Battling Binge Cycle When Alone

By February 26, 2013

I am not sure if I have an “eating disorder” but I know that I have a problem. I consider myself to be a fairly healthy young woman. I ran cross country in high school and continue to run at least 3 times a week. In addition, I lift weights and do other cardio workouts throughout the week. I am 5′ 7″ and my weight fluctuates from about ***-*** lbs. While at college and around people, I eat very healthy. However, it seems that whenever people aren’t around, and I have access to junk food or sweets, I gorge! I continue to eat until the food is gone and by this time I usually feel so awful that I just want to vomit. I have never purged, though sometimes wish I knew how so that I could relieve this awful feeling. I love eating healthy but when I am at home, the healthy food options are limited so I try to shop for my own food sometimes. I eat large amounts of junk food probably at least once a week, and more if I am “emotional.” I hate this but can’t seem to break this awful cycle. I also love baking homemade cookies but yet again, I eat way too many and then feel gross. I just want to be able to consistently eat healthy foods and not feel like my stomach is about to explode. I know that this is not healthy for me yet can’t seem to control myself if people are not around and junk food is around. I have never told anyone about this problem of mine and feel very ashamed about my lack of discipline/control. Advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

Dear Visitor:

You have taken an important step by admitting there is a problem and sharing your concerns with us. Countless people understand your struggles and will relate to your story. There is no need to feel ashamed.

First, let’s look at the positive. You are striving to live a healthy lifestyle through your physical activity and eating. From what I gather, however, you are approaching healthy eating with a “dieting” mentality—an “all-or-nothing” approach. You are swinging from tightly controlled eating to totally “going off” and losing control (the way people go on and off diets). Let me ask you a question. When you are “eating healthy,” do you totally eliminate what you consider to be “junk foods” and sweets? If so, you’ve fallen into a cycle in which depriving yourself of those foods is not sustainable, so when you get a chance to have them, you end up bingeing. Instead, know that as part of a healthy eating lifestyle, its okay to enjoy small, moderate amounts of those less nutritious foods that simply taste good. Read the article “Eating Treat Foods Without Guilt” for more information on how to do that.

Here at FINDINGbalance, we recommend that people strive to make healthy food choices about 90% of the time. That’s simply a guideline—not a hard and fast rule. To get a more comprehensive understanding of balanced eating, I’d suggest the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole.

You also mention that bingeing is intensified when you are “feeling emotional.” The first step towards breaking this cycle is to identify your triggers. Are you eating to try to lift your spirits when you are sad or lonely, or to try to calm yourself when you are stressed, anxious or frustrated? Find alternatives to deal with your emotions, like journaling, listening to soothing music, drawing, walking and praying. Also, recognize false beliefs that are leading you to medicate yourself with food. There are some examples listed in “False Beliefs: Overeating.”

If these measures don’t help, it will be important to see a therapist who has experience treating eating disorders. He or she can help explore the underlying issues that drive some of your thoughts, fears and behavioral patterns.

You are young with a bright future ahead. Act now, before this cycle gets worse. A richer life awaits you.