It sounds like the title of a shit movie doesn’t it…96 days?! I wonder who would star as me? I would like to think Angelina as Lara Croft…I am a fucking dreamer sometimes!
Anyway – 96 days – this is what the past 96 days have looked like for me:
It’s been a colourful few months – just over 3 months to be precise. I have to say that I have stunned myself. Now – don’t get me wrong – I know that I am pretty fucking awesome – so it was no surprise that I have kicked ass! When I am focused I am seriously focused and nothing and nobody stands in my way. I will do what it takes to get the results. It is staying focused that is the challenge!
Seriously though – I was in a very bad place…binge-eating daily – and I couldn’t see a way out of that. When I say ‘binge-eating’ I am talking about 1000′s of additional calories a day…multipacks of crisps, takeaways, tub of ice cream, giant family bars of chocolate, sausage rolls…shite – daily. I had been back to the hospital to talk to the team there regarding surgical options again. I felt like a bit of a failure as I had undone a hell of a lot of the progress that I had made. So the ‘stunned’ feeling comes from moving from a place that I felt there was no way out of…to where I am now. And where I am now is in no way, shape, or form ‘sorted’ – I have to work at this every day for the rest of my life.
I am tentatively confident. I don’t want to get cocky – as that’s when I come unstuck. I have to practice every day. I have to work hard every day. Bit by bit I am getting there.
When I talk about this – going from dramatic binge-eating to not binge-eating at all – I get lots of questions about how I manage it. Unfortunately, there is no one single answer or solution. It really does depend on your circumstances and what it is that triggers your binge-eating. But I think there might be some things that I can mention that might help…
1 – The ‘Pause’
I learnt to manage my binge-eating via trial and error methods. I read all of the books relating to it…but until I was ready to take responsibility and control, nothing worked. And actually, the methods in the books were quite often redundant – as when the will was there, I could do it regardless. Initially however, I practised these methods. The best of which was one that I thought I had created myself…but then found a few months later in a book – so there went my patent and my millions!
It was a simple ‘pause’. Instead of telling myself that I couldn’t have something – because as soon as I used the word can’t, I showed myself how I could…and the food was eaten – I would tell myself that I could have the food but in 30 minutes time. And then I would use the 30 minutes to work out why I wanted to binge…which is a long and complex process involving emotions and it’s not very pleasant at times! I would try and identify if I was pissed off…what was I pissed off about. If I was lonely…why was I lonely, who could I reach out to. If I was frustrated…why was I frustrated and what could I do about it. Was I bored…and how could I entertain myself. There were times when I was practically licking the kitchen cupboards to get at the food inside them…who am I kidding – the junk food in my house never reached the fucking cupboards as I had eaten it! However, there were times that this 30 minute pause lasted 10 minutes. There were times when it lasted the full 30 minutes and I still wanted the food…and so I ate it. Yet there were times when I managed to distract myself for the 30 minutes and I hadn’t died…and neither had anybody else. And these times became more and more frequent and the binge-eating reduced.
2 – Meditation
I take time out daily to meditate. Never before in my life did I think that I would be saying that I love organic rice cakes and meditation…but I do love organic rice cakes…and I do meditate – there’s hope for us all yet!
Mindfulness is something that I mention on a regular basis. For me, practicing mindfulness – mainly via meditation and body scans – helps me recognise and accept my emotions, and relaxes me enough to deal with them. So it’s been helpful to focus me during threats of binge-eating…helping to identify the emotions that I am feeling, and giving me an outlet for such emotions. A outlet that isn’t based on judgement!
Now, I am no expert in this field. And I am tired. I am also pissed off with work – and will meditate later to help me deal with that! :-) So rather than try and explain about the mindfulness meditation, I am going to point you in the direction of an expert…Andy Puddicombe.
You may have watched his TED talk that I linked to recently – or may have seen him around…as he’s quite well known in this field – a bit of an expert!
Andy also runs a company called ‘Headspace‘ and they specialise in helping people practice the art of mindfulness. There are loads of answers here…and also a ten day meditation offering (free of charge) with a ten minute guided meditation. It is good…a great starting point to give you an insight into why and how mindfulness might be helpful.
