Pre-Therapy Journal Entry

     I mentioned in a previous post that from time to time, I’d like to include old journal entries from my eating-disordered days. I wrote the following entry a couple months after I turned 18, about a week or two before my first appointment with a therapist regarding my binge eating/bulimia. I had been binge eating for about 7 months at the time of this entry, and the binges had been steadily increasing in frequency and quantity of food.  It’s evident that, at the time I wrote this, I had not been introduced to the idea of emotional eating or binge eating as a coping mechanism. However, it seems I had a couple clear ideas of my own about my binge eating:  1.) It’s out of control, and 2.) I think I might like to binge, even thought I hate it’s effects.
      At this point in my eating disorder, my strong cravings and urges to binge were the result of my survival instincts – the binges were an adaptive response to my extended and extreme dieting; and those urges were generated by my animal brain. However, all I knew at the time was that I couldn’t seem to control myself around food, and I hated myself for it. I didn’t realize that the part of me that “liked” binge eating wasn’t really me at all, but my lower brain, which was both driving me to protect myself from starvation and steadily becoming more and more addicted to the binges. Each time I binged, I cemented the pattern a bit more until it became habit, and my body and brain became dependent on large amounts of the very foods that were initially so attractive to my survival instincts (the sugar/fat/carbohydrate-laden ones that might be good for short-term survival but are impossible to thrive on long-term).

Oct. 1999,
I don’t know who I’m writing to or why I am writing, but I thought it might help me to get this out.   Basically, I’m out of control.  I can’t stop eating or thinking about food.  I’ve been bingeing almost every other day.  Since last night, I have been really really crazy.  Before I went to bed, I had 3 bowls of cereal, 3 Nutri-Grain bars, 1 pudding cup, 1 bagel, a half a can of beans, a piece of cheese, a few handfuls of Fruity Pebbles, and 7 pieces of bread with butter. Then, I woke up at 12:30am and ate another pudding cup and a cup of milk, and another Nutri-Grain bar. Then, I woke up at 2:00am and ate another Nutri-Grain bar. Then, I woke up at 5:30am and had 2 more Nutri-Grain bars (totaling 7), a cup of milk, a cup of  juice, then a piece of bread, then about 20 crackers, and a protein bar. I finally had to stop because it was time to go.  [*I was leaving with my cross-country team to drive to South Carolina for a race, which was to take place the following day. The next part of this entry was written on the road with my team. I was sitting in the back of the team van, where no one could see my writing]  

We just stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch on our way to Clemson. I was still so full from last night so I decided to just order a turkey sandwich and a side of green beans.  That would have been ok, but then I ate 2 pieces of cornbread & a biscuit as well.  I was doing my best to eat slow and be normal, but I really just wanted to dig into everything.  I’m like this almost all of the time now, and I don’t know why.  Last night it was like I almost wanted to binge. After the first part of the binge that ended about 10:30pm, I actually felt good.  But, then when I kept getting up at night and after lunch today, I just feel like a big failure.  I spent so much time and energy and used so much self control to get down to this weight. And, now I’m ruining it. I weighed myself yesterday before dinner and I weighed 94, and I weighed myself this morning and I was 99.  That’s absolutely ridiculous. 5 pounds in 1 night!

Do you think my body is just trying to tell me something? Or am I just crazy? Sometimes I feel like if I had a choice of what I wanted to do, I would choose to just sit in my room and stuff myself.  I’ve actually gotten to the point where I enjoy it.  After I binge, I just lay in bed and go to sleep.  If I could just learn how to throw up, I could binge and not gain any weight. 

 I just need to stop being such a baby.  It’s sad but sometimes I would rather eat than do anything.   Every time I do it, I swear to myself that I’m never going to do it again, but I always do.  Right now, I’m feeling so nautious and sick, but if I were alone in my room, I know I would eat more. I need a babysitter 24/7.  My parents and sister know some of what is going on, which is good.  But, they don’t know how to help me. I told the sports psychologist about the problem this week and I went home after the appointment and binged.  It was like the whole day, I just knew it was going to happen.  I went to Wal-mart with [two of my friends] and I bought the Nutri-grain bars knowing I would probably end up eating a ton of them, but not thinking I would eat the whole box in one night.

I feel like no one eats as much as me in the entire world, but I’m skinnier than the majority of people I see.  How is that?  I know it’s going to catch up with me very soon if I keep this up.  I hate myself so much right now.  I just want to be normal.  I just want to eat and forget about it.  I don’t want to think about food all day long.  I feel so alone. 

