Tips for Beginners…Continued (Inspirational Testimony)

     This post is an addition to the Tips for Beginners post. In that post, I asked readers to share what helps them detach from urges and avoid acting on them. I want to thank everyone who took the time to write about their experiences and insights in the comments section.

    I received an email last week from someone who tried to post there about her own experience, but because of the length, it would not go through.  As soon as I read her story, I knew it would be extremely beneficial for others to read; and I am fortunate that the author of this message was willing to share it in a separate post. I love the analogy she shares about the little yappy dog – it’s brilliant. A special thanks to her!  

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“While I was reading Brain over Binge, I had a light bulb moment. What the light bulb illuminated: “This book could be a real game changer for me. Am I ready to take the big step of having my game with food entirely change? Yes, I am!” And indeed, I have reached Step #5 in Hansen’s list of steps: I am excited! I’m on Day 37 binge-free. I truly feel that binge eating has moved into my past.

Hansen asks, in “Tips for Beginners,” some specific questions of her readers, so let me answer a couple of those.

What’s a problem I had in resisting urges to binge, and how did I overcome it?

My problem with resisting those urges, for many years, can be summed up with one word: inevitability. It sounds ridiculous to me now, but I truly believed, for the longest time, that my binge eating was inevitable, handed down from above, totally out of my control. What helped me to overcome it unfolded in a series of steps: I have a lot of weight to lose, over 200 pounds to get healthy again, and I happened to be reading, in the book 59 Seconds, a review of several different studies on what factors most enable people to achieve big longterm goals. When I looked at the list of factors, one of them stood out: “Go public.” The author recommended, based on solid evidence, that if you want to achieve something big, you should announce it to the world—kind of like giving a press conference. As a result of that tip, I got online and went in search of a public forum dedicated to weight loss, a place where people announce their goals and give each other support. So I joined the 3 Fat Chicks (3FC) support forum, and announced my big project. Reading other people’s success stories was inspiring. And one of the first things I identified that I needed help with was getting free from binge eating—because I’ve always binged without purging, so that’s where all my weight came from. Just saying that to myself—”you need help with this”—in the context of all these friendly people on the forum trying to lose weight and maintain, sharing advice, began to chip away at that horrible sense of inevitability about my binging.

The next step came when I noticed that people at 3FC were setting “mini goals.” That resonated with something else I’d read in 59 Seconds: One of the tried and true techniques in accomplishing a big goal, is to break the project up into smaller sub-goals, and work on them one at a time. So I set myself my first mini-goal: “Go 30 days without any emotional/compulsive/binge-type eating.” (I think the longest I’d ever gone between binges was 13 days.) To make it public, I put the mini-goal in my signature appended to postings on 3FC, with something I edited every single day: “Days so far: X” By the time I got to “Days so far: 7” I started to freak out, thinking, “This might actually happen—eeeek! What’s going to happen if I actually pull off 30 days binge-free?” Asking that question, in writing, helped me realize I had a crazy belief system underneath my binging: I believed I was actually holding the world together with my binging. Pretty nuts, huh? Well, I guess I had to be nuts to eat my way to some 350 pounds before I did something about it. And of course, like most crazy beliefs that sane people can have, it collapsed as soon as I verbalized it.

But that crazy belief did help me in a big way, because it brought me to Brain Over Binge. I liked the title a lot, it came highly recommended, and I was desperate to read the story of someone who’d fought the battle and lived to tell the tale. The next step came, then, when I was putting Hansen’s technique to work, where the rubber meets the road, in dealing with a real-life urge to binge.

Now I’m going to address another question from “Tips for Beginners“:

What did it feel like to separate myself from the urge to binge?

What it felt like, to me, was a mental feat. Since my most recent experience with pulling off mental feats is memorization (at the advanced age of 58) of vocabulary in a foreign language, I found myself reaching for one of the mental tools I’ve learned—specifically, vivid imagery (visual plus other senses) with some sort of action going on.

