Questions in Binge Eating Recovery (Course Q&A’s)

If you are like most binge eaters trying to end the habit, you likely have questions. Most people find it comforting to know that they aren’t the only one with a certain issue or concern. Over my years of helping binge eaters, I noticed common themes in what people asked me, and I decided that it would be practical and useful to compile and record detailed answers to all of these questions.

This task took me over a year, but when it was complete, I had created 84 Q&A audios that are now a central part of the newest version of my course, which you can start anytime. (The course also includes 30 additional audios, and in total, there is about 1,000 minutes or 17 hours of guidance, tips, information, suggestions, and ideas).

I wanted course users to be able to simply click on a question they have, at any time of day or night, and listen to a thorough response from me. I’ve received extremely positive feedback about these Q&A recordings, but people who aren’t sure whether or not to sign up for the course have frequently asked me questions about the questions, wanting to know which topics are discussed.

So, in this blog post, I want to share the entire list of questions that are in the course (see below). But first, I want to tell you a little more about why I took the time to create the Q&A’ audios…

I was previously answering these questions frequently in group coaching or one-on-one coaching, but I saw room for improvement. I found that I would sometimes inadvertently leave out something I wanted to say, or I found it difficult to give a detailed answer in a short message on a forum or on a time-limited group call when there were many more questions to address. I also realized that a coach’s, counselor’s, or mentor’s time is extremely valuable, and because of that, it’s not financially feasible for everyone to have a personal coach.

I decided that answering these questions in a recorded format could be the next best thing to having a personal coach, and could be much more affordable for people who need guidance. (The introductory price for the new version of the course is $134, through March 1, 2020).

You definitely can’t put a price on freedom from an eating disorder because it’s worth any amount of money; but the reality is that binge eaters are often also struggling students, parents, caregivers, and people just trying to make it in this world, and I wanted to make coaching more accessible. (The course also includes my coaching audios for encouragement, reinforcement, and motivation).

With that being said, here is a list of the questions you’ll receive detailed answers to in the course. Each Q&A audio is about 7 or 8 minutes long on average (some are longer, some are shorter). You also can learn more about the course features and sign up here, and get answers to questions you may have about the course here.

How much focus should I put on recovery?

Can you explain more about the word “dismiss”? Is it the same as willpower?

What does “don’t diet” mean?

Should I exercise during recovery? 

What if I’m taking medication to try to help me stop binge eating? 

I’m having a hard time defining my binges. How can I decide what is a binge and what is not?

I don’t feel like I get urges. My binges feel automatic. How can I dismiss urges if I don’t experience them?

I feel like there are deeper emotional reasons for my urges. What does that mean for recovery?

What do I do about all or nothing thoughts that seem to lead to binge eating?

What if I’m unhappy with my weight during recovery?

What is the purpose of journaling in the Brain over Binge approach?

What is the role of alcohol in binge eating? Should I drink alcohol while trying to recover?

Should I continue therapy?

How do I deal with others who are dieting?

Can you talk more about the lower brain and why it’s not really me, and how to separate from it?

I don’t seem to be able to eat sugar in moderation.  Should I give up sugar?

I’m overeating in a way that feels very similar to binge eating.  I feel like my overeating is almost as problematic as my binge eating, and it makes me feel out of control.

How can others that I’ve confided in about my binge eating best help me?

How long will it take for my binge urges to go away once I stop acting on them?

Is it okay to do something else during urges or should I avoid distracting myself?

Is it okay to eat or drink while I’m having an urge to binge?

My urge thoughts are compelling and I often end up believing them and acting on them.

What do I do if my urges keep coming back after I dismiss them?

I feel like I can’t allow myself to get excited about dismissing an urge or having another success in recovery.

I’m planning binges in my mind long before I’ll have an opportunity to binge. What do I do about thoughts that come well in advance of a binge?

I’m still reacting strongly to binge urges. The urges make me feel panicked and stressed, and it seems like a binge is the only thing that will calm me down.

Should incorporate mindfulness or meditation into recovery?

I’m having trouble getting past the idea that my binges are enjoyable. Even if I did not have urges, I think I would still choose to binge, if there were no consequences.

My urges get worse when I’m stressed. I know the urges cause the binge eating, but the stress seems to make it so much harder.

I binge more at night more than I do during the day.  How do I deal with nighttime urges to binge?

How are binge urges different from the binge triggers that I learned about in traditional therapy?

I only feel good when I’m a certain weight or when I look a certain way.

