Recovery from an ED is something different for each person. I remember earlier on reading some other recovery blogs and wondering what was wrong with me, because I didn’t go through the same things that those writers did. For instance some of them would complain about a lack of appetite – while I seemed constantly ravenously hungry. I felt I must be going something wrong, and I will admit feeling almost a little guilty at times.
The truth about recovery is that it’s not a “one size fits all” 1-2-3 process that everyone goes through. If it was, I’d dare say things might be a whole lot simple. Instead each and every individual has to find their way out of the deep, dark pit that eating disorders are. And although hearing about other’s experiences can provide valuable insight and helpful tips, it’s not something you should rely on 100% to get you to where you need to go. So please take this post with a grain of salt, because I’m not a medical professional of any kind and I don’t pretend to be. I just want o share my experiences and what has helped me in hopes that someone else can benefit as well.
One thing that I think all people recovering from ED’s experience or have experienced at least once is the urge to overeat (or binge as some people call it). This can be from physical causes – such as eating too little or not getting the right balance of nutrients from the foods we do eat, or emotional reasons – being upset, depressed, sad etc. Sometimes it’s caused by the fact that we deprive our bodies of food for so long, that when we finally allow ourselves to eat we just want to “make up for lost time” and eat all our old favorites.
Whatever the cause is, I think it’s worth noting that EVERYONE overeats from time to time, for similar reasons we do. Some people do so even knowingly – because the food tastes just too good. And guess what, it’s ok! Not to say that making a habit out of it is necessarily recommended, but it’s part of eating normally. Most people don’t make a big deal out of it, they feel stuffed and uncomfortable for a bit and then get over it and move on. But those of us who have suffered from ED’s are usually extra sensitive to this sort of thing, and what might not be such a big deal to other people can be VERY difficult for us.
So although overeating is normal part of life, it isn’t necessarily a pleasant one, and I think it’s safe to say that we would like to avoid it as much as possible. Especially since the mental repercussions of these episodes are usually much hader to go through then just the physical feelings of discomfort. I’ve personally experienced the urge to binge and have overeaten more then once during the course of my recovery journey, but what I’ve fought to do is take those experiences – however unpleasant they might be and learn from them. And here’s some tips on what has helped and helps me avoid these kinds of situations:
– Eat slower. I know this is sort of obvious, but when you’re VERY hungry often it’s easy to inhale your food and keep eating – because the feeling of fullness hasn’t hit you yet. Generally I try to force myself to sit down – even if I have a very limited amount of time, and focus on chewing and tasting the food I’m eating. Having a hot drink to sip while I do so (such as tea) not only helps my digestion, but also helps my body to register weather I’m actually still hungry after eating or not.
– Don’t go too long without eating. This kind of ties into the first point. 80% of the times I’ve overeaten is when I’ve gone over 3 hours without eating. By then I am so ravenous that I can’t seem to stop eating once I start, which is a very scary feeling. Although it sometimes feels weird to have to eat every 2 hours (like today) I prefer that to the discomfort of overeating and feeling like I’m about to burst.
– If I’m feeling bingy (be it from physical or emotional reasons) I allow myself the foods I want, but not all at once. If I’m craving chocolate like crazy instead of eating the whole bar I eat a few pieces. Then I make an inner “deal” with myself that if I’m still craving it 2 hour later, I’ll eat more as a snack. If the craving goes away – it was usually caused by emotional reasons. If it stays with me, I figure my body needs what it’s craving and I go for it. If it’s something not particularly healthy I’m craving – such as chocolate or candy – if I’m making it into a meal I try to pair it with something healthy, so I get some nutrients in there.
– Another thing that helps me to control binge urges is to get out of the environment where I’m likely to overeat. Sometimes sitting in a kitchen full of food while eating a meal (particularly if I’ve been restricting or not eating enough of the right foods) is overwhelming for me – so I go somewhere else. In times like these I try to eat around people, and if that isn’t possible I “pack” my food and go somewhere else – outside for a picnic, to work (if it’s right before my shift). Then food isn’t as convenient, so generally any unhealthy urges fade.
– Eat enough protein and fats. When I restrict or eat a lot of carbs I find I am perpetually hungry and by the end of the day it’s easy to just keep eating, even if I’m actually full.
– Plan ahead. Most of the times I’ve overeaten is when I’m really hungry and can’t decide what to eat. I go through the cupboards and have a bite of this, a slice of that, a bit of this and that because I can’t decide what I want. By the end I feel overstuffed, uncomfortable and not satiated the same way I would have if I had actually served myself a full portion (or smaller portions of a few things) on a plate. So it’s helpful to have a general idea of what to eat for meals, to avoid the pre-meal panic.
– Trust your body to know what you need. Today I ate loads of nut butter, nuts, cheese and all sorts of “fatty foods”. But guess what – it’s what I was craving and now I feel satiated. I also found I had to eat every 2 hours, even after a full meal. But that’s ok, because I know I need the extra nutrients. It’s when I try to fight off my cravings and have the “perfect diet” by my mind’s standards is when things can get off balance. Since tracking my food a bit more I’ve come to realize that a day I’ve eaten a lot of grains will usually be followed with a day full of protein. Or if I eat a bunch of fruit one day, I won’t feel like eating as many the next day. And this is not something that I plans – it’s just a result of me listening to my body.
(A lot of people might criticize me for this post since “if I’m underweight anyways, I shouldn’t care about how much I eat”. But I would have to politely disagree with those people. There’s a difference in how you feel – both physically and emotionally, eating the same amount of food spread out over a 4 mini meals then in one big meal. And although I don’t consider overeating to to be the end of the world – if I can eat the same amount of food in an environment where I can savor and enjoy it, I’d much rather choose that option.)
Do you have any thoughts on the matter? Have you ever struggled with overeating? How did/do you manage to get it under control?
Any tips to add?