Weight after Recovery

Before I begin this post, I want to say that I’m not a nutritionist, a personal trainer, or an MD.  This post is not to be taken as medical advice about how to lose or gain weight, or how to have an ideal diet.  Please know that these are my own opinions about the issue of weight as it relates to recovery, and this does not substitute for nutritional advice.

     When it comes to weight, the reality is, we are all different; and binge eaters come in all shapes and sizes.  I have said before that even if I never would 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 small 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. However, I realize that being overweight or having an extreme desire to be very thin can be factors in tempting a person to go on restrictive diets or to avoid eating normally.  

     Although the issue of weight in recovery will affect everyone differently, I think that wanting to lose weight and actively trying to do that while also trying to stop binge eating can complicate things. Some bulimics may fear recovery because they worry that life without purging will inevitably lead to weight gain; some of those with BED may fear recovery because they are overwhelmed at the thought of losing the weight gained from binge eating. I strongly feel that anyone who wants to quit binge eating – regardless of how much they weigh or how much they desire to weigh –  should try not to focus on weight loss until long after binge eating stops.

There are two primary reasons why I feel this way:

    1.)    Weight will likely take care of itself after binge eating stops.

     For me, stopping the binge eating was all I needed to do to lose weight. My metabolism started working the way it should and there was no need to try to shed those extra pounds. I believe this is the case for the vast majority of people with BED or non-purging bulimia, and even most bulimics who self-induce vomiting. Some people seem to think that extra weight from binge eating just stays there until you do something (diet/exercise) to make it come off, but that’s usually not true. Some patience may be needed while the body regulates itself, but pounds should come off by stopping binge eating alone. Here is why I think it happened for me and can happen for others: 

     Caloric expenditure increases with body weight (overweight people burn more calories per day than slender people). The reason is because it requires more energy to carry around extra weight, and extra surface area also means more energy lost as heat. For example, one study showed that slender people used 2,481 calories per day, and obese people used 3,162.*  This fact comes to the aid of those who have gained weight from binge eating, and let me explain that using myself as an example:

     I was about 20 pounds above my natural weight when I stopped binge eating.  My normal diet was about 2,300 calories, but with the binges added (let’s say approximately 4 binges per week, around 8,000 calories each), it upped my weekly caloric intake by 32,000 calories. Spread that out over 7 days, and my daily average was around 6,870 calories. Yes, I was exercising frantically to try to compensate for that, but my “purging” only burned a minimal amount of all of those calories. Even if I would have been dieting restrictively between binges (which I was doing in the earlier years of my bulimia) – eating let’s say only 1,000 non-binge calories each day, the daily average with the binges added would still be 5,570 calories. So, in short, quitting binge eating obviously reduces calorie intake…big time.

     But, how does that automatically lead to weight loss? Eating around a 2,300 calorie diet now allows me to maintain my weight now, so why did that same amount of food allow me to lose 20 lbs after recovery? Because of the fact I mentioned previously – more body weight means more calories burned. At 20 pounds above my natural weight, I may have been using around 2,600 calories a day, but eating less than that (2,300), leading to gradual weight loss. (*I realize this is oversimplifying things due to the fact that weight loss is not a simple calories in-calories out equation, which I’ll explain more later in the post). This is not starvation or putting oneself in a calorie deficit; this is just how people naturally lose weight after consuming too many calories for too long. The body gravitates back to it’s normal size, because the larger size can only be maintained with an overabundance of calories.
     To sum it up: while there is something you need to do (binge) to maintain a larger size, there is often absolutely nothing you need to do to slowly gravitate back to normal. For most binge eaters, the weight is likely only staying there because of the binges; it’s not permanently stuck there until you diet it away. No, it won’t come off overnight like it might with some fad/crash diet, but it’s healthier in the long run to lose it naturally, and it can help you avoid repeating the diet/binge cycle in the future.   

   What about those who think they are “getting rid of” those binge calories by self-induced vomiting?  It’s not much different logic there either. Most people who self-induce vomiting probably already know that it does not actually get rid of all of the binge calories. Studies have shown that calorie absorption may even begin much earlier in the body when you have bulimia – another one of the body’s natural ways of protecting itself. If you binge and self-induce vomiting, your daily calorie intake is likely still much greater than the number of calories you’d consume through a normal diet with no binge eating or purging.  Another factor is: purging can slow down metabolism, so that calories a bulimic consumes are stored instead of being used as energy; but once the binge eating and purging stops, metabolism can get back to normal allowing for weight to regulate.    

 

2.)  If weight doesn’t take care of itself, you’ll be in a much better position to tackle the problem.

 
     I don’t believe weight loss is a simple calories in/calories out equation, so the above explanation might not hold true for every unique body. If you are overweight and don’t gradually lose weight after stopping binge eating, even after you are very patient about it; I still feel it’s vital not to try to address it until after you are confident the binge eating is done for good. Once you are sure of your ability to not binge, you’ll be better able to tackle the problem with a healthy solution. 

     During the time that you are becoming binge-free, I think it’s also important to be aware that your lower brain might use a lack of weight loss as fuel for the binge urges. If you don’t see the scale dropping (and I wouldn’t even recommend getting on one during this time), you may hear thoughts like, “You are not losing weight so you might as well binge.” Rationally, you know how ridiculous that sounds, because obviously binge eating will only bring you further away from ever finding a solution to your weight issue; but in the moment, it can seem like a convincing thought. Always remember that you can stop binge eating for good even if you are not the weight you want to be.   

     We all come in all different shapes and sizes, and what’s a healthy weight for one person of a certain height might not be a healthy weight for another person of that same height, and I also believe it’s possible to be fit and healthy even if you technically overweight (I don’t think BMI is the best indicator of health); however, there are some who would unquestionably benefit from some weight loss. I don’t subscribe to the belief that we can be extremely overweight or obese, yet still be very healthy. (On a side note, I also don’t think being thin is a guarantee of health either.  For example, belly fat on skinny people gives them some of the same health risks as obese people http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-risks-of-belly-fat.)

