Dysfunctional Eating & Body Image
Today in The Sun Lucy Davis– known in the UK for her role in hit comedy The Office- spoke up about her eating disorder and how she has been in its grip for years.
I could really relate to the obsessive thoughts about food and body image she spoke about.
Since a teenager I’ve been absolutely fixated on how much I weigh and how I look. This has stayed with me through periods of mild restrictive eating, to where I am now, in over-eating-ville. Medications like Depakote and Olanzapine haven’t helped as I was totally ravenous on them.
Binge-Eating and Impulsiveness
Binge-eating is a common problem in people with Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and is an addictive pattern I myself have developed over the years.
With Bipolar I always think it’s the impulsiveness that is the problem. Binge-Eating Disorder (click here for a detailed profile of the disorder) is characterised by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, often impulsively. There is an out-of-control quality to the eating which can feel desperate.
It differs from Bulimia in that no purging or reversal behaviours are present. The impulsiveness of Bipolar and BPD make us particularly susceptible to addictions of all kinds. Some of us just choose food!
Interestingly I found a clinical study on Medscape that discovered the behavioural disturbances involving impulsivity in Bipolar patients were present both in manic/hypomanic and depressed periods.So we’re pretty much screwed all the time then!
I really do think it’s about time our government and the NHS would look into treating Binge-Eating and Compulsive Eating seriously. I’ve never been given adequate help, even when I’ve spilled my guts out about how I’ve felt to my GP. The usual line is “eat more fish and vegetables”. Thanks, like I didn’t already know that! Those of us with this kind of problem usually have full awareness of what is healthy and what isn’t. Control is the issue, as well as managing our emotions effectively. Please government- help us with these things!! We have a massive obesity problem in this country and it wont go away until someone important takes eating disorders and their treatment seriously.
Things That Have Helped Me In The Past….
I can’t really impart any words of wisdom on how to overcome such behaviours, as I still grapple with them myself. But these are some things that have been useful to me in reducing binge eating and improving body-confidence in the past:
– massage. Someone else accepting your body for the way it is really helps you accept it.
– Hatha Yoga. The physical relaxation gained can be very therapeutic and helps you feel comfortable in your body. Also the principle of working at your own level, and acceptance of what your body can/can’t do is very helpful. You can get to know your body with Hatha yoga and become friends with it, rather than enemies.
– exercise. I hate to say it, but exercise did help me with feeling good about myself.
– journalling and writing down things we’re feeling can help us become more self-aware and manage our emotions effectively. Seeing as bingeing most often occurs when our emotions are all-over-the-place, this helps to reduce the need to binge.
OK, just need the motivation to get exercising and yoga-ing again!
In the UK help for eating disorders can be acquired from B-EAT, who help all ages and also have specialised help for young people.
Lucy Davis on Bulimia- The Sun (UK)– really worth a read if you have eating issues too.
Binge-Eating Disorder on Bipolar Central
Pharmacotherapy of Personality Disorders With Impulsivity– Bipolar is included in this.
Bipolar and Binge-eating Forum
Weight Gain and Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Photo Credits: Fork by Grant Cochrane; Massage by satit srihin, both via freedigitalphotos.net
Thank you for sharing your experience Rachel. I was a huge binge eater for years. It was always tied to emotion–if I wanted to celebrate or punish myself for doing something “stupid” (me being the judge–I was “stupid” a lot!) You see the foods I chose were foods that would throw my digestive cycle of track and make me feel awful (punishment). A lot of sugar and chocolate. It seemed so “normal” at the time–I mean everyone I knew would over do it on junk food. I agree totally that it is one of our biggest problems in society and that it is a mental health concern.
I have stopped though. With the onset of PTSD, I became afraid of those foods because of their association with all sorts of diseases (like you said–control). I became super duper healthy eater with out exceptions. But I believe we all find balance and in recovery I am more of the mindset, if I like it and it makes me feel good then I eat it.
Being highly sensitive, I find that I can tell right away if a food “agrees” with me not. Not only a physical agreement but makes me feel grounded and well nourished. Do you find that?
I’d have never guessed that Trish! Yes, it’s always about emotion for me too and sometimes grounding too. Sugar for me as well! It’s interesting how the PTSD coincided with stopping binge-eating.
I wish I could be healthy without becoming obsessed. When I was a teenager I was so obsessed with staying a certain weight, if I was a pound over that it would ruin my whole day. I was so restrictive and pretty mean to myself too.
Interesting what you say about some foods helping you feel more grounded. I’ve only ever felt this with stodgy, unhealthy food so far. I’m going to try and watch out for healthier things that make me feel grounded now. I think maybe a good chicken casserole might do the trick!
Yes I do find I can tell if a food agrees with me pretty quickly. I can’t eat anything spicey and I guess I generally prefer plainer foods- aside from the sugar that is! 🙂
Thank you for sharing Trish. Hope you’re having a good week xxx
I have been using EFT to help with trauma and I find it effective.
Funnily enough, today I received an email from a new EFT articles site and one of the articles highlighted was about food cravings.
It is by Jessica Ortner–I really like her–and it has a “tap-along” video (basically shows you how to do the EFT to combat food cravings) at the bottom of the article: http://www.thetappingsolution.com/eft-articles/how-to-stop-cravings-fast-in-15-minutes-or-less-tap-along-with-jessica-ortner/
Hoping this is helpful.
