I was a little bit hungry. It was, after all, time for my nighttime snack. And so I went downstairs to the kitchen and grab an appropriately sized snack: a protein bar, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and a small apple. I finished my snack and wasn’t quite satisfied… Well, I do have about another hundred calories that I could make up… And so I went to the fridge and grabbed a yogurt.
Okay, I thought, I’m done now, no more food.
I go into my room and start to watch television. None of the programs are entertaining me whatsoever. The only thing I can think about is food. I go back to the kitchen like a robot. My mechanical arms have a mind of their own and I begin to reach for more nut butter, and then get some bread to wash it down, grab another yogurt, hastily open a granola bar from the box on the top shelf… I am past uncomfortably full and yet I eat. By the time I come to terms with what I have just put into my body, my stomach aches and my cheeks are wet with tears.
I go back up to my room and sit on my bed in silence. What just happened? I had binged. It was my first binge. I was terrified. I began to panic. I didn’t think that I needed all that food because I was at a healthy weight. After days of restricting to compensate for my one binge, I binged again. It turned into a vicious cycle: restrict, binge, restrict, binge, restrict. Sometimes I purged, something I did not often do in the past. I told my dietician about my binge cycle and she wasn’t surprised. She told me that when I stopped restricting, I would see a change in how frequently I binged.
This was easier said than done, as I had been restricting for quite some time. I continued the restrict/binge cycle and suddenly I got my period back. I was shocked, because I felt like I’d had not signs that it was coming back at all. Turns out, my extreme hunger was actually a sign that my body needed more calories in order for my period to come back.
I thought that once my period was over, my binging cycles would be over as well. However I still restricted, so in turn my body needed those calories and so I’d feel the need to binge. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just restrict like I used to when I was in the depths of my eating disorder. This brought back so many depressive thoughts I hadn’t had in months. I was ashamed of myself. I tried to talk to my mom about it and tried to ask for help, but long story short, that didn’t work out the way I had wanted. I felt alone, sad, and disgusting.
So I’ll get to the question that most of you are waiting for… How do I stop binging?
I am still working my way out of the deep, dark hole of the binge/restrict cycle. First of all, if you are in the same cycle as I was, I have one vital piece of information to tell you: I cannot stress this enough: You cannot expect to stop binging if you are restricting. I learned this the hard way, and I don’t want any of you to suffer any longer than you need to. One of the most helpful things my dietician has taught me is how to balance out my meals throughout the day. To briefly explain this, I was basically eating three-quarters of my calories after 3:00 PM, with half of those coming from my nighttime snack alone, even though I had been awake since 5:30 AM. I had restricted at breakfast and lunch, and in turn, was binging at night to compensate. Balancing my meals meant that before 1:30 PM (when my day was half over) I should have eaten half of my daily calories already. Makes sense right? I found that this made a world of difference in my appetite at night and significantly helped with binging at night.
Another thing that I found helpful was to drink a lot of water throughout the day. About 75% of people in America are dehydrated. Let that number sink in. I personally hated to drink water because it made me feel “healthy” and just simply didn’t like the taste. I’m still learning to accept that it’s good to feel healthy and to take care of myself. I’m also buying flavoring to enhance my water, and that makes drinking it a lot more enjoyable (I use MiO liquid water enhancer and my favorite flavor is orange). When I’m feeling hungry immediately after a meal, I drink two cups or so of water (about 500 mL) and this usually curves my urge to overeat.
In the moment, it’s nearly impossible to rationalize with your primitive instinct that’s telling you to EAT EAT EAT. If you have already had your 500 mL of water and you have balanced your meals throughout the day and still have the urge to binge, I recommend getting out of the house and taking a walk, going shopping, talking to a friend, sitting in the presence of a loved one, telling somebody how you feel, writing letters to loved ones, etc. Also chewing gum and brushing my teeth also help me to bring myself back down to Earth. These are just things that help me, and I hope they help you as well.
Our bodies are incredibly intelligent, and they don’t need exactly 2,000 calories every day, like the “daily recommended value” tells us on the side of our cereal boxes. Our metabolisms are complex math problems in which so many factors come into play, it’s nearly impossible to get an exact answer. This used to be irrationally unsettling to me, but now I take comfort in knowing that my body is smarter than me when it comes to food and nutrition. Our bodies are doing their one and only job, which is to keep you alive. They do it quite well. So please make sure to take care of your body. It’s the only one you’ll ever get. Love your body and all the wonderful things it does for you.
Update (July 6, 2015): After about a month of fully committing to the balancing my meals, I am happy to say that my binging has dramatically decreased. My binging soon gave way to emotional eating as well as part of the binge/restrict cycles. I was diagnosed with bulimia and my dietician tried to make sure I ate enough during the day so that my blood sugar remained balanced. If this isn’t proof that things do get better, I don’t know what is. I’m not fully recovered yet but never hesitate to contact me and ask for advice!