So have a look at it – and let me know what you think. I used to listen to his dulcet tones each evening…I am not saying that he bored me – far from it – but I was relaxed and able to sleep well after it! I have found many other sources of meditation inspiration since working on HeadSpace – and even went on a couple of retreats…but that’s a whole other blog post!
3 – Books
There are a couple of books that I found helpful. The first was by Christopher Fairburn – Overcoming Binge Eating. I have an older version which is selling for crazy amounts now on Amazon…but you can get a second edition for about £10. The first part of the book explains binge-eating and various theories surrounding it, and the second part contains a step by step programme for you to follow. It absolutely ISN’T a diet book, it’s a self-help book aimed at people with eating disorders. The second book was a harder read for me – mainly because it surrounds compassion and learning to be ‘nicer’ to yourself. It is written by Ken Goss – The Compassionate Mind Approach to Beating Overeating – Ken heads the Eating Disorder Service in the West Midlands I believe and they now use the book nationwide to support the binge-eating programmes they deliver. As I said, this was a harder read for me personally but well worth it and I know coaching clients of mine found it incredibly helpful in overcoming those feelings of hatred and frustration.
4 – Therapy
Now this was something that I really struggled to find. At the point in time I was struggling, there was no local funding to help with binge-eating disorder. I had had meetings with the Eating Disorders Association and they categorised me as having severe BED – but there was nothing they could do to help me at the time. However, I do know that funding is in place in some areas – so it’s worthwhile speaking to your GP to look at a referral. You can also take a look at the website to source local support. The books that I mention above are a useful way of easing yourself in to a therapeutic mindset – as it’s not for everyone. You have be able to talk openly and honestly about what you do and be willing to really dig deep to look at why you do it.
5 – Exercise
I find exercise is a form of therapy…one which I much prefer to talking – it’s less intrusive! Personally, if I am working out then I am far less likely to binge-eat. I know that this isn’t the case for everyone, but it is for me. I think subconsciously I might be avoiding putting in shite food as it might undo the work I did at the gym. Does that make sense? I get a real buzz after exercise – mainly when I have been to the gym…I don’t get the same buzz after going for a walk or anything. I think it’s a rush of endorphins that comes with working hard for a period of time. I sit in the car after a workout and feel like I could go back in and do it all over again. It helps me to calm the chaos in my mind – most of the time – and it gets the blood pumping and your lungs working…it’s restorative.
6 – Good proper ‘fuel’
And this is what has really done the trick for me this time around. I am now choosing to eat better food. Not so much processed food – hardly any in fact – and more good fats. So I choose to use my syns on things like avocado and nuts. I am also weighing and measuring everything to keep a track of my calories. This might sound labour intensive but it really has highlighted to me the flaws in previous ‘diet’ attempts where ‘free’ and ‘unlimited’ was pushed to the max. I will write separately about this though. For the now – the importance is upon putting the right stuff in, at the right times, to ensure that I don’t get hangry (hungry-angry!) and feel like I want to binge.
7 – Eating for ‘true’ hunger
This was a biggie. I never ever let myself feel a pang of hunger – in fact the first time it happened I thought I had stomach ache – seriously! I used to graze all day like a cow, or starve and binge. And during the ‘starve’ periods I never felt hunger as I was living on the emotions of planning my binge-eating session later that evening. One of the things I read about constantly was learning to ‘normalise’ my eating – and this meant learning to recognise the difference between physical and emotional hunger, and when it was appropriate to eat…that it was okay to feel hungry – in fact, it makes your meal taste better if your body is ready to eat…or at least it feels that way to me. So the following little diagrams might help:
Basically you would eat when you hit a 4 or a 3 on the Hunger Scale – I went for 4 initially as there was a tendency for me to binge if I got too hungry. It’s helpful to look at the Hunger Scale in conjunction with the Emotional vs Physical Hunger chart – so when you feel hungry, is it really a 3 or a 4 physical hunger – in which case a salad will solve the problem…or is it a 5 but emotional…as you just want a chocolate bar! I think that ramble makes sense. One of the things I used to record was my feelings and ‘score’ before and after I ate. This helped me identify patterns and triggers.
