Writing this post was pretty humbling for me. I sometimes forget how low my lows were. Although sharing my weakest moments aren’t always comfortable for me, I know I’m helping guide many women towards their own healing. While nobody wants to be reduced to their greatest struggles, mine have become my greatest strengths.
While I was in the heart of my eating disorder, nothing could stop me from binging. at night. Although I woke up each morning dedicated to eating only foods from my “allowed list’, I always ended up binging. In my mind, I always failed. By the end of the day, once the handful of diet pills had worn off, I was ravenous for something more than diet pepsi and fat-free yogurt.
During that time, I had very black-and-white thinking. If I had even one bite of candy, my day was ruined. I had screwed up so I might as well really screw up and eat until I was miserable. I would sob at my weakness and lack of self control. Why did I have to work so much harder than everyone else to be normal around food?
My only relief came in the form of laxatives, syrup of ipecac and chugging epson salt. I remember one night, after numbing my pain with cheese pizza and Kit Kats, I took too much of too many things. I lay on the bathroom floor, in the fetal position sweating and moaning with immeasurable pain. I was sure this was it for me. This is how I was going to die and how my family would find me. I begged to whoever was listening to make the pain stop. I vowed to never do this to myself again. Tomorrow I would better. No more binging. This was it.
The next morning, I popped my diet pills, chugged my black coffee, and that night, I did it all again. The true definition of insanity.
Although I cannot speak for every woman out there, I do know what has helped me in my own recovery. You don’t have to be recovering from an eating disorder to use these awesome tips. I’m sure 90% of Americans could use this guide! I’ve put together a list of tips that will help keep you mindful, present and aware of your own tendencies to binge or eat when you’re not hungry.
This simple acronym is an instant guide to making yourself present around food. I still use it every day! When you feel yourself reaching for that bowl of ice cream or another cookie when you’ve just had 5, tell yourself to H.A.L.T and ask yourself, if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. These emotions are high triggers for binge eating, or any addiction for that matter.
Many times when we are reaching for food that does not honor our higher self, we are looking to feed an unmet need. When we know what we are feeling we can make much better choices. Part of any recovery is learning to pay attention to these inner signals and practice appropriate ways to meet your needs, and resolve issues in a manner that will enhance your ability to make mindful food choices.
Mantras are a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is capable of creating transformation. They are so powerful and a wonderful tool to follow the H.A.L.T acronym. I encourage you to take a few minutes and write a few mantras that you can use when you’re pre/mid binge. Please make sure they are self-compassionate.
Here are a few of mine:
“How am I going to feel tomorrow if I binge?”
“Would _____(pizza, ice cream, cake) really really what I want right now?”
“My body deserves the greatest whole foods and nutrients.”
“I can stop now and walk away with new coping skills.”
Play around with different mantras until you find one that honors you.
One of the reasons my clients are so successful is because I don’t put them on diets. I hate diets because they don’t work long term. Diets are one-dimensional and aim to fix the outside. Sadly, nothing internal is ever tapped into. I was walking proof, for so many years, that being thin does not equate to happiness. Diets pray on the assumption that we’re weak, powerless and completely out of control. They lead us to believe that our bodies are the enemy and we must control them to attain happiness. Our bodies should be our greatest ally so it’s no wonder we have a population of women whose bodies have become the battleground for unresolved emotional issues.
One of the most powerful books I read while in treatment was called Intuitive Eating. It’s directed at helping people stop the food and weight obsession and trust their bodies. You will learn how to honor your hunger and feel your fullness; two principals that were once super foreign to me. It’s a great book to help you ditch the diet mentality too.
Hunger Fullness Scale
A huge component in learning how to manage your hunger and cravings is to know when you’ve had enough. Listen to your body. Hunger is natural human response and many times, when we abuse food, we lose the sense of hunger and fullness.
Use this scale until it’s ingrained in your conscious. I recommend hanging it on your fridge. It really works, but it does take practice; just like anything in life! Remember to be kind and forgiving with yourself too. Think of how many years it took you to get to this point. Change doesn’t happen overnight.
