Dieting, Binging and Recovery: Don’t Let It Define Your Life

It was around this time last year that I had my biggest “fall off the bandwagon”. After 4 months of fastidious calorie counting, meticulously researched and documented workouts, progress photos and weekly weigh-ins I had reached my “goal weight”, but was still discontent. I decided that the solution was to shed another 5-10lbs, meaning more restraint, planning and penance, but my body was done with deprivation – the more I tried to cut back, the more I thought about food (particularly banned food), I craved it and obsessed about it.

The following 4 months were a self-destructive plunge into binge-eating, made worse every time I resolved to get back onto the proverbial bandwagon. The weight crept on, slowly at first, then faster, until I was back at my “starting weight”, but with a more messed up relationship with food, crushed self-esteem and the most depressive mindset I have ever been in, I even got the point of going to my GP about how I was feeling – an embarrassing visit in which the mere attempt at asking for professional help had me bawling like a baby in front of a total stranger.

Soon my research into “how to stop cravings” turned into “how to stop binging” which introduced me to the “anti-diet” and “healthy at every size” movements sprinkled across the internet and self-help bookshelves. I started a blog documenting my journey from binge-eater to intuitive eater, from chronic-dieter to anti-dieter, hoping that this would give me the support I needed from people going through a similar journey as well as help others who one day might benefit from a day-to-day, week-to-week account of how I succeeded in overcoming binge-eating and learned to love my body as it is by improving my self-esteem. I saw myself as a future success story, a mindful eating guru in the making, in a matter of months I’d be a mindful eating, Pilates doing, wisdom oozing fashionista. At first, this delusion was super helpful, the support on WordPress was amazing, and on some weeks all that stopped me from starting a new diet was knowing that I was accountable to my followers. Eventually, however, it became increasingly clear that I had traded my weight loss obsession for a intuitive eating obsession so I had to cut myself off from the constant researching on how to stop binging and just get on with living.

The more I focused on my “food problem” the more it came to define me. It became clear that one of the most important parts of overcoming my obsession with food and dieting was to stop thinking about it all day, I had to rediscover myself, my interests and hobbies, heal the girl I started to chip away at when I went on my first diet some 9 years ago and who was subsequently all but totally destroyed in the intense 2015 4-month Last Diet Of My Life. So I turned my back on WordPress, unsubscribed to the blogs on strength training and ED recovery, stopped checking the sites of anti-diet coaches, stopped reading books on binge-eating and started living my life. Ironically, it’s thanks to my blog that I realised I needed to unplug and invest more time in helping others, drawing, painting, listening to music, dancing, reading and restoring my fragmented personality.

Today I am still a work in progress, I probably overeat a few times a month, occasionally I have a week where I never experience true hunger, but the secretive binges and the day-long snack attacks are so rare that I can’t remember the last time I had one. I’m sensitive to the media and to diet-talk, I have to force myself to not compare my body to other women’s, to not judge myself based on my appearance, some months I have to re-listen to audiobooks like Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat because I have been on the brink of starting a new diet and need another reminder of why diets don’t work. I’ve even had to cut back on TV shows which have more footage of super-slim, fit and gorgeous women than I can handle, I’m becoming increasingly familiar with my triggers and limitations and learning to accept and work around them.

On the positive side, I’ve fallen back in love with reading and art, I do both on a weekly if not daily basis. My hubby and I go trail biking a few times a month which we both love, and I’ve found out that I really do enjoy strength training (still working out how to incorporate it into my schedule regularly though). The urge to track, calculate and measure is so reduced that the mere thought of it usually exhausts me. Happily, I no longer define myself as an exerciser or healthy eater, I’m once again an arty, crafty girl with a loving family, a few good friends and, mostly, a positive outlook.

Those are my two cents.

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