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Want to Stop Bingeing Forever

By November 23, 2012

I’m 20 years old and have suffered from binge eating disorder for about 3 1/2 years. On average I probably binge about 8 times a month. I’m 5’4 and my weight varies from *** – *** lbs. My percentage body fat is between 20.5 % and 23%. Although I have never made myself vomit or used laxatives I do actively participate in long distance running which I guess is my way of “purging.” I run about 5 times a week totaling about 20 miles (in case you are interested I had been running competitively for a couple years before the bingeing started). My periods are light and irregular, which concerns me because of the significant increase of stress fractures and the potential for irreversible bone damage. I have tried so many times to stop bingeing – but before I know it I’m caught up in another episode. I have reached the stage where I am literally at my tethered ends – I really, really want to stop bingeing forever! Any suggestions on how to overcome this would be much appreciated. – rp

Dear rp:

Thanks for your question regarding binge eating and running. First off I want to note that you are still very young, at 20 years, and I’m so glad to see your concern about the repercussions of irregular periods.

You write that you’ve been running competitively for quite a while, so I’m wondering if your periods have been irregular before or if this is something new? Your weight and body fat percentage are well within “normal” limits, (I use the word “normal” to refer to the standards set by the U.S. Department of Health,) so the first thing you really need to do is to see an Ob/Gyn to find out what’s going on. There could be so many different reasons for your condition, and a doctor or Ob/Gyn is going to be best able to give you the answers you need.

Re: the bingeing, you write that you’ve been bingeing for a few years, engaging in those binges about 8 times a month… so I’m guessing a couple times a week. First of all, a “binge” is not the same for everyone, so I can’t be sure what you mean by a “binge.” Technically a binge is consuming a larger than normal (there’s that word again) amount of food in a single sitting. Binges can range from hundreds of calories to thousands, and can be triggered by sugary foods or salty ones. It’s important to eat throughout the day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a couple of snacks between. If, instead, you are restricting or “dieting” all day, then you will binge. Your body cannot control the hunger signals. You have to eat balanced meals throughout the day and allow yourself to indulge in those special, yummy foods at times. If you deprive yourself of certain foods, you’re punishing yourself, and you will set yourself up for a binge.

One thing I want you to know is that many, many people suffer from bingeing, so you’re definitely not alone. To take steps toward breaking free, I highly recommend finding a therapist in your area who specializes in treating disordered eating and/or weight and eating issues. Just as depriving yourself of certain foods can lead to a binge, emotional issues are always attached as well, which is why I am a huge believer in counseling. I think every single person can benefit from good therapy. See “Finding Treatment” for more information.

Along these lines, I would suggest you keep a journal with you and try to pay attention to what is going on in your life when you feel the urge to binge. Try to identify your feelings and put them down in the journal (or just a piece of paper). This will help you start seeing a pattern of when you are more susceptible to a binge. That, paired with a little counseling, and I think you’ll begin to find a healthier balance.

As far as the running goes, you say that it is your form of purging. It is important to recognize whether you feel like you “need” or “have to” run to get rid of the calories you’ve consumed. If you feel guilt or shame if you don’t run, than that is definitely a problem. But you do take 2 days off a week, and while 4 miles a day is a heck of a lot of running for me, since you’ve run competitively, and particularly if you are in training, that is an acceptable amount of running. If, however, you’re a “couch potato” then, yes, that amount of running is excessive.

Either way, you may want to try something else 1 or 2 days of the week. Instead of running do pilates or swim, or even do an elliptical machine for 30 minutes or so (those exercises put less stress on your knees).

Whatever you decide, please see a medical doctor to rule out anything else in regard to your periods. And find a good counselor/therapist. If you don’t like the first one, keep trying until you find someone who “fits” with you. The most important part of successful therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client.

Good luck. Take care of you.

Sincerely,

Nicole Bourquin, M.S.