After a few bites, she no longer tastes the food. The TV plays in the background, as she numbs out with Oreos and peanut butter, which she eats straight from the jar. Her stomach aches painfully, yet she feels completely powerless to stop. After each binge, she feels ashamed and guilty. However, she is not simply “lacking willpower” or “making a choice” to eat until she feels sick. Rather, she is struggling with an eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., however it is often highly misunderstood and stigmatized. Additionally, many people who are struggling do not seek treatment due to shame, guilt, and denial of the seriousness of the illness.
As an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland, I am grateful to be able to help people in their recovery from binge eating disorder.
The following are three tips for your recovery from binge eating disorder.
1. Seek professional help.
If you are struggling with binge eating disorder, it is so important to seek help from a trained professional. Eating disorders are life-threatening, complex illnesses, and having the support of a professional is cruicial.
It can also be helpful to enlist the help of a multidisciplinary team. That team could include a therapist, registered dietitian, psychiatrist, and a recovery coach (depending on your specific needs). It is important to look for professionals who specialize in treating binge eating disorder and who work from a health at every size and weight neutral perspective.
Seeking help when you are struggling is a sign of true strength, not weakness. No one should have to try to recover from an eating disorder alone.
2. Work to make peace with your bingeing and uncover the function of the behavior.
Clients that I’ve worked with who are struggling with binge eating disorder often report feeling a sense of shame, embarrassment, and guilt, surrounding their bingeing. Thus, I often begin by explaining that bingeing is often a natural and adaptive bodily response to real or perceived deprivation.
Our bodies evolved to ensure our survival as a species and it makes sense that physical and/or emotional restriction can trigger subsequent binging episodes. If there were times of famine or food scarcity, we were primed to eat as much as possible when we encountered food again.
Therefore, physical or emotional restriction of food can be a major trigger when it comes to binge eating. Physical restriction is the idea of depriving yourself of certain foods (i.e. not allowing myself to eat the brownie), whereas emotional restriction is eating a food while experiencing a sense of guilt or shame (i.e. I eat the brownie, but feel guilty about it). Thus, it’s important to work to challenge and eliminate any restriction, as part of your recovery from binge eating disorder.
Additionally, bingeing is helping you to get some very valid needs met. Bingeing may be a way that you are coping with past trauma, unpleasant emotions, a history of food insecurity, or feelings of loneliness. Therefore, my aim is to help clients to uncover the function of their bingeing, and gradually work to use coping strategies that are more in alignment with their values.
For instance, i’ll often ask my clients what feeling they are looking to experience by turning to food. Let’s say that they are looking for a sense of comfort or connection. We then would start to explore other ways that they can feel comfort and connection, without always needing to turn to food.
3. Practice self-compassion.
It’s important to practice self-compassion, as well as to explore your bingeing behavior from a place of curiosity and non judgment.
“Beating yourself up” for bingeing will likely only serve to perpetuate the behavior and cause you to feel even worse. It’s important to note that you are doing the best that you can with the coping skills that you have in this moment.
Additionally, you are definitely not alone in struggling with binge eating disorder. You are also not choosing to struggle with an eating disorder, however you can make the choice to begin working on your recovery.
Think about how you would talk to someone that you love who was suffering from an eating disorder. It’s unlikely that you would harshly criticize and berate them. It’s crucial to practice saying kind things to yourself. Ultimately, you deserve to extend the same kindness to yourself that you would give to someone you love.
The Bottom Line
I’ve helped people to make amazing changes in their lives and to discover a newfound sense of empowerment and freedom. You don’t have to continue to struggle with constant food thoughts, body shame, or feelings of guilt after eating. Full recovery from binge eating disorder is possible.
With access to treatment and support, you can recover from binge eating disorder, and lead a productive and meaningful life.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. She provides eating disorder recovery coaching via phone to people worldwide.