     I am not against healthy weight loss, but I feel strongly that advice to simply restrict calories and eat low-fat/low-calorie food is completely misguided and does more harm than good (especially in those susceptible to binge eating), and just doesn’t work in the long run. I think binge eaters should avoid starvation (calorie-restrictive) diets at all costs. For example, I think the typical 1200-1400 cal/day weight loss diet for a woman is starvation, unless she is lying in bed all day and not moving at all. Low calorie diets lead to a slower metabolism, malnourishment (which some claim is one of the causes of obesity), and more weight gain in the long run. It’s also simply unrealistic to think you can maintain a 1,200 calorie per day diet to lose weight and then keep that weight off for life.       

     So, then how does one lose weight without restricting calories? First of all, when I say “don’t restrict,” I don’t mean eat excessively. I mean eat enough, eat to nourish yourself well, eat what your body needs. Of course, a bit of overeating happens from time to time even in normal people; but as a rule, daily intake should be within a normal range.  That being said, I know that excessive eating isn’t usually to blame, and I definitely think there are a myriad of other problems that can contribute to not losing weight (for example: hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, leptin resistence, food allergies/sensitivities, thyroid problems, infections, damage to the organs involved in metabolic control, too many toxins in the diet, not enough activity, too many processed foods, not enough water, not enough sleep, too much stress…etc). 

     If you go from binge eating to eating a normal diet, and you don’t eventually lose weight; then I believe it makes sense to look into what might be preventing that from happening.  Reasons for not losing weight can be multifaceted, and science currently has an incomplete understanding of why some people can lose weight easily and for others, it’s a struggle; but I don’t think the complexity should prevent us from looking for answers.  

     I believe that making some changes to the composition of one’s diet (without letting it become an obsession and still allowing for flexibility) can help many, and is a much better approach than simply slashing calories. Focusing on eating a lot of nutrient dense, nourishing foods can lead to more weight loss in the long run without ever putting the body in “starvation mode.”  Everyone is different, and some people might find that changing diet composition to make it more “paleo” helps them feel better and lose weight, while others find that eating more “vegan” foods help then achieve the same results. I also am a big advocate of healthy exercise as a way to achieve weight loss, although I think it should be enjoyable as well.   

     In my opinion, the goal for anyone trying to lose weight, whether they have a history of an eating disorder or not, should be to gain better health, not to simply lose weight fast. I think when people are truly focused on becoming healthier, it becomes an effort to nourish the body well, to feel better, to gain energy for living, to prevent disease; and it ceases to be about how many pounds they can lose or what size jeans they can fit into. And, usually, if one focuses on becoming healthier (and he/she does need to lose weight) the weight will come off naturally. In those who desperately want to be super-thin, focusing on health can help them realize that trying to maintain an unnatural weight is not good for their body. Focusing on health can also allow them to appreciate food for it’s nourishing qualities, without worrying about how many calories foods contain or if they can possibly lead to weight gain.  

      But focusing on health is usually not possible when binge eating is still occurring, because when you fundamentally feel like you don’t have control of what or how much you eat at times, it’s hard to implement healthy changes. This is why I believe those who want to quit binge eating should not address weight issues until after recovery. 

     Improvements in health, weight, and attitudes toward your weight are just some of the positive changes that recovery can free you up to make.    

*Leibel RL et al.  Changes in energy expenditure resulting from altered body weight. N Eng J Med. 1995 Mar 9;332(10):621-8

57 thoughts on “Weight after Recovery

  1. Thank you for posting, Kathryn. I always enjoy reading your blog. I read your book and was able to stop binge eating for good, so thank you:) My quality of life has drastically improved. I feel happier, healthier, and more confident. I am able to enjoy life and not focus on food 100% of the time.

    That being said, I naturally lost a few pounds after my BED disappeared, but I still felt a little unsatisfied w/ my weight. I’m 5″2′ and about 119 lbs, which is in a normal range, but I still felt a little heavy for my body type. I started assessing my diet, and although the binging was gone, I still didn’t eat as healthy as I once thought. My normal eating patterns revealed that I ate a lot of processed foods and often craved sugar.

    My personal experience w/ stopping binging and trying to shed a few pounds is this: I did not do anything drastic to my diet, but looked at what I was eating. I enjoy a raw vegetable juice everyday, whether it’s in the afternoon or for my breakfast, and it has stopped my sugar cravings. You can buy a juicer to keep in the kitchen or go to a juice stand, Whole Foods, etc. I love juices that have beets, carrots, spinach, apple, kale, you name it!

    I am addicted to feeling happy and healthy, and receiving the nutrients I was not getting by eating ‘low sugar this’ or ‘low fat that’ has made a world of difference. I’m like a new person, or ‘the old me’ before I ever had an ED. Thanks again for posting, Kathryn. Always enjoy your insights and advice.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with weight loss after recovery. I think it will be helpful for others to read because you addressed your weight issues in a healthy way. Congrats on your recovery!

      Juicing is yummy:-) I don’t have an actual Juicer, but I sometimes put fruits/veggies in my blender and then strain them to make juice. I also love those green food powder drinks; I think they are a super-easy way to get a ton of nutrition. I think simple changes like having some natural juice rather than a diet soda (or a regular one for that matter) can make a huge difference in health.

      I totally agree with you that eating a lot of “low-fat/low-sugar” processed foods can leave you devoid of nutrients and not feeling good. It’s simply better to eat real food. I’m not saying I always do the perfect job of doing that, because it isn’t always easy to do when life is busy and the processed stuff can be quicker/easier/cheaper.

      I’m glad my book was helpful to you!

