Recovery update: What’s the difference between “binge eating” and “overeating”?

When I first sat down to think about the above question, without trying to figure it out in the moment it was affecting me directly, I quickly came around to the opinion that its actually easier to separate the two out than I previously thought. In the moment this question is affecting you it can be hard to sit there and figure out “have I binged, or have I just overeaten a bit?‘. Feeling you’ve engaged in the first can lead to some serious guilt-tripping if you suffer from binge eating, and this question is one that at the beginning of recovery I really struggled to figure out. The immediate difference is that whilst binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder (obviously), overeating is not.

First though: why does it matter? As a recovering BED sufferer I like to keep an eye on how I’m doing. If I can identify that I am binge eating before it gets too far I can maybe reign it in. Furthermore, knowing the difference between binging, and just a little bit of over-indulging has really helped to reduce the guilt I felt when I was, say, going out for a big meal. Previously, eating an extra serving of something or a three course dinner would push me into worrying that I was binging. I’m sure many of you understand the “fuck it” mentality of binging: you feel you’ve started binging, you may as well carry on. Not being able to separate out the above things in my mind meant that I was binging more and more frequently. I was avoiding occasions where I would be going out for food, and generally missing out. So in summary, once I got the difference between binging/overeating I was able to:

  1. Pre-empt a binge by tuning in to how I was feeling around food.  As I practiced, this then helped me to avoid slipping deeper into binging.
  2. Minimise the guilt surrounding occasions where I’d maybe eat a bit more than normal, which eventually allowed me to relax around certain trigger foods and in turn begin to eat them without binging. I never actually thought this was possible, but I’m getting better at it.

Obviously, I am not a healthcare professional, and if you have an eating disorder then you need to find someone who is. This post is just something I wanted to share from my own experience, in-case it helps anyone out. Having been through ED I would encourage you to seek help before yours goes any further; you can do this by booking a doctor’s appointment, or by visiting a support website such as B-eat (link at the bottom of the page). Okay, now we can begin… Continue reading

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ED Recovery Update (I think this is no.3?!)

Its been a while since we took a look at this topic. That’s right, as I promised in my review of Brain Over Binge, it is time for a recovery update. And a lot has been going on.

From April through May I did not want to update you ladies and gents at all, because quite honestly it wasn’t going so well. And by not going well I mean that I didn’t manage to go more than 7 days without binging for a whole month. And a typical binge was becoming larger and larger, despite my eating normally during the day. And I had no idea what to do. There were no warning signs before I binged, they just happened in a matter of minutes. And other than the counsellor I was seeing, no-one knew. Because if you’re in a similar situation you will know it is god-damn embarrassing, even though if the situation was reversed I would want my friends/family to tell me what was going on so that I could help. But an eating disorder can feel like you have a logical and an illogical head sometimes, can’t it? Sometimes I wanted someone to ask, because starting that conversation myself always felt much too awkward, though I did try several times. My friends are amazing though, and even if we weren’t directly talking about it, it was nice to be around people I knew had my back, whatever was going on. They didn’t have to know for me to feel better when I was with them, and I know I am incredibly lucky with that.

After the last binge I had, I woke up the next day feeling my body wasn’t even mine anymore. I felt sluggish, puffy, three sizes too big for me, and incredibly down. I found it hard to leave the house that day, and I think that day was the hardest to pick myself up from out of all of the binges I have had, since the start of my teens. If we’re being honest here, I contemplated not getting up and carrying on, and instead just stopping fighting the binging- I could just binge all day and lay in bed. I could just accept I was going to be miserable forever, and give up. I’d been trying for so long I just didn’t have the energy. But if you learn anything through recovery from an eating disorder, its resilience (you learn some other stuff too, perhaps I should write a post on this?). Since that last binge – touch wood- I am on Day 35 of no binges. How come? Well, I became determined to try and go one month without binging- to begin with. I decided I could either give up, or try again and try harder. And so I’ve gone at it hell for leather. The biggest things I did though were these: I decided to genuinely only look at one day at a time, and I would count down 30 days, not up. Counting up the days I hadn’t binged made it feel like the days were going so slowly, and as if I was barely making any progress. I am generally not a patient person when it comes to myself, so it never went that well. Counting down, personally, made me feel better. I just took each day as it came, and made small improvements each day. It went slowly at first, and then suddenly I was at seven days again…and no binge. Then I was two times seven days, and on and on. Continue reading

Book Review: Brain over Binge

From the end of April until the end of May I was struggling with some of the most hard-core binge eating I have ever experienced (I know I owe you all a recovery update soon, because I’m now doing pretty well!). Nothing I was doing was improving my situation, meaning that I was ready to try absolutely anything- including buying this book. I had heard amazing reviews, and reports of people stopping binge eating immediately after having finished it. I was not one of those people. I have some severely mixed feelings on this book, and am still not sure entirely what I think of it, so this could be a long review.

