Falling Into the Deep, Dark Binge…

I’ll admit, posting about my bingeing episodes on this website was embarrassing. Luckily they were far enough in the past that posting about my distant experiences made it a little easier. This might be why I am devoting an entire post to the topic; maybe I want to redeem myself, or maybe it is just the part of my past that I am most upset with and regret. But without going through it and especially without going back to read and analyze my experiences (thumbs up for my awesome journaling skills) I would never have learned more about it to help prevent myself from falling into those binges today.
Thus, I am happy to share what I have learned with you all. I also hope that by explaining bingeing to those who do not deal with eating disorders, you can understand why bingeing occurs. I am in no way a professional in understanding how this works; I simply speak from experience and experimentation.

Why Can’t I Keep Up the “Discipline”?

I hate it when I feel the binge coming on. I hate thinking, “Oh no, not today…please not today.” It’s like I could just tell, could just feel it in my throat, like it was a deep urge to tear down the kitchen in search of any “forbidden” food that would most satisfy my cravings. I used to think I had just lost my “willpower” and “discipline.” That was until I learned more about the body and how after exhausting all that “willpower” and “discipline” to restrict, your body WILL (for the most part) rebel. So surprise surprise, my body was just about fed up with me. It was time for the body to take charge again. Let’s make these cravings torturous and shove “discipline” to the side.
So why was I bingeing all of a sudden? In the summer of 2010 I could exert all the willpower in the world. I could restrict, hold back on my deepest food desires. Not to say it was easy; it was hard, but at least I felt like I could control it. I wanted the control that bad.
So what made me “not want it as bad” the next year?
Oh believe me, I still wanted the control. I still wanted that power; I hungered for it. But there was something about food that suddenly took control over me now. Suddenly I couldn’t tell my body what to do; suddenly my body was taking charge and I felt as if I were held captive to it. Something about my body said hey, I’ve had enough of this; let’s shut your brain off for a bit so we can get what we need.
Not to say I was like a zombie stumbling around the kitchen. Oh, I was aware of what was happening. So I can’t say my mind “forced” me to eat all that sugary junk. But the cravings had never felt so strong, so constant, so life-consuming that I “needed” to get rid of them to function, just to be able to get on with my day. It is difficult to explain unless you have actually experienced it. If you have that perfectionist mentality when it is “all or nothing” and go into “all” for a while (for me, restricting) then you may fall into the “nothing” eventually (bingeing).
I had a talk with my dad recently about the difference between “discipline” and “disorder.” I can understand where the mix-up occurs. I think my answer would be that if you go to one extreme (exerting so much discipline without any wiggle room) then it can turn into a disorder (eating too much after eating too little and having feelings of guilt, anguish, remorse, fear of food, etc where on the other hand one without a disorder may just see it as an occasional indulgence). Who knows if that’s accurate, but that’s the best way I can put the ideas together.

Hitting the Books

So I learned about bingeing. Being the researcher I am, over the years I tried to figure out where the bingeing came from, why I was suddenly doing it, and of course, how I could stop. Well it turns out trying to take fat and carbs out of the diet will leave you feeling very hungry. Seriously, can you believe you can’t function on just green veggies alone? Or at least, you can’t feel full/satisfied.
Yeah, I thought I could do it. I have all the discipline in the world, I thought.
“Umm…hello? Yeah, you’re body here–I count in the equation, too right?”
I figured that out–mostly at the end of the day, when 5-14 miles of running and a lack of sufficient calories caught up with me.
Ouch.
Not only did I do my own research (and as you saw came to one of many conclusions that eating a buttload of fruit would help the bingeing problem and still help me lose weight thanks to 30bananasaday…which, in the end, only made the cravings and bingeing worse), but I had the wonderful, life-altering help from my eating-disorder-sports-related-and-all-that-jazz dietician, Trina Weber (I had to extend the title to emphasize how awesome she is).
Yes, Trina has been fantastic; in fact, for those of you who still suffer from an eating disorder and have not yet sought help, I highly recommend going to a registered Dietician (especially one who is registered for helping those with eating disorders). A counselor/therapist helps things move along nicely, too.
Believe me, I thought seeing a Dietician would be a waste of time. After all, haven’t I learned enough about nutrition over the years to know what I should eat? Aren’t I Rachael, health-nut guru, seeker of ultimate nutrition?
No. Believe it or not, I had to humbly trudge into the dietician’s office and get a swift kick in the butt if I wanted to see improvement in my daily eating. I had to tell myself that yes, I did not know absolutely everything, especially when it came to bingeing and how to eat “right.” After all these years of absorbing different advice from different health-seekers, I felt lost and confused, struggling to find balance again.
It was as if I were a child who reverted back to crawling and had to learn how to walk again.