  2. Hello, I am Karolina.
    Three months passed after my last binge, i am happy about that, but i still want to be thinner even
    if i am at healthy weight. I thought if i will quit binge eating i will lose weight. Well I did, – 4,4 pounds. ( I didn’t diet)
    But one day when i weight my self and saw bigger numbers in the scale (about +2.4 pounds ) I felt horrible, the trigger seems to be the fact that I’ve gained a bit of weight and I also find it triggering when my jeans feel tight or my stomach seems to stick out . Automatic thoughts like: “Why I am gaining back weight again! Everything I wanted was to lose weight… now my hopes are ruined, i feel hopeless, so go and and eat to compensate that sadness” So i went to refrigerator, but strange, despite the bad mood, i thought: “… It would be ridiculous to binge eat” Well, at that time i was physically hungry so i made two sandwiches and had ice cream for dessert, but i didn’t overeat.
    I’ve never been overweight in my life, so why am i absolutely convinced that if i stopped planning my meals, my weight would skyrocket? it’s so illogical and it frustrates me so much, but i can’t shake that fear. I know it all comes down to control. I only feel safe when I consciously planning, controlling my food intake, because only then my weight is stable. I feel that fear ALL the time and i hate it, but I am so tired of all that planning too. I think getting rid of that fear is key to recovery, but i really don’t understand how to get there.
    Anyway, fear of weight gain is holding me back, every time when I am eating without plan, i feel anxiety and tension, It is so hard to live with it, how to let go that desire to be thin?
    Kathryn, how do you get over the fear of gaining weight? What if your weight right now would be 140 pounds, do you still be happy with it?

    p.s sorry for my english 🙂
    (I ‘am from Europe)

    1. Karolina,
      Wow, 3 months binge-free is great! Although I know the weight issue is a struggle for you right now, I found your story of how you averted a binge after gaining weight to be very, very encouraging. I honestly think those are the types of situations that separate people who will be free of binge eating for life from those who may go back to it.

      Choosing not to binge despite a bad mood, sadness, frustration, and weight problems shows that you have separated the binge eating from other life stress, and realize that binge eating doesn’t truly help you cope with anything.

      Like I said in this post, putting the binge eating behind you can then help you tackle other issues you may have, including this one with your weight/controlling your food intake. This is a tough issue that sadly faces so many women (and men too) – even those without a history of an eating disorder; and this is why I think it’s important not to make developing a great body image a requirement for recovery.

      However, I don’t think anyone should resign to having a poor body image just because it’s common. When poor body image interferes with your happiness and quality of life, it definitely should be addressed. Did you happen to read my “Facing Fears” post (the one prior to this one)? I’m not sure if it would help you or not, but I think you are likely finding it hard to shake the fear of giving up meal planning/control because it feels ego-syntonic to you. Fears that feel like they come from the true self can be more difficult to overcome, which I touch on in that post.

      You asked how to let go of that desire to be thin…
      I think everyone’s experience with this is a bit different. For me, giving up the desire to be super-thin seemed to be a natural result of seeing how much trouble that desire caused and how wanting to be super-thin ended up making me much heavier than my normal weight. After I lost weight naturally from quitting binge eating, I had no desire to lose more.

      But, like you asked, what if I would have stayed at 140? It’s tough to say, because that’s not my natural weight. In order to be that weight, I’d have to be unhealthy and overloading my body with calories; and if I were doing that, I wouldn’t be happy with myself. But, if 140 WAS my natural weight, and at that weight I was eating normally, exercising and felt healthy, then I would be absolutely fine with it. I’m sure I’d find some flaws – as I do with my body today – but I don’t believe it’s worth fighting your body type/size.

      If you are at a healthy weight now, and you think it’s your natural weight (even if you may desire to be thinner); then – as I’m sure you already know – learning to accept that weight will benefit you greatly in the long run.

      Also, keep in mind that 3 months is not a long time, and it may take your body longer to settle at a normal weight for you. I would suggest trying to ditch the scale for a while, because natural fluctuations can occur even if you are gradually losing weight from quitting binge eating. It simply doesn’t make sense to put yourself through that unnecessary stress.

      I hope this helps somewhat. I wish you all the best.

    1. This is not true. I counted caoleirs from my former way of eating and then when I went on a low-carb for 6 weeks. I lost 22 and hit my goal. During that time period, I ate roughly the same amount of caoleirs. Granted on days, I was a couple hundred under, but on days, I was a couple hundred over. In my case, I was eating roughly the same amount. I’ve come to believe that caoleirs are not the deciding factor.

  3. I love your posts. Have u ever thought about incorporating a forum or discussion board to your blog? It would be so great

    1. Thanks:-) I have thought about including a discussion board/forum. However, at this point in my life I feel like I wouldn’t have time to moderate it (although, I’m sure people would be looking to talk to each other and not me, so maybe that wouldn’t be as time consuming as I think). I’ll look into it some more. Thanks for the suggestion!

    2. I think a discussion forum would be a good idea! One that readers could talk to other readers in… I bought the book and do okay for a few days, but then I binge again. It’s frustrating. I think talking to people who have used your methods and have been successful might help. I’m sure a lot of people would benefit from it too.

    3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. I think it would be beneficial as well, because everyone’s experience is different and the more ideas we have out there the better. My goal is to try to get one set up in June or at the latest July. So, stay tuned.

    4. I just saw that. That is fantastic news. Kathryn you have changed my life!!! Seriously. I would love to share my thoughts with people.

  4. Also, thank you for the great post! I have decided to stop weighing myself, because I really do think it is hindering my progress. I need to forget about my weight and just focus on ignoring the urges to binge. I have so many other stresses in my life to worry about anyway! My weight should be the last thing on my mind. I think my problem is I keep seeing my urges as “me” and not my “lower brain”, which is why I keep giving in to them. I just can’t detach myself from the thoughts. I’m not going to give up though, and I will get rid of this nasty habit.

    1. Not weighing yourself sounds like a great idea. To me, it simply doesn’t make sense to spend time and energy worrying about what the scale says, especially when you are trying to quit binge eating.

  5. I just noticed I typed “my” urges instead of what should be “the” urges… they are NOT my own! I have to stop paying attention to them and giving them importance.

