Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: Binge Eating and Self-Sabotage

Q&A Wednesday: Binge Eating and Self-Sabotage

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: I wanted to know if you could write a blog regarding binge eating and self sabatoge. I’ve recently lost 55 pounds through clean eating vegetarianism(lots of vegan meals too) and exercise. I feel great and love being able to rock all the clothing I’d gotten too big for. However, I started binge eating about a month ago, one- two times a week. My schedule has gotten crazy with two jobs, school, an internship, and a new relationship. My exercise regime has suffered and I’m only working out 4 times per week. I’d worked out six days a week, twice a day previously. I haven’t gained any weight back but I’m terrified that I won’t be able to keep it all together. Any advice/suggestions you could offer would be really appreciated. Thank You.

I think that, first and foremost, it’s important to state the obvious. Accept that you may want to speak to a therapist who specializes in binge eating, eating disorders and stress management. I can tell you a lot about my experiences, but it’s important to find out what works best for us as individuals… and we may need help in that process. It’s not something to discuss with tons of people, and it’s not something that needs to be gone through with anyone other than a person with whom you share your income on a permanent basis. (In short, no, I don’t think your current boo-thang – different from “long term partnerfriend” or “person who owns the other name on my marriage certificate” – should be in on any discussion regarding seeing a therapist.)

The reason why I mention therapy first, is because there might be a bit more to this than simply binge eating. You’re binge eating – a harmful habit, really – twice a week, even… pulling two-a-days several times a week, and you’re terrified about… weight coming back? My love, you may have so much more than that to worry about.

I was, without a doubt, a binge eater. It’s that feeling where I’m fully aware of what I’m doing and how it makes me feel, but I’m so focused on chasing the high I got from the food I was shoveling into my face that my rational self couldn’t win out. You never feel fulfilled – food might fill you, but to fulfill? that’s a tall order – and the food never solves the problem you originally had in the first place, but damn if you don’t feel fantastic while you’re scarfing it down. I completely understand that, and I can always share how I work to live with that each day.

The weird thing about this Q&A question is that, while it could certainly be an issue of binge eating and actual disordered habits, if you’re pulling two-a-days six times a week, it could be something as simple as you’re working out too much.

This is something I came across with training for my first race – but extended workouts, anything lasting longer than about a half hour or so, at a minimum of moderate intensity, is going to trigger your appetite. If you’re working out for an extended period of time twice a day at moderate to high levels of intensity and you’re not eating enough to fuel that activity, then you will feel an uncontrollable urge to scarf down whatever you can get your hands on first. It doesn’t mean you aren’t stressed or even that this isn’t a weird thing… it does mean that it’s very different from using food to cope with stresses in life.

For any person who believes they might be using stress to cope, you would need to [obviously consider therapy but also] invest heavily in finding safe and sensible methods for coping with stress. While I have a few of my favorite suggestions here, and am also a strong advocate of the “10 Minute Plan,” all people are different. If playing piano calms you down, that might need to be an option. Maybe for you, it won’t be piano. It’d be crossword puzzles. Or maybe it’s sudoku. Or it’s something as simple as putting on some slow old school music (I am notorious for hosting “Tony, Toni, Tone Appreciation Day.”) and breathing deeply. Your methods for coping need to be able to bring you down from the height of anxiety, but also leave you more able to think clearly to solve whatever problem is coming your way. And, though “an argument with your spouse” may not present you with the opportunity to go and cut on “Anniversary” and breathe deeply for five minutes, I can speak from experience that learning how to manage your stress in other situations helps you perform better in the heat of the moment. Trust me.

On the exercise and nutrition point, you can’t really pull even moderately intense two-a-days and not eat. Your body will make you eat. In ways that are unflattering. (Again, trust me: After an awful 8-mile run, I poured a giant chunk of a bag of popcorn down my throat once. I just couldn’t eat it fast enough.) You have to eat to fuel the activity… and that might contribute to any plateau that you experience – you mentioned that you haven’t gained, but you didn’t say you were “losing” either. If you don’t want to eat to fuel the activity, then you need to stop being so active. Take it down a notch. One good, quality workout a day should do it. Because I don’t know the specifics of your goal, I can’t get much further into it than that.

