I was asked a really good and relevant question asked by a reader this week. In response to the blog post that I wrote a while ago on the bloated fat tummy syndrome that a person in recovery from anorexia suffers, she wondered if the urge to binge eat during recovery ever wears off.
This was the type of question that transported me straight back to the time that I spent in recovery, and I distinctly remember fretting over the same thing then. For about three years I was stuck in this halfway place of wanting to recover, but not trusting myself enough to be able to make very much progress. I was in a horrid cycle or eating ultra carefully during the day, only to binge like the cookie monster at night. Except that I did not only binge on cookies: cakes, chocolate, sweets, cereal, bars, flavored milk, toffee, you name it; if it was sweet I would eat it.
I was not really eating; I cramming. I would consume so much and so fast that my mouth was merely a numb entryway and the food was tasteless fodder. Binge eating was not pleasurable for me. It can actually be quite scary. Or at least, it was in my case. I felt as if I were on board a bolting horse without a saddle or a bridle; utterly helpless and unable to do anything other than hope that it would stop soon.
The cycle regenerated itself, as the following day I would not only feel sick and bloated with a food and sugar hangover, but I would be terrified that if I ate anything I would wind up in a binge again. Because of this fear, the next day I would restrict my intake to only ridiculously “healthy” foods; as a result, by the time evening came my body would kick me out of the drivers seat again and bolt towards the cookie jar (and the entire bloody larder!).
In Love Fat, I elaborate on this catch-22 in much more depth, but the crux is that I was stuck in fear of binging, and that caused me not to eat enough, and not eating enough caused me to binge at night and so on. Being in such a nightmare is massively stressful, and it is physically damaging, but one really has to have a lot of faith in the process of recovery to get out of it.
My biggest concern: what if I reach weight restoration and then I still cannot stop binge eating?
What I know now, is that once my body had been at a restored weight for a number of months, and once my body could trust that I would eat enough fat and calories on a regular basis (i.e every couple of hours), that my body would stop overriding me, and my body would not feel the need to binge eat anymore. I have not binged now for over four years. In fact, I don’t even ever feel the slightest inkling to do so. That is not to say that I do not eat cakes and cookies and sweet things: I do; I just do it in moderation and when I feel like it, which is very different from the bolting horse experience that binge eating is.
The problem is, that whilst I was in the midst of my anorexia recovery hell, I had no reason to trust that this wonderful state of a life-without-binge-eating would happen or could happen; and that is why it took me so very long to get to a place where my body could trust me to eat well enough to leave me to it.
In answer to the question if the urge to binge ever cease: Yes. In my case it stopped once I had been weight restored for long enough for my body to trust me. You have to keep eating.
When I had successfully sustained a good weight, when I was eating an adequate amount of fat as part of a balanced diet, and when my body could trust that I would continue to do so, then the binge eating urges stopped.
I am not here to tell you that this is an easy process because it is not; I am here to tell you that you can do it. I mean, if I managed to do it anyone can, because I was in pretty deep shit for a very long time. I also want to keep telling you that it is worth it. Recovery is worth everything you can give it.