Friday, 16 May 2014

A New Perspective on Binge Eating Disorder: Part 1. Now I can cook with freedom and enjoy chocolate again!

I've said previously that if you were to look through all my blog posts you might be confused as to where I stand - i.e. how I think it is best to view diets and how I think it is best to tackle Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Well now I believe I have reached a turning point and once and for all, everything is clear to me and everything makes sense. I can say with a lot of confidence that I have quit BED (because I now believe that it is an addiction, or at least a very bad habit formed over many years). It has only been 4 days since I quit, which you might not think is much, but with my new found skills and new way to look at things, I am never going back.

On Monday I had pledged to myself that it was (another) new start and that I would not binge anymore, I would eat with awareness and be healthy and eat Paleo foods. But when I got home from work at 1pm, I found myself making chocolate souffle and eating it all myself, eating the rest of the cooking chocolate I was using, and making myself a hash brown, and then making myself fried potato chips. After all that I was so full that I didn't even end up having much for dinner, and afterwards in my usual post-binge phase of trying to motivate myself again and say "I'll start again tomorrow," I was browsing through before and after weight loss stories. I stumbled upon one and was struck by the title "How I recovered from Binge Eating Disorder," so I went and read that and was intrigued. It all seemed to make sense to me straight away and explained why all the different types of "therapy" I had tried before had ultimately not worked. I straight away bought the book she recommended ("Brain over Binge") and spent the next 2 days with my head stuck in it!

It is all explained a lot better by them but basically, discovering that my BED, originally started due to restrictive dieting, was now actually an addictive habit, really helped me to see things in a new light. Once I realised that the urges to binge were just thrown out by my "lower" brain due to neural pathways formed, and had no actual control over my voluntary motor movements, I was able to recognise them and learn to dismiss them and not act on them. There is a lot more to it than that but you will have to read the book.

My urges come in many shapes and forms. They can be very sneaky thoughts like "Oh that slice you made is so nice, it's a shame you can't just keep eating it to your heart's content," "Now you know what to do with this method you could just binge now and start again tomorrow," "Oh look there's a mandarin beside your desk, why don't you just eat it." The urges try to make me feel deprived or like I am missing out - when I am clearly not. I just had some dark chocolate after dinner. I have been enjoying bits of my slice I made over the past 2 days. I had a couple of shortbread biscuits yesterday with tea.

When an urge comes up and is a bit more persistent than usual, I actually visualise myself standing on a shore looking out on a wave crashing in the ocean. The wave is the urge in my mind. I am watching it calmly from ashore but not engaging it or trying to surf it - because I know it will just end up dumping me! I have found that whenever I engage with the thoughts and try to reason with them or debate with them, it is more of a struggle. But when I just ignore the urges, they pass a lot more easily.

I also think of each time that I ignore an urge as an opportunity to rewire my brain and weaken the connection between an urge and a binge.

The thing is, although I know that ultimately, the principles of "If not dieting, then what?", "French Women Don't Get Fat," and all the other mindfulness based techniques did not get me to stop binge eating, those techniques are helping me a lot now. Sometimes I struggle to tell the difference between an urge to eat that's originating from my lower brain, and an urge to eat that's originating from hunger or an innocent craving. But then I just try to listen to my body, pay attention to the hunger and fullness signals, and eat mindfully so I know when I have had enough.

At the moment I am quit wary of overeating because I don't want my brain to think of it as a binge, if that makes sense. I don't want my bad habit to be reinforced ANY more. After dinner tonight I had some dark chocolate and I actually broke myself of 6 squares. But as I was eating it I couldn't tell if I was really enjoying it and if I was just eating it for the sake of it. So I stopped and saved 3 squares for later. The fact that I have the will to do that now is simply amazing to me. (Or maybe it's just the fact that it's Nestle brand, haha. Nowhere near as good as Cadbury or Lindt!)

When I am going to have some sort of treat food, I find it helpful to decide prior to the first bite how much I will have. For example, yesterday when my boyfriend's step mum offered some shortbread biscuits with tea (and she had got them for me especially), I decided to have two. I warned myself that my lower brain would probably throw out some urges to keep eating and try to make me feel sad that I couldn't. Those urges did come, but I was ready and as a result I was a lot quicker to dismiss them.

Anyway, I have probably written enough for now but I am super happy now that I can do all the baking I want without fear that I will eat all of it myself! So expect more baking adventures!