Let me formulate this as a tip for you, my reader, in confronting your own urges to binge. As soon as the urge arises, look for some way of dramatizing, in pictures and sounds, how you, as the higher self, are very separate from the binge urge, which is “neurological junk.” For example, I thought of myself as a cool cerebral character playing chess, in a room where a ridiculous little yappy dog (the urge to binge) is trying to get me to play fetch with it. I imagined the dog as having a high-pitched yelp of a voice, barking away, and I imagined it holding the ball in its mouth and doing everything in its power to get my attention—butting my legs, knocking against the chess board, and so on. Meanwhile, I am not exactly ignoring it: I am merely observing its frantic, silly behavior while I contemplate my next chess move. (Since I’m a higher being, I can do both of those things at once. =laugh=) I’m not saying anything to the dog, nor am I reacting to it in any way. I don’t need to tell you the end of this story, because it’s obvious: the yappy dog eventually gives up and wanders off into another room. You can use, adapt, that little drama however you like, or better yet, come up with a new one of your own, but take care to make the scenario very specific (imagine the dog’s little ratty tail), with more than one sense (visual, auditory, etc.) involved, with some kind of action taking place. The more ridiculous—even humorous—you make the urge to binge appear, the more easily you can be in the role of cool, calm, collected observer.

 I’ve had very few urges to binge since coming up with the yappy-dog scenario, and the ones that have arrived are so attenuated, they just float up briefly into my consciousness and drift away. To reinforce the thought that my binge urges are in the past, a couple of times I have visualized myself actually binging, and I’ve observed how the visualization, as if made of old fragile film stock, has a lot of little white and black blobs obscuring the view, like pixilated static, as it drifts further and further into the past. 37 days may not seem very long, but believe me, that behavior is ancient history. The last time an urge to binge surfaced, I just thought, “What’s this? We don’t do that anymore!” and the urge went poof! and vanished.

Thanks to all of you who’ve read this far, and best of luck in getting your own urges to binge into ancient history! I’ll pass on one little gem that’s floating around 3 Fat Chicks: “You’ve come too far to take orders from a cookie.” You have! Don’t let that food boss you around anymore.

32 thoughts on “Tips for Beginners…Continued (Inspirational Testimony)

  1. Hi Kathryn,
    This is a very helpful post, I think. Great way to visualize the urge! Thanks to the commenter for this!
    I just want to share with you how things have really come together for me as well. The first “piece of the puzzle” was a very brave Weight Watchers leader who freely shared with the meeting room her own struggles with binge eating. I’d never known anyone who was honest enough to stand up in a room full of strangers and casually talk about this issue. It was really amazing to me and helped me confront my own problem. This led me to the WW message boards where the members discussed helpful book resources about BED and their top pick was Brain Over Binge. So I read it and it was so helpful and enlightening and gave me so much hope, but I was trying to deal with urges while dieting and it didn’t work. It just seemed to make things worse. I got really tired of paying WW every month only to yo-yo up and down the same 10 pounds and not make any forward progress. Then I found Josie Spinardi’s Thin Genius book and it was very very helpful for getting off of diets and relearning normal eating, but not for the urges and not for emotional eating. Back in the fall of ’13 I read your recommendation to read Ditching Diets and it was the final piece of the puzzle. Thank you, thank you Kathryn for recommending it. Really. I finally feel like this awful habit is over.
    As far as how I’m dealing with the urges, they have basically become just one of many things that are in the realm of possibility, but just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it has to happen. I could, say, take a hammer and bust out a window in my house, but that would be destructive, and I’m not going to do it. Just as I’m not going to go raid my kitchen and eat 5,000 calories. Four months ago, I might have! It took a while to get to this point, but not nearly as long as I would have thought. I highly recommend all 3 of the books that I mention above, if someone wants to stop binge eating and wants to lose weight. Also, I’m really loving the “Before I Eat” app by Alan Standish. It’s only 99 cents and it is really helpful and supportive.
    Thanks again Kathryn!

    1. Hi! I have a question about the books you mentioned, which one would you recommend reading first, Thingenius or Ditching Diets?

      Thank you!

    2. Thanks so much for sharing your story and the resources that worked for you. I truly appreciate that and I know others will as well. Congrats on your success! I apologize it’s taken me so long to reply. I hope you are doing great and enjoying the new year. All the best!!

