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.
Tabitha, I have a question regarding this . I have been maintaining my kcals at a steady yet low level approx 900-1000) which has been maintaining me at my pseudo recovered state over the past few years . Over the past few weeks I have realised I cannot go on living like this if I want a life . A few days I have ate more and ended up being so hungry that I was eating a lot ( Ie one extra bowl of cereal might turn into 3/4 .. I use not like coco pops and now it’s all I crave .. Cereal cereal ….. I’m so freckled out I have never binging end before and ended up for a few days after going bak to my normal habits ? Please help me . I’m already afraid I have put on so much weight but I know that’s irrational
If I were you I would try and find someone who can act as a professional recovery aid for you. In regards to your experience and question however, I experienced that so long as my body was still hungry and it would still binge if I let it. Even when I was eating an adequate enough of calories, I my body could still be hungry because I was not eating enough calories from fat. A bowl of cereal is all carbs and hardly any fat. My body would want me to continue to eat until it has enough fat intake to feel satisfied. I am not a professional, but that was my experience. Do you think you are eating enough fat?
Tabitha, I am in tears
I just want this so much now
Hi Tabitha, I have been in recovery for years now. I have been at a healthy weight for a long while but my weight keeps climbing. I still do not have a period. For a while I was ok eating 2,400 calories a day of a variety of foods. My activity has not increased, quite the opposite. I have had urges to binge like I have never experienced in my life. My weight keeps going up and up and the binges getting worse and worse. I have no idea what to do. I feel hopeless that my body has given up on me and I am doomed to be fat forever. I am so embarrassed to be in public and depressed. Doctors don’t even know what to do. The night binges are horrible and my self-esteem is non-existent. I have a job, am in therapy, volunteer places, am in school. WHEN WILL THIS END? I just want to be satisfied by normal portions. I think about food 24/7! The aftermath of the eating hanging off my body is unbearable and the hunger is too……
what do I do???
Hi E, It would be inappropriate for me to give 1-1 advice over the internet. But, as a general concept, I would say stop restricting. If you are restricting, you are suppressing your natural bodyweight
Hi, Tabitha. I am struggling with a similar thing right now. <3
I have been “binge reading” ur blogs. I have begun to let my self “binge” endlessly on food. I have been battling anorexia up and down in and out of treatment centers for almost 5 years now. never tried this approach. the only problem i find is that i can’t sfop thinking about food. never. and i feel sick but i want food. but then i just eat and eat fill a point to where i can’t even get up and i lay crying on the ground because I feel so physically ill. is this ok? trying to listen to my mental hunger but it leads every night to me on the ground, in pain, feeling awful. i don’t feel like this is good? i keep trying to listen to my mental hunger but how can i when it leads to this? i am miserable. and should i always eat when i think of food? because i ALWAYS think of food. even after a 10 course meal. it’s like if there is food somewhat available i think about it. this is orginallg why i stopped packing any food to school because of i had it in my backpack i wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it. it’s so odd that i will just eat and feel stuffed but just think FOOD FOOD FOOD. i just am so confused. please please please reply and help
I had the same problems, the answer is yes! Do respond to mental hunger always! I ate up to 10,000 calories a day the first weeks in real recovery. It becomes less, I promise. I started in the beginning of may, went up to a weight I have never been before in a really short time, but now I can say I already lost more then 5 kilos again, naturally! I still eat more then others, I just trust my body and it does it’s thing :€ it’ll be alright! You can check out my instagram (@annare1chert) if you have more questions.
What would you say to someone if the urges to binge actually don’t go away? I started recovery and therapy for a restrictive eating disorder as a teenager over 20 years ago. I’ve been (as far as I know) a high normal weight and haven’t restricted any foods for literal decades now. There is no way there should be a biological or psychological need for it, I assume, yet I am still binge eating on a regular basis. It seems to be purely a habit? addiction? at this point. I agree that some reactive eating is normal, but I strongly wish my binge eating had been treated as more problematic in the beginning.
Yea I tried recovry Im like at a bmiof 18.6 I was at a bmi of 16.9 its been 2 months since I tried recoving I also binge get scared dont eat the next day the heavily resit eating 2 days going to eat 400 caloires or less and healthy food then increase my workout rounite Its turthfully harder than just restercting a few days ago was the frist time i made myself eat and listened to my body and I fell so much better i know Im not really beng healthy but I think if you just eat like realivy healthy foods with some unthlethy stuff mixed in and just take care of your self youll be just fine my ugres to binge have gotten less freqent and its just because your malnurtioned you dont need to worry one bit tbh what your going though/went is aful and I hope you better now