Help with eating and guilt!
March 7, 2011 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Dealing with cycles of binge eating....more inside

I would love your tips/ insights/ and advice on how to better cope with my binge eating. I know that diets usually don't work, so I have been trying to eat healthy, balanced meals. I exercise 4-5 times a week and about 80% of the time am doing the "right" thing. But then, I fall off the wagon and feel incredible guilty and depressed for about 1 day when I go back to a more healthy routine. I feel so stuck in the cycle and don't know where to turn. I can't tell if the guilt itself is the problem, or if I should be more resolute about stopping my behavior. Anyone been through a similar issue? Thanks for your help!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes I feel like hell and eat nutella from a jar with a spoon while watching stargate atlantis or something on netflix.

I'm only admitting this so you know you're not alone or weird.

I've recently been doing a lot work on my tendency towards perfectionism, which I didn't see for what it was for a loooong time.

When I have a not so good day healthwise, I just try to remind myself that I've made such incredible progress from where I was 5 years ago, heck even 1 year ago, that one night of even nutella from the jar is not going to ruin everything. Unless I do that like every night, which I don't want to do anyways.

Then I go back to the gym and my regular workout and feel better about myself. It's not always easy, but stopping beating myself up so much has gone a long way towards better overall health.

Sometimes it's hard to get back on the wagon, but when I'm more forgiving of myself I find it's a lot easier.
posted by sio42 at 6:03 PM on March 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Why not standardize your "binges"? I put that in quotes because so often, people who eat 1/2 a cookie call it a binge. You could think about watching your carbs/fat/calories very carefully during the week and eat whatever you want on the weekends. Once things are no long forbidden, you might not be so tempted. Think of it as refueling!

Otherwise, I'm a big fan of Lyle McDonald's diet tips.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:08 PM on March 7, 2011

I so relate to what you're saying. In fact, I'm a long-time lurker and signed up for an account just to answer this question. I struggled with binging for a long time (throughout high school, college, and beyond). I stopped dieting and stopped labeling foods as "good" or "bad," and that made the problem 80% better, but I was still binging maybe once every two weeks, and I would feel SO horrible and guilty afterwards. I am a very disciplined person, but as much as I would promise myself I wouldn't do it anymore, I would find myself in front of the refrigerator a week later, mindlessly eating.

A year and a half ago, I resolved to get a grip on my binging. I knew it was bad for my physical health, but even worse for my mental health. I went to Overeaters Anonymous, and I wasn't sure about it at first, but I haven't binged at all for a year. Just wanted to let you know that there's hope. I wasn't capable of stopping on my own, but this is working for me.
posted by LizzyBee at 6:11 PM on March 7, 2011

It really depends what you mean by "binge"; I can't tell if it's relatively normal eating (if not the healthiest) while you're supposed to be on a diet, or if it's genuinely troublesome eating as in an eating disorder.

If the former, then yeah, the guilt is the problem. No one's perfect, and you don't make your diet work in a day. It's about the long haul.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:52 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

i have had an Eating Problem in my life. it comes and goes, but i find this book incredibly helpful when i find myself binging again.
posted by woodvine at 7:10 PM on March 7, 2011

Have you ever tried therapy? I know it's trite, but if you can find a therapist who understands eating disorders (and to be clear, if you're really a binge eater, you have an eating disorder just as much as someone who doesn't eat at all does), you'll be a lot more likely to be able to find a way to make peace with food and with your body and with all of the things in your life that contribute to feeling the way you feel that is making you unhappy. But basically, the problem here is that you feel bad, and if you haven't had success making yourself feel better on your own, the next step is often to ask for help. So I recommend therapy.