    3. I assume the above questions is directed to the writer of the previous comment, but I just wanted to say that I personally would recommend Ditching Diets. Spinardi’s work has useful information as well, but in my opinion, there are some things she recommends which might not be possible for someone just recovering from binge eating. For example – eating solely based on hunger-cues (hunger signals are often highly irregular in someone who has been binge eating a long time).

  2. Great testimony, very helpful to hear from another person who has found success in resisting the urges. I am happy for you!

  3. I agree, this is going to be very helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to share!

    I’m struggling with the process of recovery and I would like to invite anybody who wants to share experiences about binge eating to email me. Sometimes it’s a lonely process and I miss having someone to share experiences with. Feel free to contact me jennysaid212@gmail.com

    Thank you!!
    Jenny

  4. Dear Kathryn and all the other people here , I came upon this blog via the Normal Eating site from a lady called Karen Koenig. I was looking for some inspiration – as I usually do just after a binge. Never before has anyone said that I am able to stop bingeing any time I want. I am currently receiving psychotherapy for my binge-eating disorder (and obsessive compulsive disorder – the two keep each other going I believe) but so far the bingeing has not stopped. It has become less frequent, once every fortnight now, but it still rears its ugly head from time to time! I cannot stop reading the enrtries on this blog and I feel ready to start a different approach: NOT ACTING on an urge! Thank you for this lifeline!

  5. I downloaded your book yesterday and am so happy — this is the answer I have been looking for, for so long now! Your story is so similar to what I experienced after reading Dr. John Sarno’s book, “The Divided Mind,” and I hope you don’t mind my sharing it here.

    Several years ago I was suffering from chronic, debilitating pain. In desperation I searched online and discovered Dr. John Sarno — he said that some people were CURED of their pain simply by reading his book. I thought it was too good to be true, but out of sheer desperation I tried it — in his book he explained exactly the same theory that you cover so concisely in your book — that our lower brains can virtually take control of our lives and make them a living hell.

    By reading Dr. Sarno’s book, and learning what was happening in my brain, I was able to take control — in my case, every time I experienced pain (which was virtually 24/7 to begin with), I used my higher brain to address the “lower” brain — and would say “wow, I’m really impressed — you almost had me convinced this time that something was really wrong! But I’m on to your tricks now, so just stop it. I’m not falling for it anymore.” Then I would deliberately ignore it, stop worrying about, and turn my attention to anything other than the pain, even though it was not always easy. I was able to feel confident in doing this, because my higher brain knew that there was NOTHING physically wrong with me, as I had been told as much by a multitude of medical professionals. Within days my pain began subsiding, and within a few months it completely went away. It wasn’t overnight, but from the moment I understood the concept, I had the tools to overcome my pain.

    After the pain subsided, I then tried an experiment using the same principle and was able to make debilitating severe hot flashes subside after only a few days, and they have never returned. I had suspected that maybe the same technique might work to help stop my overeating, but I just wasn’t sure exactly how, and I have been looking and looking for information on this subject. Needless to say when I found your book last Wednesday and started reading it, I ended up crying through the whole thing, because I knew you had the answer I had been looking for! By the time I finished your book, I knew how I could get control over my overeating, and I haven’t overeaten since then.

    Although binge eating and overeating are different than chronic pain, but I think the same principle is at work, in my case I think the pain was real pain in the very beginning, but the more I worried about, the more my lower brain reinforced those negative pain neural pathways, and the more it hurt, the more I worried about it, and the more my “lower brain” caused it to hurt more, and the more it hurt, the more I worried about the pain — creating a vicious cycle, a vicious feedback loop, that I was helpless to stop and that I was totally unaware was happening. Long after the original pain should have subsided normally, my brain kept it active and actively increased it.

    Dr. Sarno recommends keeping one of his books handy so that you can read it whenever you feel you might be approaching the danger zone again – in my case, whenever I have an injury that causes me real physical pain, I make sure to read his book and practice his techniques until it goes away naturally and doesn’t come back! But now, I plan to keep your book handy! I am sure it will help me with BOTH problems and is much more succinct and easy to read.

