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binge eating

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I don’t know if it’s the motion of repetitive chewing or the first delectable bites that set my taste buds on fire. Sometimes it starts with, “I deserve a treat,” even when I’ve indulged myself multiple times throughout that day. Sometimes it happens because I’m alone (rare), which in my eyes, is always a time to celebrate. Maybe I just need comfort…but at every meal?

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I don’t understand my binge eating. I mean, I do to an extent. I know it’s a behavior I learned that once served a purpose but doesn’t necessarily work for me now. One book I read said that the binge urges come from your “primitive brain,” meaning the lower brain, my limbic system. That part of the brain is supposed to warn you of danger — the part of the brain that would kick off your flight, fight or freeze responses.

Except I’m not being preyed on. But I am in danger. I always am when I binge.

I keep thinking what I need comfort from. My life is good, so good. I still struggle with depression, anxiety, and of course with binge eating. But I have no complaints about the life I’m living. Just the other day I realized how far I’ve come since being hospitalized in 2019. I went to a karate class, for heaven’s sake, when just a few years ago I couldn’t get out of bed or shower.

So what is my problem? Is it habit? I’ve read all kinds of books on bingeing, but I couldn’t tell you one thing I really learned because of my bad memory.

I started karate because I thought it would be fun, that I would learn self-discipline and honor my body by making it stronger. Maybe I should start asking myself before I eat if what I’m eating honors my body? But will that work? I seem to lack rationale before a binge, so will I even care if it doesn’t honor my body in the moment?

I hate the way I feel after a binge. My body is so heavy, my belly so full. I’m sluggish, and then the guilt comes in, followed by shame. I watch the numbers go up on the scale, then quickly turn away from the results it shows. I shove that pain down and go about my day then daydream about what I’m going to eat the next couple of meals. Actually, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to eat. I think nonstop of food, which I know isn’t normal. One of my best friends told me she never thinks of food, it’s just fuel to her body. Why can’t I think like that?

I’m hoping that karate will push me to the edge and make me jump far away from binge eating and overeating. I have to be in shape. I can’t keep gaining the same 30 pounds. I want to be strong, for my body to be strong. I want to be example to my kids.

Throwing away the “bad” food in the house isn’t enough. It has to come from inside. But it has to be now — I’m not doing my body any favors by doing this. I don’t want to die young. I want to lead a healthy life.

I want to lead a healthy life.

Looks like I’ll be digging deep with my therapist next week. There’s some reason I’m doing this. If it’s not my depression, it’s my anxiety. If it’s not my anxiety, it’s my eating disorder. Now that I have depression and anxiety taken care of (for the most part), my eating is out of control. I picture myself on a large ship on the sea (for some reason it looks like the ship in The Little Mermaid) and there are multiple holes in the wood. Big, round holes. When I plug one, the others gush, and I’m constantly patching them all day, every day.

I have work to do. It’s daunting, but I can do hard things.

I can do this.

I can be healthy.

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What’s in a Binge?

by Heather Loeb

I can’t stop binge eating. It’s so out of control. It’s been weeks, hell maybe months, which is longer than usual. I thought I was upset over some family stuff, but I feel like I dealt with that and moved on. Apparently not. Something is hounding me, and it’s scary. I hate feeling this way. I wake up planning breakfast. After breakfast, I’m already planning lunch and so on. I build my day around overeating and bingeing so that nobody sees me. Rather, judges me.

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I also noticed that last week I was keeping myself extremely busy with NAMI work. I kept getting pats on the back from it, so I did more and more each day, not realizing I was keeping myself busy on purpose — avoiding my problems more like it.

I’ve gained 10 pounds…well, that’s how much I gained the last time I got on the scale. I’m avoiding that, too , right now.

It’s like an open sore that I don’t tend to, and now it’s infected, and I’m sick. I feel so sick.

I think my eating disorder is just as bad as my depression. I know it is. As soon as I gain weight, I get depressed and eat more, and the cycle continues.

Usually it’s about what’s eating me rather than what I’m eating. I need to figure out what’s bothering me before more damage is done. It’s weird because I feel like I’m in such a good place in my life. I love my life, and I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do (column, blog and NAMI). I just love it; it sets my soul on fire. I just had a birthday, but I think I’m truly getting better and better with age. Life is truly good despite my mental health conditions.

But there’s obviously something troubling me. The only thing I can think of is that deep down I don’t think I’m worthy of all the positive things in my life. It all goes back to my core beliefs that I’m not good enough, I guess. But I’m worked hard — I can acknowledge that — and I love where I am.

It’s so confusing. I need to do more digging.

What the hell is eating Heather Loeb?

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Redemption in (BED) Recovery

by Heather Loeb

Recently I talked about entering into recovery for my binge eating disorder. I knew there would be bumps in the road, but I was doing well. Until last night.

