What I Learned About Binge Eating, and How I Stopped

In the summer of 2010 I thought I could exert all the willpower in the world. I could restrict, could hold back on my deepest food desires. Not to say it was easy; it was difficult, but at least I felt like I could control it.

When I began binge eating, I still wanted the control. 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.

This isn’t to say that I was like a zombie stumbling around the kitchen. I was aware of what was happening. 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 get on with my day. 

Hitting the Books

Being the researcher I am, over the years I tried to figure out where the binge eating came from, why I was suddenly doing it, and of course, how I could stop. It turns out that trying to take fat, protein and carbs out of the diet will leave you feeling very hungry. Seriously, can you believe you can’t function on green veggies alone?

Yeah, I thought I could do it. I have all the discipline in the world, I thought.

Not only did I do my own research, but I also had help from my wonderful eating disorder and sports dietitian, Trina.

For those of you who still suffer from an eating disorder and have not yet sought help, I highly recommend going to a registered dietitian (especially one who helps those with eating disorders). A counselor/therapist helps things move along nicely, too.

Believe me, I thought seeing a dietitian would be a waste of time. After all, hadn’t I learned enough about nutrition over the years to know what I should eat? Wasn’t I Rachael, health-nut guru, seeker of ultimate nutrition?

No. Believe it or not, I had to humbly trudge into the dietitian’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.

Dietitian Wisdom

My dietitian 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 binge eating, I want to shake that poor, scared girl and explain why all of this was happening.

There can be many different reasons for binge eating–emotional issues, 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 partly an emotional response to a knee injury I had developed. However, I wouldn’t have had such an emotional response with food if I had just been eating ENOUGH before then (or simply had a solid relationship with food, like I did in high school). At the time of the injury 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 hungry. And I know it wasn’t hunger, because I felt sick to my stomach as I was eating it.

But the emotional part of binge eating REALLY started when I struggled with anorexia, because by emotionally NOT eating, I ended up bingeing later. Thus I often believe that the PHYSICAL aspect of all of this is one of the biggest problems that many people who struggle with this deny. I had to start addressing why I started restricting in the first place, figure out how to avoid continually doing that to help lessen the bingeing, as well as eat more to recover.

Carbs Craze

In terms of addressing carbs, when I told my dietitian about all the sugary foods I had been bingeing on, she told me I’d need to eat more carbs. This seemed to completely defeat the purpose of me trying to eliminate carbs (I was researching about how taking out carbs supposedly reduced sugar cravings. If you ever read anything like this, it is a LIE).

Over time I decided to try out my dietitian’s suggestion to eat more bread and oatmeal again. I did this, and lo and behold, I found myself barely bingeing on sugary cereal bars and peanut butter or whole jars of jelly anymore.

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. Including protein and fat goes without question also, but carbs were a huge part of my shift away from bingeing.

Crave chocolate? Eat more carbs. Crave a jar of peanut butter? Eat more carbs.

A Summary

1. Recognize your emotions, but don’t neglect thinking about if you ever had a restrictive past. How did this start, and why?

2. Be honest with yourself–did you eat enough throughout the day? I notice that if I have a small or no breakfast at all, I tend to crave sugary things later. Even when I thought I ate a sufficient breakfast and lunch, I began to realize my body just might need MORE food, and that that is okay.

3. Let yourself have a small amount of what you really crave–it’s not about completely eliminating treats! But just make sure that if you feel a binge coming on, that you’ve eaten a proper meal, too. And if you need more of the proper meal, grab it!

For more details on my own experience with bingeing, and how you can break free of it, order your copy of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It here.

6 replies
  1. john
    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
      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
    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
    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
      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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