    Anyway – I can’t thank you enough! I love your FIVE steps – such a handy chart to keep and remind myself with!!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. The brain is fascinating, isn’t it? I’ve used this technique to overcome a few other problems as well, namely a fear of driving on expressways:-) I’m glad you were able to overcome your chronic pain; I’ll have to look into Dr. Sarno’s work…thanks for describing it here. I hope that you have the same success applying these ideas to binge eating.

      I’m sorry that it’s taken me almost a month to respond! I am trying to keep the blog updated as much as I can, but my family life takes most of my time. Thanks again for taking the time to write. I hope you are doing well!

  6. Dear Kathryn I’m glad I could write here. I’m a binge 17 years. Then I found on the Internet rational recovery method. I read everything on their site, especially bullets for my beast https://rational.org/index.php?id=155 recommend everyone to read it and kill the beast forever! After that I found your book and read it. Although I have learned how to beat the beast by rational recovery your book helped me a lot! Now I am binge free 3 months, I lost 12 pounds. a big thank you darling, you saved me! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m so glad Rational Recovery and my book helped. RR saved me too:-) Congrats to you for taking control and overcoming this. I wish you all the best in the future.

  7. Hi Kathryn. I have a question: After reading your book back in October 2013, I was binge free for 5 weeks, even during the stressful time of exams. Then, after my exams, I gradually started to binge again, and now, I’m back to where I was before. I binge every single day, and have been doing so for months (well, for two years, but I was good for those 5 weeks). Those 5 weeks were the happiest of my life, I was free and healthy, and truly happy because the relief was so great. Now I’m sitting at my table, still full from last night, feeling sick and nauseous, my head hurts, it’s hard to even move because everything hurts. I have dreams and goals for my life, but binge eating makes it seem impossible for me to thrive and make my dreams come true. I read on the brain over binge forum that many people experienced a similar temporary recovery, for a few weeks only, and then they were back to their old ways as well. I re-read your book and I just don’t feel empowered anymore. I feel so small and helpless, because I know that if anything helps, this, brain over binge, is it. There’s nothing else, it’s the only solution that makes sense to me, but somehow I can’t do it anymore. I’m 21 years old, and I’m afraid I’m throwing my life away. Me too, I started with starving myself and losing a lot of weight, until I started binge eating, and I’ve missed out on so much in my life already. I’m afraid this is going to consume me for many years to come, afraid of feeling miserable and helpless my entire life. Do you have any advice? I just want things to go back to how they were during those five weeks. During those five weeks I had anxiety issues, and I was sometimes in a depressed mood, plus I had a lot of pressure and stress because of my exams, but I could handle it all, because I was binge free. I’m really desperate. Thank you Kathryn. Mia

    1. I’m truly sorry that you are struggling with binge eating again after a 5 week recovery. My take on this is that 5 weeks, and even 5 months isn’t enough time for the urges to go away completely; so during that time, it is a matter of continuing to ignore the urges when they come up, even though motivation might not be as strong as it was in the beginning.

      It’s easy to become complacent about detaching from urges, and very easy to fall into believing that “one binge won’t hurt.” I know it feels overwhelming right now to think that you are back where you started, but you really aren’t. You went 5 weeks without binge eating, and that’s amazing. Some people think they are back at square one and completely starting over, but really, all that happened was that they acted on ONE urge. Instead of getting back on track and resisting the next urge, they view the temporary slip as complete defeat, and let their lower brain take control again.

      I’m currently finishing up a little workbook that hopefully will help people maintain their progress after the initial cessation of binge eating, because it’s true that many people have trouble maintaining detachment until the urges are completely gone. The workbook should be ready in a few weeks…I’ll post about it on the blog when it is.

    2. I can’t seem to string any recovery together at this point, but that workbook sounds like it could be an amazing tool. I feel like I’m at the end of my rope with this out of control life, but trying to hang on for dear life. After 10+ times in treatment and years of therapy/medication/reading etc., I’m discouraged. I feel super weak. Thank you for your continued work to help other find the same freedom you have.