     I think this entry is very important because of my honesty – admitting that I liked the binges.  This type of honesty was extremely rare in my journal entries after therapy, when I became convinced I binged for complicated emotional reasons and it was a coping mechanism for life’s problems. In later entries, I attributed the binges to feelings/stressors/daily events/issues rooted in my past; and rarely said what I said here – which was basically: “My cravings feel out of control, but you know what? … it feels good (temporarily) when I give in.”  It only made sense that it felt good – of course there was great pleasure in the relief from self-imposed starvation!      
     The last paragraph in this entry is also telling in that I say I want to be normal. I didn’t want binge eating in my life, and therefore I was receptive to help – to therapy – which I began shortly after writing this.  But, once I began therapy, I didn’t need to learn that all of this was a symptom of underlying emotional issues and spend years digging through and trying to resolve those issues. I needed to learn that I was starving, and my body and brain were reacting to try to protect me. I needed to learn that trying to maintain such a low weight was the cause of all this, and if I stubbornly continued to put my body in a calorie deficit, I’d likely be consumed indefinitely by my desire to binge.

     I actually did learn that food restriction was part of the problem from my nutritionist, but even when I normalized my non-binge eating (which wasn’t too difficult because I was motivated to do it), the urges persisted.  As I discuss in my book, this was due to the persistent nature of the survival instincts and also due to habit.  Simply normalizing my diet wasn’t enough; therefore, I also needed to learn something else –  how to resist each and every urge to binge in a way that worked for me.    

     In other words, I think my therapy – and the therapy for most bulimics/binge eaters – could be made simple, consisting of only 2 components:
1.) Learn to feed your body sufficiently
2.) Learn to resist urges to binge in a way that works for you

     I am not saying the exact same methods that helped me resist urges to binge will cure everyone; but I believe the key is finding what helps you say no to the binges and therefore decondition the habit…without making recovery unnecessarily complicated, time-consuming, and difficult.          

*I want to apologize (again) for not keeping up with this blog as well as I would like.  Taking care of my 3 young kids is my full time job, and I am definitely far from being a supermom!  I’ll do the best I can to post more frequently.  

26 thoughts on “Pre-Therapy Journal Entry

  1. Hi Kathryn, thanks for this journal entry!! I also journal quite frequently about my binge eating….and getting back on track!! And how this is finally gonna be the day that I stop this.
    My mom has read your book and suggested I read it too! I’m looking forward to it!!

  2. I just finished reading your book (It look me 3 days, as I could not put it down). I’m 29 and have battled this disorder since I was a young child. Its been consuming me 24/7 for as long as I can remember.
    As you, I took drastic measures to keep my crazy appetite “in control”. Every day was me vs. my horrible appetite. That’s what my focus has been for so long. I now feel like I have the skill to be normal, so THANK YOU.

    You have no idea how much of my life has been put on hold from this disorder. I feel, now, like I have no more excuses…I have all the tools I was looking for.

    Thank you for your diligence, the time you put into the book, and the sincerity to help others.

    1. Don’t apologize for infrequent posting. Your blog entries are definitely a case of quality over quantity, and who can dispute that parenting is a higher priority than blogging at any given time?

      Having said that, I WAS excited to see a new post! 😉

      I want to update you and let you know that Brain Over Binge has made a difference for me. I read your book in mid-January and was binge free for a month. I can’t remember the last time I could say that–surely more than 10 years ago. I did mess up on Valentine’s Day, but immediately analyzed the day to see what had gone wrong and got back on track the following day. I am slowly losing weight, too.

      Right now, I’m having a small dessert every day because it seems when I tell myself that I should abstain completely (for health reasons, faster weight loss, etc.), much mental weirdness ensues. By tracking my food during the binge-free month preceding Valentine’s Day, I did notice a pattern of several days’ abstinence from dessert followed by overeating dessert the next time I had it. When I ate sweets closer together, on consecutive days or just skipping a day or two in between, I had less of an issue with overeating.

      Sometimes I worry that by eating a modest treat (by my standards, given my history) every day, I am building a new neural pathway that I will regret later. I also worry that my lower brain has outsmarted me in a sense. Yet in another way, I feel rather in control and confident that I will be able to abstain in the future without it backfiring, if I simply proceed to that point slowly. I guess you can say I’m pretty hot and cold on the topic!

      If you have any thoughts on this, especially the practice of having former binge foods every day (desserts, in my case), I would welcome them.