If you can't go to therapy or feel hesitant about it, the next thing I would recommend is intuitive eating. There's a self-help book, but you may not even need that, because if you google it, there are a ton of resources on the web. Basically, the idea is that if you can figure out how to listen to it, your body will tell you what it needs. Sometimes, that will be a cheeseburger and sometimes a big salad and sometimes water and sometimes Doritos. But it will balance out over time, and your body will keep you healthy. Nothing is off-limits, and nothing your body asks for is wrong, even if our culture tells you that it's bad or too much. It's basically a way of learning to trust yourself, and if you can find the courage to do that, you'll be just fine.
posted by decathecting at 7:39 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

depends on what you mean by "binge." if you're routinely eating entire quarts of ice cream or whatever a couple times a week, you should probably see a therapist. if you just indulge in some junk/fried food/candy a couple times a week, the above advice to "standardize" your indulgence is a good one.

maybe it would help to set some concrete, objective eating and exercise goals to give you some perspective when you feel like you're going to freak out. give yourself one day of the week (or the weekend) to do whatever you want, as long as you maintain your healthy eating/exercise habits during the week. if you start to gain weight or have other nutrition-related health problems (which seems unlikely unless you are scarfing entire sticks of butter--and if you are, please seek some help, because it's out there) you'll be fine.

for the record, you are doing better than, like, 80% of the western world already.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:50 PM on March 7, 2011

I have two approaches. The first time I lost alot of weight I would allow myself to binge one day a week. It gave me something to look forward to and let me get it out of my system. Next day back to eating well and thats that.

The approach I take now is to just know that occasionally it will happen, recognize it, indulge it, then get over it and get back on track as soon as possible. Even if I screw up more than once, so what, its a marathon not a sprint.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:35 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I exercise 4-5 times a week and about 80% of the time am doing the "right" thing. But then, I fall off the wagon and feel incredible guilty and depressed for about 1 day when I go back to a more healthy routine.

The one trick I've found is to find good binge foods; for example, I keep dark chocolate (80%+) around the house for those times I just need a treat, and I'll chop up some banana and throw it in some hot oil with almonds, a little brown sugar and lemon and toss in a few chunks of dark chocolate when it's done. A spoon of yogurt is great too.

It's most certainly a treat, but it's also got plenty of iron, potassium, fiber, good fat, protein, calcium and a little vitamin C. If you can find a way to "health up" your traditional binge foods (i.e., if it's Kraft Dinner, make it with whole grain pasta, real cheese and toss in some spinach; if it's hamburgers, substitute half the ground beef for mushrooms, onions, garlic and whole grain bread, etc.) you'll be able to cheat on your diet effectively.
posted by dflemingecon at 3:40 AM on March 8, 2011

I don't know if you've seen it, but there's been research recently showing that self-compassion is key to healthy eating.

The nutritionist I talk to says to aim for healthy eating 80% of the time - so you might be on track. But you use the word "binging", which makes me think you feel out of control on that other 20%. I find sitting down and journaling out the emotional eating triggers and thoughts goes a long way to not binging, as does only having my trigger food (ice cream!) outside the house, so I can have a cone, but I can't just keep eating the whole container in the freezer at home.
posted by ldthomps at 5:20 AM on March 8, 2011

I completely understand about the binging. Why is delicious food so delicious? You didn't provide much information about what kind of foods you binge on, or where. If you eat an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies at a go because they were in the pantry, that's one kind of binge. Going out to eat at a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet is another.

Do you notice that you sort of sabotage yourself at the grocery store? Do you buy all healthy things and then a big pack of Oreos telling yourself "oh, I won't eat these all at once, I'll be good". But then you're not. I was just reading another recent diet thread that mentioned how much easier it is to say 'no' at the grocery store than it is at home when all those Oreos are in front of you.

If you binge when you are out with friends, is it because they are all eating a lot and you feel left out? Do they know that you are watching what you eat? Shame is a great motivator, as unhealthy-sounding as it is. It's embarrassing to feel like people are judging you for eating a lot. Even though it's a negative emotion, it's helped me put down the fork at buffets and the like.

If you're binging at home, I have found that a practice from Sex and the City helped so much. In one episode, Miranda can't stop eating some cake. She eats like half of the sheet. She even throws it away at one point but comes back and almost eats it out of the garbage can. She stopped after pouring dishwasher soap on it. That would be the only thing that stopped me - physically destroying the unhealthy food. Salt it, soap it, wet it, and hopefully it will snap you out of it long enough to recognize that you don't actually want to eat an entire bag of Fritos.
posted by amicamentis at 6:12 AM on March 8, 2011

I've used for the past year to track my weight daily and it's been incredibly helpful in keeping me motivated. It shows you how insignificant - in the big picture - your moments of occasional indulgence really are, provided you are in control most of the time.
posted by Dragonness at 8:09 AM on March 8, 2011

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