Shame is an inevitable component of binge eating disorder, so although it’s the most common of eating disorders, it’s rarely discussed.
Binging was a carefully hidden secret for me since my early teen years. I remember getting upset over a running injury and devouring a chocolate cake. Not a piece of cake — a whole chocolate cake — and it was still mostly frozen. Binging was my normal; I didn’t believe change was possible. So even as I got degrees in nutrition and ate more nourishing foods, there were still nights where I’d polish off a can of frosting, and suffer through the inevitable self-loathing hangover.
The irony was that nothing in my training as a nutritionist helped. The more I judged, controlled and hated my behaviors, the worse they became. Even eating whole, unprocessed foods didn’t do the trick for me. I could binge on candy or cauliflower.
The path to healing for me was quite accidental. After an ankle injury left me unable to walk, I took the Center’s Mind-Body Medicine training in 2004, which gave me tangible tools — drawing, journaling, imagery, etc. The shaking and dancing were a wonderful release for pent up energy and emotions. I began practicing meditation daily. Instead of judging, I got curious and started exploring the need the binges were filling in my life. I learned how to sit with the pain, anger and sadness and actually express it rather than stuff it down with food. I noticed early triggers, and learned to catch signs before they swung out of control.
As I gained resources, I outgrew the need to binge. And somewhere along the way, I realized there hadn’t been binges in months, and then months became years. The only way out of the binging cycle was through presence, pausing, and enough love to forgive myself for my mistakes.
The best part, of course is that my experiences aren’t a fluke. There’s now research showing that mindful presence and self-compassion help with binge eating, and help lead to greater healing and peace.