    2. I second this post. I read your book and had a pretty good 2 weeks not binging. But I think I was taking the “don’t deprive myself” idea too far because I was eating my former binge foods every day, and gradually, my portions got bigger and bigger and presto, back to binging. I hate the idea of having to remove any foods from my diet, because it’s clear to me that restriction leads to binging, but I seem to be having trouble with this.

    3. Thanks so much for your kind message, Erin. I hope you are able free yourself of this disorder completely so you can stop putting your life on hold. I admire your courage and determination to overcome this after struggling so many years. I wish you much success.

      **Human in Progress and Anonymous – I have several thoughts on your comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

    4. Human in Progress,

      Congrats on your success! It sounds like you are doing very well. You bring up a good question about whether desert every day will develop a new bad habit.

      I actually find it very encouraging that you have been able to eat a small desert every day without it leading to binge eating. I think you are proving to yourself that you are in control, and that sugar/desserts don’t actually “cause” binge eating.

      That being said, I understand why you are worried that your lower brain may have outsmarted you. I honestly don’t think that’s the case, even though in the future you might choose to cut down so that dessert is not a daily routine. However, right now, if cutting down too much creates a lot of mental weirdness (that makes sense considering your brain probably perceives abstaining from desserts as a “diet”); then I wouldn’t worry about changing anything.

      I would suggest focusing on becoming completely confident that the binge eating is over prior to making other changes. I found that once my binge eating was over for a while – somewhere in the range of 6 months – my lower brain stopping perceiving healthy changes as “diets.” I think I taught it that I was going to feed it appropriately, so it stopped reacting as if I was threatening it’s food supply.

      This is one of the reasons why I included the part in my book about having to eat restrictively while breastfeeding – I wanted to show that once binge eating stops, all sorts of dietary changes are possible, if they are needed and/or desired (as long as you are nourishing your body).

      Unless there are health issues there, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little dessert every day. My sister is one of the healthiest, most fit people I know, and she makes a simple dessert for herself and her family basically every night. Of course, she cooks a ton of healthy food too. Even people without eating disorders find that making a lot of rigid food rules for themselves brings on some mental weirdness, or is simply unnecessary.

      Like I said in one of my other posts, I think I would have driven myself crazy if I would have questioned every hunger signal, or viewed as neurological junk every desire to eat dessert. I spent my entire life (pre-eating disorder) eating moderate amounts of treats/desserts without it ever being a problem or getting out of hand; and after recovery I wanted to get back to what was normal for me, and that’s what I did.

      I think each person has to decide on what’s normal for them; so maybe as some time goes by, think about whether or not “you” really want desserts every day or not. If you’ve already proven to yourself that you can quit binge eating, I’m sure you won’t have any problem cutting back on desserts if you decide that’s what you want to do.

      I don’t think those changes will be part of your “recovery” – just life improvements which are only possible when binge eating does not interfere.

      Also, thanks for your understanding about my infrequent blogging. I appreciate that!

    5. Hi Anonymous,

      Eating former binge foods when you first quit binge eating does require awareness, more so in some people than others. I think it’s great that you had 2 good weeks, and just because the binge eating crept back in doesn’t mean you can’t outsmart your lower brain the next time.

      What I’ll suggest here gets back to what I wrote to Human in Progress – that everyone has to decide what is normal for them and go from there. How about starting by determining how much of your former binge foods “you” are okay with eating, and what you are not okay with. You certainly don’t want to deprive yourself, but you don’t want to take it too far. At what point does it become not-okay with you? At what point while eating a former binge food do you know you’ll regret it?

      After answering those questions, you could try setting some boundaries prior to eating those problematic foods; and then labeling any thought/feeling that urges you to eat more than you are okay with as the neurological junk from which you must detach. For example, you could set a limit of 4 cookies; then, if you still feel unsatisfied afterward and feel an urge to binge creeping in, that’s what you can label the junk from the lower brain.

      Right now when you decide to eat a former binge food, you have to know that the lower brain will likely use that decision to try to get what it wants – a binge – so you have to be aware that urges will likely arise and be prepared for them. However, in the future – once binge eating is behind you – you should be able to drop the “limits” and naturally eat appropriate amounts.

    6. Kathryn,

      Thanks for the helpful feedback, as always. I have more clarity now. During that binge-free month I spoke of, I did have days that were in a gray area (not quite binging, but not quite the new behavior I desire). And then there was my Valentine’s Day binge. So I am not yet 100% confident that the binging is behind me, and therefore I need to give it more time and build that confidence before tweaking my diet further.