    1. I think what you just did can help greatly. Even if you are having trouble separating right now, talking about the part of you that wants to binge as if it is not you is a good start. Even if you don’t quite believe it right away, and even though the habit may sometimes feel like a part of you right now; if you can stop talking about it in those terms, you may be able to gradually separate yourself from it. Actually,(if you haven’t already) may I suggest that you read “Rational Recovery;” I think it is better than my book about helping you with the separation – recognizing and getting apart from “it.” When I quit, I knew I truly didn’t want to binge anymore so achieving separation wasn’t too much of a struggle for me. Others may need a little more time to detach from binge urges.   
       

  6. Thanks so much for the quick response! I am going to check out Rational Recovery. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  7. Hi Kathryn! I have bought your book and found it so insipiring. Anyway, I am still so stucked.
    I have been bulimic for 3 years or more. Last year I have started reducing a lot the purging thing. This made me gaining 25 pounds so far. After reading your book (your story was really similar to mine, I feel so desperate about stopping!) I told myself: ok, I have gained weight but I have stopped purging. This means that my brain doesn’t recognize anymore the connection between eating and purging. So I thought that I could also stop binge eating in that same way, and start living my own life, fat or not fat. At the beginning I was so excited that I barely had real cravings. After few days I slipped up and overeated at dinner time. From that moment I haven’t been able to make up my mind again.
    I have tried so many times to stop binge eating. I have tried “packing” the food for a period, (putting on the plate only the amount I should eat so that I am not tempted to eat more), I have tried letting my bf preparing the meals to drive my attention off the food but after few days I was sneaking food at any time, I have tried to keep relaxed and forgive myself for the last binge but I found myself overeating during normal meals. My lower brain is always reacting to my will power, it always finds a way to fool me. Lately I have also purged a few times…. I feel hopeless and ashamed!! I always start with a good mood and I tell myself that this time it will work but I keep on fail, exactly like I did when I tried to diet but now it’s even worst. I feel lost.I wonder why I cannot be the same I was before my ED. I just don’t know where to start again… Hope somebody has a few words to tell me to help me find the right track… thank you! And thanks, Kathryn for sharing your story and keeping this blog.

    Dana.

    1. Hi Dana,
      I’m really sorry you are struggling and discouraged.
      You seem determined to put this behind you, even though you are having a hard time right now, which is very encouraging to me; because without that desire to be free of this, recovery can be elusive.

      My book isn’t going to be a 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. Or if ultimately, what worked for me isn’t the answer for you, then that doesn’t mean you won’t find another path to recovery. As I wrote in another post (http://brainoverbinge.blogspot.com/2012/02/old-journal-entry-just-prior-to.html), I believe recovery can be simplified down to 2 things: 1.) Learn to feed your body sufficiently (which you seem to be trying to do, which is very good); and 2.) Learn to resist urges to binge in a way that works for you (which is where the problem seems to be for you right now). You may need to adjust the methods that helped me resist urges so that they work for you.

      You might start by determining what you did when you were successful in the beginning. You said you didn’t have many real cravings, but how do you get past any that you did have? Did you feel like you had any success listening to your urges with detachment? You could also determine what happens now that makes you feel like you have no choice but to binge?  I’m not talking about the events/feelings that “trigger” the urges, I’m talking about the urges themselves – how does your lower brain get what it wants?  What do you feel/hear in your head that makes you feel like you can’t resist?  Maybe try writing down the thoughts/feelings that hook you, and whatever those thoughts/feelings are, you will need to be able to recognize them in the future and feel/hear them without reacting emotionally or acting on them. 

      It seems like, without that one situation where you overate, you might still be going along just fine. In the beginning there are going to be times that are a bit tricky, and the overeating incident was likely one of those tricky situations, when your lower brain was able to sneak in and get the upper hand. Remember that overeating doesn’t cause binge eating, but it can trigger urges in a lot of people and create a reason to “just go ahead and binge.”

      The ability to get past situations where you might have eaten a bit more than you wanted to without letting it escalate into a binge, I believe, is vital to recovery; because you will likely encounter similar situations from time to time for the rest of your life. Food tastes good and every now and then, we all override our fullness signals; but in normal eaters/those who have recovered, it doesn’t create a desire to binge. You certainly don’t want overeating to become a habit either; but when it does occur, it can’t derail you.

      Also, you have proven to yourself that you can stop purging, which is great. I would strongly encourage you please don’t develop that habit again because it’s so dangerous and it’s only going to make things worse.

      I hope this helps somewhat and I truly hope that you are able to have some success and one day soon put bulimia behind you for good. I know how awful it is to feel stuck and out of control, and I wish I could take your pain away. Please know that if you never give up, you will find a way out of this.

  8. Hi, I just bought and read your book.I’m an Asian and it’s not easy to find books on this subject in ours country,your book is the first ebook I’ve ever bought on Amazon and I’m so glad I did!
    I’m a college student who just started to binge two month ago,after my third binge I knew that something was wrong with me(I didn’t even know what Binge is back then) I read some emotion eating book which didn’t work and made me binge even more.
    I finally found your book and didn’t binge since then!
    Well, in the book you talked about your life in college and the opportunities you lost because of binge eating and it made me look at my case. My binge just started so when I finished your book I was able to stop right away,I couldn’t even imagine that if I didn’t read your book how’d my life’ gonna be,how much time I’d waste.
    I’ve been searching for your blog because, in your book you said you wanted to write the book to help others and I just want you to know that you definitely saved me.
    Thank you for wrote the book, thank you for doing this for all of us.

    1. Hi Val,
      This comment made my day:-) Thank you so much for taking the time to find my blog and share your experience. That was very thoughtful. I am so happy to know that you were able to put binge eating behind you right way, before it ever took over your life. Congrats to you for taking control and quitting before it wasted any more of your valuable time. I hope you are enjoying college, and I wish you all the best in the future.

  9. Your book seriously has changed my life. I started reading it 3 days ago, and in the first day got more than half way through. I couldn’t stop reading & absorbing all of the knowledge. I already feel like I’m equipped to start my full recovery.

