Brain Over Binge: A Book (and my Life) in Review

Yay, it’s September book review time!  I like this trend I have going of stating my intention each month to read a book and then blog about it.

I am a busy mother of a three year old and a wife who rarely finds a moment in my day to breathe let alone read, but I have set this intention with purpose and passion.

First, I love to read!  Before having a child, it was pretty typical for me to crawl into bed right after dinner time and dive into a book for at least an hour before falling asleep.  It was the perfect way for me to unwind and destress from my work day.  Even before I got married and during our courtship, this was pretty routine for me.  But boy have things changed

Life As I Know It

Now, 8 o’clock rolls around and I can’t wait to put my baby to bed just so I can put my feet up and relax in bed.  But now, instead of reading, my husband and I have gotten into the habit of watching tv (reality tv, at that).

Reality tv entertains me, I’m not going to lie!  Shows like 90 Day Fiancé, The Real Housewives, Married at First Sight, Below Deck, and Southern Charm are my favorites!  If you ever want to chat it up about any of these shows, I’m your girl!

That said, having these shows on rotation almost every night of the week doesn’t leave me much time to simply read and shut out the “noise” from the day.

So, I’m trying to make it more intentional to designate time to turn off the tv (thank goodness for DVR) and open a book.  If I’m being completely honest with myself, opening a book brings me more joy than tv on almost every occasion.

Second, it’s incredibly important to me to continue evolving and developing, which is why I often choose personal development and spirituality books.  I love learning and then experimenting with what I learn.  I got very into “self-help”, if you will, when I was a child.

I started seeing a therapist to help me address some traumas from my childhood and to get a handle on some intense anxiety that I was experiencing through my adolescent years.  I attribute a lot of my deep self-awareness work and current interests to my time spent in therapy.

It opened my eyes to how amazing our psyche is, but also, how desperate our thoughts are for our attention.  The minute you actually take the time to explore what is going on, ask those deeper questions of yourself, and apply some pretty basic action steps, the troublesome behaviors or thoughts seem to disappear.  At least that’s how it works for me.

In my humble opinion, I think everyone deserves to have a therapist.  It’s incredibly helpful and the stigma around it is simply not warranted.

You’re not “crazy” if you desire to know yourself better.  You’re not “ill” if you seek answers for how to live your life optimally.  You’re not “messed up” if you are brave enough to explore all of your emotions in their fullest range.  You’re not “weird” if you need someone to talk to about your life.

In fact, you’re incredible for wanting all of these things!

The Cycle of Binge Eating

So on that note, I sought out a book that I thought might be helpful to me in my journey towards wellness. Since I was a child, I have struggled with disordered eating.  Not in the sense that I had anorexia or bulimia.  I was (and still am on occasion) a binge eater.

I have very vivid memories of myself as a child binging on sugar. Cookies and ice cream seemed to be my go-to “sneak treats”.  I went so far as to sneak into my next door neighbor’s house where they kept jars of cookies to grab a handful of the forbidden food before racing back to my house to eat in secret.

My neighbors always left their house unlocked and it was quite common for us to just go inside, call around to see if anyone was home, and then leave if no one answered.  But I sometimes took the extra step of snagging a few cookies before I left.  Crazy, right?

It’s not like my mom deprived me of sugary snacks growing up either.  I could see if I NEVER had the opportunity to have those types of food, I might desire it that much more, but that wasn’t the case.

In fact, to my friends, my house was the “fun” house because we had a snack drawer that everyone raided after school because it had all the junk food in it.  We had fruit roll ups, Shark Bites, cookies, vanilla wafers, granola bars, cereals, beef jerky sticks, you name it!  And in our freezer, we had several cartons of ice cream, Flav-o-Ice pops, pizza bites, etc.

Our house was not lacking the “cool” food as kids would call it.  So why did I feel the need to sneak over to my neighbors?  Was it rebellious behavior? When we had cookies in our house, I would do the same thing.  I couldn’t eat just one.  Nope, I had to grab several at a time only to eat them in a matter of a few seconds (always in secret).

Somehow I determined that eating more than one cookie was a “bad” thing to do, therefore, I needed to hide it.

Furthermore, I wasn’t a child that showed the effects of this binge eating on the outside.  I was actually very skinny and one of the tiniest girls in my class.  For the amount of sugar I was eating, you might expect that I would have been overweight, covered in acne, or lethargic from sugar crashes.

This wasn’t my reality.  I was active, focused, a “rule follower” in many ways, and quite social.  From the outside, I don’t think it was apparent to others what I was secretly doing behind the scenes of my life.

The Problem Continues

Fast forward to adulthood.  During my college days, a lot of this behavior persisted.  I would demolish a jar of peanut butter in a day’s time and then obsessively worry about when I could get to the store to get another one to cover up the fact that I ate an entire jar.

At lunch in between classes, I would grab at least two, if not three, big cookies from our lunch-on-the-go establishment on campus as if my life depended on it.  God forbid if they were all out of cookies!

And at night, if I didn’t have friends to join me at the cafeteria, I would order a pizza bagel and fries to eat in complete isolation in my dorm room.  After a greasy meal like this, I would always feel so full and sick to my stomach.  And yet feeling that way wasn’t a deterrent, I would continue to eat this way for the remainder of my college years.

I never really took the time to stop and think about why I was eating this way despite the way it made me feel.  I just did it…almost out of habit.

