
As I have mentioned before, the journey has been challenging, but also extremely rewarding. I believe it is true that our greatest challenges can become our greatest gift if we allow them to….here’s to your progress!