Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What is BED and my journey battling it

I've been getting increasing questions about binge eating disorder.  A few questions about what exactly it is, and what you're supposed to do about it.  Even a few questions about how *I* deal with it.  First I will introduce Binge eating in it's very dry, clinical description.

From Something fishy:
"Men and Women living with Binge Eating Disorder suffer a combination of symptoms similar to those of Compulsive Overeaters and Bulimia. The sufferer periodically goes on large binges, consuming an unusually large quantity of food in a short period of time (less than 2 hours) uncontrollably, eating until they are uncomfortably full. The weight of each individual is usually characterized as above average or overweight, and sufferers tend to have a more difficult time losing weight and maintaining average healthy weights. Unlike with Bulimia, they do not purge following a Binge episode."

Diagnostic Criteria (From Something Fishy)
The following is considered the "text book" definition of Binge-Eating Disorder (BED) to assist doctors in making a clinical diagnosis... it is in no way representative of what a sufferer feels or experiences in living with the illness. It is important to note that you can still suffer from BED even if one of the below signs is not present. In other words, if you think you have BED, it's dangerous to read the diagnostic criteria and think "I don't have one of the symptoms, so I must not have it".

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
    • Eating, in a discrete period of time (eg, within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances;
    • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (eg, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
  2. The binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following:
    • 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 being embarrassed by how much one is eating
    • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or feeling very guilty after overeating
  3. Marked distress regarding binge eating.
  4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least 2 days a week for 6 months.
  5. The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (eg, purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

Okay, now we know what binge eating disorder is, right?  Well kind of.  Just like hiding the bingeing from others, it's so easy to hide it from yourself.  I had no idea that I was a binge eater.   I thought I was weak and had NO willpower.  I believed it when people said that all I had to do was "stop eating fast food you fatty!"  That's partially true, but how do you obtain continued success? More importantly, how do you not go crazy?!

How do you turn down food you're craving like crazy just because you "know" you should?  What do you eat?!  How do you make the crazy go away?  

I first realized I had a problem when I would be craving fast food SO badly that I would cry because I didn't know what to do.  I was torn between choosing a healthy lifestyle and something that I was utterly addicted to.  

I would put off eating for hours because I would be a wreck.  I would try a million different ways to justify eating KFC or McDonald's and when that didn't work (how do you really justify eating crap?) I would try to convince myself that I would absolutely LOVE eating a healthy meal at home.  I would make promises that tomorrow would be different.  But then I would stop myself and say, "Didn't I make that promise yesterday too?"  

Then I would get so distraught thinking that I had absolutely NO control over my eating habits.  I started getting angry, SO very very angry at the inner binge eater.  I started to hate it.  When I started hating it, is when I started noticing my binge triggers and when I really knew I had to make a change.  I couldn't be controlled by that demon anymore.  

If you've read my story, then you know that last fall I suffered complications due to a poor diet.  It was an extremely scary and traumatizing time and utterly life changing.  My doctored ordered me to a dietitian.  Renee and I met once a week for the first month.  I would bring in two days worth of records and we would review them together.  During this time she would bring up concerns she had in my diet, and I could ask questions.  I would ask her for snack ideas (I love salty snacks rather than sugary ones, so we modified my diet for that, etc), and we tweaked my food plan to my lifestyle.  

After a month she noticed that I wasn't losing weight as planned.  I obviously was bringing her the best two days out of my log book every week.  You could tell that she knows binge eaters well.  She started having me write down absolutely everything and bringing it in to the clinic every week for review.  She would look over every page and she would email me or call me if something seemed out of place and we'd make an appointment ASAP.  

Her checking my food every day was HUGE. There is NO way I could binge eat and get away with it anymore.  I soon started looking at food around me and thinking, "would Renee approve of that?".  Having her check my food logs weekly was such a blessing.  If I went out with friends and they harassed me about what I was eating, or that I wasn't drinking with them I could say, "sorry my dietitian would kill me!"  I finally felt like I had a good reason to stop binge eating.

Logging my food also helped me to find binge triggers.  Especially since she had me write down my moods when I logged my food.  One long weekend I went camping with family and found out that family is a big trigger for me.  I had done everything I could do to be prepared.  I brought my own food and planned yummy meals, I brought my food scale and even my own snacks and condiments!  However they had hamburgers and CHIPS (OMG I LOVE CHIPS) and dip (OMG DIP TOO!) and I lasted about a day before I started circling the kitchen of the trailer.  I would open the cupboard with the chips and then close it.  I contemplated throwing the chips out and telling them I couldn't stand it anymore.  Then one evening while playing cards they where brought out and a free-for-all ensued.  I was equipped for eating well, but I wasn't equipped for this.  Long story short, I ate half a jar of cheese dip and most of a HUGE bag of tostitos.  