I’m grazing throughout the day and that’s leading to guilt, and binges.

How can I avoid a fear of relapse?

I do well on days that my life is relatively calm, but when I have a demanding work and family schedule, I find it so hard to dismiss urges.

How do I know if I’m having an urge to binge or if I’m just hungry?

I am working on ending the binge eating habit, but I need to lose weight.  How can I lose weight without triggering my survival instincts?

My desire to restrict food feels very strong.  How can I overcome this so that I can eat adequately?

I’ll eat dinner or another meal and then I just keep getting more and more food and I often end up bingeing. How do I find a stopping point when I eat?

Is it okay to eat healthy and avoid junk foods during recovery?

I’m having trouble stopping my purging behaviors.  How do I deal with urges to purge?

Thoughts of compensating for the binge (by restricting or purging) are encouraging me to binge.  How can I deal with these thoughts?

I’ll have a few good days, but then I seem to automatically slip back into restriction and binge eating. How can I have continued success?

How can I handle events where there is a lot of food?

I’m having a lot of trouble recognizing and deciphering my body’s signals of hunger and fullness. What should I do about this?

Fullness makes me feel anxiety and it also seems to triggers urges to binge, or binge and purge. How can I learn to deal with feelings of fullness?

I want to eat based on my hunger, but it often does not fit with my schedule or when my family is eating.

I don’t go into binges with the intention of bingeing.  I tell myself I’m just going to have one bite, but then I find myself bingeing.

I fear my hunger. I worry that when I’m hungry, I’ll binge.

Should I incorporate former binge foods into my diet, and how do I go about doing this?

Late in the day, I want the immediate gratification of a binge, and I don’t even care about the consequences.  How do I stay motivated at the end of the day?

Can I use a diet like keto, weight watchers, paleo, or intermittent fasting to guide my eating?

I’m bingeing or just eating in the middle of the night. How do I dismiss urges at this time?

I have a lot of anxiety about my weight.

I have a lot of black and white thinking, so I feel like when I don’t restrict, I binge.

I’m mindlessly overeating.  How do I stop myself?  Should I consider this behavior a type of binge?

I resist the work of recovery. Is it possible that I don’t actually want to quit binge eating?

Should I dismiss my desires to eat emotionally? How does emotional eating affect recovery from binge eating?

I feel like as I try to quit bingeing, my urges get stronger.  What can I do about this?

I’ve heard that food addictions can stem from problems with my neurotransmitters.  How can I overcome this?

How do I quickly overcome a setback?

How do highly processed foods affect binge eating and recovery?

What if I’m gaining weight during recovery?

How can I learn to accept my body?

I feel like my rational self wants to binge. What do I do when I feel like I’m choosing to binge?

Should I make a big resolution to never binge again? Or, should I just aim to reduce or delay binges and accept that slips are part of recovery?

I get more urges during PMS or when I’m feeling off hormonally or physically. What can I do about this?

My most convincing thought says it won’t hurt to binge “one last time.” How can I get past this thought?

Can I dismiss any thought that’s harmful to my recovery?

Food is constantly in my thoughts. Even if I’m not having urges to binge, I’m incessantly thinking about eating.

After stopping the binge eating habit, I’m having other obsessive thoughts and also regrets about the time I lost to binge eating problems.

I clear my plate every time, even if I feel full. How do I learn to put the fork down when I’m full?

I’m eating less than the calorie recommendation of the Brain over Binge approach. Is this okay provided I’m not feeling restricted? Also, if I’m counting my calories to make sure I’m eating adequately, how long do I need to do this?

I stopped bingeing and purging (in the form of vomiting). I thought I would feel great and healthy, but I feel less energetic, fuzzy, and bloated. Will I feel better over time, or is this the new normal I should expect?

I feel in control and successful when I restrict, and I feel guilty and fat when I try to eat adequately, which usually leads me to just giving up and bingeing.

Will there be a point when I can consider myself healed, or do I need to constantly work on recovery? What are my chances of relapsing?

When I binge, I feel like I might be subconsciously self-sabotaging my recovery. Is it possible that I’m continuing to binge because I think I don’t deserve recovery?

Can I do a gentle diet for health reasons? For example, a weight loss eating plan crafted by a nutritionist to make sure I’m not hungry.

When I want a dessert or sweets or to snack when I’m not hungry, I don’t know if it’s me or my lower brain that wants it. How can I tell which cravings to follow and which ones not to follow?

