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A secret binge eater

(280 Posts)
hurried Thu 12-Sep-13 18:17:25

I am seeking, rather than offering advice. I have to be honest, if I could I would eat all day, and I will often have large amounts of carbs in one sitting. I put my toddler in the car today to drive myself us to a local shop to buy carbs- I have nothing against carbs, I haven't been trying to avoid them, I just started on my child's breakfast biscuits this morning and went into a frenzy, finishing off the whole pack. I was stuffing them as soon as I brought them. I looked in the mirror and saw my child watching me. I felt so ashamed and thought I would be so embarrassed if anyone saw me.

Today was a terrible day. My son has had chicken pox and both been in all week and suddenly it got to me. I can't talk to my GP about this, and I don't have friends that wouldn't judge me for this. So I am seeking support here x

Doshusallie Thu 12-Sep-13 18:42:48

People eat for all sorts of reasons most of them nothing to do with hunger. You need to identify what gap you are trying to fill with food.

I know that sounds is plastic but if you can retrain yourself to treat food as fuel and enjoy it again you will be on your way to sorting this.

I do think you need totalk to someone though. Are you overweight?

Doshusallie Thu 12-Sep-13 18:43:14


SunshineSuperNova Thu 12-Sep-13 19:00:21

Hello hurried another binge eater here. I've recently had hypnotherapy and it's made me a lot calmer around food, and I find that I'm not craving carbs like I used to even with stressful situations.

Big hugs to you, it's a bloody horrible place to be. x

IvanaCake Thu 12-Sep-13 20:50:47

I have no advice but just wanted to tell you that you're not alone. I have a massive problem with binge/emotional eating. I had counselling. Didn't work.

clarinetV2 Thu 12-Sep-13 23:45:03

Hi, hurried, I've historically been a secret binge eater. My mother ate secretly (well, an open secret, we knew not to go into the kitchen in the evenings because she would be wolfing chocolate and ice cream), and by the age of 11 I was sneaking sweets up to my bedroom after school. From late childhood onwards I was embarrassed about eating publicly. For most of my life (I'm late 40s) I've had trouble eating in front of anyone, and I can eat whole loaves of bread, several bars of chocolate, whole packets of biscuits, you name it. I've been embarrassed and ashamed about what I eat and how I look for all my life. So I think I know a lot of how you feel.

I've also had several failed diets. Mostly they've ended when I've plateaued, felt bad about myself, then piled the weight back on through not being able to control the binge eating. I don't know whether weight is a problem for you - it definitely has been for me.

However, for the first time since my first diet 40 years ago, I've now maintained a weight loss plan for over a year and I've lost very close to 6 stone. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why I've been able to do so much better this time around. I started in August 2012 when I realised that I could no longer go for country walks which I'd used to love doing. I was also finding myself getting the bus for ridiculously short journeys, and the lift breaking down at work (I work on the second floor) was a serious problem for me because I was too unfit to climb the stairs easily, so I had to admit how my eating was impinging on my life. So I booked a lovely and expensive walking holiday abroad over Christmas and New Year, paid for it in advance, knowing I really, really, had to lose weight or I wouldn't enjoy it. I can tell you in more detail the other strategies I used, but I think the point is that I couldn't do it until it was right for me. I think I'm now on top of the binge eating (more or less, though I'm resigned to it being a lifelong thing to stay on top of it) and looking back I wish I'd done this years and years ago, but for whatever reason I didn't/couldn't. I've also learned in the past year to enjoy food 'normally', in the company of other people, and being able to stop eating as well as start.

