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.