Facing Fears


     I want to share a personal experience I’ve had recently – which isn’t food related, but which I thought had implications for those with eating disorders. It has to do with overcoming a fear, and since those struggling with bulimia/BED/anorexia/EDNOS often have fears around food or fear giving up their habits, I thought this experience of mine might be helpful to someone in some way.

     For about 5 years, I was afraid of driving on expressways (interstates/freeways… whatever you may call them). I rarely drove on expressways; and by rarely, I mean maybe twice a year. I had no problem riding with someone else driving, but every time I tried to drive myself I became extremely anxious. I found it easier on my nerves just to stick to the surface streets. When I lived in Phoenix, this was not much of a problem, because you can actually get anywhere you need to go in the metro area without ever getting on an expressway – even though it does take longer.

    When we moved seven months ago, I decided it was time to change. Both my mother-in-law and my mom have trouble driving on expressways, and their current problems date back to when they were about my age. Maybe it’s a self-preservation instinct in a young mother to become more fearful of things; but whatever the cause, I didn’t want this fear to stick around and limit my travel options now and in the future. We are lucky enough to live a bit closer to my family now, and I want to be able to pack up and drive 6 hours on the expressway to visit my relatives whenever I have a chance.

     In the 7 months since we moved, I’ve overcome this fear about 85/90 percent. I take expressways nearly every day; I’ve driven on them for 8 hours to get to Tennessee, 6 hours to get to New Orleans and back twice; and I’ve gone through Atlanta rush-hour interstate traffic three times. I now feel I could conquer nearly any driving situation. Although I don’t think I’m ready to drive through Los Angeles during rush hour; I still get a bit nervous passing 18-wheelers; I go way too slow in the rain; and I still feel anxiety going over tall bridges – I feel so much more free.  

     I know it was an irrational fear, although there is obviously real danger in expressway driving. Most people drive on expressways without fear or with minimal nervousness, just as the majority of people eat normally without any (or at least without much) anxiety. This week, I was thinking about the way in which I conquered this problem and its relationship to fears often experienced by those with eating disorders. In my book, I talk about how binge eating is usually ego-dystonic – meaning not in line with what the true self wants; and anorexia/restrictive dieting is often ego-syntonic – meaning in line with what the true self wants. When I was stuck in fear of the expressway, I believed my problem was ego-syntonic. After all, I felt really scared; I thought the fear was not worth addressing because taking surface streets didn’t take that much longer; I believed my kids and I were safer on surface streets. In other words, not taking expressways felt like a desire from my true self.

    However, after thinking this way for years, and after becoming pretty complacent about it – not really having any desire to change; I realized that just like my bulimia, this too had become habit. Maybe it started out as me truly being scared, but each time I avoided an expressway, I cemented the pattern until it became the norm and taking expressways began to seem so foreign. It became something I just didn’t do, and for years, I rarely even entertained the option. It was only when we moved, and visiting family whenever I wanted required hours of interstate driving that I snapped out of my complacency and felt a desire to change. It was then that I realized that what started out as an ego-syntonic drive to avoid my fear had indeed become habit and was now ego-dystonic based on my current goals. 

     All the thoughts I told myself to avoid taking expressways were well-ingrained and had become automatic, just like my urges to binge. Those thoughts discouraging me from expressways certainly weren’t going to stop just because I now wanted to drive on them. Just like with binge eating, I decided to try to get those thoughts to go away with action. I didn’t bother trying to go back and figure out where the fear stemmed from or what else I could change in my life to help make that fear go away. I didn’t even read driving statistics to try to convince myself I would be just as safe on the expressway as on the surface streets. I knew the fear was irrational and had become habit; so I decided I’d simply begin driving on the interstate day after day and hope those fears would subside like the urges to binge did. I had doubts in my mind about whether or not it would work, because I certainly don’t believe that the way I overcame binge eating is the solution to every one of life’s problems.    

     The first few times I entered the on-ramp of an expressway, I felt rather terrified. But, I knew that despite the feelings of fear welling up in me, I could control my motor movements – I could check my mirrors and merge left even if my hands were trembling a little. (I just want to say here that I realize that some people with phobias actually experience a panic reaction that they physically cannot control, and may actually lose control of their motor movements. I am not discounting that or saying that those people need to face their fears head on; my fear was more of an everyday variety – not a panic disorder). I reminded myself that my reactions were automatic, and I tried to detach myself from them, focusing instead on the motor movements I needed to perform to drive the car – something I knew I could control.   