I don't know whether this is of any help. But I do completely get not wanting to talk to your GP or friends - it's something I've never been able to do either. And I've never talked to anyone in real life about it, though I think that if you're able to, it would be a good thing. It's a horrible, horrible feeling being out of control of your eating, and I get that. But it's actually not immoral - it's just eating. It doesn't make you a bad person, so hang on in there. When the time is right you'll be able to address it in your own way.

hurried Fri 13-Sep-13 07:35:00

poster Doshusallie, I can never tell if it is response to an emotion or I have a hormone trigger, or I'm just very greedy, but it's almost like a switch turns on and I just seek to keep eating. I think it is simplistic, I eat to hide many emotions, and if I am honest, at the time, I enjoy it, I am on an absolute high eating, then my stomach hurts and I still want to carry on. It's like I go in a frantic mode to find more food. If I am stopped for any reason, I have to face emotions and quite often get really angry or cry. I think it's associated with low mood, stress- my life shouldn't be stressful! but I can never place what it was that set me off. The only thing I would say, is sometimes even in a good mood, we'll have other mum's here and they bring cake, I have one bite and think I want to eat it all! It's like I'm much greedier than other people. I think I was brought up to believe women shouldn't get angry, my husband says I am very moody, and I think quite often I'm trying to stop feeling moody.

The most ignorant thing is I always justify it, I always think one won't hurt. I nearly always then go into eat everything mode. It is like a huge blanket and at the time I feel soothed, lovely. I love my family more than anything but sometimes I look at the clock - this week especially as I haven't been out of the house much and think what have I got to look forward to today- and it's lunch, or a snack....! I love cuddles and playing with my son, but also his mum and try and make sure he behaves etc and it's not always really easy - although can't moan, he's pretty amazing when I reflect on it!

poster clarinetV2 I am so happy to hear you are tackling this- that's amazing. The odd thing is it must feel so euphoric to feel you don' live for food. I hate to say it, when a family death, that almost snapped me out of it, and I hate myself that something so severe had to happen, to make me not live for food. Then I reverted back. Did you have any friends or support Clarinet? I so admire you- well done.

A hard thing is, and you won't believe this but I am not massively overweight. The stuff I overeat can be really "healthy" it can be multigrain bagels, it can be wholegrain toast and oatcakes! I just love food. But it turns into something sinister, as my stomach will be painful and I feel too sick to do much, it's like my day is then written off as I feel so ill.

The only other person who knew was my mum when I was younger, i once stole all the penicillin that was for my siblings and drank the lot. i also used to binge on cakes, at a very early age.

Clarinet, how do you cope around lots of food? ie I am at home with my son and we have other children here at weekends and they love carbs, white bread etc, I don't know how to just say no- well I do, but have no willpower, the willpower will last until ten am....

I have always done this, I can't blame anyone else, and ladies I am disgusting, i am shoving it in as quickly as possible. It ca be after a meal I have had with my family, or friends.

I once told the doctor about it when I was younger and I felt this led to a black mark next to my name. I had hyperemesis when I was pregnant and when I was in hospital the doctor said to another i had a history of binge eating, I felt, maybe I am oversensitive, that they thought I was making myself sick. It was horrific- I would just like to add I wasn't, and I think they saw that when I was still sick when they were pumping anti emetics into me not having had any food- not that I'm bitter about that or anything!!!

Sunshine supernova, that's fantastic, how did you find the hypnotherapist?

Ivanacake I'm sorry you are going through this too. BIg hugs, if I find a solution or anything that helps I will share. You're not alone either.

The worst thing is, I live in a lovely area, have what should be a lovely life. I expect I have mild depression as I don't look forward to anything any more- apart from food...

I used to like to go for a quick run, but my knees aren't up to it.

I have felt so lonely and ashamed, and I can't tell you how kind it is to receive support here. Thank you.

hurried Fri 13-Sep-13 07:36:34

Ps I also meant to say, I have sort of told my husband and he just thinks it's ridiculous. I am not massively overweight, size 14, which is quite lucky I guess at the moment, but I think if I was size 20 he would help me more he just says if it makes me that unhappy I should enforce willpower on myself. I think he is slightly aghast... I can get through a packet of biscuits and whole box of cereal- I hang my head in shame.

Sleepwhenidie Fri 13-Sep-13 08:42:37

hurried I can't pretend to be an expert but I agree you do sound depressed and are self medicating with food. Depression isn't only something that affects people with terrible lives, your life can be absolutely perfect on paper but its an illness like any other and you need to speak to your GP about it.