  10. Kathryn, is there any way you can do a post for those of us who have just read the book, and are struggling to use the mindfulness technique to just observe the urges pass rather than acting on them. i was doing really really well, then had a particularly bad day and they totally overwhelmed me. If i could have maybe been more relaxed to as not allow them to control me i think i would have been more successful.

    I try to go back the book when this happens, but maybe to have all the tips for that kind of situation in one place may help? thankyou!! x

    1. Yes, definitely. Thanks for the suggestion. I plan to post tomorrow on a different topic, and then I will get to your idea after that. It shouldn’t take too long because I have given suggestions to others about this issue in the past, so I can just find and compile everything I’ve written into one post.

    2. Hi Sarah,
      I sometimes think things won’t take too long, and then I run into unexpected parenting problems that swallow my time. My high-spirited 19-month-old learned how to climb out of her crib a little over a week ago, so I’ve had to spend many long nights trying to train her to stay in a regular bed…and I haven’t had time to write this post (not to mention no sleep!). I’ll get to it as soon as possible; I’m just letting you know I haven’t forgotten. Thanks for your patience.

  11. 4 months have passed since my last binge, i am happy about that, BUT now i have another problem… I think I still eat too much, maybe my food portions are too big or i eat to many sweets. I have gained weight about 5.5 pounds. I am tired of that food control, but every time when i try to let go it, i eat too much and I gained weight. Now I am afraid to eat 🙁 I want to be free from that food – weight cycle so much, but somehow it seems like an endless story.

  12. Hi Karolina,
    Congrats on 4 months binge free! I hope that part is becoming effortless. I am sorry that you are still struggling with food control and unwanted weight gain.

    Without being a nutritionist or knowing your calorie intake, I do not know whether you are eating too much for your activity level. I also do not know what other physiological factors might be involved (as I mentioned in this post, there can be many reasons for weight gain that have nothing to do with eating too much). What I do know is that calorie restriction slows your metabolism, so it’s possible that you are eating a normal diet now, but because of a history of calorie restriction, your body is not burning as much of it as it should. This problem should take care of itself over time, which is why I mentioned before that you might want to ditch the scale for a while as your body adjusts.

    If the problem doesn’t take care of itself, then you can begin looking into other factors that might be causing your weight gain (or thinking about whether or not you are trying to maintain a weight that’s too low for you). If you truly feel like you need help learning how to eat normally, please seek it, because being afraid to eat and returning to restrictive eating could fire up your survival instincts and lead to more intense urges to binge; and obviously binge eating wouldn’t solve any of the problems you are experiencing now.

    Now that you have the binge eating under control, it’s a perfect time to tackle any other food issues you may have. I try to stay focused in my book and blog to use my own story to inspire people to stop binge eating; I don’t claim to have all the answers in how to have a great body image, or maintain the perfect weight, or eat an ideal diet.

    These are issues that many people face, and I hope you are able to find answers and solutions that work for you.

  13. Hi Kathryn,
    Thank you for your reply,

    I have decided to stop weighing myself, because every time when i do that and see no change in weight loss,
    the same old automatic thoughts saying things like: “… Karolina, if there is no results, no weight loss,
    then go to compensate that sadness, eat something sweet and ENJOY yourself”.

    So, i thought maybe there is nothing wrong to eat one or two portions of ice cream and maybe some chocolate, every day.
    The bad thing is, sometimes did not even want to eat, but i did it anyway because of habit. It feels good when I eat without
    responsibility and control. I think this is the main cause of weight gain.

    I hope urges to binge-purge are gone, but urges to eat more than i should still remains.
    I will try my best to recognize those thoughts and feelings and detach myself. Then I will do some changes in my eating habits,
    like portion sizes at meal time and definitely less desserts.

    I hope that everything will be OK.

    Thanks again for everything, Kathryn
    I truly appreciate that.

    1. Hi Kathryn,

      Another helpful post. Thanks. I can confirm that obsessing over weight while trying to recover from binge eating definitely complicates things. I was 100 pounds overweight when I got started and likely lessened the effectiveness of my recovery efforts by by worrying about how obese I was.

      Now I’m pregnant (and still obese, but less so than before) and weighing myself every day to ensure I don’t recklessly pack on excess pounds. I’m only 10 weeks in, but I haven’t gained any weight so far. My eating is really questionable at times, but you can’t imagine how grateful I am for finding “Brain Over Binge” and making some progress before becoming pregnant. I think without your book, I would have still been caught up in binging and would have gained weight rapidly from the very beginning of pregnancy, using the first trimeste queasiness I’ve experienced to justify excessive consumption of sweets and other fatty foods (since they unfortunately sit so well and ease the queasiness, in my case).

      Anyway, my goal is to eat healthfully (forget perfectly) and avoid gaining more than the 10-20 pounds recommended by my physician.

      I did realize something disheartening before becoming pregnant, though. I realized what a long road I had ahead of me, in terms of both behavioral change and weight loss. Unlike you, who are naturally thin and had been a normal eater at one time (and could therefore revert back to normal eating behaviors that supported a healthy weight once you addressed the binge/purge cycle), I have ALWAYS been an overeater and I have ALWAYS been overweight. I had been focused on my binge eating disorder for so long that I sort of forgot that this was the case–that before I ever started binging, I was overeating and grappling with a serious sweet tooth and my weight. From very early childhood. In other words, there is no “normal” for me to revert back to; I have to build something new from the ground up.

      Even though I believe chronic overeating and an unreasonable attachment to hyper-palatable foods stems from the lower brain, just like binge eating, and therefore can be addressed by appropriating the Brain Over Binge method (call it Brain over Overeating/Brain over Junk?), it was DEPRESSING to realize my work was just starting. It was depressing to realize I was probably going to be obese/overweight for a long time to come as I worked through all this. I thought stopping the binges was everything; it turned out to be just the first thing.

