The only other time I've gone this long without binge eating was when I went a whole year between 2009-2010. I'm determined to beat that streak! Over the past few years of losing weight and now maintaining my weight, I've learned quite a bit about my body and my mind--I've learned what causes me to binge, how to know if I'm getting dangerously close to a binge, what reaction my body has to a binge, and ways of stopping and/or preventing a binge.
I don't think I will ever consider myself "cured" of binge eating disorder. I think it's something I'll probably struggle with forever, but I'm getting much better at controlling it. I wanted to share some of what I've learned on my blog, in the hopes that some of it may ring a bell with others who struggle with it, also.
First, here are a couple of posts I've written about binge eating before:
Tips that helped me refrain from binge eating between 2009-2010
A candid post about my history with binge eating
I also want to point out that binge eating is not the same as overeating. Not all overeaters are binge eaters. The main difference between the two is psychological--binge eating happens when you lose all control, and you cannot stop eating. It's usually done in secret, accompanied by feelings of shame and remorse. Overeating is something that many people do on occasion--where you just eat more than normal, and feel full; like Thanksgiving dinner, for example. For a binge eater, however, it's not unusual to consume several thousand calories in a very short time span.
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by (from the proposed DSM-V, due to be released in Spring 2013 (source)):
"Criteria include frequent overeating—at least once a week for three months— combined with lack of control, marked feelings of distress, and are associated with three or more of the following:Over the past six months of staying binge-free, I've most certainly overeaten on occasion--but the difference between that and a binge is that I don't lose control. When I'm at a party, or go out to dinner, or something like that, I may eat more than usual and feel too full; but I don't feel guilty, I don't feel ashamed, and I still maintain control of when I stop eating.
- eating much more rapidly than normal
- eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
- feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward"
I do fight urges to binge pretty frequently, but I've been working though those, and learning quite a bit in the process--which is what I'm hoping may help others, as well. Here are some of those thoughts:
1) I've recognized my binge triggers. There are certain foods that, when in my house, constantly beckon me. I may have good intentions when I buy them, and maybe I'll do okay with them in the house for a little bit, but eventually, I can't get them out of my mind. Those become a problem for me, and I know that I need to get them out of the house.
A few of these things are: Nutella, Biscoff Spread, chocolate chips (except for the mini ones), certain cereals, graham crackers, Teddy Grahams, ice cream and frozen yogurt, marshmallow fluff, and nuts (except for almonds and walnuts). There are more, but those are the biggest triggers.
I've learned that I simply cannot buy those things anymore, because I eventually WILL lose control around them. Other triggers are certain places--my parents' house, the mall, the movie theater, and drug stores are the biggest triggers And certain situations are triggers as well--being home alone at night, having a date night with Jerry, and being on vacation come to mind. Finally, there are moods that may trigger a binge--feeling anxious, stressed (particularly when my kids are fighting and loud), or worried.
As you can see, there are a LOT of triggers; but I've recognized them and acknowledged them, and now I can have a plan for those triggers...
I don't buy my food triggers. I try to avoid going alone to the places that are triggers--if I'm with someone else, I won't binge. I try to have a plan for the situations that cause binge urges--for example, if I'm going to be home alone at night, I try to come up with a project or something I can work on. I can't avoid the moods that cause binge urges, but I've come up with other ways of deal with those moods--which I'll get into below.
2) I've learned to recognize that point where snacking is coming close to transitioning to a binge. This usually happens when I eat a snack, and even though I'm not hungry, I'll go back for another snack. I'm still in control at that point, but after I eat the second snack, I might go back for more. Even though I'm tracking my food, when I start reasoning with myself in my head why it's okay to have yet another snack, I know that I need to stop NOW, before I throw control to the wind. So I've learned that when I keep going back for more and more, even if it's controlled, I need to find something else to do--type a blog post, go for a walk, knit or sew something, clean, whatever--before it turns into a binge.
3) I've learned that when I'm not satisfied with my food, I get binge urges. For example, if I am craving an English muffin with jelly and a bowl of cereal for lunch, I might start reasoning, "Well, you shouldn't have both of those, that's too many carbs" or whatever, and I choose to have eggs and cereal instead of the English muffin. Afterward, I will not feel satisfied at all, and I will go seeking more.
Now, I think about what it is that I really want, and I eat it. Even if it's not balanced, or it's too "whatever" in the eyes of everyone else, I choose what will satisfy ME--because that will stop me from binge eating.
4) Something that helps me to be more satisfied with each meal is that I eat a variety of foods within that meal. Rather than, say, a bowl of pasta with sauce for lunch, I would choose to have soup, AND toast with peanut butter, AND grapes, AND an orange. Having that variety of tastes and textures appeals to my senses more, and makes me feel very satisfied.