Do you have anything else in your life except family/home? Do you work or have a hobby? Get a break from the toddler? If you are feeling like life only revolves around other people I understand your depression. You need to find a space for yourself and what you want to do, whether disappearing to a coffee shop to read a magazine alone, or exercise, or further education that excites you for instance, do this rather than seeking out food if possible.

Wrt to the willpower argument, you are never going to win a battle with yourself! This may sound bonkers but have you considered actually giving yourself "permission" to eat whatever you want and enjoy it, rather than having that internal battle of will then giving in to the "frenzy"? When you feel inclined to start eating, stop, breathe, ask yourself if you and your body really wants what is in your head, or would you rather go read that magazine/swim/run instead (if that is possible). If you decide yes you do really want the food, sit, eat it, enjoy and savour it, eat as slowly as you can and feel how your body is reacting to it and how you feel afterwards. think of it as an experiment, do it for a few weeks then see how you are doing...try and remember it is just food....I think when you mentally label food as something you shouldn't have you are giving it a power it really doesn't/shouldn't possess?

SunshineSuperNova Fri 13-Sep-13 11:18:02

Hi hurried I googled one locally and found one who does cognitive hypnotherapy. We spent most of the three sessions talking about my history.

Big hugs x

WillieWaggledagger Fri 13-Sep-13 12:09:03

hurried have you read 'fat is a feminist issue'? it explores some of the possible reasons behind binge eating and some potential strategies. another book you might try is 'overcoming binge eating' by christopher fairburn - it's a book that GPs can 'prescribe' from the library, but anyone can borrow it and it should be easily available at your local library.

they won't necessarily 'cure' your behaviour, but they may be a route to exploring some of your triggers and patterns, which may help alongside any other sort of treatment you might try

specialsubject Fri 13-Sep-13 13:04:13

as a minor issue, remember that there are two types of carbs and the difference often gets lost in the diet babble.

you want about 40% of your daily food intake to be made up of complex carbs: bread, pasta, rice, spuds, and as much veg as you like. This stuff breaks down slowly and keeps you fuller for longer.
what you need to limit are the simple carbs: biscuits, cakes, sweets.

bleeding obvious, of course.

WillieWaggledagger Fri 13-Sep-13 13:08:01

this is less to do with diet, more to do with behaviour. the two aren't unrelated (and as a long-term low carber i fully subscribe to the 'carbohydrates have an impact on your blood sugar that makes it harder to control cravings and easier to overeat' viewpoint), but ultimately you can binge in secret on any foods.

captainmummy Fri 13-Sep-13 13:34:04

OP I also think you are depressed, clinically. It doesn't matter that the food you are shovelling in is 'healthy' - if you carry on like that you will have all sorts of health problems, and not just obesity and diabetes . See your Dr and tell them this story;- don't let them write it off as another binge - it is affecting your whole life.

We are constantly bombarded with carbs and most ofthem taste lovely- as a low-carber myself I am aware of the need to eat 'mindfully' - do I really want this? Is it good for me? Am I hungry? No to any of these - and I'd find something else to do.

SpecialSubject - carbs are carbs. Bread, pasta, biscuits, sweets - all prcessed food, and complex or not, we do not need them. And they do not fill you up - they cause your blood sugars to spike, and then crash. Then you are hungry again - and hit the biscuits.

Whippoorwhill Fri 13-Sep-13 15:31:59

Hurried, you are NOT disgusting. You have a problem that a lot of us suffer from. I am so sorry the doctors gave you a hard time when you were pregnant. That was horribly unprofessional of them.

I used to binge on 'healthy' foods, particularly complex carbs. For a long time I wasn't very overweight and it didn't seem to be a big problem to anyone else. I think I fairly successfully hid how bad I could be. Eventually it began to catch up with me and I ended up a size 22 which at 5 feet tall is very large.

I read a lot about the issue, got some help with my depression and gradually got it reasonably under control. My absolute saving grace was going low carb though which got rid of the sugar crash issue which would still sometimes cause a binge. I started low carbing a year and a half ago and have only binged once since then.