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Yesterday I had a bad day. Nothing really happened, I was just short-fused and irritable. I snapped at the kids and my husband. I didn’t like the way I felt so I took the maximum (prescribed) dose of my anxiety meds. It turned out to be a mistake, I think. While it did take the edge off, it also numbed me a bit. I started eating snacks around 4 p.m. and was still eating at 9 p.m. One snack after another. I was uncomfortably full, but I kept going.

I binged. Big time. I ate candy, cookies, popcorn, Chinese food for dinner, more cookies and more popcorn. I usually don’t keep that in the house, but I indulged. I don’t like to restrict myself from foods (because I’ll rebel) but I don’t like to set myself up for a binge either. I have to find that fine balance.

This morning when I woke up I didn’t feel so angry and blue. I remembered that today is a new day, and I can do better. I’m grateful for that because that’s what recovery is about — you can keep starting over as many times as it takes to reduce the problem. I’m still reading a book on BED recovery, and that has helped. I just need to apply what I learn to my daily life.

I also asked my friends and family what they do to cheer themselves up after a bad day, and I got a lot of good ideas for the next time I’m not feeling up to par. My favorites were pray, sew, walk, go outside, eat chocolate, take a hot bath, meditate, count blessings and journal. I think those are really good ideas, and I sometimes employ similar coping methods when I’m depressed, but yesterday was just so hard. It was hard to get to the point where I wanted to take care of myself instead of just numbing myself where I didn’t feel anything at all.

Today is different. I’m grateful for my friends and family and everything I have. I will take care of myself, and I will listen to my body and mind.

I will show up for myself, and I will tell myself I’m enough. Because I am.

Today I pray for an attitude adjustment and patience. I am grateful for a new day, and there’s no need for me to look back.

I’m more than my mistakes. So much more.

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Choke.

by Heather Loeb

My best friend called me out today, and as much as I hate to admit it, she was right. As usual.

I was complaining about my weight gain and how I felt fat and ugly. My BFF was sympathetic then said, “You can’t preach self acceptance and hate yourself.”

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I blog so much about body positivity and loving yourself and here I am cringing every time I pass a mirror — that’s mirror avoidance, by the way. Why is it so hard to practice what I preach?

Because there’s a deep-seated belief in me that fat equals ugly and unworthy. I’ve been trained to criticize every inch of my body, to think of fat as disgusting. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to overcome these thoughts, that I’ll always hate myself, and that’s just sad.

Weeks ago I contacted my favorite photographer and booked a photo shoot that was just for me. I wanted to celebrate how free I feel now that I’m so open with my mental disorders. I feel free from others’ opinions, too. Or I did. Now I want to cancel the photo shoot. I tried on outfit after outfit and nothing fit and if it did, it didn’t feel like me. I ended up crying about the ordeal, realizing that I’m not free at all — I’m a slave to my eating disorder and to the idea that being thin means you’re beautiful, loved and successful. I am tethered to dangerous societal norms, even though I talk about bucking them all the time.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to look at myself in disgust. I want to love my body and soul. I want to be free. And in some ways, I am.

It was brave to admit to depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder. I didn’t bat an eye when I talked about my suicidal thoughts and subsequent hospitalizations. I don’t give a fuck what others think because I help people by talking about these issues. Friends, family and even strangers have reached out to me saying I’ve helped in some way, and that fuels me to keep writing. There was nobody to help me navigate depression and anxiety when I was at my worst, and I don’t want anyone feeling the same way. It was a terrible, dark time. And hopefully, I can shine light on other people’s journey because I know what they’re going through. That’s my goal.

But I’m not truly free until I break these tired old chains.

A friend had a shirt on today that said, “I will no longer be shrinking myself to be more digestible.You can choke.” That’s the attitude I want to have. I’d be healthier if I lost some weight, sure, but being overweight doesn’t mean I’m ugly or less than. It doesn’t change anything — I’m amazing for so many reasons and none of those reasons has to do with weight.

My kids are watching. Their ideas of self-worth come from me (and my husband), so I’d better get it together. There’s no way I want either of them to deal with low self-esteem and self-hate. I want them to celebrate who they are outside of their appearance. And if I want them to do that, why can’t I want that for myself? I’m almost 40, and it’s hard to reverse some thoughts, but I can do it. I’ve battled depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember — I’ve come so far. I’m not going to let a few pounds (or 26) take me down. No, I’m stronger than that.

From now on, I’m celebrating who I am despite my appearance. If people don’t like it, they can choke. I refuse to shrink any more than I have.

