Food addiction and binge eating support in MA
May 7, 2011 6:12 PM   Subscribe

Looking for help and resources to deal with and possibly overcome a lengthy history food addiction and binge eating, preferably in the Newton, MA area.

Male, mid-30s. Currently 350lbs. I've been a binge eater for much of my life, but now I'm completely out of control and I believe it's to the point where it could be considered self-harm. My weight has been increasing rapidly to the point where it's starting to become difficult to walk, so I've become increasingly sedentary, which exacerbates the guilt of binging, feeding into the food/guilt dependency cycle.

The only time I have ever been in control of my appetite was when I was taking Adderal XR for my ADHD. It was so wonderful to be free of my addiction to food, but eventually, the Adderal caused my horrific and debilitating anxiety, so I had to stop. Within a few days of stopping, the anxiety disappeared, but was quickly and suddenly replaced by the food addiction again.

My life is falling apart because of this and I really need to find some help.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
A place to start might be an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I found two in your city. I have never been to one but that is where I would start.

I am glad you are asking for help and I hope you find something that works. It's never too late. Really.
posted by Glinn at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are in the perfect place to get help for this. Go to MEDA, Inc., it's in Newton. It's Multiservice Eating Disorder Association. They run groups there, which are generally all women, but you can also get a referral from them for a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. It's where I got my therapist, and I love her. Good luck. I will also email you privately. The MEDA website is
posted by Sal and Richard at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's a good sign you're reaching out for help and making the issue about your behavior rather than your weight. You're making the right step in the right direction.

I can't answer your question about help and resources in your area, so forgive me for posting anyway. I've battled with a lifelong food addiction and I want to show you it's possible to break the cycle of addiction. This is basically a "If I can do it, you can do it!" post, which may or may not be helpful to you.

I have a few suggestions based on my own experience you could implement with the counseling and support groups.

First of all, I advise you to get your thyroid checked if you haven't already. ADD and hypothyroidism have similar symptoms. It's possible you were misdiagnosed with ADD. It's also possible you have ADD and hypothyroidism, which would understandably explain why you feel the need to all the time.

Second of all, make small goals like:

Exercise for 1-10 minutes a day or week (whatever works for you).
Focus on the nutritional value of one meal, even if you believe you're going to make bad choices for the rest of the day or overeat.
Eat when you're physically hungry at least once a week.
Don't make the ultimate goal about weight loss, make the goal about being healthy mentally and physically.

I'm 80 lbs overweight last time I checked. I've managed to lose most of my weight unintentionally in the last year by making a goal to intuitively eat rather than diet. I believe the weight loss was made easier by eating two to three servings of egg beaters (protein) with green peppers and red onions for breakfast, which is something I started doing so I didn't have to worry about my thyroid medication binding with, say, the calcium in my cereal. I eventually noticed the more protein I ate and the earlier I ate it, the less I craved refined carbohydrates and sweets. I'm also not as hungry as I used to be, and I rarely eat when I'm not hungry. After all these years I never thought I'd be able to eat like a normal person and not think about food 24/7.

Buying a decent water bottle and having it with me all day has also helped on this journey of mine.

Some time ago I ate a whole box of decadent cookies after dinner. In the past I would have dwelled on it and thus, perpetuated the cycle of guilt and more eating. I've gradually changed my behavior and thinking by letting the binges go when they happen, reminding myself of the other times I didn't binge when I could have, and asking myself why I felt the need to eat a whole box of cookies in the first place. Was I bored? Depressed? Fatigued? Was I worried someone else would eat all the decadent cookies before I got to them? This helps me figure out a solution for the next time there's, for example, a box of decadent cookies in the kitchen. Changing how I feel about a binge and identifying why I binged in the first place usually prevents it from happening again tomorrow.

As for exercising, can you use a recumbent stationary bike at your weight? Recumbent stationary bikes are great for people with back problems and other disabilities.

I hope the other posters gave you the answer you were looking for. Good luck, Anonymous.
posted by Sara Bellum at 8:49 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

*which would understandably explain why you feel the need to eat all the time.
posted by Sara Bellum at 8:51 PM on May 7, 2011

Sara Bellum is right on track - eating large amounts of protein helps. Is there a nutritional program near you that delivers food or does custom diet plans? I found that binge eating urges were greatly reduced when I ate large portions of lean protein and few carbs in the day; unfortunately, that meant by 9 p.m. I'd be craving sugar like WHOA. However, eating a dinner with a mix of carbs and high protein helped a lot.

If you don't feel like exercising, try walking on a treadmill or lifting weights while you watch TV or whatever stuff you do that's inactive at night. Something in your hands or moving your body = distraction when the urge to binge strikes.

Keep NOTHING in your house you would traditionally binge on. Peanut butter, snacks, anything low density and high calorie = triggering.

Do you eat until you're in physical pain? Do you take sick days to get over the sickness you feel after a binge? Think about what pain signals to your body. Think about the damage you're doing to your self-esteem and your digestive tract and metabolism beyond the cycle of addiction - you could end up with crippling reflux, having your gall bladder surgically removed, etc.

Find a reward system that works for you that isn't food-related. For every day you don't binge, write down how awesome that made you feel (online or in a journal) and when you're tempted to binge, re-read those entries. Cry if you have to. Call a sponsor or friend and tell them what you're going trough. OA, as recommended above, is perfect to find a place where you feel normal, supported and accountable.

Here's a link to Overeaters Anonymous telephone-based and online-only meetings every 3 hours in every time zone, I believe. I know what it's like to be shoveling jam and honey into your mouth at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday and thinking, fuck, I can't dress myself or leave the house, how could I possibly get help right now? THIS is how. has a lot of great resources available - don't let the Geocities-style layout scare you away.

And finally, realize that there are much deeper issue driving you to self-harm than simple food addiction. I strongly urge you to look for the emotional triggers related to your food intake, such as low self-esteem, traumatic emotions or memories you don't want to deal with or writing down your thoughts free-form when you start to feel the urge to binge or catch yourself going back for a second, third or 10th helping of something. Food has a chemical effect on the brain; sugar and fat acts as a sedative. Sugar, salt and fat are all addictive, just like ANY drug; if you are a night-binger, perhaps an antidepressant or sleeping pill prescribed and monitored by a medical professional can help you get through that part of breaking the cycle. Trazodone worked great for me in this regard, but it's not for everybody; men tend to react differently than women on this drug, but I'm simply telling you that there are medical treatments that can help you taper off the behavior if meetings, willpower and knowing that you're ready to stop aren't enough.

For me, binging is a lonely process. It's self-harm and shame and gluttony and the ability to de-sexualize my identity, all in one fell swoop. I'm protecting myself from being objectified physically, triggering my pleasure centers while indulging in self-harm, and many times, it was just a matter of making trips to the fridge until I was too full to get up again and I'd finally pass out after fighting insomnia all night. Food is everywhere. It's cheap, acceptable and you have to eat to survive. I highly sympathize with what you're going through - you are not alone. Good luck!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:35 PM on May 9, 2011

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