Ask Rachel: Why Can't I Stop Binge Eating?

Note: In this article I talk about eating disorders and binge eating, this may be triggering for some. This article is not meant to diagnose anyone and Strong Chicks Rock is not an eating disorder recovery program. At the end of the article I provide resources for women who are searching recovery options.

 

 

Every time I write about binge eating I getting an overwhelming amount of responses from women saying “oh my god, me too”.

 

That is why I write.

Binge eating feels isolating. It feels shame filled and dark.

For people who struggle with binge eating, the idea of talking about it seems about as ridiculous as riding a rollercoaster without a harness, but there needs to be a conversation around it so it stops feeling so heavy and dark.

I don’t want you to feel dark and like you’re in secret anymore.

After sharing my other binge eating artifices that were more of my story and less education I got a lot of the same question, "Rachel, why can't I stop? Why am I like this?"

Today we are going to talk about the why, and how to navigate help on your own + where to get help.

 

The Name Of The Game Is Shame

 

 

Binge eating is very different than having a slice too much of pizza and feeling a little uncomfortable in your clothes.

 

Binge eating is secretive and typically planned. It feels like you are on a secret mission that no one knows about and you don’t want to be on it, but you have orders. The orders radiate through every cell in your body saying:

Don’t stop until it’s gone.

Eat it all.

You have space to eat more.

Eat that too.

 

The problem is that you want it to end, but your hands—they won’t stop feeding your mouth.

 

The mission ends and everything feels dark. Stomach stretching and itchy because it’s so full and so bloated, and then the hate thoughts spiral.

 

There is a horrible cycle that goes into binge eating and it looks like this:

 

 

Emotional trigger/difficult feelings—> Binge —> Ashamed of bingeing but feel so shameful that you can’t ask for help —> Feels shameful about feeling shame about binging —> Binged again.

 

 

How Do You break The Cycle?

 

If the name of the game is shame, we need to learn about shame, right?

 

The difference between shame and guilt:

Shame— I AM bad.

You feel YOU are bad and what you did is irreversible.

Guilt— I did something bad

You acknowledge that what you did may have not been great and maybe you feel some regret.

The greatest thing I ever learned about shame was this: Shame thrives in secrecy, and it can’t survive being spoken.

What does this mean?

Binge eating is drenched in shame because it feels embarrassing to say “I can’t stop eating”.

Most people don’t register binge eating as an actual problem, they think it’s a willpower thing. Just so you know, it’s not. It has nothing to do with willpower. When someone is struggling with binge eating, they don’t want to be. No one want’s to feel the way binge eating makes you feel.

I once reached out to a guy I liked when I was suffering hard. I needed help and was too scared to talk to anyone else. I don’t know what compelled me to tell him but I was desperate.

He said ‘so you just can’t stop eating?’. He didn’t understand and I had never felt so embarrassed.

I guess when you say it like that, yes, I just couldn’t stop.

See the issue here?

Brene Brown says that shame needs three things to survive: secrecy, judgement and silence.

We have to invite someone into this secret space, which I know, it seems like the scariest and most intense thing you could ever do, but if we know the that shame thrives in secrecy and we can break the storyline of binging + shame when we open up, well, it’s worth the uncomfortability of talking about it.

 

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.”

 

Brené Brown

 

Breaking Free

 

 

Breaking free from binge eating has many steps and phases, it goes deeper than just the shame, and it goes deeper than what I outline in this blog too. Today though, I want to touch on 3 components.

 

 

  1. When we don’t know how to cope with our feelings, we numb. We numb with things like sex, drugs, alcohol, netflix and food. This is where shame begins. What this tells us is that if we learn how to cope with our emotions, we can stop numbing and using food as our coping mechanism.

  2. When we continue to allow our shame to grow through silence, judgement and secrecy, binge eating feels like a forever home. We can slowly begin to move out of this space by speaking our shame story. For you this could just look like writing what it is shame feels like for you. Journal it out, or write a letter. This could mean reaching out to a friend who you feel like would receive you well, a parent and especially a therapist.These are all beautiful first steps to take to drive out shame. Maybe your first step could just be talking to yourself outloud.

  3. Triggers are everywhere. Social media glorifies eating disorder behaviors and binging like it’s a normal thing. One thing you can do for yourself if you’re struggling with binge eating is to unfollow anyone on social media who promoties things that feel triggering to you. If you’re seeing people celebrating with food after fitness competitions, or anything that doesn’t promote growth and healing for you, a quick ‘unfollow’ is a really powerful step towards healing.

 

 

When you don’t know to process and work through difficult emotions, you numb, when you numb with food it feels shame filled, when you feel more feelings on top of your already hard feelings, you want to numb even more so you binge again.

 

 

You are not alone.

 

 

YOU are not alone.

 

 

I know that what you’re experiencing is heavy and that maybe no one taught you how to cope and work through difficult emotions, so you reached for whatever you could to help you in that moment and it was food.

 

 

Your story doesn’t have to continue like it has.

 

 

You CAN find healing.

 

 

If you are struggling with binge eating, or you know someone who is here are resources for you:

 

 

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA):

 

 

Help Hotline: (800) 931-2237.

 

To chat with someone at NEDA: Click here

For crisis situations, text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line

 

To find a therapist who specializes in working with women on binge eating, or disordered eating habits, you can go to https://www.findatherapist.com.