Seeking Advice to Stop Bingeing

By November 19, 2012

For two years I have been underweight and haven’t had my period. I have also been bingeing for those two years, but just got really good at overcompensating for the binges by over-exercising and dieting. I have now stopped dieting and over-exercising, but my binges have actually gotten worse. I am now doing Dr. Fairburn’s program and seeing a therapist, but I still binge 1-2 times a week. It’s like I need to rebel or maintain this problem. Is there any other advice to stop the bingeing? (I am also unusual because usually I binge right when I get up, in the morning. I have eaten chocolates as early as 4:30 in the morning because I couldn’t stop thinking about them.) I am always looking for more motivation to keep trying hard to stop the bingeing, because there are times when I just want to give up and binge because I am trying to gain weight anyway to start my period. – anonymous

Dear anonymous,

Congratulations on your decision to follow Dr. Fairburn’s program to end binge eating. He is an internationally recognized expert and has empirical data to support his approach. But it’s important for you to realize that the solution to your binging does not rest in his book or his method alone. While you may benefit long term from the exercises and the structure found in the book, you must also be willing to experiment with solutions that work.

For instance, most people binge on specific foods because they are either:

(1) working at avoiding them because they are viewed as “bad” or “addictive” (increases draw), or

(2) they have not figured out how to enjoy the food in moderation.

Thus, if you have identified a food that appears to trigger consumption in large amounts (i.e. chocolate), you might use a food diary, such as that provided in Dr. Fairburn’s book, to schedule ahead of time a small quantity of the item. Get really good at scheduling the small snack of chocolate when you are feeling good and not when you are feeling down or out of control.

That said, from reading your note I also notice that you seem have two goals simultaneously that you are working toward:

(1) stop bingeing

(2) eat to menstruate

WOW! A part of you is attempting to control consumption and the other part says consume so you can have a period. Perhaps your original two goals cancel each other out? Perhaps you should consider refining your goal with your therapist. People menstruate when they have a balanced, healthy lifestyle (exercise, nutrition, medical, etc.). What if your goal was to schedule food diaries that represent a balanced approach to eating and enjoying food? And what if, over time, a consequence of such a lifestyle was that you eventually menstruated?

I think it is too controlling to say to your body: “Hurry up and start bleeding once a month!” Such an approach is rigid and constrictive and demands a level of obedience from your body that it is not ready to give. Perhaps when it can trust that you are willing to do what it needs to function, it will work the way it’s supposed to.

Rebuild trust with your body by performing acts of grace (like seeking balance in all areas–physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) and let it choose to join up with you. Your body is wonderfully made and was designed by a God who made all parts to work together. Don’t act in such a way that you are demanding one part to perform despite how the other parts are treated.

Instead of counting how many days you binged, how about counting the number of days you did not attempt to control your mood by binging in the AM? How many days was the bingeing not your morning wake up call? When was the last time you were able to desire food and eat it in balance what helped you do so?

There are a lot of interesting conversations to have around where you are being successful rather then focusing on where you still feel stuck. Good luck and I hope this serves as a starting point for you and your therapist to generate some new ideas in your recovery process!