     To my surprise, the fear subsided very quickly.  Within a couple weeks, I was using the less-busy expressways in our city with ease – and with much, much weaker fear reactions.  I began challenging myself by driving longer distances, on busier stretches of interstate, through traffic, and even straight over the Smoky Mountains (well, that wasn’t expressway, but still something I would have NEVER done just a year ago). Yes, there was anxiety, and like I said earlier, there are still driving situations that make me nervous. Nevertheless, I feel like I’ve come a long way in a short time; and taking the interstate feels so normal to me again that I sometimes wonder why I was ever so scared.

     I actually think this experience applies more to giving up restrictive dieting – which binge eaters often struggle with – than it does to giving up the binge eating itself.  A binge eater/bulimic can usually see that she doesn’t truly want to binge, but can sometimes have a hard time believing that she doesn’t want to diet restrictively. In other words, restrictive dieting feels ego-syntonic. The bulimic wants to lose weight or maintain a low weight, so she fears eating normal amounts of food or certain types of food. In order to avoid the anxiety that eating causes, she sticks to strict, low-calorie diet which then becomes the norm, and ends up initiating or exacerbating the urges to binge.         

     To a bulimic who diets restrictively between binges, it can seem scary to sit down at a normal-sized meal. For whatever reason she started dieting in the first place, dieting has become her standard and not dieting doesn’t feel right anymore. It can feel terrifying, and like something she simply should avoid in order to avoid that anxiety and fear of weight gain. But, avoiding it over and over only perpetuates the problem.

     Once a bulimic does have the motivation to eat normally, I think it’s important for her to keep the fear and anxiety in perspective. She needs to know that despite the anxiety response she experiences around food, she can still control her motor movements to pick up the fork and put food in her mouth. This takes a lot of courage initially, probably much more so than me merging onto the interstate the first several times; but it is well worth it. Then, as the act of eating normally is repeated, the more normal it becomes. It can be the same for those who are fearful of giving up binge eating. The more a binge eater can experience the fear of giving up the habit without letting that fear lead them into the wrong actions, the less threatening the fear should become as being binge-free becomes the norm.   

     It’s common for people to think that restrictive dieters/anorexics have an abundance of self-control. The fallacy in this is: what looks like self-control to an outsider is actually far from it. It takes much more courage for an anorexic or restrictive dieter to eat normally in spite of her anxiety and fear, than it does for her to keep restricting. Once the disorder is in place, avoidance of eating for an anorexic takes about as much self-control as binge eating does for a bulimic (and just about as much self-control as it took me to avoid the expressway when I was afraid of it). An anorexic feels driven to restrict in the same way a bulimic feels driven to binge – her restriction is not a sign of willpower. What should be admired, and takes a lot of courage and self-control, is for a restrictive dieter/anorexic to eat despite her fears.   

     Fear is a natural human emotion, and it can’t always be controlled. You can’t tell yourself not to be scared of eating normally and expect the fear to simply subside.  Sometimes letting go of fear can take time and practice. Sometimes – even if you are doing well – situations can catch you off guard, and you can find yourself panicking a little about giving up dieting or binge eating; but if you can remember that you maintain control of your motor movements and focus on that, it can help you keep performing the right actions, regardless of what messages you might be receiving from your brain.  

     There was one time during my re-learning to drive on the expressway when I was caught by surprise. It was on a drive to New Orleans to visit my family about 4 months ago. There is a bridge on Interstate-10 in New Orleans called the High-Rise, which I’ve always been weary of, even if someone else was driving. I drove on it maybe once when I was in college, but avoided it ever since. On this trip, I decided I wanted to avoid the High-Rise because I had all of my kids in the car, and I thought it would be best for me try it for the first time by myself. So, I took the exit just prior to the bridge, and turned on the navigation system on my phone to allow it to find me another route to my parent’s house.