Shortly after college, I moved out on my own to attend graduate school and to start working in the “real world”.  Binging came and went throughout those years.  If I binged, it was always on something sweet and fatty.  I was never into salty things such as potato chips, which is a pretty common binge food too.

Instead, I found my crutch in cookie dough (never cooked cookies, I don’t like them very much), ice cream, or almond M&Ms.  I would literally polish off an entire container of each of these things within one sitting (aka, a few minutes).

At first, I would feel the nagging voice in my head desperately pleading to find a way to get this binge food of choice. At times, I would go out of my way to get to a store just to stop the persistent pressure of the urge. Then, once I gave into the urge, I would feel a sense of peace and calm like I finally soothed a part of me that needed something.

But shortly after the binge, I would have this overwhelming sense of guilt, disgust, shame, embarrassment, desperation to reverse what I just did, and disappointment that I yet again let myself treat my body this way.

I always felt sick to my stomach, but I liked the secondary gains, which usually was increased energy and satiation of the annoying urge.  This has been a cycle throughout my life that has never been treated or discussed in great depth.

And there would be times when binge eating simply wasn’t a part of my life AT ALL.  The time I can remember when I didn’t have a single urge, desire, or motivation to binge was when I started a gluten-free, almost raw vegan lifestyle back in 2008.  I felt so freakin’ good living that lifestyle.  My energy was through the roof, I lost extra weight my body had been holding onto, and I just felt happy.  Happy, happy, HAPPY.

Maintaining that lifestyle became very difficult to do once I started dating and having a family.  So much of me wishes to return to how I felt for those years when I was adhering to a lifestyle that seemed to suit me and my body quite well.

A Refreshing Perspective on Binge Eating

So because binge eating has been a behavior that I have been well-aware of in my own life for almost as long as I can remember, I found a book called “Brain Over Binge” which gives readers a different perspective to consider when struggling with binge eating.

The author, Kathryn Hansen, goes into great detail about how her battle with binge eating began and how it unfolded throughout her college years as well.

As I was reading her personal account, I could relate so well to what she experienced.  I was so thankful that someone talked openly about the behaviors that lie behind binge eating.

Finally, I felt like I didn’t need to be secretive about it anymore.  Binging actually is a very common experience from what I am now learning!

What I really appreciated about Kathryn’s book is that she dared to step away from the “therapy model” of treatment for disordered eating, and she gave a more scientific approach to understanding it.

For me, while I loooooove psychology and totally advocate therapy, I found it refreshing to not go into the traumas or unresolved feelings that might be leading me to binge.  I really liked learning about the “animal brain” and how that impacted my “human brain” thus directing my choices.

Life is About Making Choices

And that’s what it ultimately comes down to, I am making choices around what behaviors I want to carry out.  I can choose to listen to my urges and then “give in” to them and binge OR I can simply observe my urges and make a rational, more informed decision to not indulge that “voice”.

It’s actually quite a powerful, practical approach to dealing with those addictive behaviors because it takes the emotionality out of it.  Once you tie emotions to any decision, the decision becomes that much more complicated.

Brain Over Binge

This new approach to dealing with my binge eating tapped into my spiritual practice of meditation too.  So much of it overlapped with what I already knew through meditating.  Simply observe your thought like a cloud passing in the sky.

That’s all it is – A THOUGHT.  Acknowledge it, even talk to it kindly, and it will disappear.  Thoughts want our attention.  They want to be recognized.  So do just that and then let it go.  The key is to stay detached and simply observe.  Observe, observe, observe.

So with this reminder and this experience of my years meditating, it seemed pretty easy to put it into practice as it related to my urges to binge.

Is My Binge Eating Gone?

So, I’m proud to say that since starting this book (I actually started it over the summer), I have not binged.  I’ve had urges, don’t get me wrong, but I have applied Kathryn’s advice every time and I have detached from those urges.

Some days have been harder than others, that’s for sure, but all in all, I have found it very liberating to feel in control of these once-before out of control behaviors.  I found the book to be very helpful in reframing my thoughts around binge eating and I wanted to share this resource with all of you.

Perhaps you struggle with binge eating too (or another addictive behavior).  Or, maybe you’re aware of someone who struggles who might benefit from this resource.  If so, please send them to this site and have them check out this post.

I’m not taking the stance that my binge eating behavior is forever banished or cured, but I do feel like I have a new handle on those pesky, overpowering urges that I felt bullied by for decades.

There might be times when I still give in, but now I don’t have to feel utterly powerless.  I have new tools in my toolbox for being mindful around these destructive behaviors and you can have them too!

You’re As Sick as Your Secrets

When I first started writing this post, I second guessed whether I wanted to discuss such a personal matter with everyone so publicly (the inner shame was voicing its opinion, so I listened), but then I reminded myself that this is not something to be ashamed of.

Binge eating is something that millions of people struggle with and there are ways to get better.  There are tons of people who can relate and are here to support you (and me).

And the truth is, that’s what this blog is about.  It’s about being authentically ME in the hopes that my experiences can help you in some way.  My passion in life is to help others and to heighten others’ awareness as it relates to living well and authentically.

So thank you for listening and following along with my wellness journey.  I hope you enjoyed today’s post and now go out and check out Brain Over Binge.

Let me know what you think and be the first to hear next month’s book announcement straight to your inbox by subscribing today!  Happy reading!

* Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
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