I second (third?) you making an appointment to see your Doctor and get some help but if you really feel you cannot talk to your GP about this then see if you can find a therapist with experience of eating disorders.

Good luck and try not to be so hard on yourself.

HessianWeave Fri 13-Sep-13 15:45:47

I'm struggling with this too. Have been for over 30 years.
I haven't got anything to add because I haven't yet been able to stop binge eating, just to let you know you're not alone OP.

hurried Sat 14-Sep-13 13:32:51

Whippoorwhill, that's great you have tackled the BE. It's interesting, you were like me and binged even on the complex carbs. I wonder if all affects the serotonin levels in some way. I am glad you have your depression under control and only having BE in a yar and a! well done you.

I went to see the doctor yesterday, I couldn't tell him outright, I felt a complete idiot but he thought I sounded depressed and prescribed fluoxetine.

Hessaianweave I'm so sorry you have this too. I'm always here to chat to, and it seems others on here have tackled it which really provides hope.

Captainmummy, I spoke to the doc yesterday and he thought I sounded depressed too, see above.

Williwaggledagger - I think I read the Chrstopher Fairburn book some time ago. I'm sure it advised letting the foods you binged on into the house, I did this and seem to just binge on them all the time when I had access to them. i might have remembered this incorrectly though, so forgive me. I haven't read fat is a feminist issue- you'd recommend it?

Sunshinesupernova- that's great, I will do the same....

asleepwhenidie- I think I might be depressed too, but I have done this for so long. I wish I could be the savour every moment, but it's not really even like a true hunger, I would say it's almost like, at the time I am getting a high off the food - I know that's dramatic and I'm not blaming something else as taking over- I just seem to be in a frenzy at the time. It's awful. I think you are really insightful, I am at home with my child a lot, and I do have him in nursery for a few hours each week, but he hasn't been well. I don't have anything I look forward to anymore- does anyone? I often think of something that I could do and then think I don't want to, so I'm my own worst enemy. I mentioned this is my last post, but I hate myself for it but sometimes I look at the clock, and I think how can I get through the day and I think "lunch soon", or I have had a tough morning with my LO I think about when he naps what I can eat. I feel like a spoilt child, and my son brings lots of pleasure and love that I reciprocate- I hope! and I love being with him I just don't enjoy doing much. I don't enjoy meeting with other mums here. It's probably my frame of mind but I find their energy and enthusiasm tough. I hate myself even typing these things as I don't like what I have become. If I wake early, I think about what I can eat when I get up...!

I've been quite overwhelmed with the caring, thoughtful replies I have had. Thank you, everyone of your comments I consider as part of answers to a problem I can't solve by myself.

hurried Sat 14-Sep-13 13:33:52

I meant to write, " as part of the answer to a problem I can't solve myself"

Sleepwhenidie Sat 14-Sep-13 14:30:17

Hurried well done for going back to the GP. Great that he has recognised the depression and prescribed medication - you feeling like you have nothing to look forward to/having no enthusiasm for anything certainly sounds like classic symptoms of depression.

Hopefully the medication will work and start to take effect soon, in addition though, please try and use the time whilst DS is at nursery to do something that is just for you. My strong suggestion would be for this to be a form of exercise - the MH boards will be packed with people attesting to the mental health benefits of this. Even if you just start with a half hour walk it should help. Is there any exercise you used to do/enjoy or still do? Anything you ever fancied trying?

Your description of feeling 'high' when bingeing doesn't sound strange at all. In Caitlin Moran's book 'How to be a woman' she describes food and overeating as the drug of choice for many women - women who have children/partners/parents depending on them as caregivers who need to be sober and responsible at all times - so they can't/won't seek comfort alcohol or drugs as others might, but choose food instead. Added to this is the intrinsic comfort factor in the process of eating, increased by the comfort attached to carbs for you. Almost all of us have complicated relationships with food, it is so bound up with our being, body image, self-worth, love, comfort...the list goes on. Unsurprisingly, many people's relationship, like yours, takes it to extremes sad. At the moment I would try and accept this aspect of yourself, please try not to hate yourself if/when you binge. See how you get on with the medication and regular exercise and think again about how you need to tackle the bingeing after a month or two? You may find, if you are less depressed, it is less of an issue anyway.

