The following is a list of common questions I received from women/men who read my first book, Brain over Binge. All of these questions and more are now thoroughly covered in my new book, The Brain over Binge Recovery Guide (I will keep the brief answers here for those who have not read the second book).
I have grouped the questions into 3 categories: 1.) Dismissing Binge Urges 2.) Eating/Weight, and 3.) More Help
DISMISSING BINGE URGES
- I want to quit binge eating, but I’m finding it difficult to dismiss binge urges.
You can see my blog posts Tips for Beginners, and Tips for Beginners…Continued (Inspirational Testimony), which both give additional advice to people who are finding it difficult to stop acting on their urges to binge.
- I didn’t binge for a few days/week/month after reading the book, but then I started again.
The first thing to do is to realize you haven’t failed, and you certainly don’t have to “start over.” Some people recover right away, and for some people, learning to detach from binge urges is a gradual process. I binged 2 more times after implementing the methods I describe in my books, but I didn’t take those 2 binges as evidence that I was out of control again. I used the binges as opportunities to figure out how my lower brain got the better of me. Don’t think of a binge as a catastrophic event; instead think that you simply didn’t detach from your binge urge, and you temporarily believed your lower brain. Try to determine the point when you stopped experiencing your urges as a detached observer, so that you can be better prepared next time.
- How do I maintain motivation/progress?
Here are a couple of tips if you are having trouble keeping your initial progress going:
– Practice situations that typically trigger binge urges. Try thinking about the situation when you are not in it, and tell yourself the faulty “reasons” that you should binge. Then, practice detaching from those thoughts. You don’t have to disagree with the thoughts or try to convince yourself that not binge eating is the better option—just let those destructive thoughts flow through you without giving them any power. Then, when you hear those same messages in the actual situation, you will be better prepared.
–Focus on other aspects of your life. Without binge eating, you have the wonderful opportunity to do other things! Although doing other things won’t magically take your urges away, focusing attention elsewhere can actually help the faulty brain pathways change faster. Try to get on with your life (with all its ups and downs) as if binge eating is no longer a part of it; and soon, the urges won’t be part of your life either.
- I fear giving up binge eating.
I’ve heard this concern from several people, and while I understand the feelings behind it; I think if you think about your life and what you want it to be, you’ll find that you fear continuing to binge much more than you fear giving it up. The lower brain—on the other hand—sends messages telling you that you “can’t live without binge eating,” and that life without it would be “scary.” This is neurological junk that you will need to learn to disregard. I’ve written 2 blog posts about fearing quitting: Getting Past the Fear of Quitting, and Facing Fears.
- I feel like “I” want to binge. I do not feel separate from my lower brain.
Please see my blog post Do You Truly Want to Quit? for advice on this issue.
- My urges feel too powerful to dismiss
An important thing to remember is that no matter how much you want to quit or how well you separate yourself from the urges; at first, there may be times when binge eating seems very appealing. I think it’s important to accept that, and realize that there may be a few minutes, an hour, or maybe even a day or two here and there when you indeed feel deprived. The good news is that it’s not really you that’s deprived; you are depriving your well-conditioned lower brain and a life-draining habit, and you are getting stronger with each conquered urge.
During those times when it feels like your urges are too powerful to resist, and you seem to lose the ability to listen as a neutral observer, I think the best course of action is to focus only on what you can control—your motor movements. Look at your hands, and tell yourself that nothing can make them move to pick up food. Some people find it helpful to do something else with their hands, just to prove to themselves that they have complete control of their voluntary muscles, regardless of the messages the lower brain is sending. You can’t always control your emotions or your body’s physical reaction to the binge urge, but you can control what you do. Remember that any discomfort while dismissing urges is only temporary, and once it passes, you’ll be so glad you rode it out.
- How long does it take for the urges to go away?
Everyone’s experience is different, but for me it took about 9 months for all remnants of my binge urges to go away. That does not mean I struggled with strong urges for 9 months; because after a few months it became completely effortless not to binge. Automatic thoughts/feelings would still pop up from time to time, very infrequently; and it simply became a matter of refusing to give those thoughts any attention or consideration whatsoever.
Even after the first few weeks of being binge-free, I noticed a significant reduction in the intensity and frequency of urges. The urges gradually diminished over time, although it didn’t always seem like a linear process. Some days during the first several weeks, the urges wouldn’t arise much at all; but other days I would have more persistent urges.
- I’m having trouble determining what is a binge and what is not.
To be successful, I truly believe you can’t think that the choices are either to 1.) eat perfectly or 2.)binge. I don’t think it’s useful to view your lower brain as your “unhealthy eating” brain, and your higher brain as your “healthy/clean eating/perfect” brain. You cannot equate all food cravings with binge urges, because you’ll put yourself in a situation where you believe that following a desire for an extra serving, or choosing to have a dessert or some unhealthy food means that you’ve already followed your lower brain and you are a failure. Brain over Binge is not a diet! Having less than healthy foods, following some cravings in moderation, and even eating a bit more than usual doesn’t mean you are then destined to binge.
