I am 39 and a binge eater. Stress is a huge factor. From the time I started my job search last spring until now (just finishing my first year teaching again after 12 years in another career and staying home with my children), I have gained back 35 of the almost 45 pounds I had lost a year earlier on Weight Watchers. I am so frustrated, yet feel unable to do anything about it. I won’t have money for counseling for at least a year, although I think it would be a good thing as I have a lot of issues with my father (and I am starting to realize possibly some with my mom, too) that I need to work through. My father has Type II diabetes and I just learned my older brother was recently diagnosed with it. I had gestational diabetes with my second of three pregnancies, so I know my risk of developing diabetes is pretty great. Of course, I DON’T want to. I know the spiritual component is a big part of my inability to do anything about the eating issues, too. This is particularly difficult since I am a minister’s wife. I know you recommend a few books for binge eaters on the website, but I was wondering if you could address a question I have. Is it better to work on the spiritual aspect first? Is there sin with the overeating that needs to be addressed first? Or should I try to work on both the issue with food and the spiritual aspect at the same time? Also, since I am not able to do counseling, which book is better to work through? I am so tired of being a slave to food and long for healing. I also want to spare my children (8, 6, and 2 1/2) from all the issues I have with food. Thank you for any help you are able to send my way. May God bless the work you are doing. – Carol
I can tell that you are very frustrated, but I commend you for looking deeper to understand why you haven’t broken free from binge eating. Your story is similar to countless others we’ve received.
Eating most definitely has physical, emotional, and even spiritual components. At Weight Watchers, you only partially addressed the physical as you counted points and monitored portion sizes, but all of that was regimented and externally driven. In other words, you didn’t learn to eat intuitively based on your body’s hunger and fullness cues. You also adopted the typical “all-or-nothing” mindset we see with dieting—when life got stressful, you went completely “off” the eating plan and totally returned to your old habits.
As you’ve realized, Weight Watchers also did not help you understand the emotional issues that lead to binge eating, nor provide you with healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Obviously, the program also lacks spiritual insight and guidance.
At Finding Balance, we do believe in a comprehensive approach to overcoming eating issues. First, invite God into the process and trust that He will provide you with the wisdom, knowledge, strength and healing to break free from overeating. Additionally, start incorporating healthy lifestyle changes—for the entire family. Through Weight Watchers, you were given some helpful tools and information in this area, but you don’t have to be so rigid and shouldn’t feel like you’re “on a program.” You’ll experience occasional bad days, but just learn from them and keep focused on healthy eating as a way of life—not a diet to go on and off. Lastly, you absolutely need to explore and understand your emotional triggers for bingeing, and find ways to cope without using food.
We have a number of resources here on the site to get you started on the right path until you are able to pursue counseling. There are many articles for you, but start with “Eleven Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle” and “False Beliefs: Overeating.” I’d also recommend you read the book Thin Within by Judy and Arthur Halliday, which is a grace-oriented, non-diet approach. I don’t like the title (we are not all designed to be thin) and a few other minor things about the book, but it is packed with wonderful scripture. It includes numerous introspective exercises to help you understand your relationship with food and take away its power in your life.
It sounds like you are carrying a full load with children, work and probably church activities, but keep pressing on towards freedom one step at a time. As you change your thinking as well as some practices, you will start to eat healthfully without obsession, no longer enslaved to food. As a result, your weight will fall naturally to what is best for your body type, reducing your risk for Type II diabetes.
I know you are motivated to change, despite feeling a bit overwhelmed. Believe that you CAN take action and will receive the healing for which you long. (1 John 4:4)
Ann Capper, RD, CDN