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How to Recover from a Painful Binge-Eating Episode

Stomach AcheOne of the most powerful tools I ever developed for recovering from a “bad binge,”

was simply learning how to separate whatever physical pain I experienced post-binge,
from the emotional pain I experienced post-binge.

When I took the time to notice, I realized that the physical pain of bingeing,
even the kind that leaves you in bed in the fetal position for hours,
is really not much more uncomfortable than having to pee really badly, or having a bad rash, or hangover, or some other arbitrary physical irritation.  

The true bulk of my suffering at the “hands of a binge,”
was actually the result of emotional pain

that is, my shame at having failed,
my fear of gaining weight,
and my belief that there was something deeply wrong with me for not being able to “control myself around food.”

(It didn’t occur to me that most people can’t “control” —aka restrict— their food for very long, and that most people binge when they try.)

While there’s no safe way to eliminate the physical discomfort of a binge after-the-fact (other than wait it out, listen to your body, and take care of yourself like you would a hangover),

our emotional discomfort,
which is the much more painful part of bingeing in my experience,
can be alleviated in an instant,
through challenging our weight-normative beliefs,
our morality of food and eating,
and developing compassionate understanding of what diet-culture has put us through.  

(And don’t worry, the physical discomfort part goes away pretty quickly on it’s own once we get back to listening to our bodies–just like a hangover).

Like this post? Check out my free video series about ending the diet-binge cycle here!

The Most Common “Emotional Eating” Mistake

Emotional eating, at the end of the day, is just a coping mechanism.

I’m all about “feeling your feelings,” and there is no doubt that getting in touch with your emotions is incredibly important for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not you eat over them,

but unless we practice new coping mechanisms, we will continue to eat when emotionally uncomfortable.

Thinking we can live a life without coping mechanisms is totally unrealistic — it goes against our biological instincts to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Not to mention that coping mechanisms are what allow us to function during times of emotional duress. We need breaks from crying when trauma occurs. Feelings can’t be processed every moment of every day. We have to get out of bed, go to work, pick up the kids, do our laundry…coping mechanisms take the edge off so we can show up for life in the midst of discomfort.

Now the problem for most “emotional eaters” is that they focus on “not eating” instead of focusing on developing new ways of dealing with their feelings.

Of course, the more we try to resist food, (i.e. the more we think about food), the more practiced we become at leaning on food as a coping mechanism. (I know, catch-22 from hell…)

Eventually, we fall out of practicing other coping mechanisms altogether and become dependent on food to take care of all our problems, especially as we obsess, worry and generally freak out about our bodies.

So here’s a new way to think about emotional eating…

instead of telling yourself “don’t eat emotionally,” I want you to start thinking about all the other ways you could possibly “cope,” and start practicing them…regardless of whether or not you eat as well. 

Ultimately, diversifying and expanding our coping mechanisms without worrying about the food is far more effective, than trying to resist (and therefore binge) over it later.

BTW – If you’re not quite sure the difference between “emotional eating” and “binge-eating,” this is something I cover in my free video training series, which you can sign up for here. All three videos of the series are out, so the videos will be emailed to you immediately after you enter your name and email at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!

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Nail Yourself to the Present Moment with Food

livenowRecovering from diet-binge cycling, 

requires learning how to sit in this present moment with food, 

without grasping for the next diet,

without leaping for some attempt to fix it,

without trying to “figure out” your plan of escape.

It requires learning to sit with a full belly when you have one

or with your body exactly as it is,

without being wooed back into grand planning with food—plans that only take us further away from what our bodies need right now, and set us up for a repeat of the cycle once more. 

The truth is, “intuitive eating,” by definition, can only happen in the present moment. I can’t know what I’ll be hungry for outside of the moment that I’m hungry for it—I can’t predict with certainty what my body will need in five minutes, or five hours or five days. 

All I can do is sit in what’s happening right now, and listen for the next right action, one moment at a time, as it’s made clear to me. 

The only commitment to be made, is to nail myself to the present moment with food.**

**A Pema Chodron idea.

The Common Mistake of Trying to “Gain Control” Over Food

Overcoming binge-eating
is not about “getting control” over your food,
but about realizing—
that “control” is a figment of your imagination.

meditation in chaos

Our pursuit of “control,”

based on the very false assumption that we can make our food go our way if we just try hard enough,

is the product of truly delusional thinking, 

considering the infinite and unknowable universe in which we live.  

Let’s be real—

We are NOT in control of our body’s needs in any given moment,

We are NOT in control of our emotional needs in any given moment,

And despite what many self-help gurus might suggest,

We are NOT in control of our every reaction to triggering, environmental stimuli. 

We are only human,

and denying or trying to change this fundamental reality, 

is a sucker’s game—leading only to frustration, rebellion, and evermore compulsive behavior.

Contrary to the suggestion of every diet book ever, 

sanity around food will NOT be afforded to those who tirelessly try to gain control— 

the pursuit of which is a never-ending hamster-wheel leading only to dead-ends and rebellious outbursts,  

but rather,

sanity will be afforded to those who make peace with and accept
our fundamental out-of-control-ness,

to those who can ride the waves
of uncertainty, of messiness, of human error,

to those who can sit in food-chaos, and find okay-ness.