     It found me another route all right – the quickest and most direct one – which was to enter a road that led to an alternate on-ramp, which led right to the top of the bridge and then quickly merged with interstate traffic at the peak. As soon as I realized where the road was taking us and there was no way out, I started to panic a little; I was shaking, terrified. But, I also knew I had to keep control of my motor skills, as I had 3 kids in the backseat depending on me to get them to their grandparents’ house safely. I was caught off guard in a situation I’d never had to handle before, and it wasn’t easy; but because I tried to focus on my motor movements instead of the fear, it was doable. I imagine this is how elite athletes are able to perform in extreme pressure situations– by focusing on what they know they can control (motor movements) instead of their anxiety. 

     I’m not saying learning to drive on the interstate is an extraordinary feat that I accomplished; people in this world have conquered much bigger fears and roadblocks in their lives.  And, I’m also not saying that we should all simply face our fears head on right now.  I’m only sharing this experience to encourage those who may be fearful of giving up restrictive dieting or binge eating that it’s okay to be scared, but that fear can be worked through and overcome. It’s easy to become complacent in avoiding the things that cause our anxiety, and sometimes it takes an external or internal motivator to give us a reason to face our fears; but it’s well worth it to change a habit or challenge yourself to accomplish new things. 

*This post begs an important question:  Why shouldn’t a binge eater be scared of eating normally? Won’t giving up dieting make her gain weight? It can seem like a legitimate fear to many people, just as driving on the expressway seemed like a legitimate fear to me. Yes, it is possible that I could get in a wreck, blow out a tire, be caught in a terrible storm…etc. The more legitimate a fear seems to a person, the less likely she/he is to try to overcome it. I’ve received several questions from readers about how to deal with a need or desire to lose weight during or after recovery, and how to address an ongoing desire to diet. I am not an expert on weight loss or how to accept your body for what it is, but I do have several thoughts on the topic, which I’ll share in my next blog.   

**Update:  It’s been 1 year and 2 months since I posted this, and my anxiety about driving is gone.  I’ve driven on the High-Rise during subsequent trips home at least 6 times, and while I still don’t necessarily ‘like’ it, I don’t even considering taking an alternate route.    

27 thoughts on “Facing Fears

  1. Hi Kathryn. I read your book cover to cover over the past 2 days and I wanted to thank you because I feel so full of hope. I have been to several therapists, read countless self-help books, and tied Zoloft and Lexapro to decrease my binging which I’ve been suffering with for the past 15 years. Last night, I was home alone (2 of my conditioned associations – being alone and nighttime) and tried your strategy. I was able to resist my urge but had a question about reacting without emotion. Although I was telling myself it was just my animal brain talking, I was having difficulty removing all emotion. I continued to feel anxious while attempting to “ignore” the urge. I know your book talks about the importance of reacting without emotion but how do you do that when you’re feeling intense anxiety? Along with this, in order to decrease this anxiety during and after telling myself these thoughts were coming from my lower brain, I tried taking deep breaths which kind of seemed contradictory to what you say about substitution, so I’m not sure if I am implementing your strategy correctly. Maybe I’m overthinking things? Again, I truly, truly appreciate you and the time you took to write this wonderful book. Any suggestions or clarification would be much appreciated.

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you liked the book, and I truly hope you are able to overcome binge eating.

      You ask a good question about reacting without emotion. I do think it can take some practice. I know for me, there were times during the first few weeks when I’d begin to lose the separation between myself and my urges to binge, and feelings of anxiety and intense craving would surface. In those times it took a little more effort to step back and begin observing my own brain instead of relating to it. I think during those times of intense anxiety it may be helpful to do what I did when I was headed up that alternate on-ramp to the High-Rise (explained above): just focus on what you know you can control – your motor movements – even if you feel yourself starting to panic, knowing that the anxiety will subside before long. When I was headed up onto that bridge, you better believe I was taking some deep breaths to try to get through the panic!!

      Like I said in Chapter 26, you can’t always control your emotions, because emotions arise in primitive parts of the brain as well, and are sometimes resistant to rational thought. The feelings of anxiety are actually part of the urge to binge, so experiencing the anxiety with some detachment – knowing it’s neurological junk as well – might help. However, the more you practice separation from the urges, the less those urges will have the power to affect your emotions and make you extremely anxious. In other words, not reacting emotionally isn’t something you can will yourself to do; it’s a natural result of detachment. Does that make sense?

