Diets and binging can go hand in hand. In this blog I share the ‘crime’ and ‘crime scene’ and court room drama of a binge I had following months of dieting.
It’s Friday afternoon.
I’ve just flown down to London from Scotland for a hen weekend. I turn the key in the lock and enter a darkened flat. It’s empty as I expected it to be.
I dump my bag in the spare room, relieved to have a few hours to myself before my friend returns from work.
“Right,” I focus myself, “First unpack, then get some work done.”
But as I turn on my laptop my mind jumps channels:
“I wonder if she has any ice cream in the house…?”
The Binge ‘Crime Scene’
My investigation reveals two tubs.
Exhibit A: Ben and Jerry’s choc brownie flavour.
Exhibit B: Tesco own brand vanilla soft scoop.
Plus, Exhibit C: A shelf with 4 half opened bottles of Pimms.
“I’ll just take a wee taste” I lie to myself.
It’s a game I know well – kidding to myself that I’ll just take a small amount of food – whilst I know I’ll go back for countless top ups.
I serve myself both the ice creams, pour a glass of Pimms and head back to the bedroom.
Five or so trips and ‘wee tastes’ later I’m bloated and tipsy. More than this, I’m incredibly frustrated. I hadn’t binged in about 6 months – I thought I was through with this.
We’re going out for dinner in a few hours. I’ve no appetite for dinner.
I feel crap. I’ve totally blown it. I’m also really embarrassed that I’ve stolen food and drink from my friend. Do I confess and replace or hope that she will be none the wiser?
After the binge
Twelve hours later:
On waking the next morning there’s a heaviness in my spirit. I’ve lost my footing, my confidence. My thoughts are cruel:
“Your a fraud. An imposter in the fitness industry. Who are you to be be advising others when I you are in such a mess?”
I meet a close friend for coffee and I tell all. She listens and smiles at me. She reminds me that my honesty and openness are a gift to her as she has her own struggles with her relationship with food. I stop my pity party and mentally vow to learn from and help others with disordered eating rather than waste energy beating myself up about it.
- Stealing ice cream and Pimms
- Being greedy, lacking self control and discipline
I have two ‘whys’ – my long term dieting history and my recent experience of being on a flexible diet.
My historic ‘why’
The link between diets and binging is commonly known. Dieting can lead to binge eating behaviours.
I started my first diet aged 19. I wasn’t massively overweight but I’d gone from a size 8 to a size 14 over the course of 2 years having left home and becoming a student. I’d been quite unaware of calories and energy balance and had started to comfort eat. Dieting worked for me initially but then the weight came back and I yo-yoed for a few years. I write about this in more in THIS blog on loving away the self hatred and the diets.
Diets eroded my relationship with food and my body. Food was no longer just food – it was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – something to be watched, measured, calculated.
Depending on what diet I was on or what I was reading the ‘rules’ changed from time to time. The more I tried to be ‘good’ and keep to whatever ‘rules’ the more I’d rebound breaking these self imposed ‘rules’.
Dieting, for me, leads to a mind-set of deprivation – the primitive part of my brain, the limbic system, believes I’m being starved and I find myself eating bowlfuls of my friend’s ice cream.
2. My immediate ‘why’
I’m in my late 30’s and have been on a long journey with my relationship with mind-food-body. Despite what you’ve just read, I’d say over the last couple of years I’m in quite a good place with these relationships.
I strength train 4 times per week and I’m making strength gains. I run a 5km time trial every weekend. My body fat is about 20%. Last year I entered a couple of power lifting meets and an amateur strong women competition.
I felt that my ‘issues’ were in the past and that through flexible dieting I would be able to reach my goals binge free.
I followed a body building training plan and flexible diet and the first 3 months went well. It was tough but I really enjoyed it. I lost 2.5kg (going from 59kg to 56.5kg) and retained my lean muscle mass. However even though it wasn’t a ridged rules based diet I noticed I was beginning to become more inward focused:
- I’d sometimes decline social initiations so I could keep to my macros
- Thoughts of food constantly pervaded my mind
- I enjoyed the feeling of getting leaner but I also felt I was getting addicted to this feeling
- My Facebook feed was inundated with posts about various ‘macro friendly’ foods/recipes and with posts of flexible dieters looking very lean (to whom I’d compare myself and be left wanting)
And then ‘Ice-Cream & Pimms’ binge happened.
Post ‘Ice- Cream/Pimms-Gate’ I took an honest look at my mindset and approach.
I’m a coach who talks of the importance of self love, body acceptance, non judgement, taking pleasure in eating, all things in moderation – yet I realised I wasn’t practicing what I preached. I was embracing these things for my clients but not for myself.
I admitted to myself – again – that dieting for a significant length of time just isn’t right for me.
I’m not greedy, lazy or undisciplined.
I’m am someone who has played around with diets in the past and now dieting tends to mess with my head, causing a mindset of deprivation, body and food obsession.
So I’m back to eating intuitively.
I’ve tuned back into my hunger signals – and when they are telling me “I’m hungry – eat something” I do just that.
I feel really relieved to have been able to stop dieting. I’m getting new PBs in my weight training and my running. My body doesn’t feel as lean as it did when I was dieting but I’m learning that that’s okay. I’m content.
I told my London friend what had happened and I offered to replace the food and drink I’d consumed. She non-judgementally laughed at me and told me she was glad not to have the food in the house anymore!
Looking back on this experience I realise the charge I was ‘guilty’ of:
I was drawn into the seducing belief that we need to be lean to look good.
It’s reminded me, for me dieting and binging always come together. Right now I am healthy, happy and strong. My message is for those of you who – like me – struggle with perfection and get in a mind-set of deprivation and food obsession. You may benefit from stopping or at least from taking a break from dieting.
Sometimes it can all get too much and dieting can take away from the quality of your life and your mental health. Our health is so much more than the number on the scales or our body fat % – indeed when this is very low we can be far from our healthiest. How is your health in terms of your relationship with food, with your body and your self esteem?
Post script 28 May, 2020
A few years have passed since writing this blog and I’ve not binge eaten in that time (and I’ve stayed roughly the same weight). I’m now working as a counsellor and I found the approach from ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) to be very helpful when working with people who are struggling with disordered eating. I highly recommend the ACT book The Weight Escape.
If you suspect you have an eating disorder, rather than disordered eating it is important to seek support, your GP usually being the first port of call. I sometimes work with clients while they are on the waiting list for NHS Eating Disorder specialist services using the book Over Coming Binge Eating.
If you think I can help you in this area please find out more about me and my approach here.