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I Hate My Brain

by Heather Loeb

Ever have a long day and think to yourself you deserve a treat? So you get ice cream and start to feel better? That sounds normal to me. My problem is that I think I deserve a treat multiple times a day. I constantly want to feel good. To feel happy. I compulsively eat to get that high and, enjoy that “treat.” Then I feel sick. After I’ve recovered, I look for another treat, forgetting how sick I felt earlier. It’s a vicious cycle.

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I do this a lot but especially when the kids are away at my mother-in-law’s. I tell myself that I need to relax, enjoy the quiet and that I need to feel good. Last night, even after I had a big dinner, I sat there thinking of what I could eat that would make me feel good. And I even tried many things, despite being uncomfortably full already. M&Ms didn’t work. Neither did peanut butter crackers, ice cream or SweeTARTS.

But there is nothing I can eat that will make me truly happy.

Now, I’m trying to give myself a break because I am in need of an ECT treatment, which is scheduled for Friday. Usually the week before treatment I run out of gas, and I try to cope however I can. BUT this doesn’t just happen in the weeks leading up to treatment. This happens all the time, even when I’ve just had an ECT.

So I pose this question, “Why do I feel the need to be happy all the time?” Honestly, that question was asked by my therapist last week. She following up with, “Can’t we sit with other emotions? Nobody is happy every minute of the day.”

And she’s right. We don’t need to be happy every minute. I think my problem is that I HATE being uncomfortable, so I’ll do anything to push those negative emotions aside. Emotions like anxiety, stress, anger or sadness. It’s clearly not working for me to ignore these problems, and even if overeating has helped in the past, it sure as hell is not working now.

This may sound strange, but I think I need to acknowledge and honor whatever feelings I’m having. Maybe I need to grab my journal whenever I’m feeling negative emotion, talk about what’s going on and then release that feeling. I don’t know.

All I know if that I need to stop coping by bingeing. It’s made me gain a bunch of weight and really, aren’t I just eating my emotions?

Sometimes I really hate my brain, which I hold responsible for my debilitating-at-times depression and anxiety. I hate that it doesn’t respond to other treatments. I hate that my mental health is so precarious, and I resent that I have to be so careful as to not disturb it. I hate that happiness seems so fleeting at times. I’m not a big fan of my eating disorder either.

I don’t like to say hate; It forces a dichotomy with the idea that I should love and respect myself. I’m trying really hard to love myself, even almost 30 pounds heavier and a handful of mental disorders. But I feel betrayed by my brain. I know I need to reconcile those ideas. I know there is more benefit in loving all of me. I’ll get there. Despite everything that my brain has thrown at me, I’ve only become stronger. Take that, asshole.

And there are times that I think God made me this way because He thought I could handle it. I can, and I will. I remember this quote: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” I don’t mean to sound haughty, but maybe He knew I would use my voice and (hopefully) help others through my writing. That’s why I can’t stop blogging so much about mental health; there are so many who feel alone and haven’t found their voice yet. I certainly don’t mind lending mine in the meantime.

I guess my brain is just as much a blessing as a curse.

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Emotional Eating

by Heather Loeb

Update: I’m doing very well with my intermittent fasting but wanted to talk about emotional eating and what drives it.

Somewhere inside me, there’s a void. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know where it is – I just know that when I want or need to fill it I do two things: eat or shop. I’m always doing one or the other (or both) – a compulsion is always present. Mainly, emotional eating. As I mentioned in my Weight Gain blog, it’s the only part of my day that I feel happy, but that’s just it – it’s not real happiness and it brings on more guilt than anything.

I talked to my therapist about this today. I have a great life. I have everything I need and want: a great family, nice house, awesome kids and a wonderful husband. Where is this void coming from?

I honestly don’t know.

I’ll tell you what I do know. When I binge or compulsive eat, the food will be bad for me and obviously I will eat too much of it. Sometimes, I’ll do it in private when the kids are at school or when David is asleep. I’ll even eat in my car if I think my housekeeper is at the house. I guess I don’t want them to judge me. I don’t want them to know I’m going to eat half or an entire pizza to feel good for maybe 15 minutes, if that, feel guilty but then do it all over again the next day.

This isn’t just eating unhealthy occasionally and gaining a few pounds. As I mentioned in my other blog, this is gaining 20lbs in two months. This is eating until I feel sick and uncomfortable. This is terrible.

And it’s usually comfort I seek when I’m eating. I make excuses like “oh, I had a long day” or “the kids were driving me nuts today.” I’ve got to realize that’s going to happen all the time. That’s life. I have to deal without food making it “better.”

But it’s not really the kids misbehaving or having long days that drives me to emotionally eat – it’s that emptiness inside. Where is it coming from? I just can’t figure it out.

I don’t hate myself. I don’t want to sabotage myself. I don’t lack self-awareness. But I don’t have the answers either.

I’m not asking for a psychoanalysis either, folks. Just getting it out there, because if your keep it inside it stays a secret and bounds you.

 

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