Dietician Wisdom

Trina was the key to me understanding the terrible cravings I had as well as teaching me how to eat again. Looking back at many of my old posts where I write in despair about the so-called “bingeing” I want to shake that poor, scared girl and explain why she was “bingeing” (i.e., my body was in desperate need for adequate calories either from carbs or fat…both of which I tried to avoid. I actually thought I could stay full off of mere vegetables).
Sure, there can be many different reasons for bingeing–emotional, not eating enough throughout the day or over the period of a few days to months, or not getting in the right macronutrients that your body needs.
For me, bingeing was an emotional response when I had my knee injury. I knew it was emotional because I had cut out certain foods for so long and once I was injured I figured what the heck, I’m just going to eat everything that I would never have let myself eat before. I would shove it into my body even though I wasn’t even hungry; there was something about it that I “had” to have.
The emotional bingeing died down once I could run again, but restricting and not eating enough in general brought on the bingeing. For the most part this bingeing was due to restricting for periods (trying to regain what I had done before–enter, “discipline”) and trying to restrict myself to certain food groups or macronutrients (just fat and protein for a while).
Carbs Craze
After I went in to see my dietician for the first time she saw how I was low in carbs and bingeing on sugary things–sugary peanut butter, Nutri-grain bars (a childhood favorite…ugh), jars of jelly, chocolate bars…
“You are very low in carbs,” she said, looking over what I ate for the day (oh my word…as I type this I’m thinking, I am such a writer, such a storyteller. Why can’t I ever just tell you what happened instead of creating a whole dialogue out of it?).
Low in carbs. Hmm. Well I wanted to be low in carbs. No way was it going to cause me to crave sugary things. That was just stupid. This was exactly why I didn’t want to go see the Dietician. I knew what I was doing!
“What do you eat for your carbs?” she asked.
“Onions…eggplant…berries…”
That was about it. Seriously. I tried to get myself to go low-carb to lose weight; at least, I thought I’d give it a whirl. More info to come when you can read into it later…
Finally, finally after bingeing over and over again, going back to see Trina a few times…I decided to test her hypothesis. And lo and behold?
I started to gain control of the bingeing–for the most part. Sure, I had a ways to go in learning to eat more carbs again, but once I got the hang of it (i.e., finally in the past few months) it has helped immensely.
Crave chocolate? Eat more carbs. Crave Nutri-grain bars? Eat more carbs.
Well, I go for the quick treat, first…just in case that small bite is just enough for what I desire. Then I try to work on other things (i.e., writing in my journal, reading, etc). If I still crave that sugary yumminess (as in, now I want an entire chocolate bar or apple pie), I try to eat WHOLE FOOD carbs like potatoes. But then again I may go for the oatmeal or sprouted-grain Ezekiel bread…basically anything high-carb like that (preferably potatoes but sometimes oatmeal just sounds way better). It may not sound appetizing but usually once I start eating those high-carb whole foods, I find that they do taste good and that yes, maybe I did need more carbs. Maybe I am actually hungry.
Some may argue that I am just bingeing on whole foods now. But I try to eat slowly, mindfully, and listen to my body. No more wolfing down a meal (or a pie, for that matter) and feeling like I want to die afterward. And so far, combatting these cravings this way has kept my weight stable. And it may just be one step in the entire process to regain health and a sense of balance.
So, you feel a binge of the lovely sugary things coming on. What do you do?
EAT MORE FRUIT!
Just kidding; those days are over. More like, JUST GET IN THE DANG CARBS!
So yeah, sort of like the whole 30bananasaday mantra. I mean, you could eat fruit (like I sometimes do) but usually potatoes and/or oatmeal does the trick for me and they fill me up more than fruit does. However, I will grab the occasional apple or orange (I am sick of bananas…).
So, for those of you who are not as familiar with all the high-carb healthy whole foods, I’d say from “best” to “least best” would be potatoes, whole fruit, beans, oatmeal, bread…and I guess I don’t go on from there. Maybe it’s just a bias, but from what I’ve learned over the years that’s usually the order I prefer to follow. However, everyone is different so find your own path!
So yes, the 30bananasaday community had a valid point. If you feel like bingeing, eat the carbs–but not to the point where you stuff yourself and limit the carbs to just fruit. And I want to point out that protein and fat is important (which the 30bad crew stressed were not important at all). But once I feel I have eaten sufficient protein and fat in a meal (I usually make sure to eat those first) then I know I would like more carbs. And usually carbs do the trick when I crave sugar (although fat can be an exception at times…sometimes I’ll go for that instead, usually in the form of an avocado). And of course, if tuna also sounds good when I’m craving chocolate (I know, I’m weird, forgive me! But it happens) then obviously I’ll dig into some of that stinky stuff (hey, it’s delicious when the time calls for it).

