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!
“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.