I do not look back on my binge eating days with fondness. Nothing about that nightmare was remotely fun, yet I didn’t know the first thing about how to stop binge eating. It was a vicious cycle.
Unlike my past substance abuse days where good times were still had and memories were still made, my food addiction was an entirely different animal. An isolated, out of control, obsessive animal.
Binge eating can be lonely, helpless, and depressing – which strangely makes quitting all the more difficult. The behavior surrounding this eating disorder is also widely misunderstood, and it doesn’t help that “normal” eaters tend to give the worst advice.
Although my binge eating days are far behind me, I am sharing my story because this is the stuff I desperately needed to read when I was struggling. Also, the trick I used to overcome my binge eating cycle has gotten me through countless other dark periods in my life since, and remains one of my go-to strategies when I am depressed.
Before I dive into how exactly I got control over my eating disorder, I’ll explain a bit more about my personal experience in the hopes that it can give someone reassurance that they aren’t alone.
The Binge Eating – Self Control Lie
Anyone who knew me between the ages of 16 and 18 could tell you that I was fat. Hell, anyone with eyes during that time period could have told you the same thing.
I was not just chubby, I was FAT. To the outside world, I probably looked like an out of control maniac who never turned down a tasty treat. And while they would have been right to assume I was an out of control manic, the truth is, I was anything but lacking in self control.
In fact, my binge eating years were also the most restrictive eating years of my life. 90% of my eating was meticulously controlled. I counted every single calorie that went into my mouth. Not a morsel slipped passed my lips that didn’t go straight into my food tracker.
So how the hell was I so fat? Well come to find out, when you eat 2 days worth of calories in that last hour of the day, it doesn’t take long to start busting at the seams.
Looking back now, I feel incredibly sad for the girl I was during this time period. She was starving her ass off most of the day, hungry and desperate to lose weight before suddenly losing control at night and derailing all her hard work in minutes. I currently weigh 60 pounds less than I did back then, yet I haven’t come close to the restrictive eating that dominated my life all those years.
I looked like a glutton, but the truth is I was strong-willed and fanatically in control over the food I ate. Well, most of the time. While food had control over my life 24/7, I managed to stay in control of my eating 23 of those 24 hours. That’s right – the only reason I PHYSICALLY got fat could be condensed into a single hour of eating everything in sight.
This is one of the most frustrating assumptions about binge eaters. In reality, binge eaters are often perfectionists, control freaks, and hyper-motivated people. In fact, many people who binge eat also thrive at work and in other areas of their lives thanks to some of the same characteristics that led to binge eating in the first place.
Fat, Depressed, and Over It
When I was in the throes or binge eating, my body no longer felt like it belonged to me. Fat poured out of my clothes and my face was unrecognizable. I was humiliated, disgusted, and depressed. My daily routine consisted of self-hatred and self-abuse – the days of participating fulling in life had long passed me by.
While I wasn’t suicidal, I had officially lost my will to live. You don’t deserve to be happy. You are a disgusting piece of shit. No one will ever like you. I hate you. This was how I spoke to myself near the end of my eating disorder, I had nothing nice left to say.
I was pissed at myself and pissed at the well-meaning advice I would receive from friends and family. “Eat less move more!” “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”
“I already know what to do! I just look fat!” I wanted to scream back.
Because the truth is, I did know how to lose weight. I probably knew more about dieting than most of these people combined, I was just missing the piece inside of my capable of putting it all together.
I felt frustrated and misunderstood. Hell, I didn’t even understand myself! But I knew with 100% certainty that I did not belong in this fat body. This is a mistake, I’m supposed to be thin.
Finding Hope in a Hopeless Situation
While I had NOTHING positive to say to myself during this time, the only thing that gave me hope was knowing, deep in my heart, that I was living in the wrong body. Somehow, this piece of knowledge gave me the fuel I needed to put a stop to my binge eating once and for all.
When you’re depressed, simply getting dressed and groomed for the day can be a huge pain in the ass. I was nowhere close to being in the right state of mind to tackle my weight issues. I could barely keep my life together I was so uncomfortable in my skin not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.
I knew I needed to put a kabosh on the shit talking. I needed to stop being an asshole to myself and try to find something, ANYTHING, within me that could give me the will to overcome my eating disorder once and for all.
So I did the next best thing and starting daydreaming about how future me would look and behave. I became fixated on this vision and it took over my mind.
Future me was beautiful, confident, thin, and effortless. She didn’t obsess about food – she was too busy living her fabulous life to even notice or care that it was there!
Making My Dream a Reality
I was starting to see that there was nothing standing in my way if I truly wanted to become the girl of my dreams. That is, nothing except 60 pounds of fat.
It was time for shit to get real. If I was going to become this ideal version of myself, it was imperative that I ditch this extra weight FAST. And under no circumstance could I even THINK about gaining another ounce.
I hated myself too much to love myself. But now that I had created this fantasy woman in my head, I finally had something positive to work with. I respected and admired the hell out of this girl, and I needed to make this dream a reality if I ever wanted to be happy again. Just do it for her, I’d remind myself. If you binge you’ll only push her further away.
Suddenly, the weight started falling off. The shadow of denial I had cast over my binge eating was beginning to reveal itself as a lie, and there was no ignoring just how detrimental these episodes were to my weight.
I knew full well that I couldn’t just “eat like a regular person.” In fact, it would be a decade before I could even dream about doing that again without trouble. Instead, I knew that in order to succeed at this I would need to give myself rules. Rules that the binge eater inside of me was capable of following.
And that is how I discovered my secret weapon: intermittent fasting.
An Honest Assessment of My Binge Eating
Remember that point earlier about self control? I needed control in my life. I THRIVED when I had structure. When I began looking back at the destructive patterns that dominated my eating disorder, a few enormous red flags became apparent.
There were 3 things I now knew to be true about my eating disorder at this time:
- Things are fine when you don’t eat, and sometimes fine when you eat certain things. But there are some foods that are too risky to touch, because when you do, things are never fine.
- A Rice Crispy Treat has started a binge. A piece of toast has started a binge. A SINGLE Cheez-It cracker has started a binge. But zero food? That alone has never started a binge.
- Thinking and obsessing about food 24/7 has GOTS TO GO. Food needs to be a non-option most of the time if you want to get this under control. Be a control freak about 4 hours of food, not 24.
Point #3 was the biggest eye-opener for me. I knew that I already possessed incredible willpower and restraint, and I was determined to use this to my advantage.
As the poster girl of all-or-nothing behavior, I was a person who’s entire day could be ruined over a single Cheez-It. I needed to get control over the decision to eat the Cheez-It in the first place, because stopping that would be a hell of a lot easier than stopping the binge that would almost certainly come next.
While I’ll detail the specifics about intermittent fasting and how it worked for me later, the point I am trying to make is this: It’s never too late to become the person you were meant to be.
How to Stop Binge Eating When You’re Depressed
No matter how far away the finish line may be, the first step is to evaluate what ISN’T working for you. This honest assessment of your current situation is truly first key to transformation.
Being fat is a total bitch on its own, but being depressed and fat is utterly devastating.
It is CRITICAL to find something – even if it’s just a fantasy in your head – to hold the space for hope while you begin healing yourself.
Depression is truly just a lack of hope. It’s the feeling of disappointment in how things turned out mixed with the helplessness of not knowing what the future holds that stops us from taking the next step towards happiness.
If you don’t have the self-love to make changes for yourself, use the vision of future you as motivation. Allow yourself to be disappointed in how things are now. Allow yourself to see your problems objectively and realistically, and figure out what fantasy “future you” would do instead.
Because once you do that, this vision can and will become your new reality.