      I hope this doesn’t sound negative. I’m just curious to see if anyone out there can relate to this and what they are doing about it. I’m also curious if you have any thoughts on rebuilding from the ground up, so to speak. I don’t want to get all restrictive and freaky with my food–I KNOW that would backfire–but I still feel that even without the binges, my day-to-day choices keep me fat and basically a slave to the lower brain.

    2. Hi Karolina,
      I’m glad you’ve decided to stop weighing yourself for a while, and I truly hope that helps you.

      While I believe choosing to have deserts/treats is fine; if you feel like you are eating too many of them (even though not binging on them), then that’s definitely something you’ll want to address. I talked about similar issues in two of my blog posts, and I’ve copied the links below. Forgive me if you’ve already read these, I just think they may relate to your situation.

      Non-Hungry Cravings:
      http://brainoverbinge.blogspot.com/2011/11/non-hungry-cravings.html

      Binge Subjectivity:
      http://brainoverbinge.blogspot.com/2011/09/binge-subjectivity.html

    3. Hi Human in Progress,

      First of all, congrats on your pregnancy! That’s very exciting news. I am glad you are working hard to take care of yourself and your baby, and I wish you all the best throughout these exciting and often challenging months.

      I didn’t announce it on the blog, but I’m also expecting again (I’m about 17 weeks along); and I hear you on the 1st trimester nausea. It’s awful, and for me in the first trimester, the main foods that seem appetizing are highly processed ‘junk’ foods (well, those and anything with lots of vinegar or pickles or hot peppers). To try to sit down and eat a healthy meal is always a huge challenge for me in the first trimester; when normally, it’s very enjoyable. Yet, to eat some boxed mac and cheese with imitation cheese is easy and appetizing. It’s hard to find a balance between making yourself eat the healthy things that don’t appeal to your senses AT ALL, and allowing yourself to choose less healthy options because you feel sick and that’s the only thing you can bear to eat. In all of my pregnancies, the difficultly in eating healthier foods (for me the most difficult foods to stomach were meat, veggies, and eggs) and the abnormal cravings went away around 14 weeks (although I am still eating jalapeno peppers like they are going out of style!). So, be encouraged that this will go away (which I’m sure you know), and if you are managing to handle it well now, it will only get easier throughout the pregnancy.

      I am sorry that you are struggling with the realization that you have more work to do with eating/weight. I knew from the beginning that the fact that I’m naturally thin and had a ‘normal’ to revert back to would cause some to find my solution incomplete. Yes, it may be a solution to quitting binge eating; but for some, that’s not all they need to feel healthy and normal, because even without binges, there are still weight and food problems. I’ve tried to address some of those issues as well as I could in other blogs (mainly in ‘Binge Subjectivity,’ ‘Non-Hungry Cravings,’ and this one). I try to make clear in my book that what I’m describing is a solution for binge eating (what worked for me), and certainly not what is going to cure all eating issues. Obesity is a huge problem in this country and others, and binge eating is definitely not the only culprit. There are millions of overweight people in this world who don’t binge, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have food issues to overcome. What I hope my book can do for people like you is not make you feel like your food/weight problem days are over; but to help you get the binge eating out of the way so that you are then able to tackle those other food issues if you want to. I wish I had the experience and the knowledge to guide you through this, but others will likely have much better ideas and advice than me. I hope others do respond to you here, and if not, I hope you are able to find solutions that work for you.

      Again, congrats on the pregnancy. I hope you enjoy it and love being a mother.

      Take care,
      Kathryn

  14. Dear Human In Progress,

    I understand your situation! Thankfully I’m not dealing with this while also bearing the concern of pregnancy weight but I too have found that stopping the bingeing isn’t the whole answer for me and getting back to a healthy weight. I compulsively overeat too, and the Brain Over Binge method is helping with that just like it does with bingeing. But I’m also finding that I just plain overeat too, eating past the point of satiety and unfortunately, probably eating too many calories. I read Kathryn’s book about two weeks ago and have had a huge shift in my behavior but am feeling worried that the weight may still be there, and that is extremely disheartening. But as Kathryn said, stopping the bingeing and compulsive overeating will reduce my calories and even if it takes a long time, I will eventually weigh less. I’m going to have to wait and see what happens and make decisions from there.

    Kathryn, congratulations on your new little baby! I pray you’ll have a healthy, easy pregnancy.

    1. Hi Gertrude,

      Thanks for your words–it’s good to know I’m not alone!

      Hi Kathryn,

      Congrats on your pregnancy as well! And thank you for the encouragement. It is getting easier to eat well. I had the same issue with vegetables, eggs, and meat; for the longest time, all I wanted was carbs (and preferably simple ones like noodles) and fat (CHEESE! ICE CREAM!), especially on those queasy days.

      I want to reiterate how helpful your book was to me. Getting the binge behavior to settle down was a necessary, huge first step. There was no way I could address the tendency to overeat at meals and to constantly reach for crappy foods at mealtime when binge eating disorder was occupying my whole life. Like I mentioned before, it was something of a surprise when I stopped binging and could see my more long-standing food issues clearly again. It was like winding back the clock to high school, when I was overeating and overweight and miserable, but hadn’t developed full-blown binge eating disorder yet. (That would happen in college.)

      I don’t think your solution is incomplete–certainly not for binge behavior, and not even for issues like chronic overeating and attachment to junk food. I plan to work through all this by viewing the tendency to eat the wrong stuff, and too much of it, as neurological junk. It’s habit, it’s conditioning, it’s coming from the lower brain, just like binging was.

      Having said that, I have found it helpful to add Vipassana meditation and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) techniques to my recovery efforts. The Vipassana is thanks to you–that one blog post you did about spirituality is what made me decide to explore it. And ACT dovetails very nicely with Brain Over Binge. I’ve actually been meaning to write you about ACT because it’s quite different from the kinds of (ineffective) therapies/treatments you discuss in your book. I’m going to put some excerpts from Wikipedia in a separate comment below, just to give you a quick idea of what I’m talking about.

      Anyway, I’ve added ACT and meditation not due to any deficiency in your approach, but just because I have SO much work to do and can use all the help and tools I can get my hands on!