      I don’t think taking deep breaths is contradictory to what I said about substitution. In using substitution, one tries to decipher what negative feelings caused the urge, then substitutes positive activities to cope with those feelings. Let’s say (when I was in therapy), I determined I wanted to binge because I was stressed about a test; then, I might have tried some relaxation techniques to get rid of my anxiety. But, it was naïve to think that alleviating my anxiety about the test was going to make the urge go away – because the stress wasn’t the true cause of my desire to binge, and doing relaxation techniques would never satisfy the urge to binge.

      From what you are saying, it seems like the intense anxiety you experienced was a result of your urge to binge; so taking some deep breaths is not truly substitution. You likely know that taking deep breaths isn’t going to make you stop wanting to binge; you know it’s not a substitute, but instead it’s just something to do if resisting the urge starts to feel rough. Furthermore, like I said in Chapter 40 in the section “Bridge to CBT” – even though I didn’t substitute alternate, healthy behaviors for binge eating – it can be doable and even helpful to some people, provided they have the right perspective surrounding the urges. If they stop attaching meaning to the urges and giving them attention, then they are free to substitute whatever other healthy behavior they want.

      I hope this answers your question.

  2. Thank you very much for your detailed response! It makes a lot of sense and definitely clears things up for me.

  3. Dear Kathryn,

    I would like to tell you how grateful I am to you. You’re book has really helped me understand my 12 year suffering over food and bingeing.

    I have been following your wisdom for almost 2 weeks now and though I can say how brilliant your ideas are, it’s kind of difficult to totally break free of it in a snap.

    I didn’t go to therapy but I have a tons of self-help books about the problem that is why I am kind of stuck in the triggers-binge eating loop. I guess it really does take time to completely break free.. like what you said 6 months to stop any association with dieting among other things.

    I will tell you that I kind of binged today. It was a rainy day here in London and all my plans were thwarted and I became frustrated, bored… and I ate. But I can say not the amount that I used to but less.

    I realised that I have to be aware that my issues are not the reason why I am having the urge to binge. Issues ranging from boredom, anxiety, frustration, etc. My urges to binge are just coming from the fact that my animal brain is pumping out neurological junk- and that’s only what it is. Nothing more. Also I was doing something I think is wrong – I am sort of expecting to lose weight (since I gained 30 lbs over the decade of my bingeing) when I become enlightened. Too much expectation on myself really.

    It really does take a great amount of training to separate and detach the I from the it. I am going to persevere because I know I have stumbled on the cure, after years of searching for it. It’s just that our ‘beautiful’ brains are too complicated.

    I am forever grateful Kathryn. 🙂

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad the book has helped you understand your struggle with binge eating, and I truly hope you are able to put it behind you for good.

      I hope you are not discouraged that you haven’t been able to break free in a snap, because I certainly don’t expect that to be case for everyone. It wasn’t even the case for me in that I binged two more times after reading “Rational Recovery” and deciding to quit.

      Also, as far as knowing that my other issues weren’t the cause, I feel fortunate that I had the experience on Topamax which taught me that lesson first hand. Others may take longer to make the disconnect, and also to realize that whatever secondary benefits they get from binge eating (which can include things like relief from anxiety, boredom, and frustration as you describe) aren’t truly worth it.

      I plan to address the issue of losing weight in my next blog, which I hope to complete by the end of the month. I do think that most people who quit binge eating will lose weight, but expecting it to happen quickly or trying to restrict calories to speed up the process is likely counterproductive. I’ve told others here that even if I would not have lost a single pound after recovery, recovery still would have been 100% worth it. Binge eating brought so much misery to my life, and the weight gain was only a portion of that misery. Sure, it was good to get back to my regular size after recovery, but that was by far not the greatest benefit of recovery. However, I was not overweight (I’m not sure if you are either), and I realize that can be a factor in tempting a person to worry about weight loss. I hope my next post can help some people with this issue.

      Thanks again for your kind comments. I wish you all the best.

  4. Dear Kathryn,

    I just read your book. I am full of hope! Finally!!! After years of therapy, I think I understand why it never worked for me.

    I am looking forward to the weight loss post. I have gained quite some weight due to my binges and I just really want to lose it (without dieting).