    3. I apologize that the workbook has been delayed slightly due to some technical issues; I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be ready by the end of the month. I hope you are doing okay.

    4. Hi Anonyous and Josh. Unfortunately my deadline has come and gone (again) for the workbook. The typesetter was behind schedule and then didn’t make some of the changes I requested…so I had to send it back for one more round of edits. The errors in the workbook are very minor and do not affect the content at all (they are issues like spacing and font size). If you would like a copy of the version with errors, please email me at kathryn@brainoverbinge.com and I will send it to you (it’s currently in a PDF file). The final product will have the exact same content, but the typesetting errors will be fixed. I hope to hear from you. Sorry about the delay!

  8. I am so happy to hear about a workbook! I discovered this book 7 days ago, and guess who hasn’t binged in 7 days? 🙂 I haven’t gone this long and had it feel this easy in the 6 years since my binges started. I know I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time and feel HOPE for the first time in years. Thanks for putting this book and blog out there!

    1. That’s great news, Sarah. I hope you’ve had continued success. The workbook has been delayed slightly due to some technical issues; I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can have at least the PDF version ready by the end of the month. I wish you all the best.

    2. Hi Sarah M. Unfortunately my deadline has come and gone (again) for the workbook. The typesetter was behind schedule and then didn’t make some of the changes I requested…so I had to send it back for one more round of edits. The errors in the workbook are very minor and do not affect the content at all (they are issues like spacing and font size). If you would like a copy of the version with errors, please email me at kathryn@brainoverbinge.com and I will send it to you (it’s currently in a PDF file). The final product will have the exact same content, but the typesetting errors will be fixed. I hope to hear from you. Sorry about the delay!

  9. Hi Kathryn,

    Thank you for authoring such a wonderful book. It’s been so helpful (and validating!) on my journey.

    Also, thank you for this post. I found it to be extremely helpful. In case it could help anyone else, I wanted to share another technique I sometimes use to help me separate from my urge. When I start to feel the urge, I try to picture it as though “I” (my mind) am experiencing the urge as though seeing it from inside a train car. I move through the neurological junk as though it were a patch or fog or a bit of scenery that the train was passing through. It helps me remain disengaged emotionally as well as providing perspective that I am moving through it; as time passes, it will fade away behind me. As long as I don’t “stop” there (by focusing on it, reacting to it, and of course acting on it) I can be aware that it is happening but can remain passively steady about it. I hope this makes sense and that it may prove useful to one or two others.

    Thank you again for the insightful gift your writing has been to me!

  10. Thank you so much for your book, blog, helpful replies. I think this could really be it for me. After gaining thirty pounds because of binging, I think I may be able to beat it. Any advice for a perfectionist that feels they need the ‘fresh start’ before they start ignoring the urges? I used to always be able to pick myself up and try again but I seem to have let myself slip so low that I don’t even have motivation to start again. I’m not sure how to begin..

    1. My best advice is to only focus on detaching from/resisting the very next urge. Don’t worry about the binge urges you’ve had in the past or the ones you may experience in the future. Take one urge at a time, and success can build on itself. Resisting just one urge might be all you need to give you motivation to keep going. Remember this can be a process for some people so trust yourself to apply ideas/techniques from my book as you see fit for you.

  11. Thank you! Day 3, no binge eating. Really loving the dog/ chess example. Doing T Tapp for exercise. 15 min workout….in high school, I finished workouts with 1, 000 sit ups. Glad that is on the past.

  12. I want to thank you for sharing your story and your methods. I struggle with binge-eating, as well as a porn addiction. Your methods have actually helped me more with the porn than with binge-eating, but I see steady improvement in both areas.

    1. I agree! I’ve done this and it helps A LOT! I would just write down what I ate, not how much or how many calories, and right next to it I would write what I was feienlg. Now I just write my feienlgs in my journal, and that is so helpful in releasing them, whether I’m depressed, angry, happy, or whatever. Journaling has really helped me figure out what’s going on inside me and why I binge or overeat. Thanks for sharing this with everyone!

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