      I do have confidence that I can change, though! That I can be binge-free in the not-too-distant future. And yes, I’ve seen firsthand that sugary foods in and of themselves do not “cause” binging. These are monumental developments in my life.

      If it takes me about six months, as it did you, to be certain that binging is behind me…how great that would be. Six months is not long at all, when I’ve been binging for over ten years. I plan to continue on my current track–including the daily mindful consumption of a small treat–and reassess my actual diet in June. I don’t believe my Higher Self wants or needs a daily treat and I will be able to cut down later; right now, elimination of dessert DOES feel like a diet–a penance for being fat. You are right about that.

      I found what you said to Erin to be helpful also, as far as deciding where to draw the line and detach.

      Thanks again!

  3. Hi Kathryn — Thanks so much for you great post.

    I like how you’ve broken it down so simply: (1) Learn to feed your body and (2) Learn to resist the urges.

    Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be doing all that well on either count! I suppose doing #1 will help ward off #2. I’m beginning to realize that I really have gone so far off the rails in terms of feeding myself sufficiently. I either skip meals or eat all day long. Are you a proponent of timed meals? It seems a little obsessive to plan my meals, but maybe that helps …

    Anyway, thanks, and don’t apologize for not posting often — I’d rather see a long, well-written post like this than a few sentences every day (which is what most bloggers seems to do). Thanks for your help and your beautiful writing.

    1. Thanks for your kind words about my blog!

      I am sorry you are struggling both on feeding yourself sufficiently and resisting urges.

      I think learning to how to normalize eating (non-binge) is a challenge for many people, and possibly much more so than it was for me.  When I decided to quit, I was already eating a pretty normal diet (aside from the binges); so in my case – even though eating normally took some getting used to – it wasn’t as difficult as I imagine it is for others. This is why I mentioned that some people may want to use meal plans (and possibly consult a nutritionist) if they feel it’s necessary at first.

      About your question – personally, I like more of a (very flexible) scheduled approach to meals. But, that’s just a personal preference, not what I feel everyone should do in order to recover. I simply like eating pretty regular meals and snacks – it’s what I’ve always done since I was a kid (aside from the excessive dieting/binge eating years), so even though what I ate during recovery looks pretty scheduled (see the previous blog), it didn’t feel obsessive at all…it’s just how I like to eat. I think everyone has to make that decision for themselves, and no two people will eat exactly the same.

  4. Hey Kathryn,

    I recently ordered your book. I have never gone to therapy ..for binge eating/bulimia. I haven’t received the book yet but I am already kind of worried. I seem to eat/binge/purge for all the reasons you say you didn’t. Anxiety being one..and a childhood of being tortured for being fat. I am at a normal weight now for my height..but its just not good enough. Years of being obese have left me with some excess skin which makes my body image even worse. I guess my question is it sometimes not as simple for some people as ” I just enjoy” binging ? I am not hungry ..but I still overeat..I don’t feel like I’m starving..but I still overeat..I am probably getting too deep…but would love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Thanks for writing. I don’t think it’s ever just as simple as “I just enjoy” binge eating; and now that I think about it, this post probably makes much more sense to someone who has already read the book. I hope after you read, you’ll see that I think there is definitely more to it than that…otherwise, it wouldn’t be 328 pages:-)

      Different ideas work for different people; but for me, believing that underlying issues like depression/anxiety/poor body image caused my binge eating was not helpful. You’ll have to decide what works best for you. In doing this, you can take what ideas you like from my book and leave the rest; but I do hope you find it helpful in some way.

    1. I’m sorry that the book wasn’t available at B&N in WA. It’s not a problem at the warehouse – the issue is that B&N did not order enough books to carry them in every bookstore, so they’ve placed them only in select stores in the country (unfortunately, I do not have a practical way to find out all of the stores that are currently carrying it). This is pretty typical with independently published books. Without the resources/distribution channels/sales record of a major publisher, it’s going to take a while before it’s available everywhere. I apologize for the inconvenience. For now, your best bet is Amazon or for the paperback.

      Thanks for sharing your blog – I read some and it saddens me that you are struggling with this, especially with a family to care for. I admire your courage for sharing your struggle with others. I truly hope my book can help you.

  5. Thank you. I actually just decided to order the book directly off your blog (should have done that the first time!) Pay-pal said it was sent today, so I am excited. Just want this to end.

