Food freedom is the feeling of a light, peaceful, and comfortable relationship with food.
It may be hard to achieve, but it's 100% worth the work.
Let's set you free.
We're tackling everything you need to know about overeating, and disordered eating.
How I found my way from rock bottom, binge-eating mess to food freedom.
The ways I found in my quest to stop the diets and all the crazy punishment I put myself through.
The books, support groups, and other free (and expensive) things that helped me release my emotional eating.
I stopped binge eating by layering many things together. For me, stopping binge eating didn't involve one amazing shift. It was many changes, and lessons, and moments of intuition.
I’m going to walk through exactly what binge eating is, how I stopped binge eating, and how you can find freedom too.
I am sharing some rough stuff. I keep it real because I know it will help you feel less alone.
You don’t have to feel stuck and ashamed of compulsive overeating and binges.
Read on to learn more about binge eating, my binge eating story, and get a dose of motivation and optimism.
The definition of Binge Eating Disorder from Mayo Clinic is:
"Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food and feel unable to stop eating."
Everyone has a different threshold for food, appetite and eating. A binge episode could happen but you may only eat 3 bowls of cereal. Or you may actually eat emotionally and impulsively for a week, and that could be a binge-like episode as well.
The term binge is used more and more in our culture. We even talk about binge-watching TV shows. So what is the difference between Binge Eating Disorder and just a food binge?
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a defined psychiatric disorder in the DSM V which is the manual used by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnostics.
To be formally diagnosed with BED you must have:
- Recurrent and persistent episodes of binge eating
- Binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
- Marked distress regarding binge eating
- Absence of regular compensatory behaviors (such as purging). (Source)
It is entirely possible to struggle with binge eating episodes but not be diagnosed with BED.
Even if you don't have a formal diagnosis, emotional eating, overeating, and binge eating behaviors could be impairing your life. The lines between BED and emotional eating can blur.
The important thing is to be aware of your emotional and physical health. If your eating patterns are causing yo anxiety, depression, or any life stress, it is something to work through.
Unlike many medical issues, the answer is not simply to take a medication.
Instead, recovery from binge eating requires a very personalized approach.
Sometimes binge eating stems from a very clear issue. Women who embark on a strict diet like the HCG diet, for example, often experience binge eating episodes as a result of the extreme nature of HCG.
Young women in high school often experience binge eating triggered by hormones and newly realized pressure to be thin and beautiful.
Sometimes binge eating has no clear cause.
It can be provoked by a constellation of issues including brain chemistry, family dysfunction, or peer pressure.
What I know for sure is that so many women struggle with food and eating but it’s rarely talked about seriously. Women feel ashamed of losing control and eating too much food.
My goal is to bring binge eating and compulsive eating into the light, relieve the shame and guilt, and help women heal.
There are many terms used to describe challenging food behaviors. Many of the tips to heal binge eating can help with other food related issues. They include:
Anorexia, Bulimia, Orthorexia, Emotional Eating, Restricted Eating, Stress Eating, Food Obsession, Night Eating, Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Anorexia Athletica,
I'm a certified life coach, entrepreneur, and girl from the Midwest. I spent far too long stuck in the cycle of diets, deprivation, and emotional eating.
I swore if I ever found a way out of the place I was in, I'd share it with any other woman I who needed it.
I truly hope this helps you.
B.A. in Psychology
Life Coaching Certification from Adler Graduate School
Internships at Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center
Intern at Park Nicollet Center for Eating Disorders
Columnist for Psychology Today
Professional training as an emotional eating coach
The most helpful resources I've found involved hearing from others that were also struggling, whether in a memoir or listening to other compulsive overeaters at an Overeater's Anonymous meeting.
My first body shame experience was in the 3rd grade. My crush told me my thighs looked like whale blubber.
It was all downhill after that.
High School was no better. I discovered diets like Atkins, and ate only bacon and drank diet soda for 7 days. People told me I looked amazing. I felt terrible.
That first diet, paired with my Junior Prom led to my first "binge" I didn't know what it was at the time. But that roaring feeling inside of me had been unleashed. And it would be with me for 10 more years.
In college, I thought I’d finally won the battle. Instead of gaining the freshman 15 I lost 20, through 500 calories a day, and relentless running.
My body looked amazing. I felt terrified of losing control.
For the next years I binged out of control and my weight crept up and up. An uncle saw me and remarked “You look like you’ve been eating mashed potatoes.”
So I cried for 4 hours in a bathtub. I was a grown woman locked in a bathroom because I couldn’t stand my own body.
I was hopeless that I could ever be better. I believed my body was broken.
But a series of life-changing things happened. My dad almost died. I went through a heart-shattering breakup.
I was maturing, seeing the world beyond black and white. I wanted more.
And I simply couldn't live in the cycle of restriction and binge anymore.