5) I eat treats very frequently--but I don't have leftovers. If I want ice cream, I'll go to McDonald's and get a vanilla cone and eat it on the way home. I feel totally happy with it! But if I were to buy ice cream from the grocery store and have a small portion at home, that container of ice cream would start beckoning me constantly until the whole thing was gone. I can't bake a batch of cookies at home, because I will binge on the batch--but I can go to Mrs. Fields and buy a really indulgent cookie and fit it into my plan. Once it's gone, it's gone, and I am satisfied.
I've also found a few treats that I AM okay with keeping in the house, and they don't beckon me. For example, dark chocolate Dove Promises. I eat one of those every single night with a glass of red wine, and I look forward to that all day. But for some reason, they don't beckon me from the pantry, so I'm fine with having them in the house.
6) I quit worrying about what "everyone else" says is the right diet--"don't eat too many carbs", "eat tons of protein", "don't eat processed foods", "eat vegetables with every meal", "don't eat anything with corn syrup", etc, etc, etc. Sure, I would love to eat an "ideal" diet--but that's not realistic for me, and it would surely lead to a binge (as it has dozens of times in the past).
I do what works for ME--I eat the healthy foods that I enjoy, and skip the ones I don't. If certain processed foods help me to stay in control of my binge eating, then I have made peace with eating them (Fiber One bars, for example, help curb a chocolate craving--they're very processed, but I don't care, because they help keep me from binge eating). I know that eating a Fiber One bar is much better than a binge of pizza, ice cream, and Oreos (a common binge for me in the past).
7) I work for my "big" indulgences. I can fit a McD's ice cream cone into my daily diet without problem. But some treats are very caloric, and I have to work for them! So on my long run days, I'll get something that I've really been craving. Lately, it's been a cookie sandwich from Mrs. Fields--it's 23 PointsPlus, which is a LOT to spend on one small item. So when I run 12 miles, I've earned it--and I eat it, savoring every bite, and I don't feel one bit guilty for it.
Sometimes during the week, when I feel a binge urge, I make a mental note that I can have something really indulgent on Friday--my long run day--and it helps me to make it through the week.
8) I've learned that I used to use one little sentence to give up control and binge in the past--and that sentence was, "Just this once, and then I'll get on track for good." I used to tell myself that ALL the time. If I had Nutella in the house, for example, I would say, "I'll just eat it all now and get it out of the house, then I'll never buy it again and I'll get back on track tomorrow."
THAT IS A LIE. I know that now. I've learned that if I try to reason with myself over a food item, then I have to get rid of it, or it will inevitably lead to a binge. That happened to me recently with a jar of Nutella. I thought I could stay in control with it, and have it around. But one day, I found myself taking more and more spoonfuls (counting the PP's, and still maintaining control), and soon I thought, "I should just eat the rest now, and then it will be gone. I won't have to think about it anymore." As soon as I found myself saying those words, I realized that I was dangerously close to a binge. I allowed myself to take one more spoonful, and before I ate that spoonful, I put dish soap in the rest of the jar and threw it away. And I knew that I couldn't buy it again.
9) I eat all of my weekly PointsPlus and all of my activity PointsPlus, which makes Weight Watchers work for ME. If I tried to eat just my target PP every day, I would have quit and binged a long time ago. Having those extra PP gives me leniency to be able to eat treats and things that make eating enjoyable for me.
10) I've built a routine, and having a routine has helped tremendously with staying binge-free. I eat breakfast at around 7:00, lunch at around 11:00, snack at 2 or 3:00, dinner at 4:00, snack at 6 or 7:00 and my wine/chocolate at 8:00. Sometimes, just knowing that I'm going to have my next meal or snack soon helps me to make it through a binge urge. I tell myself, "I just have to make it another hour--what can I do for an hour?" and I might go for a walk, or read blogs, or clean out a closet, or something like that.
I've found that if I stray from my routine too much, I start getting binge urges. For example, if I'm out running errands in the morning and don't get home until 12:30, I'm STARVING for lunch by then. So it's hard not to shovel in food as soon as I get home, and the rest of the day feels "off" for me.
11) I have a go-to snack for when I'm not hungry, but I just feel like snacking. For me, this happens to be grapes. I adore grapes, and they are 0 PointsPlus. I eat them every day, at least once or twice a day. I think having this go-to snack helps me to stay on plan when I'm feeling binge-y.
Wow, I didn't realize this was going to turn into such a long post! Everyone struggling with binge eating obviously needs to find things that work for them, but these things have helped me to get through the past six months of staying binge-free. The longer I go without a binge, the more I learn about myself, and the more confident I get that I can maintain this weight loss!