Good luck, please keep us updated with how you are getting on. xxxx

jungletoes Sat 14-Sep-13 14:41:40

I also would recommend "Fat is a Feminist Issue", it helped me to understand my problems with food. (I would diet and then go through periods when I couldn't stop eating, could eat a whole packet of biscuits or a packet of cakes after fish and chips.) The book made me realise I was "stuffing down" emotions, especially anger, and also that I had to allow myself anything I wanted to eat. THere are no bad foods. What I held on to most was this mantra; eat when hungry, stop when no longer hungry BUT eat whatever you fancy. Have been a steady weight ever since.

hurried Sat 14-Sep-13 21:43:20

Hi Sleepwhenidie and jungletoes,

I feel a bit of a failure having to take antidepressants and considering I have always been like this, I am worried it will be a life long thing, but I know I need help and actually, it's not fair on my family me being so miserable and secretive.

I'm trying to accept this but can't help but analyse as to what the cause is and how to go forward from here. I appreciate dieting can lead to bingeing, and I must admit, going too low in calories, in my experience can cause me to binge, however, also getting relaxed around all foods doesn't seem helpful either (maybe I psychologist would argue that maybe I do have a deep routed issue with carbs and I can never be relaxed), but when I have taken this latter approach and am more relaxed, eat what I want when I want, I go into compulsive eating mode. I am wondering Sleepwhenidie if depression is the major cause, I booked my son into a creche at the gym this am - and went for a run, my knees nearly caved in but I just went anyway, I also started on the fluoxetine (I appreciate it takes weeks to work), and not sure if that curbed my appetite too, but I wasn't too interested in food today. Maybe it was because I was out and about and busy too, but I didn't have that really tired, low feeling. I also think I'm in shock as to how bad I have let it become. I do notice, even when being mindful about eating, I am a born foodie, I have a little light in my brain that tells me "this is great" lol, even if it's a salad! However, it's when I am seeking the carbs that I go into a strange mode, it's so odd as my stomach will hurt, I will feel really sick and know that I won't be able to sleep the following eve, yet I do it anyway.

Any way, I am rambling. I am going to try and stick to a lower carb but regular diet, not placing any restrictions on myself but I thought if I want cake, bread, porridge- even, I will have it out and when eating in the company of others. It sounds crazy, but so is driving myself and my toddler to a shop for excessive amounts of food. We had extra children here during the summer and there have been lots of biscuits, cakes etc and I think, as much as I wish I could say it would do me good psychologically to just have one bit, at this point in time that doesn't work (just thinking how I brought a few packs of rocky roads and flapjacks and I thought I would be relaxed with myself over the holidays,.... I really don't think the children had that many, put it that way!

I reflect a little, I was a skinny child, as I said, I'm not too heavy now, but I did have some odd habits at an early age, my grandma brought me the largest sized popcorn at the cinema- I ate it all and was sick!, I drank all the sugared medicine in the house when I was four, my mum said I picked all the icing of the baptism cake for my brother, I used to go to my grandma's house and she would buy fresh bread, I would eat a lot and just fall asleep during the day - things that make everyone laugh now, but I find slightly worrying, I also think I wonder if I got away with it because I was slim, if I had been overweight that wouldn't have been amusing, naughty behaviour, it would be what it is... scary!

Yet Jungletoes, I think that is really poignant - eat when hungry, I can't think of the last time I was truly hungry, you know the gurgling tummy empty stomach feeling. I am actually rarely truly hungry.

Thank you again for your support.

2muchmess Sun 15-Sep-13 00:03:16

Hi hurried. A lot of what you have written resonates with me and I understand what you're going through. I recently read a book called "beyond temptation" by Sophie and Audrey boss. The first time I read it I found it very frightening as I have been restricting food for a long time to offset the binging. But I really urge you to give it a try. It has changed my whole attitude to food, and they also have a website with quite a helpful forum and all sorts of resources eg. Worksheets, to work through things. It's not a quick fix, but little by little I am becoming better with food. Feel free to pm me if you want to know more.