So boy, did I change. I lit my old life on fire. I ended the 4 year relationship. I made a mega career change. I stopped binge eating. And I lost weight.
Binge eating and food anxiety literally stole time from me. I don't want it to steal any more of your time.
I'm sharing everything that I learned. Through a layering of therapy, weeping, treatment, songwriting, spiritual dabbling, weight training, vodka drinking, laughing, and loving I have become one of those zen, happy people.
You know, those people that eat carbohydrates without having a meltdown.
A restrictive diet is the number one reason for binge episodes.
Like anything in life, when you restrict access, your brain gets super-focused on what it can’t have. Inevitably the energy spent to avoid food wears down.
When I tried my first diet in high school, I cut out all carbs. I’d never thought twice about carbs before that.
But once I started to put my awareness there, my urge to have chips, bread and delicious carbohydrates went out of control.
The worst part is that once I had one binge episode it was like a new era began.
I knew what the intoxicating feeling of binge eating felt like. There was no way I could un-discover it.
I love to go hard in the gym - sometimes. I cycle through months hard AF workout regimens and then months of easy, intuitive workouts.
There’s something purposeful about having a plan and nailing it.
But overzealous, consuming exercise can lead to binge eating. There's an eating disorder called exercise bulimia in which exercise is used as a way to compensate for eating.
The combination of true physical exhaustion with the obsession over the “plan”, creates a vacuum. Your body and mind start to scream out for a break.
I’ve experienced binge eating as a result of crazy exercise plans. This occurred years after I’d recovered from binge eating. I worked with a personal trainer to craft a plan for myself before a cruise. I was hitting it so hard and loving it.
But the exercise adrenaline and exhaustion started to cause me to binge again.
Sometimes we have pain and trauma in our history. If not properly dealt with, they can continue to cause anxiety. For example, maybe your parents divorced when you were very young. Maybe at the time you didn't have the right tools to emotionally handle the pain of that. Instead you started to use food to soothe yourself. Maybe that led to a connection between emotions and food that wasn't healthy.
Sometimes we are bullied, even good-naturedly by people for our "thunder thighs". Memories of small criticisms can stay with us for years, and cause overeating.
Ok hear me out. My hair and binge eating have a lot to do with one another. (I promise I have a point)
Doing my hair and makeup has always been a form of self-care for me. As a a kid, I loved drawing and painting, and somehow when I became a teenager makeup was like painting to me. I loved it because of the creative aspect.
And my (coarse, thick) hair has always been my "thing". After years of wrangling the frizz, I am proud that I know how to style it. I've earned my hair styling stripes. There isn’t a curling iron or straightener I can’t handle.
Before binge eating took over. I used to have so much fun playing with hair and makeup.
Which eye shadow to use, which shading technique I'd found in a magazine. I’d choose whether I wanted beachy waves or straight hair.
In college, as my binge eating and depression sunk lower, I stopped doing my hair. I'd just throw it up in bun.
I also lost my enthusiasm for beauty and makeup.
While this might not seem like anything important, it was a signal that binge eating and shame had taken over my mental health.
Getting "ready" and playing with hair and makeup were my healthy form of self-care.
Looking at myself in the mirror and applying foundation was meditative. Spending 30 minutes focused on caring about myself was soothing and confidence building.
While it may sound superficial, the ritual was my reminder to myself that I mattered.
When I lost pleasure in makeup and hair it was a signal that I stopped believing in my worth and that my body image and overeating were draining me.
I believed that because of my weight I didn’t deserve to look good. I stopped believing that I could look pretty.
When I began recovering my compulsive eating and body image, I deliberately started to buy quality, modern clothes (even though I didn't feel thin enough at all).
I bought more makeup and enjoyed the process of going to Sephora. (Even if I didn't have a special reason)
I had fun again learning eye shadow techniques (instead of thinking it didn't matter because may face was too fat anyway).
I stopped wearing my hair up every day. I let my wild thick waves be free. Looking in the mirror felt easier, and I started to remember who I was inside and out.
All of these activities helped me to remember that I was beautiful regardless of my weight. I was inherently a worthy person who deserved care and honor.
When you binge eat you get stuck in a pattern of isolation, cutting yourself off from the world, staying couch-bound because you’re too embarrassed to see your friends out on a Saturday night.
What will they think of me. Will they see the weight gain? Will I lose control and eat fries and pizza and feel like a bloated mess tomorrow?
When you’re in that mindset, you start to make your world smaller. You don’t have opportunities to be seen.
Being seen is part of the being human. It’s why we wear lipgloss and a cute shirt we just bought on sale. We dress for ourselves but we also do it to be seen.
Obviously what’s more important than being seen superficially is being seen for who you are. You need your friends to hear your voice in an animated conversation about your boyfriend.
You need your friends to hear about your frustrations at work and how you long for something more engaging. You need to go to the gym and see everyone else is in the same boat, trying to feel good in their body.