8 – Regular eating
Now this might seem at odds with the above charts…if you aren’t at a 3 or a 4, why would you eat? But when I binge it tends to be after going without a meal for a while…or I would get into a binge starve binge starve cycle – often not eating for 22 hours and spending 2 hours in the evening absolutely stuffing myself. That’s not healthy. So when I mentioned normalising my eating above, the regularity of my meals was key. I was advised to make sure that I had breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an evening snack. It took planning and preparation but this, in conjunction with the above charts, helped me realise that if I had eaten a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner…then my evening binges were purely emotional as I had eaten the level of food my body needed already – so I could focus my time on addressing those issues. It’s almost like ticking shit off a list. You can’t blame your binge-eating on hunger if you have had a good set of meals during the day…so it almost forces you to address the real reasons behind the binge-eating. Since regulating my eating I have tried all sorts of ‘patterns’…breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack…and now I feel satisfied 99.9% of the time with 3 decent meals a day…no snacking.
9 – A journal
I do love a good journal. I have loads of blank ones on my bookshelf…I seem to collect them! I used to write – and still do obvs! – to help me deal with the shit going on in my head. I would journal not only the boring food diary stuff – that isn’t boring at all…it’s very fucking functional actually! – but I would track when I was eating, what I was eating, and how I felt before and after I ate. I would then expand on these feelings – writing letters to people that had pissed me off that I never needed to send…writing plans for the future, immediate actions I could take…all sorts of shit. It works.
10…I am stumped now…I am sure there is much more – but I will drop it in later if I get any lightbulb moments.
Got it – 10 – PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
So that’s it really. I think there is more to binge-eating than just feeling hungry. In fact, for me, it was never about hunger – you can’t be hungry for a multipack of crisps after a takeaway meal…it’s emotional and I was trying to fill a void that food can never fill. It takes a lot of work to look at these areas – and it’s not pleasant and sometimes you have to make tough decisions and change areas of your life that are triggering the binge-eating.
It takes a lot of work too. There’s an advert on TV that makes me laugh – I have written about it before – the Sensodyne Toothpaste advert with the annoying dentist. He is talking about how his client complained that his sensitivity came back…so he had asked him if he was still using the toothpaste. ‘No’, was the reply. And therein lay my problem…I stopped doing the shit that helped me quit my binge-eating for over two years. So I started doing it all again – 10 PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE – and I am doing well again. It’s not fucking rocket science – in the words of my trainer…DO THE WORK!
Anyway, this morning was tough for me. I am working for a cunt of a boss at the moment and am being pushed to my tolerance limits. It’s very hard for me – as I don’t like feeling trapped, but we all have financial commitments etc that mean sometimes we have to eat shit…oh, the irony! So I am fighting very hard to stay on track. In fact, I got a bit teary and upset earlier – more out of frustration…and that shit isn’t happening! I refuse to be a fucking mug. I put up with enough shit from an ex-boss who epitomised the word ‘CUNT’ – and I am not going through that shit again. It was a good job that I was working from home today or else I think I might have said or done something that would have landed me in hot water. I have a great boss – my ultimate boss – but am working on a project that I really want to finish soon or else I fear losing my marbles…or my job! Why do people have to be cunts? This woman doesn’t know her arse from her elbow and yet somehow manages to pull off the role she has whilst looking down on everyone else – she is a Grade A FuckNugget! I am going to talk to my original boss about a transfer into another part of the business…and fuck the fuck off before I unleash.
On that delightful note, I am off – but before I go, this was what I ate today:
Breakfast – Veggie scramble…asparagus, tenderstem broccoli, spinach, mushroom, and red onion.
Lunch – Prawn and smoked salmon salad.
Dinner – Salami, cheese, baby peppers, avocado, olives, and sundried tomatoes.