    Thanks for everything!

    1. I’m glad the book gave you hope!

      I am so sorry it’s taken me almost a week to get back to you. I hope you are doing well, and I hope you find the weight loss post helpful (I just put it up on the blog last night).

  5. Hi Kathryn,

    I also have been through at least 10-12 years of therapy, self help books, forums etc. and I have never been able to stop my binges. I have been binging for at least 35 years. As soon as I read your book, I knew exactly what you meant and realised that this is exactly the help I’ve been looking for all these years.

    I would also be interested in hearing what you have to say about weight loss. I have about 15 pounds to lose to get back into the normal range, but I don’t really want to focus on that too much. I just want the binging to stop, which I can honestly say it has since I read your book.

    Best wishes!

    1. Thanks for writing (sorry for the delay in responding).

      I’m glad the book resonated with you and you’ve found it helpful in stopping binges. I finished the weight loss post last night; I hope you find it helpful as well. You’ll see that I think you are right in not wanting to focus on weight loss too much right now.

  6. Sorry, I just posted my post below an old blog entry. Here we go again:

    Hello,

    I just started reading your book and I love it. I have so much hope. The only bad thing: Binging got worse. And I know why.

    I have the expectation from your book that it has to be easy to stop in order to do it right. Or lets just say you made it sound like it was really a piece of cake for you. So I feel like “why is it so hard for me to resist these voices in my head”.

    I really hope that I will be able soon to stop it and really practice since I think your approach is the only really good one. Therapy didnt work for me.

    Thanks for such a great book!

    1. I’m glad you like the book, but I am sorry the binge eating got worse.

      I do say in the book that quitting wasn’t completely effortless at first. However, it certainly wasn’t a painful struggle either. It was a bit tricky in the beginning because my lower brain could generate very convincing reasons for binge eating, and I had to get used to viewing those thougths as “not me.”

      I found that if I could separate myself from the thoughts and feelings about binge eating before they turned into powerful cravings, it was much easier; but if the urges became powerful, it required more effort to step back and detach myself. During the times when I found myself starting to relate to my cravings and lose separation between me and my lower brain, I tried to simply to focus on not acting on the urges, even if it wasn’t exactly comfortable.

      For me, the excitement/amazement I felt at finally being able to control my behavior seemed to override any temporary discomfort. Also, I really tried to experience any feelings of discomfort as part of my binge-created brain-wiring problem; those feelings did not truly indicate “my” discomfort, but my lower brain’s.

      Maybe you could try treating those thoughts telling you that “it’s so hard to resist the voices” as neurological junk. You don’t have to disagree with those thoughts, but instead just let them come and go without getting caught up in them and without acting. You might soon find that you stop believing that it’s hard for “you” to quit, but simply that your lower brain is putting up a fight and doesn’t want to give up the habit.

      Any discomfort I had in the beginning while resisting some of the urges passed very quickly. Within a few weeks, it was easy to recognize and resist urges; and within 3-4 months, it didn’t require any effort at all (that’s when it truly became a piece of cake).

      Different ideas are going to work for different people in different ways, and I don’t expect my story to be an instant cure for everyone; but I truly hope you are able to overcome this. Take care.

  7. Hey Kathryn,

    I just started reading your book; I’m about 1/3 through. I love it so far and relate to it on every single level (except I can and often do self-induce vomit). I’ve been mostly bulimic (with spurts of anorexia, orthorexia, binge eating, and normalcy) for the past 14 years. I hear you on the whole therapy bit…it’s so validating that someone has put into plain English what I have felt all along. I can’t wait to finish your book, particularly because for the first time in two weeks, I’ve binged. In fact, I’m in the middle of one now. I recently switched to paleo (two weeks ago, as a matter of fact), in the hopes of stopping my binges and eating “healthier” (whatever that means, and who’s to say this isn’t just another orthorexic cycle). Everything was going fine, until tonight when it occurred to me that I’m tired of eating so much meat. Then, after knowingly overeating on meat, and feeling those familiar signs of “This feels *bingey*” I chose to full-on binge. And certainly not paleo style!

