A New Mental Health Struggle To Face | Binge Eating

Heads up: this post is going to be equal parts informative and personal because I think that I can throw all the research and facts at you as I like but it often helps to understand what someone else is going through to put two and two together- ya' feel me?

*Deep breath* If I can be open an honest about my depression and anxiety, whats another mental health struggle to open up about? ... Right?

*please note this has been sitting in my drafts for over two weeks, in that time I have sought professional help😌

What is binge eating?

If we were to type this very question into Google the definition you would be presented with is as follows: 
"the consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time, typically as a part of an eating disorder."
That is simple, to the point definition of what binge eating is, it gives you the general scope and enough information to nod your head and say "yeah okay."

If you wanted to delve more into what binge eating is, go beyond the simplistic definition and have a little more understanding I would tell you this:

The feeling of having absolutely no control over yourself and your food for a short period of time. During this time you eat and eat and you don't feel like you will ever stop. You feel helpless and uncontrollable. 

Well, that is what I would say anyway- not very science is it?

...What about binge eating disorder?

It is that binge eating that we talked about above- but it doesn't just happen once or twice and you laugh it off and call it a "cheat day". It happens over and over again. You spend this short amount of time with no control and no thought process, you eat and you eat and then you feel guilty and shameful and vow to not let it happen again, to have more control. And it happens again, and again- the cycle repeats itself over and over and you feel exactly the same way every time, but you feel like you just cannot stop, that there will never be that light at the end of the tunnel that everyone says will eventually appear. 

What are the signs? 

I'm no doctor (obviously, can you not tell?) so I went to the professionals for this one and will give my experience below this. According to The Butterfly Foundation- the foundation for eating disorders this is some signs of binge eating disorder:
  • feeling tired but not sleeping well
  • bloating, constipation
  • food intolerances that were not present before 
  • preoccupation with eating, food, body shape or weight
  • low self-esteem
  • sensitive reactions to any comments relating to food, weight, body shape, exercise 
  • feeling guilty, distressed, sad or having heightened anxiety during/after a binge episode 
  • being secret about food (hiding wrappers, food)
  • ignoring and avoiding questions and conversations about weight, food 
  • physical evidence of binge eating (hoarding food, the disappearance of food from the kitchen)
  • isolation and withdrawal from social situations and activities once enjoyed
  • erratic or uncharacteristic behaviours (shoplifting food, overspending on food)
  • self-harm, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts/attempts. 

Now that I have given you the signs from a professional...

Let me tell you what I have been experiencing. 

Can I start by saying this: I am always 100% open and honest about anything relating to mental health because this is what TIA is, an open space where people can come and see that their mental health journey is nothing to be ashamed of. But this, this is something completely new to me, it isn't depression or anxiety, it is something foreign to me. I have not been to a professional to be diagnosed with anything, honestly out of fear of adding another mental health issue to my resume. Which is sill- yes I know, I have already said that to myself a million times. But in myself, I have recognised that something is not right and have decided that my first course of action, now that I can see the problem is to try and address it myself. Failing this, please be assured that I will seek professional help. 

For now: let me explain the behaviours I have noticed in myself that have led me to see a reason for a change. 
  • All I think about is food- what am I eating? When am I going to eat next? How many calories do I have left for the day? Can I fit in a cookie tonight?
    I have never experienced something taking over my thoughts quite like this has. I cannot recall a time when my life revolved around food or a lack of it in some cases. I was never that person standing in the local IGA comparing the calories in different brands of cheese, but that is who I become. I would be at my work desk mentally tallying up the number of calories I was going to consume at lunch- how could I cut back on some? Do I really need that piece of bread with my soup?
  • No matter how much weight I was losing or how much muscle definition I was starting to show I was never satisfied with my appearance- I can always find something else that I need to work on- more abdominal definition, less fat on my legs, oh my shoulders are looking good.. but those bat wings need work. There is never a place of "Oh I look good today", or if there is it is short lived. I can catch my reflection in a window and feel deflated, or even just my shadow as I walk and feel disappointed.
  • Secretive behaviour involving food, this became a thing recently. I would hide the wrappers and evidence of my binge eating and only dispose of when I was home alone. If Brodie was home I would hide the evidence in the cupboards I knew he wouldn't have to go into (the Tupperware cupboard for example) and if he asked: "what happened to the ____ that was in here?" I would literally pretend to help him look for it, acting as if I had no idea.
  • One of the first things to go was alcohol, "too many empty calories" I would tell myself. Invited out of the house for a few drinks? I've got an excuse for that. The last time I drank was a friends birthday probably around a month ago and I had three drinks- how do I know that? Because I tracked them in MyFitnessPal. I also spent some time before actually going out figuring out what I was going to drink that had the least amount of calories.
  • The cycle is the same: I restrict all day, come home and cannot control myself. Mindlessly I eat entire packets of chocolate, three brownies that I cooked on the weekend and then eat dinner as well. I can make myself physically unwell. And then I have a cry, curse my lack of self-control and vow that I am done for good. Until tomorrow, when I restrict again.
  • My depression and anxiety have also gotten worse, which I was aware of, just not something I had related to my food behaviour until this point. I've been incredibly unhappy all the time, my mood swings like a bloody pendulum- one minute I will be in a good mood and the next I will want to move to an island where no human contact is possible. My social anxiety has also worsened, I avoid phone calls, I avoid leaving the house if I can help it, I avoid stopping in the street to talk to people I already know. 

So.. what are you doing about it?

I've been through mental health issues before but nothing like this- but I know from past experience that the only one that can truly pull me out of this, is me. I saw professionals for help with depression and anxiety and that didn't help until the day I decided I was going to make the change. 

I already know in myself that I am the one who has to bring myself out of this as well, I have to make my own changes- which I have already started to implement. 
  • Fuck the restriction. I've deleted the calorie counting apps, I make a conscious effort to not look at the back of the packaging. I'm trying to eat foods that are going to make me feel good and avoid the ones that I know make me feel shitty. My whole thought process was around timing my food and making sure it fits my calories. Now I am trying to eat when my body says "hey, I'm hungry", eating until I feel like I am full and letting myself indulge every now and again. I am trying to stop viewing foods as "good" and "bad" and rather as fuel- is this going to give me the energy I am looking for?
  • I am arming myself with a wealth of knowledge. E-books, audiobooks, actual books, podcasts, social media accounts, online webinars, workshops, I want all of it. I want to understand what is going on with my mind and my body and I also want to understand how I can pull myself out of it. I want to know other peoples stories, their experiences, how they bettered themselves.
  • I have downloaded the app "Rise Up" you don't count your calories or anything like that, but you do log your food and how you felt before /during/after your meals. You record any behaviours that you displayed, who you ate with, where you ate and you check in with how you are feeling. You already know I like to write things down so I can refer back at any point that I need to and this is helping me to understand my behaviours and patterns surrounding food and binging better. 
There are other methods that I have in the back of my head to try if I really feel like I am getting nowhere, including professional help.

I wrote this post, as much as it makes me cringe that this is something I am actively dealing with and now people are going to know about it- not for sympathy or anything similar to that. I wrote this because I know there is going to be people out there in the exact same boat as me and they may not have the awareness to be able to recognise the behaviours or to know what they are dealing with. I am lucky to be able to know myself and my mental health well enough that I do have the power of recognition. 

****Please know that if you are struggling with an eating disorder or any mental health issue you should seek professional help. I have chosen not to because of my own past experiences with mental health. If mental health is a foreign issue please speak to your GP immediately. mental health and physical health are not something to be toyed with.

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