Before buying Brain Over Binge I had a good long browse of the responses from readers on Good Reads and Amazon. They were overwhelmingly positive, but a few stood out to me as swinging the opposite way, claiming that the book was frustrating and disappointing, that the author (Kathryn Hansen) lacks the expert knowledge of the functioning of the brain to make the assumptions she makes, that the style of writing is awful, that the writer tells her story in pointless detail- and that the overwhelming message of the book was insulting to those suffering from binge eating. Because the message was : just don’t binge! Now, I don’t entirely agree with these reviews. I didn’t find the style of writing annoying, I found the details of Hansen’s journey interesting, and it was comforting to know someone had gone through close to the same thing as I was in that moment. I know that the author isn’t a brain scientist, but although her book is mainly theory based it does all make sense. She also does signpost the fact that she is drawing on her own experience and rookie research. I thought she had made links between other addictions and their treatment very well. However, I do have to agree with two things:

  • There wasn’t enough advice on handling the urge to binge, and so stopping (I did some research here: Hansen runs a podcast and has numerous blog posts and YouTube interviews, where she addresses additional questions such as these).
  • The “now you know this you can just stop binging” message did bite me in the arse further down the line.

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Recovery Update: Struggling AND Making Progress?!

Hellooo there everybody! So. I know that a while ago I wrote a post telling you all about fear foods and overcoming the last few bits of my issues with food. Recently I have wanted to write a follow up, and I haven’t really been able to focus on any other posts but this one. Which means I am now writing it for you. Then I can get typing some other things for you as well.

It was very hard for me to admit that mentally I still struggle sometimes- because I genuinely love food, and love moving my body, and try to aim for balance. However, maybe 30-50% of the time I am not where I want to be, and I am not in a very balanced place. But I’m working on it. A lot has happened in the few months since that first post I wrote on the subject of fear foods, and I think that I’ve realised I have more to work on than I thought. So this is my update, which I’ve been planning to do for a long time but didn’t quite have the courage to, and so shall have to bullet pointed because I have way too much to tell you all…

The GOOD Stuff

  • Began attending counselling again, and a support group to help me finally tackle the mental aspects of ED. This has been a HUGE help, and having other people around me who get it, and who can help, is a great comfort.
  • Some fear foods I have tackled: sugar-free flavoured iced coffee, subway sandwiches, foods with refined sugar in them, pizza at a restaurant, a cinnamon bun, enchiladas made at home with some cheese on top (the cheese was the bit I was scared of), home-cooked pasta, hot chocolate, protein bars, food cooked by someone else….
  • Some of the above foods I have since been eating on a regular basis, some of them I discovered I didn’t actually like after having them a few times, or will only be eating very rarely if I truly fancy them because they weren’t as good as I imagined (hot chocolate, cinnamon bun). Some I discovered actually made me feel ill. These foods I made sure to try at least three times to check it was the food, then accepted it just didn’t agree with me (this was the protein bar, which I became scared of due to their still being an “unhealthy health food”. However, I’ve tried a few different brands and found some I do like- such as protein cookies- which I will buy again. Not as a health food, but just as a packaged cookie that I want to eat).
  • I began to try and scale hunger, and spot emotional hunger and eat according to the first. I also began eating what I fancied- well, trying to, things take time- and not trying to choose the “better” option.
  • Disrupted routines have taught me I could be a bit more flexible. Going home for Easter meant working with my family’s schedules too, and not doing my own thing all the time. It’s helped me see that maybe I could move my gym trips around a bit, or wait a bit longer to eat, or eat out sometimes. I won’t lie, these still aren’t things I relish putting into practice, but I know I can do them if I feel the need to.
  • I tried to do a “lean bulk”- it didn’t turn out so well. BUT! I learnt I can eat more than I thought, and that having done so my performance in the gym really went up. This upping portions was something that was still a tiny bit scary until then. As a result of doing so I upped my weights, I had more energy, I wasn’t thinking of food as much (when I began recovering weight-wise these things also happened, and so I took these as a good sign). And then I pushed it a bit too far and decide to stop with actively bulking, as you’ll soon see. I just wasn’t ready for it, and having tried it, I don’t think actively bulking is something I’m even interested in right now.

 

Annnnd the stuff that hasn’t gone so great (but which I now know I need to work on)…

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