I mentioned in a previous post that from time to time, I’d like to include old journal entries from my eating-disordered days. I wrote the following entry a couple months after I turned 18, about a week or two before my first appointment with a therapist regarding my binge eating/bulimia. I had been binge eating for about 7 months at the time of this entry, and the binges had been steadily increasing in frequency and quantity of food. It’s evident that, at the time I wrote this, I had not been introduced to the idea of emotional eating or binge eating as a coping mechanism. However, it seems I had a couple clear ideas of my own about my binge eating: 1.) It’s out of control, and 2.) I think I might like to binge, even thought I hate it’s effects.
At this point in my eating disorder, my strong cravings and urges to binge were the result of my survival instincts – the binges were an adaptive response to my extended and extreme dieting; and those urges were generated by my animal brain. However, all I knew at the time was that I couldn’t seem to control myself around food, and I hated myself for it. I didn’t realize that the part of me that “liked” binge eating wasn’t really me at all, but my lower brain, which was both driving me to protect myself from starvation and steadily becoming more and more addicted to the binges.Each time I binged, I cemented the pattern a bit more until it became habit, and my body and brain became dependent on large amounts of the very foods that were initially so attractive to my survival instincts (the sugar/fat/carbohydrate-laden ones that might be good for short-term survival but are impossible to thrive on long-term).
I don’t know who I’m writing to or why I am writing, but I thought it might help me to get this out. Basically, I’m out of control. I can’t stop eating or thinking about food. I’ve been bingeing almost every other day. Since last night, I have been really really crazy. Before I went to bed, I had 3 bowls of cereal, 3 Nutri-Grain bars, 1 pudding cup, 1 bagel, a half a can of beans, a piece of cheese, a few handfuls of Fruity Pebbles, and 7 pieces of bread with butter. Then, I woke up at 12:30am and ate another pudding cup and a cup of milk, and another Nutri-Grain bar. Then, I woke up at 2:00am and ate another Nutri-Grain bar. Then, I woke up at 5:30am and had 2 more Nutri-Grain bars (totaling 7), a cup of milk, a cup of juice, then a piece of bread, then about 20 crackers, and a protein bar. I finally had to stop because it was time to go. [*I was leaving with my cross-country team to drive to South Carolina for a race, which was to take place the following day.The next part of this entry was written on the road with my team. I was sitting in the back of the team van, where no one could see my writing]
We just stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch on our way to Clemson.I was still so full from last night so I decided to just order a turkey sandwich and a side of green beans. That would have been ok, but then I ate 2 pieces of cornbread & a biscuit as well. I was doing my best to eat slow and be normal, but I really just wanted to dig into everything. I’m like this almost all of the time now, and I don’t know why. Last night it was like I almostwanted to binge. After the first part of the binge that ended about 10:30pm, I actually felt good. But, then when I kept getting up at night and after lunch today, I just feel like a big failure. I spent so much time and energy and used so much self control to get down to this weight. And, now I’m ruining it. I weighed myself yesterday before dinner and I weighed 94, and I weighed myself this morning and I was 99. That’s absolutely ridiculous. 5 pounds in 1 night!
Do you think my body is just trying to tell me something? Or am I just crazy? Sometimes I feel like if I had a choice of what I wanted to do, I would choose to just sit in my room and stuff myself. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I enjoy it. After I binge, I just lay in bed and go to sleep. If I could just learn how to throw up, I could binge and not gain any weight.
I just need to stop being such a baby. It’s sad but sometimes I would rather eat than do anything.Every time I do it, I swear to myself that I’m never going to do it again, but I always do. Right now, I’m feeling so nauseous and sick, but if I were alone in my room, I know I would eat more. I need a babysitter 24/7. My parents and sister know some of what is going on, which is good. But, they don’t know how to help me.I told the sports psychologist about the problem this week and I went home after the appointment and binged. It was like the whole day, I just knew it was going to happen. I went to Wal-mart with [two of my friends] and I bought the Nutri-grain bars knowing I would probably end up eating a ton of them, but not thinking I would eat the whole box in one night.
I feel like no one eats as much as me in the entire world, but I’m skinnier than the majority of people I see. How is that? I know it’s going to catch up with me very soon if I keep this up. I hate myself so much right now.I just want to be normal. I just want to eat and forget about it. I don’t want to think about food all day long. I feel so alone.
I think this entry is very important because of my honesty – admitting that I liked the binges. This type of honesty was extremely rare in my journal entries after therapy, when I became convinced I binged for complicated emotional reasons and it was a coping mechanism for life’s problems. In later entries, I attributed the binges to feelings/stressors/daily events/issues rooted in my past; and rarely said what I said here – which was basically: “My cravings feel out of control, but you know what? … it feels good (temporarily) when I give in.” It only made sense that it felt good – of course there was great pleasure in the relief from self-imposed starvation!
The last paragraph in this entry is also telling in that I say I want to be normal. I didn’t want binge eating in my life, and therefore I was receptive to help – to therapy – which I began shortly after writing this. But, once I began therapy, I didn’t need to learn that all of this was a symptom of underlying emotional issues and spend years digging through and trying to resolve those issues. I needed to learn that I was starving, and my body and brain were reacting to try to protect me. I needed to learn that trying to maintain such a low weight was the cause of all this, and if I stubbornly continued to put my body in a calorie deficit, I’d likely be consumed indefinitely by my desire to binge.
I actually did learn that food restriction was part of the problem from my nutritionist, but even when I normalized my non-binge eating (which wasn’t too difficult because I was motivated to do it), the urges persisted. As I discuss in my book, this was due to the persistent nature of the survival instincts and also due to habit. Simply normalizing my diet wasn’t enough; therefore, I also needed to learn something else – how to resist each and every urge to binge in a way that worked for me.
In other words, I think my therapy – and the therapy for most bulimics/binge eaters – could be made simple, consisting of only 2 components:
1.) Learn to feed your body sufficiently
2.) Learn to resist urges to binge in a way that works for you.
I am not saying the exact same methods that helped me resist urges to binge will cure everyone; but I believe the key is finding what helps you say no to the binges and therefore decondition the habit…without making recovery unnecessarily complicated, time-consuming, and difficult.
*I want to apologize (again) for not keeping up with this blog as well as I would like. Taking care of my 3 young kids is my full time job, and I am definitely far from being a supermom! I’ll do the best I can to post more frequently.