Realistically speaking, I always suggest seeing a therapist in these cases just so that you can figure out what’s really going on, but I just wanted to be clear that there are two options here, and both are worth exploring at the same time. Take the working out down a notch, try to eat normally (whatever “normal” may entail for you, and it may require some exploring for you to figure that out), and give yourself some space to find out if you’re truly binge eating because of stress or if it’s something else… in which case, start exploring healthier coping mechanisms. At any rate, taking all of these head on can only result in a healthier and happier you, and your body will thank you for it in the end.


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kami November 14, 2012 - 12:47 PM

A therapist is certainly important in this situation but to make sure she picks the right therapists that has experience with different types of binge eaters and works well with students. I recommend a stress relieving exercise such as bikram yoga, tai chi or hot pilates that helps me it burns calories but it gives you time to think at the end of class. For me personally when i do a hiit boxing or rowing for an 75 minutes it makes me want to eat extra calories and add stress to my joints. Eventually getting the help will lead to a more balanced lifestyle.

Grace @ Grace Dishes November 14, 2012 - 1:08 PM

I love your advice. This will help a lot of people including myself.

I find when I restrict myself too much, I end up binge eating.

Curvy CEO November 14, 2012 - 2:39 PM

Hmmm….sounds like this reader is suffering from a case of black-or-white, all-or-nothing thinking….”Either I am gonna workout two hours a day and smash those calories or I am going to eat ALL the cookies and chips my body can hold.” I have this tendency when it comes to everything – food, work, sleep, shopping….I agree that a good therapist can help get to the root of this thinking so that she can start to lie comfortably in those grey areas. It is a tough mindset to overcome because, in many instances, it has helped you be successful (“I’m gonna stay up ALL night every night this week working on this paper/studying for this test….”). I struggle with this quite a bit.

KeKe November 14, 2012 - 3:11 PM

Thanks for the post. Although I am not binge eating, over the past few days my apatite has increased. I started doing a workout over a week ago and I was trying to keep my 1200 calorie daily goal. Well as you could imagine I have wolf down everything healthy in my kitchen. I know the meal plans recommend that you stick to a 1400 to 1500 calorie goal, I assumed I could do well with my 1200 goal….NOT! This post made me realize that since I have increase my workout regimen, I now have to increase me eating to go along with that. Now, I do not feel so bad about eating more…I’m kind of relieved. I self sabotage my efforts so often {indulging in chocolate, chips, and soda}; I was scared to eat…lol! You live and you learn. Thanks!

Sonali November 15, 2012 - 7:20 AM

Hey girl, I’ve meaning to write for a while now and this post has motivated me to just get down to it. I could not have discovered your blog at a better time in my life. I’ve been through some pretty big life changes in the last two years, moving overseas on my own, leaving an abusive relationship, seeking therapy and treatment for depression and just learning to be content and happy each day. My weight has been an issue for me for about 15 years now (I just turned 26) and I’ve spent years and years loathing myself and feeling disgusted with my appearance, yo-yo dieting, exercising like crazy for short bursts of time and then going into a funk because I didn’t lose all the weight in a second…the biggest shift has been the death of my beloved grandmother 2 months ago, and its been such a shock in so many ways…but one of the lessons I have learnt is I need to take care of myself. I don’t want to take pills for high blood pressure, I don’t want to be diabetic, I don’t want to be on medication for things I can prevent by taking care of myself and loving myself. Finding your blog at that juncture has been a miracle because reading what you have to say has just reinforced what I was feeling anyway, and has equipped me with the tools I need to do just that. I have also been in therapy for a few months now for my mental health, and I am thrilled to say I am weaning myself off anti-depressants (I’ve been on them quite a while now), I’m no longer on strong medication for the terrible acne that had plagued me for years and years (my skin is clearer than ever before), and I am eating the healthiest I have in my life, have loads of energy and am constantly cheerful and find it so much easier to cope with things that seemed impossible to me previously! What has resonated with me the most from your blog is the post you wrote on guilt and shame…what a terrible way to live and feel about yourself eh? I am now kind to myself, and treat myself the way I treat say, my sister or other loved ones. That has made is so much easier for me to stay on my path to fitness…and I have already lost about 3 kgs in 3 weeks! 🙂 I am not focussed on “being thin” or “looking hot” but on healing myself and being healthy and it makes so much sense doing it this way. Thank you for everything, you rock!!

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