    Perhaps you go into this later on in your book, but I’m curious to know *how* you know that the part of you that wants to binge is most certainly the lower brain speaking. I guess I just don’t feel quite convinced that the real me wants to quit binging.

    You seem so unwaveringly certain (which is a beautiful thing) that the “don’t binge” thoughts are the real you, and the “binge” thoughts are the neurological junk. I believe that for those who have commented on your page and stated that they are still binging – myself included – it’s because we have not fully *believed* in the distinct divide between “Me” and “Lower Brain.” We can’t quite see it. We can logically understand it, but we haven’t really internalized it yet.

    And I am of the opinion that if you truly believe something, it will happen. One day I believed that drinking alcohol was not good for me, and just like that, I stopped. I’d been trying to stop for years. But one day, I *believed* that stopping would really be good. And that day, I quit without fear or struggle.

    Is it possible, therefore, that I don’t fully *believe* that quitting binging is possible or good? Perhaps, like you mention above, I still hold on to a huge fear that if I eat “normally” I will lose control (or the perceived control I pretend to have), gain weight, and become unhealthy. Therefore, I restrict or get orthorexic, and thus the binge urges occur. And which I follow. Or perhaps I don’t fully believe that I actually can control it. Only when I *know* I can control it will I stop. What do you think?

    Sorry for the extra long comment! No worries if you take your time in responding. You are a very busy woman!!

    🙂
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    1. Hi,
      This is a very important topic – thanks for bringing it up. While I could try to respond to you thoroughly here, I think it would make more sense to write a whole blog post about the topic of wanting to quit/how to know that the ‘don’t binge’ thoughts are the real you. Like you mentioned, others have had similar questions/concerns, so they might benefit from a discussion about it as well. Give me about a week to write the post about this. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

    2. I finished the other blog, and hopefully it addresses your questions well enough:

      http://brainoverbinge.blogspot.com/2012/05/do-you-truly-want-to-quit.html

      I do think that knowing/believing you can control it is a big factor, and I actually don’t think this is something that can be arrived at by reason alone. I think knowing that you can control it is something you have to feel and experience, like you did when you quit alcohol. I’m sure well before the day you quit, you knew that it wasn’t good for you, but you didn’t truly internalize that knowledge. I also think sometimes it takes resisting several urges in order to truly and fully feel and experience that control and power to overcome the problem.

    3. Kathryn….I GET IT!!!

      I finished your book, and so I got to the part where you addressed the higher/lower brain functions, and it makes so much sense! I am still looking forward to reading your new blog post about it.

      But you know what struck me the *most* about your book? It was the part about how we can STILL have eating “issues,” STILL want to eat emotionally from time to time, STILL have body image insecurities, STILL have anxieties and triggers, STILL have things in our lives that aren’t perfect, and yet we DON’T have to binge because of it.

      That was huge for me because I had always believed that *any time* I wanted to eat emotionally or *any time* I didn’t like my body, it was a sign of my eating disorder. And if I saw those signs on a daily basis, it meant that my eating disorder was in full force and in control of my life. And if that was the case, then it was impossible to say “no” to an urge to binge because as far as I was concerned, I had an eating disorder every minute of my life, even when I wasn’t binging. So binging was just the bi-product of my eating disordered “self.” When really, as you’ve pointed out so clearly, that’s a lie. Binging is not the bi-product of an eating disordered self, binging IS the eating disorder ITSELF!

      This book has been a total game-changer for me. After 14 years of binging and purging and restricting, I finally feel – on that deeper and internalized level – that I am done. It would seem crazy and ridiculous to go back, particularly knowing that it doesn’t work and that it’s just an old habit.

      The best part is that I know that if I want to eat emotionally, I can, and that eating emotionally is NOT the same as binging. Just yesterday, I was having a really stressful day, and all I wanted to do was to “treat myself” with this supersized Chocolate Rocky Road protein bar. And I did. And it was delicious. And I didn’t eat more. And I didn’t feel guilty. I felt emotionally satisfied. While I did have little urges to eat more, I was aware of them and thought, “Of course I’m having these urges, because this has been my habit. But I’m not going to binge; I don’t want to. I am satisfied. Yum.”

      It. Was. Amazing.
      Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      I am buying another copy of your book and sending it to my sister. I hope it will be as helpful to her as it was for me.