- I feel like my case is different (I have a coexisting problem(s) that prevents me from quitting)
- I don’t know how to eat normally.
Learning how to eat normally after binge eating stops is a challenge for many, and some people feel it’s necessary to use meal plans and/or consult a nutritionist when they first stop binge eating. Eating is highly individual, and there is no one “right” way that works for everyone.
That being said, I can give you a few things to think about in relation to eating normally. First and foremost, it’s vital to eat enough and don’t diet restrictively. By ‘don’t diet,’ I don’t mean you can’t try to eat healthy. When I recovered, I tried, and I still try to eat relatively healthy—although I certainly don’t always eat healthy and I definitely allow myself to have all types of food in moderation. I think as long as you aren’t putting severe limits on what you eat or denying yourself a sufficient number of calories, you are on the right track.
You do not need to strive for perfection at this time. I do value eating well, but I think when I first quit binge eating it was very helpful to have a relaxed attitude about my eating, and not to put pressure on myself to eat exactly right.
The following blog post might be a good place to start in thinking about how to eat normally: Enjoy Your Food
- How much should I eat?
The following blog post addresses food quantity: How Much Should I Eat?
- What if I need to lose weight?
For all weight-related questions, please see the following blog post: Weight After Recovery
- I want to give up dieting; can I still focus on eating healthy?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with being passionate about eating well, or making positive changes in the quality of foods you eat. I don’t think changing eating habits to make them healthier and more nourishing is “dieting,” provided you are not denying your body needed calories/nutrition, or being overly rigid/restrictive. However, when it becomes a stressful obsession that takes over too much of your life, then it’s not good for you.
I think when people are truly focused on becoming healthier, then it’s not about trying to lose X number of pounds, staying under a certain number of calories per day, or fitting into a particular size jeans. Truly focusing on health means making an effort to nourish your body well so that you feel better, gain energy for living, and prevent disease. And, usually, if you focus on nourishing your body well, your weight will simply take care of itself.
- I want to or need to give up certain foods for health reasons
- I’m not sure when I’m hungry or full.
When I first quit binge eating, I didn’t rely purely on my hunger/fullness signals. I had to eat based on what I believed to be a normal diet, and then my hunger/fullness fell in line–and surprisingly, this happened very quickly! Since binge eating does alter hunger/satiety mechanisms in the body/brain, when you are newly recovered, you may sometimes question whether you are truly hungry or not. When in doubt, I personally erred on the side of eating something when I felt what seemed like true hunger; because I think it was important to let my body know I wasn’t going to starve it anymore.
If I felt hungry when I thought I “shouldn’t” be based on when I last ate, I’d often set a mental limit before eating (for example, I’d decide I was going to have a sandwich, or a container of yogurt, or a banana…etc, based on how hungry I felt). Then, if I still felt unsatisfied afterward and felt an urge to binge creeping in, that’s what I labeled the neurological junk (not the original questionable hunger signal). I knew when I followed questionable hunger signals, my lower brain might try to use that to get what it wanted – a binge – so I was well aware that urges would likely arise and I was prepared for them.
It didn’t take long before I stopped needing to set a mental limits, because I could easily trust my hunger/fullness; and the idea of eating beyond the feeling of fullness was no longer appealing. This doesn’t mean I never have an extra serving of something; or indulge in a delicious dessert after I’m full from a meal. Likewise, I am sometimes too busy or in a situation where I can’t eat until a while after I feel hunger. Hunger and fullness are definitely the primary cues for eating, but don’t expect yourself to follow those cues 100 percent of the time.
- Should I detox? (What do you think about ‘clean’ eating?)
For a discussion of detoxing and clean eating, please see my blog post Thoughts on Detoxing.
- I have stopped binge eating, but I’m still overeating / eating more than I think I should.
- I stopped binge eating, but I still have cravings.
Please see my blog post titled Non-Hungry Cravings for a discussion of this.
- Should I avoid alcohol while I try to quit binge eating?
Please see the following blog post: Should I Drink Alcohol While Trying to Quit Binge Eating?
- How much should I exercise?
At the time I recovered, I exercised about 5-6 times a week for 20-30 min, and even now, that’s approximately my routine. I don’t think exercising more or less than that is a problem, and like eating, it’s highly individual. When I first stopping binge eating, I was so burned out on exercising after spending years working out for hours and hours to “purge” that I didn’t want to devote much time to it anymore. I think any enjoyable exercise that helps you feel strong and healthy is a good choice. Remember that whatever exercise routine you choose, it’s vital that you eat enough to support your activity level.
- I am obsessed with food and weight.