Sleepwhenidie Sun 15-Sep-13 10:48:20

I know Audrey Boss quite well 2much! She is fascinating to talk to about this stuff.

I am about to start a nutritional psychology course, run by Marc David. He has written two books, these which are so interesting. I'd definitely recommend the 'Nourishing Wisdom' one. His theories are very similar to Audrey's. a calorie is not simply a calorie, if you put poor quality calories into your body then you still feel hungry because you aren't getting the necessary you eat more rubbish...and get caught in a vicious circle. Also (sounds contradictory, but) no food is bad or good. It is the same with anything, try not thinking about it and your mind wanders back - ban a food and you will crave it and eventually give in. He advocates stepping back, giving yourself the freedom to eat whatever your body craves, but you must first really be sure that you want it, then eat it slowly, enjoy it, without guilt and then try to assess your body's reaction to it.

Hurried please don't feel like a failure because you are depressed, that makes as much sense as feeling a failure because you have flu or a broken leg! Feel proud that you are addressing it for yourself and your family. With regard to the stuff about when you were little, once you feel the depression is being managed well, CBT might be something to try?

One more thing, don't push yourself too hard with the running, don't run on consecutive days if your knees are struggling, you will end up injuring yourself - couch to 5k may be a good idea to make sure you are building up gradually, could you swim on some days? Or do a class or DVD even? Yoga might be good?

hurried Mon 16-Sep-13 08:34:50

Sleepwhenidie - thank you for your support.

I feel quite confused a to the way forward. I feel should I eat when I am hungry? I don't think I consider dark chocolate a bad food, but I still eat quite a lot!

I don't want to ban anything but as soon as I say this to myself, I'm very ignorant, I have a little voice, when I'm feeling low that says, go on have some! Maybe I'm in denial or I have a very negative way of thinking at the moment.

I thought I would try low carb but allow myself to have the odd carb when out...not be too obsessive about it. I will have to start reading the books, it's odd, it almost feels me with fear reading them, I'm scared they will say just bring all that stuff into the house and have some when you feel like it. That hasn't worked for me before, I am a porridge, multigrain bread, white bread binger- and I don't usually ban the whole grains. Sorry I have said this before. I just despair at myself. I had a quick look at the website. That sounds interesting and I totally relate, I think if I only ate when truly hunger that would be great- I think, if I'm honest, I rarely eat because of hunger. i find mornings and afternoons really hard, yet in the evening I loose the urge, I usually feel goo and I rarely binge in the evenings-oddly.

There must be something twisted in my head as, as I said, i feel nervous about even reading a book that advises to bring my potential binge foods into the house. Yet I am a complete contradiction, part of me loves to be healthy then another part is so destructive.

WillieWaggledagger Mon 16-Sep-13 08:52:05

hurried - it's interesting that you say that you don't have the urge so much in the evenings, because i think it's the opposite for many. great that you've identified that, because are you in a position to change your routine in any way in the mornings/afternoons? i realise if you're looking after others and ferrying them about you may not have too much control over this, but i'm thinking along the lines of taking different routes, do a different activity, invite someone over, engineer things so that you're not in a place where bingeing is easy or comfortable for you. at least part of the behaviour is habit, so breaking that can really help (sort of getting into the habit of not bingeing)

i don't think it's necessarily a bad thing not to bring the binge foods into the house if that doesn't work for you as it does for some - after all, i think most alcoholics are advised not to keep alcohol in the house until they're well into recovery. all these books are inevitably not tailored specifically to you - you can read them and work out which bits will really help you and which bits won't

take it one step at a time - don't think about the longterm, that's too scary (though of course nothing wrong with thinking about what kind of eating behaviour you would ideally like to have in the future and how you could work towards that). just say to yourself that today you won't binge. or not even that - this morning you won't binge, or for the next hour or half-hour you won't binge. teeny tiny baby steps

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