  6. Ecellent post. Your diary entry reminds me so much of the ones I would write, at the first binges stage.

  7. I just wanted to give another vote of confidence on the “quality overy quantity” front re: blog posting. You are doing an incredible service to us, your readers, and you are so conscientious in your replies. Don’t stress! I don’t have time to read much more — this is perfect!

    On another note — as a bulimic who has purged with both exercise and self-induced vomiting, I think it’s really important to state that you DO NOT control calories through vomiting. From all the studies I’ve read I have learned that you do lose some calories but the majority stay and you can still gain weight even if you vomit. And vomiting is really dangerous because it upsets your electrolyte balances and can eventually lead to serious heart and esophagas sp? damage. Among other things.

    I don’t mean to preach but before I started to try to recover from my disorder I can see myself as reading a blog or ED site and taking hope in a comment like “I wish I could throw up so I could get rid of my calories” and then vomiting more. Yeah, I was that twisted that I would go to a recovery site for tips on how to be a better bulimic! Wow, weird to realize it.

    1. Very good point about vomiting not controlling calories, Marta. Calories are absorbed even while you chew. When I wrote this journal entry, I was unaware of that fact, so I thought it would be a “solution.” In reality, if I would have been able to vomit, I may have gained more weight because I probably would have binged more; and I would have put my health in greater peril. Thanks for bringing that up.

      Thanks also for your encouragement about the blog. I’m trying to get around to doing another post!

  8. 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!

  9. hi…
    i also recently got the book, been reading it, and agree with everything you say it makes so much more sense to me than everything else ive heard.
    however – i am still binging. i am trying to learn to separate my higher brain from the urges but i don’t seem to be getting it – have you any tips to help put it into practise?
    maybe i dont have as much willpower? or maybe you need more motivation? i really want to get better but at times i lack motivation

    1. I’m sorry you are still struggling with binge eating. As much as I wish it could be, my book isn’t going to be an instant cure for everyone. However, just because learning about your brain didn’t help you quit right away doesn’t mean it won’t help you quit eventually. Different ideas work for different people in different ways, and it may take you longer to put these ideas into practice and have success. And if ultimately, the methods that helped me recover aren’t the answer for you, then that doesn’t mean you won’t find another way to recover.

      That being said, I can give you a few suggestions:

      If you can’t separate from your lower brain right away, maybe you could simply try to notice all the ways “it” gets what it wants. Notice all of your lower brain’s tricks, including when “it” tells you that you aren’t separate from it at all). Maybe write down all the messages you hear in your head encouraging you to binge – I mean everything. Eventually, you want to be able to disregard those enticing messages and not focus any attention on them whatsoever; but right now learning about how your lower brain is getting it’s way may help you separate from it and find your own voice.

      What exactly are you feeling/hearing in your head that makes you feel like you can’t resist binge eating? Whatever the thoughts/feelings are, you need to be able to recognize them in the future and feel/hear them without reacting emotionally or acting on them. I don’t mean you have to disagree with those thoughts, because for a while, you might find yourself believing that it is indeed worth it to binge, or feeling like you do truly want to binge (and that’s okay to feel that way…it’s all part of the habit). But, if you can experience the enticing thoughts and feelings with detachment, it will strengthen your ability to avoid acting on them.

      Another suggestion is to “practice” detachment when you are not experiencing an urge. Maybe try saying the thoughts that usually hook you to yourself and realize that those thoughts can’t actually make you do anything.

      You may also find it helpful to determine exactly what you do when you are successful. When you do resist urges to binge, how do you get past them? Everyone is different and you might need to add your own ideas and modify what worked for me in order to make it work for you.

      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 are going to be times when binge eating seems very appealing. I think it’s important to accept that, and realize that at times, you may indeed feel deprived and unmotivated. However, it’s not really you that’s deprived – you are depriving your lower brain and a life-draining habit, and you are getting stronger with each conquered urge. I believe that once you can get some traction and resist several urges to binge, your motivation to put this behind you will greatly increase

      I hope this helps. Thanks for writing.

  10. Wow….I found your website by total accident as I was yet again searching the internet for hints on how to stop bingeing. I have been bulimic for 25 years, been to various therapist, heard all the stuff about my problems relating to family, self image blah blah, and for the first time ever I am hearing something that makes real sense! I haven’t read your book yet but I just can’t wait to.

    1. I’m sorry you’ve struggled with this for so long and therapy/traditional approaches haven’t helped. Glad you found my website, and I truly hope the book helps you.

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