Dieting/weight/food obsessions can be difficult for some people to deal with. Even if you stop binge eating, it’s possible for some of those issues to remain. Sadly, so many women (and men) struggle with this, and it’s rare to find a woman who doesn’t want to change something about her body. I am not trying to say that weight/food obsessions are normal and we should just accept that; instead I’m pointing out that struggling with food and weight isn’t exclusive to people with eating disorders. Most people can keep body image issues in perspective, but if your concerns about your weight interfere with your life and consume your thoughts; then it’s definitely something to address.
I realize that for some of you, stopping binge eating is not all you need to feel like your problems with food and weight are over. But, without stopping binge eating, it’s unlikely that you will ever be able to decrease your food/weight obsessions. Once binge eating is out of the way, you may find that many of your concerns about food and weight simply go away on their own; and you’ll definitely be in a better position to tackle any issues that remain. I’m not an expert in helping people develop a great body image, but one tool you can use is to treat harmful body thoughts like you treat urges to binge–as neurological junk.
- Do you offer one-on-one services?
- Should I seek medical attention for my bulimia or BED?
As stated on the copyright page of my book: “Brain over Binge is a personal story of recovery. It is not intended to replace the services of trained health professionals or be a substitute for medical advice. You are advised to consult with your healthcare professional with regard to matters relating to your health, and in particular, regarding matters that may require diagnosis or medical attention.”
Binge eating and purging can have serious health consequences, especially in those who frequently self-induce vomiting. Please do not take a risk with your health. If you are experiencing concerning symptoms, please seek medical help right away. Although I disagree with many of the mainstream therapeutic approaches (which treat the eating disorder as an emotional or psychological problem), I believe that medical monitoring and nutritional support are necessary for some people.
- Are there any other books you recommend?
Rational Recovery by Jack Trimpey (A 1996 book on substance addiction, which helped me take responsibility for my own recovery from bulimia)
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal (A practical book on using self-control to end habits that don’t serve you well. It explains the science behind willpower, and helps you put your brain to work for you).
Ditching Diets by Gillian Riley (This is a helpful, easy-to-read book for anyone who wants to learn how to eat well – without dieting, obsessing over food, or overeating.) Gillian also has a website, eatingless.com.
The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz (This book explains the science behind neuroplasticity. It helped explain why my binge eating habit faded after I stopped acting on the urges.)
You are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz (A self-help guide to using neuroplasticity to overcome bad habits and challenges)
Clearing your Path to Permanent Weight Loss: The truth about why you’ve failed in the past, and what you must know to succeed now by Cookie Rosenblum (This is written by a weight loss coach that understands binge eating, the importance of avoiding starvation diets, and how lasting weight loss is achieved)
Before I Eat: A Moment In The Zone Guidebook: Real-Time Tools To Manage Eating Urges and Food Cravings by Alen Standish, a former binge eater and podcaster.
Before I Eat: A Moment in the Zone (App) also by Alen Standish. This is the first App to help recovering binge eaters. It offers a variety of tools to help you navigate binge urges, as well as motivational coaching sessions, progress tracking, and a reward system for success. You can pick and choose the tools that are most practical for you.
The Bulimia Help Method, by Richard Kerr, founder of bulmiahelp.org. The method is a five-step process that teaches those seeking recovery how to stop bingeing, relearn normal eating, and achieve lifelong recovery.
- Are there any other direct support resources you recommend if I am still struggling?
Cookie Rosenblum, Weight Loss Coach. I highly recommend Cookie, especially for those struggling with weight issues while recovering or after recovering from binge eating. Cookie has personal and professional experience with binge eating, and truly understands weight loss without dieting.
The Bulimia Help Program (bulimiahelp.org). This is a comprehensive web-based home treatment program and support network for recovering binge eaters that focuses on ending dieting, relearning normal eating, and putting a stop to the harmful binge/purge cycle–without all the complexity of traditional approaches.
Pauline Hanuise, Holistic Health and Bulimia Recovery Coach. Pauline offers many great resources, including her comprehensive online recovery program
Stacey (Binge Free Me), Holistic Health and Lifestyle Coach. Stacey recovered from binge eating using neuroplasticity and now helps others do the same. She has extensive training in nutrition, which is an amazing asset to those who want more guidance in healthy eating.
Wendy Hendry, Personal Health Coach. Wendy recovered from 35 years of binge eating after reading Brain over Binge. Because of her personal experience, she understands how to guide binge eaters toward healthier lifestyles.
Lydia Wente is a Lifestyle coach and creator of the fun video series “Meet Your Brains” to help you further understand and utilize the Brain over Binge Principles. You can find her videos here: http://bit.ly/1MVCqyc. She also offers a free eBook, “How to Stop Binge Eating…and be Successful at Everything Else.”
Tania Veronese, Spiritual Transformation Coach and Emotional Eating Specialist Tania can guide you through principles from Brain over Binge, along with helping you strengthen your True Self from a spiritual angle.
I will add to the books and direct support resources over time!