      I want to hug you right now!! 🙂

      Julie

    4. That’s wonderful news! I am so glad the book has been a game-changer for you, and I’m glad to hear the parts about still having other issues helped you a lot. That was a huge realization for me too, and changed the way I perceived so much of my life.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the protein bar as well. It’s a powerful feeling when you realize you can choose to have treats now and then, and it not mean you are disordered or out of control. I went out for some frozen yogurt tonight…yum:-)

      I hope you continue to have success and soon the binge urges are just a distant memory.

  8. Hi Kathryn,
    I downloaded your book from I-books and I find the concept makes sense. What trips me up is two things. First, slowing things down enough to recognize my “animal brain” is taking control, everything just speeds up when my urge to binge takes over. Secondly, from what my dietician has told me is that I can’t diet, dieting and restricting is part of the problem. Even with that knowledge the desire to lose weight is very powerful and I feel like I will never be able to give up that desire which makes this feel like a vicious circle.

    I will keep on working with these concepts in your book. They make a lot of sense to me

    1. Thanks for writing. I do believe that dieting/restricting will perpetuate the binge urges and trying to severely restrict food intake and quit binge eating can be incompatible. However, on the other hand, simply giving up dieting is not a cure because it usually doesn’t take those urges away once the habit of binge eating is in place.

      It’s a difficult thing because how many woman have you met who don’t worry about their weight to some extent? Sure, it doesn’t interfere with their lives to same extent as it does with those with eating disorders; but it’s an issue nonetheless…with so, so many women. To say to an eating-disordered person that the only way she can recover is to stop worrying about her weight and completely abandon the idea of dieting forever can seem unrealistic in today’s world where she sees dieting advertisements everywhere, or when she simply overhears friends/family/people at work or the gym talking about their weight or diets. For example, in my five years of being a mom, I would have a hard time recalling a mom’s group meeting where someone didn’t mention something about weight. Just yesterday I was shocked that one of my friends who has always been very thin posted something on facebook about how she’s trying some supplement and has lost a lot of weight. I know two women who were fit yet had liposuction this year. The weight obsession in this world is crazy sometimes!

      Sorry to ramble a bit, my point here is just to say that you likely can’t expect your weight concerns to go away overnight so that you can recover. I believe you basically have to move forward despite those concerns. I believe you have to wake up each day, and even if you have negative thoughts about your weight or a desire to lose it, you have to eat normally and ignore all urge to binge. And, like I said in the Weight after Recovery blog, you might find that you do lose weight naturally; and if you don’t, then you can find a way to address it in a healthy way, without restricting calories.

      Also, something to think about is: do you think a lot of your desire to diet is a reaction to binge eating? A way to compensate for the extra calories? If you knew with 100 percent certainty that you’d never binge again, would dieting still be a high priority? I ask because after binge eating stops, some people suddenly find dieting unnecessary and counterproductive. So, even though right now you might think that you can never give up dieting, you might change your mind once binge eating stops completely.

    2. Sorry, I didn’t address the first thing you mentioned – slowing things down enough to recognize the lower brain. I think if your urges come on suddenly and if you are having trouble separating from them right away, then simply noticing how your lower brain gets what it wants so quickly can be extremely helpful. Maybe write down all the thoughts and feelings that you hear/feel prior to taking that first bite of a binge. If you know what thoughts and feelings are hooking you, you’ll be more likely to recognize them quickly in the future and avoid acting on them.

  9. Thank you Kathryn, you have written such a great book and I am grateful that I have found it. Despite the two years of therapy I have been through, I never felt like anything clicked or made sense until I found your book. Thank you so much for your replies.

  10. I really like your theory… it makes alot of sense. Smokers trying to quit don’t try and search for the reason why they started smoking to begin with while continuing to smoke. They just quit. Same should be with treatment for bulimia. Just quit! I know easier said than done. By thinking you have a “disease” and trying to find out the reasons why you do what you do you are wasting time… just resist the binges and they will occur less and less..

    1. I’m glad this resonates with you. I definitely think there are many similarities between a smoking addiction and bulimia, and smoking certainly isn’t considered a symptom of an underlying disease/disorder. Even if the smoker has some emotional issues or problems that she thinks drive her to smoke, resolving those issues certainly won’t get rid of all the cigarette cravings. I believe it’s the same with bulimia.

