A defining moment happened in my life in October of 2010. I woke up one day in a panic! After 45 years of living as a binge eater, obsessed with food and sick and tired of gaining and losing 40-50 pounds every few months, I was finally ready to stop the madness for good.
Throughout my years of dieting and bingeing, I came to realize that diets lead to deprivation and deprivation leads to bingeing. I kept thinking that each new diet would be my “get out of binge eating jail card.” But I continued yo-yo dieting year after year because I kept looking for the perfect diet to save me from my compulsive tendencies.
On that fateful morning in 2010, I woke up literally petrified to get into bed one more night feeling bloated, disgusting, disgusted with myself, hopeless and helpless due to my abusive relationship with food. You can imagine that during those years there were hundreds if not thousands of days where I just wished I could have made peace with food but something was different this time.
On this particular morning, due to my fear of having even one more day living the crazy lifestyle of a binge eater, I realized that the only way I could change my life was to figure out how to live as the opposite of a binge eater. I had absolutely no idea how to do that because for practically my entire life, I would either diet, and deprive myself of all my favorite foods, or I would eat everything in sight! I had no clue how to incorporate my favorite foods into my life in moderation.
Because I was determined to get into bed feeling happy that night I knew I was going to figure out how to change my relationship with food forever. It was exhilarating and scary at the same time. How could someone so entrenched in certain compulsive behaviors stop cold turkey in one day when they really had no idea how to do it?
With other addictions including cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, it’s possible to decide one day to just stop the behavior altogether, but with eating…we have to eat!
I remember like it was yesterday realizing that in order to become successful in the long term, I’d have to WANT to stop giving into my impulses which was hard since impulsive eating was all I knew.
And, because deprivation was the one thing that always took me out of the game, I’d have to figure out how to eat foods that I’d normally binge on in amounts that wouldn’t make me feel deprived. There could no longer be forbidden foods because the temptation would always overtake me at some point and I was doomed to fail yet again.
Beginning that morning back in 2010, I realized that if I was determined to get into bed that night feeling happy, by definition I would have to be happy after everything I ate that day. So I decided to follow Weight Watcher’s points program because on that plan no foods are off limits. That part took care of my concern about deprivation and it would allow me to track my intake for the day.
I had followed Weight Watchers many times but I had found in the past that the leaders of the classes and most of the people who attended were afraid of food. I had often heard in meetings things like “When you go to a restaurant, tell the waiter to pack up ½ of your food before it comes.” Or” Tell the waiter not to bring the bread.” This way of thinking perpetuated the fear of food.
When I began Weight Watchers this time, I asked myself before everything I ate “Will I be happy when this is over?” If the answer was “no” but I still wanted it, I’d then ask “how much can I eat and still be happy when it’s over?” These powerful questions allowed me to insert a pause instead of just gobbling down whatever I wanted to eat which is what I had always done. The way I defined “happy” was staying in my desired point range, eating something I was truly in the mood for, in an amount that would make me feel satisfied and comfortable.
In addition, I made sure not to multitask so that I could pay attention to every bite which is what led to complete satisfaction. I had found that when I was eating while doing any other activity, which prevented me from being part of the actual experience, I’d always be on the hunt for more food because I wasn’t satisfied.
Inside of that first day when I started asking myself whether I’d be happy after each thing I ate, and focusing on what I was truly in the mood for, and eating it without distraction, I felt so calm and in control.
It felt wonderful to be able to eat 10 M&M’s instead of shoveling a whole bag down my throat. I would enjoy each one and loved not overdoing anything I ate. I quickly discovered what I have come to call the “Magic Zone.” That’s the calm place where I had no feelings of deprivation and no urge to binge.
What I have found over the past 4 years of coaching other binge eaters is that by doing a little work each day like what I’ve described above, it’s quite easy to keep this affliction under control. It’s not hard work and it leads to freedom from food addiction and the ability to reclaim your life for good.