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“It’s not just one thing” – recovery from binge eating disorder

I have lived with binge eating disorder for about 30 years, but recently I have been able to stop bingeing. I used to think it was something I would have to live with for the rest of my life. But I have found that recovery is possible. 

We all want easy answers and a quick fix, but what I have learned is that there is no one single thing that works for everyone. It can take a lot of work, a lot of trying different things, and probably a combination of several different approaches to find what works for you. 

Some things that I think helped me over the years, and which eventually contributed to my recovery:

I found that this final approach worked for me, and as days, weeks and months passed and I did not binge, I felt like a miracle had happened and I was cured.

I wish I could say that this was my ‘Happy Ever After’ ending. However, after several months binge-free, I came home from a holiday feeling the ‘post-holiday blues’, and felt like I needed food to cheer myself up. I was in a stressful situation at work and I felt like I could not cope if I couldn’t binge.  Somehow I felt unable to stop this in its tracks, and I reverted to my old binge behaviour for several months. 

Knowing that I had stopped before made it somehow seem worse that I felt unable to stop again. I did not know, at this point, that learning to deal with relapses is all part of recovery. After a year or more, when things at work had calmed down, I eventually decided that I wanted to try again. By being kind to myself and allowing myself small treats rather than big binges, I was able start applying the technique in Brain Over Binge, and again I stopped bingeing. However, I was still afraid that I could relapse again if I started to feel down or stressed again, so I decided I needed to do something more to prevent that from happening. 

During all this time I had never talked about my bingeing. It was my terrible secret that I always hoped I could sort out on my own, so I would never have to admit it to anyone else. I decided that I would have to try a radical approach and seek out help, even though I found the idea of talking to anyone terrifying. I was lucky to find a local support group, and a counsellor who specialised in eating disorders. I cried all the way through my first group meeting, even though I barely spoke, and also cried all through my first counselling session as I explained my shame. But amazingly, it felt like a relief to finally stop holding onto that secret. 

I used to feel like if I could just sort out my eating, then everything would be fine, as though it was isolated from the rest of my life. I didn’t realise I would end up reassessing so much of my life. I am still in counselling, and learning a lot about the ways in which I struggle to manage my emotions due to my family background, which may have led to me using food in this way. It is hard and painful sometimes. I spend a lot of time thinking about things and writing them down to try to understand myself. Ultimately this is about so much more than just food and eating – it’s about my whole life.  

Contributed by Karen

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