When you stay inside because of binge eating, emotionally and literally inside your room, you cut off your opportunities to be seen.
Binge eating and overeating can make you feel like you don’t even matter.
With that mentality, what does it even matter if you binge eat. What does it matter that you’re not honoring yourself, treating yourself with kindness.
Go into the world, say yes more often
Go to a concert on a Friday even if you feel so tired at the end of the week
Allow yourself to go to brunch and eat overpriced french toast
Go to a park, sit in the sunlight, watch people all around you
If you work remotely go to a coffee shop and feel totally hip
Do you hair and makeup even if you have nothing to do
Spend $9.99 on a new Walgreens foundation
Be in public, in the sun, any place that feels good to you
Intuitively I knew that the idea of losing weight steadily, quickly, without fault was impossible. But I also have a side of me that just wants to be the best and perfect.
We’re fed so many ideas about weight loss and health. Lose 10 pounds in 10 days. “Clean up your diet.” These ideas are very unrealistic.
I mean 10 pounds in 10 days is simply impossible physically and psychologically you’d have to starve and run 10 miles a day.
To “clean” up your diet means to magically become superhuman and not every have temptation to eat something sweet, salty, and fun.
The large majority of us are regular, flawed, people with fluctuating motivation and willpower.
These standards are not keeping you motivated or accountable - they are creating the opposite effect.
You feel like a failure against these crazy ideals and that feeling of failure makes you feel demoralized, depressed and bam. You’re eating donuts and feeling even worse.
Don’t set yourself up to feel like a failure.
Base your expectations on you. You know yourself, your behavior, your metabolism. Be honest and give yourself grace if you’re in a place of transformation.
If you know you only lose .333 pounds a week - then that’s your pace.
Are you expecting a steady weight loss week to week?
When in reality weight loss is not linear. Thanks to hormones and biology and life.
Are you expecting 5 pounds a week?
The body can't just shed weight rapidly despite what the media says...
Are you expecting weight loss to happen in a month?
Everything worth having, takes time.
Are you expecting no fun, delicious food ever?
Humans need to indulge. Taste good food. Feel free of restriction and rules.
Are you holding yourself to standards that just don’t make sense for who you are and your lifestyle?
Focus on who you are inside. Know thyself. You can't change your natural temperament and tendencies.
Any over-analyzers out there? Yeah, me too. I can think any situation to shreds.
As I’ve grown I’ve realized that when you have a problem, thinking can’t solve it. Action solves things.
Instead of spending time obsessing over why you keep sabotaging, overeating and breaking your own rules, try something different.
Try action and distraction.
Distractions are a valuable asset in healing binge eating. Our ADD brains are easily distracted. Use this for good. Distract yourself from the insidious food thoughts.
My favorite distractions: I can lose myself in a new song. I can lose myself in a home renovation or DIY project. I’m so pro-audiobook. You can go on a walk and after an hour you didn’t even realize you walked 3 miles.
Think of a time when you weren’t spiraling about food, when your brain felt relieved of that anxiety. It was probably a time when something else in your life demanded attention.
A good example of a distraction was planning my wedding. You would think the idea of putting on a wedding dress would have increased food thoughts but I simply had no time. Planning a wedding is no joke. It’s like putting together the most in-depth project and paying for it out of pocket.
I had no time to dwell on food.
If you’re a food obsessor chances are you have a bit of an obsessive personality. Use this for good.
Find something you can get lost in.
A guilty pleasure audiobook.
A DIY Pinterest project.
An Etsy craft.
Redecorate a room.
Learn a language.
Get in touch with that inner creator we all have inside.
Binge a season of Real Housewives.
Download an addictive cell phone game (panda pop!)
just take your brain for a walk - distract yourself enough to forget about binge eating.
You can experience cravings, a sluggish digestive system, and even hormonal bloating all as a result of hormone imbalances.
How do hormones affect your eating? When you feel bloated due to excess estrogen, your body image suffers. When your body image takes a hit, you look for a way to feel better.
Another example. Women with PCOS (another syndrome I have) are prone to developing blood sugar issues. This makes cravings for sugar and carbs intense. It also makes your ability to lose weight much more difficult and even causes weight gain.
Obviously intense cravings, a slower metabolism, and weight gain would be hard on anyone. Again, that stress makes a woman very vulnerable to binge eating and compulsive eating.
In the last few years I've experienced major hormonal imbalances that have impacted my thyroid and metabolism. I've begun to realize that much of my hormonal issues began as early as 14 and likely had a contribution to my development of binge eating.
If you suspect or know you have hormonal imbalances, know that your binge eating might not just be "all in your head". You may be physically susceptible to genuine cravings because of your physiology.
For this I highly recommend finding a functional medicine doctor who can do a comprehensive hormone test. The DUTCH test is a favorite of mine.