      Thanks again and best wishes,

      Rachel

    2. A bit about Acceptance and Commitment therapy, from Wikipedia. I think it’s rather compatible/complementary to Brain Over Binge:

      “ACT differs from traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in that rather than trying to teach people to better control their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other private events, ACT teaches them to “just notice,” accept, and embrace their private events, especially previously unwanted ones. ACT helps the individual get in contact with a transcendent sense of self known as “self-as-context”—the you that is always there observing and experiencing and yet distinct from one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories. ACT aims to help the individual clarify their personal values and to take action on them, bringing more vitality and meaning to their life in the process, increasing their psychological flexibility.”

      “As a simple way to summarize the model, ACT views the core of many problems to be due to the concepts represented in the acronym, FEAR:

      * Fusion with your thoughts
      * Evaluation of experience
      * Avoidance of your experience
      * Reason-giving for your behavior

      And the healthy alternative is to ACT:

      * Accept your reactions and be present
      * Choose a valued direction
      * Take action”

      “ACT commonly employs six core principles to help clients develop psychological flexibility:

      1. Cognitive defusion: Learning methods to reduce the tendency to reify thoughts, images, emotions, and memories
      2. Acceptance: Allowing them to come and go without struggling with them.
      3. Contact with the present moment: Awareness of the here and now, experienced with openness, interest, and receptiveness.
      4. Observing the self: Accessing a transcendent sense of self, a continuity of consciousness which is unchanging.
      5. Values: Discovering what is most important to one’s true self.
      6. Committed action: Setting goals according to values and carrying them out responsibly.”

    3. Thanks so much Gertrude!

      Human in Progress,
      Thanks for including the information about Acceptance and Commitment therapy. I think it will be helpful for other readers. I can’t say I’m very knowledgeable about it, but I remember reading some about ACT when I was nearing the end of the writing process for my book. I remember thinking it was similar in some ways to what I had written, and that it would be great if ACT could replace CBT as a standard way to treat eating disorders. I briefly considered mentioning it in my book (along with DBT), but decided since I didn’t have personal experience with it I wouldn’t; but thanks for reminding me about it. I’d love to learn more.

      I remember one thought I had when I first learned about ACT was that hopefully ACT wouldn’t end up being used as just another “cope with your feelings well so you won’t binge” approach, because as we know, even if there are some feelings you still struggle with, binge eating does not have to be the result. If based on the theory that eating disorders are coping mechanisms, and we need to learn to accept/be at peace with our feelings (and find purpose in our lives) in order to stop binge eating; then I think ACT runs the same risks as traditional approaches. But, hopefully it won’t be interpreted that way!

      I think ACT would be extremely helpful for dealing with other problems that tend to occur with eating disorders, but aren’t eating disorder specific (anxiety, depression, body-image issues, and like you said – overeating/weight problems). If using the true self/highest human brain to detach from and resist the urges to binge works for someone, then it only makes sense to learn to develop that ability even further to solve other problems. I think ACT would be a great way to do that…I’m so glad you found it! I hope ACT, along with the Vipassana meditation, helps you make many positive changes in your life.

      Just so you know, I didn’t take what you said in a negative light at all; I was just reiterating that I know my book is not a cure for all food/weight issues. You sound like you are definitely on the right track.

      Thanks again for your helpful posts. I hope you continue to feel better as you near the end of your 1st trimester.

      Delete

  15. Two more questions, Kathryn. During recovery, when you decided to quit dieting, was it hard for you to accept your weight (140 pounds) and what have you done with all those thoughts that maybe you will nevere going to be thin again?

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. I’m definitely not an expert, but to my understanding, ACT is not a “cope with your feelings well so you won’t binge” approach. It’s about paying attention to your thoughts and feelings and accepting them, good or bad, while behaving in ways that align with your personal goals and values (no matter how good/bad you feel in the moment). One important idea is that constantly waiting to feel better before you act better, and trying to avoid unpleasant internal experiences in general, will keep you stuck; fleeting and ever-shifting thoughts and emotions don’t have to run your life.

      And the goals and values part of this doesn’t have to be about grand life purpose or anything. It can be as simple as “I want to stop binge eating, so I’m going to act accordingly even though my mental chatter is loud and I feel uncomfortable right now.”

    2. Human in Progress,
      Sorry if I was unclear; I only meant that I hope ACT is not interpreted in the wrong way – not by you of course, but by others(therapists and patients alike) who are already immersed in the theory of binge eating being a coping mechanism.

    3. Karolina,
      Like I said in the response to you above, for me,
      giving up the desire to be super-thin was a natural result of seeing how many problems it caused in my life and how wanting to be super-thin actually ended up making me much heavier than my normal weight (my normal weight was not 140 like it was when I quit, but more like 120). I wasn’t pleased with my weight at 140, because it was an unnatural weight for me based on my body type and I was only that weight because of the binges. Nevertheless, I still didn’t weigh myself and tried not to worry about my weight much after I gave up binge eating, because I knew that if I quit binge eating I’d eventually go back to normal. No, I would never be 86 pounds again, but that was a good thing.

      But, like you asked and I talked about above, what if I would have stayed at 140 even after I stopped binge eating? Would I have eventually been happy with that? It’s hard to say because that’s not my natural weight. In order to be that weight, I’d have to be overloading my body with unhealthy calories; and if I were still doing that, I wouldn’t feel healthy or good about my weight. But, if 140 WAS my natural weight, and at that weight I was eating normally, exercising and felt healthy, then I would be 100 percent fine with it. I’m sure I’d find some flaws – as I do with my body today – but I don’t believe it’s worth fighting your body type/size.

      If your thoughts are telling you that you are never going to be thin again, so you might as well binge; then they are coming from the lower brain. Obviously binge eating does not make you thin, and neither does restrictive dieting in the long run.

      I wish I knew exactly how to help you accept your body, but everyone’s body and experience is so different. I hope you are able to find a balance and keep your weight in perspective as you put an end to the binge eating.