      Thanks for posting your thoughts about this!

  11. Kathryn, girl, I gotta thank you for writing this book. It’s gotten me started on my recovery after 2 unsuccessful years in dialectical behavior/psychotherapy. I keep re-reading sections, and this weekend I’m throwing myself at Trimpey’s AVRT as a supplement. I’m mad at myself because I’ve continued bingeing and feel really dumbstruck by my own behavior. This binge voice, which I struggle to distinguish from a voice that simply wants to overeat (see concern about weight loss below), is always 1.5 steps ahead of me.

    Losing the 40lbs of extra fat that my body is now carrying is a huge concern for me right now and seems to complicate recovery. I count calories and would probably eat around 2,300 calories a day, similar to the level you’ve mentioned, if I didn’t purposely try and keep my calories below a certain level. After using a dietician’s calculator, I feel I should be eating around 1,400-1,600 for my body to reach its normal/low (desired) weight again. I think that if I could identify the overeating and/or binge voice, I would be able to eat that amount. I know you’re against dieting, and I want to mention that I don’t view this as a diet, as I try to eat what I want within reason (although I struggle with large, fluffy, sweet, refined-carb muffins). I’ve had my basal metabolic rate calculated and it’s ~1,475. I feel so embarrassed of my chubby-looking cheeks (they weren’t that way before) and am afraid to see people whom I know when my body carried less fat and/or carried normal weight.

    At least, I’ve begun identifying choices that I make, and feel I’m in an in-between period. That could be my Addictive Voice’s rationale for my keeping on bingeing.. “Just stay here in the in-between bingeing yet feeling comfortable about it.” At least, I’ve begun identifying my A(E)V (addictive eating voice), which I’ve renamed to help me use the word-substitution technique you mentioned in your book as I read Jack Trimpey’s. I also recall that from OA. Bah! Wish I’d found your book months ago.

    I want so deeply to reach your level of freedom and clarity and my A(E)V is like, “Well, you’re not recovering as fast as Kathryn, best to give up and binge!” It looks like other readers may struggle with this and while I admire your instantaneous recovery, am relieved not to feel so alone.

    I have the thought, “There’s no way that my urges to binge will arise and pass away on their own, or ever disappear, so you might as well keep following them and getting the pleasure,” yet have begun to recognize that hopelessness is one of my Addictive Eating Voice’s most powerful tools.

    I throw this all out there in hope of your comments. Congratulations on your growing family and thank you again for writing your book and blog. I consider your work an incredible blessing.

    My highest regards!
    R.C.

    1. You know, it’s so funny- after I left you the above comment I read several additional blog posts and remembered your advice to quit binge eating entirely BEFORE focusing on losing weight, if it’s still necessary at that point. And you’ve said 1,400 is just too low to be reasonable. Girl, you’re prob’ly right again. Luckily I’m also a naturally thin person, and disturbing as it is to think about, 40lbs looks like 20 on my frame. It’s always a relief to look in the mirror and remember that. I guess I should focus on quitting first and maybe emphasizing some paleo foods, a philosophy that I also find very reasonable.

      I may be back to comment again! Thanks again for everything. Wishing you and yours the very best. 🙂 – R.C.

    2. Hi and thanks for writing! I’m glad you found the book helpful, but I’m sorry you are having trouble resisting the urges to binge.

      I do think that actively trying to lose weight while quitting binge eating can be detrimental (as you now know after reading my other post:-)), and I think that trying to restrict calories too low is a common reason why urges can seem too powerful to resist.

      Trying to detach from urges to binge/overeat while starving is almost like trying to detach from labor pains. While I’m sure both are theoretically possible, it’s not likely; and the urges to binge aren’t going to fade until you start giving your body enough food. Of course, giving your body enough food doesn’t magically make those urges go away, but I believe it makes detachment possible.

      I don’t think you have to calorie count to make sure you get enough food; or stress out about always making sure you are eating well. However, I do think that individuals trying to recover need to make an effort to nourish their bodies and stop the calorie restriction (I’d give this advice to anyone, even if they had no history of an eating disorder!).

      I hope you are doing well. Thanks again for your comments. All the best!

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