The best time to eat is at level 3 or 4. At this point you are experiencing physical hunger, and your body is telling you that you need food. You still have enough control to make smart choices and control your portion sizes. Don’t wait until you become ravenous. Try to stop when you hit 6 and 7. You should always finish a meal or snack feeling satisfied, not stuffed to the point where you need to unbutton your jeans. (Unless you wear pajama jeans of course.)
Keep A Food/Mood Journal
The food diary is a powerful tool to bring awareness to your eating patterns. This may seem quite time consuming, but so is binging. BAM! Really though, this journal can be a real eye opener. Keep track of your meal/snack intake and your feelings before and after eating. At first it may feel odd or you may not feel any particular way. That’s okay—just write “fine” or “good. After a week or two you’ll be able to start making connections. This food diary process is designed to be fun and informative. Stay free of negative judgments. If negative feelings arise, or if you feel guilty for eating something “bad,” remember that recording this information will help you to see the connection between what you eat and how you feel emotionally and physically.
f you forget to write down a meal, no worries. It’s all good peeps. Just keep writing. I have a great food diary outline/handout I use with my clients. If you’re interested in having it, please feel free to contact me.
Eat Nourishing Foods Throughout The Day
One of the reasons I would binge at night is because my body was starving for nutrients. Contrary to my once-held beliefs, a girl can’t live on diet soda and rice cakes alone. It’s important to nourish your body throughout the day and choose foods that keep your blood sugar stable. Contrary to the commercials, a Snickers bar won’t do the trick. Cutting back on sugar, white flours and processed foods can make a huge difference in your nightly food choices. It may take some extra planning and prep, but trust me, it’s worth it. Fail to prepare and be prepared to fail.
It’s pretty amazing what oxygen can do for the brain. I know I’ve shared this before, but this one minute meditation can do wonders for high stress situations and unwanted anxiety. Deep breathing releases feel-good endorphins throughout the body and can bring you back to the present moment. The good news? It can’t hurt to try.
Eat The Damn Cookie
My health coach friends might kill me for this but I don’t care. Many times when people are trying to “eat good”, they cut out everything “bad” and have this all-or-nothing mindset. This leads to binges, and feelings of failure and deprivation. Instead of eating the whole box of cookies on a Saturday night, why not enjoy a small serving a few times throughout the week? It won’t kill you and you won’t go up a pant size overnight like I once thought.
One of my binge foods was pasta and guess what? I eat it almost every day now. I actually had some for lunch because it’s one of my favorite foods!. When we trust our body’s cues and allow ourselves to feel safe around foods that once controlled us, we take back control and can form a harmonious relationship with our body.
So much easier said than done right? The bottom-line here is that you cannot care for something you don’t love. Love your body. Thank your body. Embrace where you are right now, in this moment. The shape of your body, right now in this moment, is simply a manifestation of your beliefs about life up to this point. Accept that. Stop fighting. Ditch the shame and the deprivation. Make a new choice.
I know this sounds cheesy, but shifting your perception will shift your world. You must believe that it is possible to coexist peacefully with food. Know that this happens by being present and tapping into what you’re really feeling. Know that no feeling will ever destroy you. There really is a whole new world of possibilities when you stop turning to food to numb your emptiness.
Forgiveness is by far the most important of all these steps. As you begin this journey, never forget that two steps forward and one step back is not only normal, but acceptable. It takes great effort to become effortless at anything. The journey doesn’t end until we take our last breath. After three treatment centers, years of counseling and going back to school, I’m still learning. I know the learning and growing will never stop.
There are still days I get frustrated at the fact that I have to work so hard to lead a normal life around food. There are still days when my mind tries to fool me into believing I would be happier if the tag on my pants read size 0. There are still days when I ask God what he was thinking when he gave me two daughters. Thankfully, those days are far and few between. When the thoughts do arise, I have my husband to remind me of how far I’ve come. I am only human and I’ve fought one hell of a battle to get to this point in my life. I know I will never go back to the girl I once was. I know this because I love my body and it’s impossible to consciously harm something that you love and respect so much.