When I came home I made an appointment with Renee and cried my eyes out at the appointment.  I had NO control over myself in that situation.  I felt so compelled to eat the chips that I woke up in the night dreaming of them, then I got up and finished the bag while everyone was sleeping.  It was like I HAD to eat them.  I recognized this feeling and told her that I felt like this every time I was with family.  There was such a strong urge to eat that there is no way to rein it in!  

Renee quickly saw the signs of binge eating and emotional eating and asked me to see a counselor right away. Then she recommended something that seemed so drastic.  She told me that I couldn't visit my family.  I could go for a day trip if I wanted, but only with Dan present (to keep me in check and make sure I was okay) and not during meal hours and NOT overnight.  I had to limit visitors too.  Visitors could only come when Dan was home and only during the day and not during meal hours.

Telling family that you can't see them (my mom lives a ways away, so if I go it's overnight) is a tough thing to tell them.  I mean how do you tell family that you can't control how you eat when you're around them? They think that they did something terribly wrong in bringing me up, I mean, how could they think otherwise?  It's hard to tell others that it's about me and not about them or what they might or might not have done in bringing me up.

I also saw a counselor for awhile.  We did eye movement therapy (which you can google if you'd like).  Basically you train your brain to feel a certain way when faced with anxiety around a binge trigger.  She also taught me "grounding" (which I had been doing already, I just didn't know it).  Basically I refused to eat mindlessly.  Whether it was in front of a TV, computer or anywhere else where I could be distracted from my food.  I would sit at the kitchen table and think about every fork full and about how the food tasted.  Was it salty? Was it luxurious? What should I add to the recipe next time?  Then most importantly, I would be thankful.  I would be thankful for the nutrition, for the taste, and for avoiding a binge with a good meal.

After some intense therapy I felt much better.  Calm in fact around food.  Before if I had junk food once, I would crave it for days afterwards.  It was hard to eat even a little morsel of junk without obsessing about it.  Now I can eat a slice of pizza and maybe want more, but I certainly wont obsess about it.  Or I can have a small bag of chips and not feel the need to eat a whole giant bag in one sitting.  I'm satisfied with less now.  It's a complete 180, and it feels amazing.  It's like my brain is *gasp* normal!

Going forward, I'm done seeing Renee and the counselor.  However I can email Renee whenever I need to still and I can always make a counselors appointment if needed.  I still keep a food journal, I still plan meals when I know I'll be faced with triggers, and I still eat at my kitchen table instead of being distracted. 

I'm a lot calmer around my binge eating triggers, but I still need to be cautious.  I will be a binge eater for life, and I need to know my limitations.  I still restrict visiting others and I try to bring Dan along if I think it'll be hard mentally.  I also have made it okay to screw up.  If I want pizza at a work party, then I will.  I will just be smart about it.  I will order a personal pizza that fits in my calorie range.  If I feel the urge to binge then I will drink water and then take time to note how I feel.  That way I know for next time how I felt, and I can find ways to cope with it.

I'm fine with being a binge eater.  It's helped to show me my limitations mentally and emotionally, and more importantly it has shown me that I do indeed have willpower and that I am not worthless.  I just needed to find tools that worked for me.  Reading inspiring pictures, giving myself willpower pep talks, and watching weight loss shows only work while they're in front of you, but changing how you deal with situations is a huge key to long term success.

Battling binge eating disorder is the hardest thing I have ever done.  Harder than running and working out, harder than studying for school, harder than losing weight even.  But seeing what I can do about it, and understanding it (and myself) is the best gift I could have ever given myself and I wouldn't trade my journey for anything, not even KFC. 

**If you think you're suffering from BED then please find help, it's near impossible to battle it alone. Surround yourself with support of family, friends and professionals!**


  1. Thank you for being so honest! I binge at times, but I have learned to never feel bad about it when it happens. No guilt with food.

    1. I agree Lori, there is no sense in beating yourself up over it. :)

  2. I'm so glad you're doing better Daphne! I can't imagine going through all of that but if it brought you to where you are now I guess it's a good thing. :) So proud of you! <3

    1. Yes, I'm much better for my journey no matter how annoying/hard it has been. Not only does it me stronger, but it also helps me relate to others which is equally important!