We Are Different People

I’m not saying this works for everyone. Sure, it’s still taking in calories, but it’s probably a heck of a lot less calories and guilt than if I were to fall into eating an entire chocolate bar just because I’m low in carbs. And so far I have maintained my weight following these rules rather than gaining (gaining, which was the result of bingeing on sugary stuff). My body also has to go through a period of adjustment and I’m willing to just let things be this way (the same weight) for a while. As I explained in my earlier post, I have to be okay with settling at a weight for a while before I even think about trying to lose weight (if I ever really feel the need to).
I realize bingeing can be a result of other factors–emotional, not eating enough throughout the day (or a few consecutive days), and not eating enough carbs (or fat sometimes!). But so far to keep my weight stable, I have applied the rules of eating more whole-food carbs to avoid the processed sugar craze I used to go through. I also make sure to start the day with breakfast and include lunch so that I am not famished for dinner. I noticed that after going through a phase of trying to only eat dinner, it just led to bingeing.
So, my advice summarized? To avoid bingeing, try these:
1. Recognize your emotions
2. Did you eat breakfast lunch and dinner? Be honest with yourself–did you eat enough throughout the day? I notice that if I have a very tiny or no breakfast at all I tend to crave sugary things later.
3. Let yourself have a small amount of what you really crave.
3. If you crave more, try eating more whole-food carbs (fruit, potatoes, beans, oatmeal, bread, etc). Sometimes we could be low in fat though, too so try eating some healthy fat could help as well.
If you’ve had trouble with bingeing I see this as one step in the right direction. It is not a cure-all but it has helped me. Plus it helps to realize that if I “feel” that binge coming, I know exactly what to do and how to feed my body the right way.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.
This entry was posted in Advice, Binge Eating, Nutrition and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Falling Into the Deep, Dark Binge…

  1. john says:

    Rachael this was one of your best post I have adopted to follow a vegan diet and also eat Ezekiel sprouted grains as a energy and high protein mini-meal (I like the cinnamon raisin the most) I eat lentils brown rice split peas all dried of course and add onions frozen vegetables spinach and a dice bulb of garlic also sometimes mushrooms and whatever else fits in the pot I make it all in one big pot enough to last a week 7 tupper ware bowls I do this on sunday nights and it last for a week with refrigeration. I adopted a vegan diet for moral reasons especially after reading john robbbins diet for a new America. god bless

    • rachael says:

      Thanks for reading, John! Glad you liked the post. Yeah Ezekiel sprouted bread is definitely the bread to choose among all others. :)
      That sounds like a great way to prepare for the week! I actually might post about how I plan out my week for food as well; it helps a lot.

  2. Steph says:

    Hi Rachael,
    I’m really enjoying reading your posts and like what you’ve done with the blog. Since I will be taking the exam to become a Registered Dietitian in 2 months, I’m especially glad that you found the counseling process helpful in relearning how to eat. Can’t wait to hear more!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Rachael,
    I really appreciate this post. I am a marathoner and can really relate to your experiences. That’s great advice that you essentially have to eat to prevent the binges, which seems counter-intuitive but rings true for me too! For me personally, I struggle because my best marathon time (sub-3 hr) happened when I was at my lowest weight. It’s tough not to relate one to the other, but I also don’t know how healthy/sustainable that low weight really is. Like you, I have a tough time saying I have a “disorder” because I seem to eat a lot and I’ve sustained the low weight for a long time without spiraling downward, but I also acknowledge that the way I eat must be disordered in some respects, and that a higher weight would be healthier in a general sense. Anyway, just wanted to thank you and let you know how helpful your posts have been to me. It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one, even if our individual struggles are a bit different!

    • rachael says:

      Thank you for your comment, and thanks for reading!
      The way I know my low weight wasn’t sustainable is that I kept asking myself, “How can I keep this up?” I was at my breaking point. If you can’t stick with something for a lifetime, then you know something might not be right about it. And the lower weight only made me hunger for the weight to keep going down. Luckily raw food stepped in to give me a “way out” when I thought I could eat as much food as I wanted to as long as it was all raw.
      I’m glad you seem to be finding your way, and I’m glad this blog has helped!

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