For people of all ages, the holiday season is hands down the merriest time of year. The 8 weeks spanning Halloween to New Year’s is a jolly fusion of holiday-themed décor and festivities that tantalize and treat our five senses in unparalleled fashion. For binge eaters everywhere, it also becomes the most dreaded time of year. From department store sampling to holiday party buffet tables, sugarplums dance around every corner. And all it takes is one innocent nibble for our inner binge eating beast to burst from its cage and devour everything in sight.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. It also carries the greatest stigma, making it an illness marked by loneliness, self-loathing, and shame. As embarrassing as it is to confess, I live with binge eating disorder. But you would never guess it because ten years ago I shed 100 pounds without surgery or medication—and kept it off.
As a result of my long-term success, I’m often asked how I did it. With a plethora of best-selling diet books and fitness programs on the market, one would think it was simply a task of choosing items off the a la carte menu. But the truth of the matter is that ten years ago when I began a quest to tame my inner BED beast, people didn’t talk about binge eating so there was nothing I could turn to. The only resources available at that time came from the medical community which considered binge eating nothing more than obesity, and so they recommended the same thing we’ve heard for years: diet and exercise, diet and exercise, diet and exercise. If binge eating were that simple, we wouldn’t need help in the first place.
So left to my own devices, I had to create my own guidebook. While it isn’t one-size-fits-all, following are the steps I took to finding weight loss success, good health, and taming the BED beast once and for all.
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Simple yet critical, my golden rule was this: whatever I put into my mouth had to be nourishing; it had to be useful to my body. If it came from a box or a can, I knew the artificial additives canceled out most nutritional value. Which meant that processed food of any kind was not only on the naughty list, much of it was downright harmful. At first, everything tasted bland and boring. Carrots and celery were considered rabbit food. But I remained determined and much to my delight my taste buds recalibrated and healthy food actually began to taste good. Who knew?!
Step 2: Ban the word “diet” from your vocabulary.
Don’t count calories, weigh portions, or anything else connected to the word “diet.” It isn’t about dieting . . . it’s about finding the inner healthier you, and better energy, improved skin complexion, increased endurance, and all the other benefits that come from following the Golden Rule above.
Step 3: Don’t set a target weight.
As much as we all want to fit into a Victoria Secret bikini, setting shallow targets isn’t the goal here. Sure, that cute strapless number can be a silver lining, but not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This journey is about taking back your own inner power and happiness, which comes from good health, not string bikinis.
Step 4: Don’t be a slave to the scale.
Weigh yourself only once a month, otherwise you’ll become discouraged by normal body responses to hormones. The body will do what it needs to do when it needs to do it, which means that you can’t control monthly bloating and fluid retention. Your body’s cycle naturally moves the needle, so becoming fixated on the scale is counterproductive to your journey.
Step 5: Find a walking buddy.
I began walking with my neighbor. I’m lazy by nature so having a walking buddy waiting for me every morning was the only way I got exercise. The unexpected benefit of having a walking buddy is that as we walked, we talked—and marriage, raising children, our childhoods, family drama and more. You name it, we talked about it without judgment of one another’s experiences. In essence what started out as exercise became the perfect form of psychotherapy for us both, which is a bonus to those of us who live with a mental illness such as binge eating disorder.
In the end, although I shed my weight ten years ago, I still live with binge eating disorder. Fatigue, stress, and hormones are my biggest triggers so I remain vigilant about sticking to my routine and following the five steps above.
Whether you follow my 5 steps or devise your own plan isn’t important. What is important is sharing our success stories with one another so those who live with the painful stigma of BED don’t feel so alone, and have hope that if we can conquer it, anyone can.
Lynda Cheldelin Fell is an emotional healing expert and an award-winning author of Grief Diaries: Through the Eyes of an Eating Disorder, one title in her 5-star series dedicated to shedding compelling insight on relevant issues. Learn more at www.LyndaFell.com.