How do I deal with others who are giving me bad advice, eating in front of me in ways that are not helpful, or constantly offering me food?

During the urge to binge, I’m telling myself “No, I don’t want to binge, “ or I’m telling myself “This is just an urge from my lower brain,” or “A binge is not an option,” or “The urge has no power to make me act.” Is it wrong to do this? When I tell myself things like this, does it mean I’m fighting the urge?

I’m having trouble finding things to do instead of binge. What are some ideas of alternative activities?

I know that dieting can lead to the initial development of binge eating, but can problematic cravings also lead to the development of bingeing?

What if I need to gain weight after stopping the habit?

 

Should I Drink Alcohol While Trying to Quit Binge Eating?

     I’ve had a few people ask me about consuming alcohol while recovering from bulimia/BED, so I want to address that topic briefly here…
     To resist urges to binge, you have to rely on the capability of your prefrontal cortex to inhibit urges from your lower brain. Since alcohol directly affects the prefrontal cortex and can reduce someone’s ability to make sound decisions, does this mean everyone trying to quit binge eating should completely abstain from alcohol?  Not necessarily, but I think it’s an important decision that each individual needs to make; and I hope some information in this post will help you make that decision.  
     I personally did not change my alcohol consumption when I first quit binge eating. I had an occasional drink – a beer or glass of wine, sometimes two – a couple times a month.  Since it only took a few months for my binge urges to decrease significantly, this only afforded me maybe 6  times to experience the effects of alcohol on my binge urges and ability to resist them.  Looking back, I do not specifically remember any marked increase in my binge urges under the influence of alcohol or having more difficulty avoiding acting on those urges.  This is not to say that I think drinking alcohol is risk-free when it comes to recovery from binge eating.  
     When I was bulimic, drinking was indeed one of my binge “triggers.” I remember that disinhibitory feeling of temporarily not caring after having a couple drinks, and not bothering to fight the binge urges. Binge eating under the influence of alcohol took on more of a hazy quality, rather than a voracious one, and it always ended with less regret (until morning, where there was the effects of both the food and the alcohol to contend with).  
 
     After I stopped binge eating, I was able to avoid that “I don’t care” mindset  that often gets drunk people to do things they regret.  This could be simply because I didn’t drink very much after I quit. Not having a lot to drink wasn’t something I resolved to do to help recovery- I just wasn’t into drinking very much. There were occasions in college (prior to quitting binge eating) when I would have more than a couple drinks, and it’s very possible that doing that while trying to recover might have ended in binge eating. There is no way to know, but I’d like to think that binge eating was so “off limits” in my mind that I still would have been able to say no.
     For those who drink a little more often and in greater quantities than I did when I quit binge eating; here is some information to help you decide whether it’s wise to continue doing that while also trying to resist binge urges.  
  • Alcohol does affect the prefrontal cortex and its ability to inhibit behaviors; and with each drink, the prefrontal cortex is impaired a little more.  For some, this may result in less of a desire to resist binge urges, and more of an “I don’t care about recovery” attitude.  It could also make you feel like you have less control of your voluntary muscle movements – many of which are involved in eating.

 

  • Alcohol has the opposite affect on the lower brain. Instead of impairing it; drinking causes a release in dopamine, which arouses pleasure/reward circuitry in the lower brain. For some, this could mean an increase in urges to binge; but not necessarily (it could simply be pleasurable in its own right, without triggering a desire for the temporary ‘pleasure’ of binge eating).      

 

   Given these effects (impairment of the prefrontal cortex, and arousal of the pleasure/reward circuits in lower brain regions), you can see why drinking can be risky, and for some, might be best avoided.  However, even with altered consciousness, I believe it is still possible to say no to binge eating. Everyone has lines they don’t cross even when they are drunk (examples:  driving a car, leaving a bar with a stranger…etc). I’m sure you can think of some outrageous behavior that you can trust yourself not to do, even when you’ve had a lot to drink. If you choose to continue to drink while recovering from bulimia/BED, then binge eating has to become one of those outrageous things that you would never do, regardless of how many drinks you’ve had. It has to be something you view as “not an option,” ever; and even in a hazy state, you have to say no.   
     If you don’t feel capable of doing that while drinking, then I would suggest stopping alcohol altogether until you feel you can.  Or, just stick to a very small amount.  
 
 
*I am of course talking about drinking moderately/normally in this post.  I would never recommend the over-consumption of alcohol – to a binge eater or a non-binge eater.  This post is not for people who feel they have a drinking problem.