    4. I get what you’re saying, Kathryn. 🙂

      I continue to be delighted and impressed by the fact that you actually respond to people’s comments and questions on the blog. It’s rare to be able to have this kind of back-and-forth with an author. Thanks for all you do.

    5. That’s sweet of you to say. You are very welcome. I’m just a normal person, and continue to be amazed and humbled that people read and comment on my blog.

      I hope you are doing well!

  16. Hi, I am 18 and just bought and read your book about a month ago. I Havre been able to stop purging fully! .but unfortunately the binging has not stopped and I am really struggling emothinioally with it. I’ve gained about 15 pounds and it’s horrifying. I know this is not a healthy way of thinking and I am still getting my professional help. Thank you so much for your posts they are very encouraging. I was just wondering how long it was before yup returned to your normal weight? The thought that I will never lose the weight I have gained since I stopped purging is scary and leads to more binging. Is there hope?
    Thanks

  17. Hi, I am 18 and just bought and read your book about a month ago. I Havre been able to stop purging fully! .but unfortunately the binging has not stopped and I am really struggling emothinioally with it. I’ve gained about 15 pounds and it’s horrifying. I know this is not a healthy way of thinking and I am still getting my professional help. Thank you so much for your posts they are very encouraging. I was just wondering how long it was before yup returned to your normal weight? The thought that I will never lose the weight I have gained since I stopped purging is scary and leads to more binging. Is there hope?
    Thanks

    1. I’m so glad to hear you stopped purging. That’s such a dangerous behavior, and you should be very proud of yourself for taking that step.

      I’m sure you’ve heard that some of the weight you gain after you stop purging isn’t real weight gain – it’s water retention, and your muscles being re-fed. It’s not just extra fat, although I know it can be hard to see that at first. Be patient and your body will level off at a normal weight for you. I know that without binge eating, it would be a lot easier for you to be patient; so my suggestion would be to put your focus on finding what works to help you resist the binge urges. What worked for me (detachment) isn’t going to be a solution for everyone, but try to figure out what does work for you and build on that. Check out the FAQ section on my website if you haven’t already – it might give you some ideas and additional resources. I hope you are doing well!

    2. …and about how long it took for my weight to level off: Maybe 4-6 months? I find it hard to remember, because I didn’t put much focus there. I tried to do other things, and not worry about my size.

  18. Hi, I’m Christina. I just wanted to say THANK YOU, Kathryn, for writing your book. I read it recently and I feel it offers such very valuable insights. It’s a totally different approach than the ones I encountered so far and I think it will be of great help to me.
    I feel that you wrote it all down so sensibly, it offers a wonderful logic.

    Reading your book I was reminded of how I quit smoking using the Allen Carr method. I see a lot of similarities between your approach and Allen Carr’s about smoking. He too points out that what we believe is so important and that getting insight into how the belief plays such a a big role. (If it’s about smoking: that smoking actually does something for us, the way ‘therapy’ implies that binge eating has a function). I KNOW that Allen Carr’s book worked for me…. I hope yours will, too!
    I’m so glad you took the time to write all this.

    1. Hi Christina,
      I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get back to you! I truly appreciate you taking the time to write. I love Allen Carr’s work, and I hope you have the same success quitting binge eating. I hope you are doing very well and enjoying the new year.

  19. Hi Kathryn, thank you so much for this post. I’m really struggling right now. I hit a new bottom with my compulsive overeating/binge eating disease. In March and April I was binging on and off, more horribly than ever, and I don’t know how much weight I gained, but I do know that none of my clothes fit me. I’m going to guess I gained around 20 pounds. I have been binge-free for 52 days now, and yet I still cannot fit into any of my clothes, and I haven’t lost any of the weight I gained. Is this normal? I’m terrified that I’m never going to get back to the normal, healthy size I was…I am so, so scared. It’s incredibly painful and devastating to not recognize the body I see in the mirror, and to not be able to wear my clothes. How long should it take to get back to normal? 🙁

  20. Hi Kathryn . I’ve only just came across this website, and along with youreatopia, it has become a very helpful tool in my recovery. I don’t know if you have covered this at all but I have had anorexia nervosa for around 4 years and am currently recovering, but still slightly underweight. I also suffer with bulimia and binge eating . I know they come hand in had but at the moment the binging ands purging is the only thing making me restore my weight. I can’t focus at all on anorexia recovery because I’m constantly binging. Its terrifying and feels like cannot find a balance between the two extremes of starvation and indulgence in thousands of calories at once. I understand the science behind this,, but what worries me is that if i stop bingeing i will embrace anorexia again and utterly relapse, which i don’t think i want but yet it seems so tempting as i dislike my body very much. Every time i eat i feel like a failure and i ‘may as well binge’. I am sorry to ramble on but any advice would be much appreciated! x

    1. I understand your concerns. As I mentioned in my book, the urge to starve yourself/lose weight can feel ego-syntonic (meaning it can feel like what your true self wants). This is why I think that separating from urges to restrict food intake can be more difficult than detaching from urges to binge. It’s easy to see that binge eating is not what you want. It seems like you realize that the binge eating and the starving go hand in hand – meaning you can’t “embrace anorexia” as you put it without the binge eating coming along with it. And, even if you could, is that truly what you want? I know that it can feel ego-syntonic in the moment when you dislike your body, but if you think of your life as a whole, do you really want to put your energy into maintaining anorexia? I am sure you realize that it will prevent you from living a fulfilling life, and it will do damage to your body. Overcoming anorexia is about continuing to eat meals despite that voice that tells you you “shouldn’t.” That voice is misguided just as much as the urges to binge are misguided; however, the anorexic voice does a much better job of disguising itself as your ‘true self.’ Once you are confident you won’t binge as a result of eating normally, it will be much easier to eat normally and not fall into restricting again. So, for now, know that the fears you have are normal; but if you keep eating your meals and keep resisting urges to binge, those fears will subside in time and you’ll learn to embrace normal eating.

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