I tried for awhile to really *stop* the compulsions, but that just back-fired. What does seem to help a little is to set out to do “the least amount of damage.” I know when the compulsive eating hits that I can’t stop it, but I might be able to temper it a little. I still go to the grocery for binge food, but I buy baked Doritos instead of regular. Soy ice cream instead of Ben & Jerry’s. Anything I can do to bring the calorie count down and the nutritional value up. Sometimes that’s not much of a distinction. But every teeny victory counts.
That’s a great point. I know if ever I set out to completely irradicate the unhealthy behaviour straight away, I always end up going back to bingeing really quickly. I don’t think I ever really realised how addictive food can be. I wish it would be taken seriously by the medics and government! Great tips- thanks xx
My whole personality screams *BINGE*..LOl
My psychiatrist suggested eating raw carrots when I felt the urge to binge!!…That worked for about 1/2 hour *laughing* x
That’s so weird, I’ve just started eating raw carrots with a tiny bit of humus when I’m watching TV-usually I eat biscuits! It’s working up to a point at the moment, but I haven’t had any major emotional upsets for a few days- so we’ll see how that goes then!!
This is such an important subject that should be talked about. This post hits home for me. I’m a binge-eater when I become stressed and/or depressed. I’m not sure where I am in the eating disorder spectrum, though. When I’ve binged, I often will just feel guilty and disgusted with myself afterwards when it finally kicks in what I’ve done. Sometimes that can happen immediately, and sometimes it won’t happen until a depression period ends or I’m coming out of it. But, then there are times, when after I binge, I don’t turn to regurgitation, but rather I turn to other forms of trying to expel the contents I have eaten. I don’t want to get graphic so I’ll just leave it at that. Either way, though, it’s something I continue to struggle with too. As hard as I try, I can’t stop it completely. I will do well for a while, sometimes a long time, then suddenly I lose control and there I am at the fridge and pantry.
I like the suggestions you give, Rachel. Those are nice ways to try and get our minds off of the desire to grab food to ease our pain. It’s such a struggle, but I agree that we can do things to help ourselves fight it. It’s just hard, that’s for sure.
Thanks for this post, Rachel. 🙂
I know what you mean about the guilt and disgust- it’s an awful feeling, but the urge to binge can be so overwhelming it is excruciating to fight it.
You sound like you have developed bulimia when the bingeing is followed by frantic efforts to reverse the binge, whether through vomiting, laxative abuse, exercise, etc. I really hope you have help for this.
I think the worst thing about eating disorders is the shame and secrecy- it can feel so lonely. In reality I think eating disorders are much more common than we realise.
I wish I’d gotten help much much earlier in the development of my disordered eating- it’s definitely gotten worse over time. I know I binge when my emotions feel incredibly intense and unbearable, so I do think my bingeing is about soothing and comforting myself. Managing intense emotions is something that probably needs healing more than the actual behaviour to start with.
Thanks for sharing Summer. I think talking about it is important. xxx
Thanks, Rachel. Yeah, it really is a hard thing to fight against. I talk with my therapist about my eating problems sometimes, but it is such a hard thing to talk about. Like you say, the “shame and secrecy” make it difficult to discuss it. I feel myself get embarrassed as I start to bring up the subject. I can talk with her so far, before I have to change the subject. However, through what we have discussed thus far, I have learned that my eating is due to control. It’s one of the only ways for me to actually control my life when everything else feels like it’s falling down around me. I can just turn to food and it’s something that I can control. I can say how much and when and where, and no one can force me to do otherwise. So, now I try really hard to do other things that give me that sense of power and control when I feel I want to binge. It doesn’t always work, but it has helped at times.
For me what has helped is realizing that I am binge eating for some sort of reason…. to numb… to disconnect… the journey is to find out *WHY*…. then to legalize and allow all foods, and experiment with what feels good in my body (mindfully)
Hi Rachel, Checking in on you and came across this post. I feel you. My binge eating started with a childhood addiction to sugar. Finishing up college I became bulimic. I am responding to this post to share a few thoughts. Over 22 years ago, I overcame bulimia and binge eating. I could probably write a book on how recovery came about, but I’ll try to outline keys here. I got myself hospitalized at NIH (National Institutes of Health) for two months (the duration of the program for bulimics). I applied there because it was a free “exchange your body for science” and I had no health insurance. It was one of the best things I have ever ever done for myself. It allowed my body to clean itself up. I remember that out of the two months, I cried for ice cream every day for six weeks. So I see food addiction as not very different from alcohol or drug addiction. Recently, I took myself on a self-developed (i.e. I got a room with a nature view in the semi-tropics a few hours from where I live) spiritual retreat for the first time in my life. As with the hospitalization a few decades ago my environment during that 3-day stay was abruptly changed for the positive. In those few days I spent a lot of time sitting on the bed planning and delving into my Bible. I brought with me natural dried foods and drank several liters of water a day. Since then I no longer crave chocolate or my previous nemesis, coffee. I think there is a connection between this recent retreat and my hospitalization over twenty years ago. Before getting away in both cases, I had tried everything I could think of to change habits, but in the end, getting away, getting space to think and process, and getting myself cleaned out are what worked wonders for me. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your experiences so candidly and thoughtfully. I firmly believe that you will pull through with flying colors 🙂
Oh thank you so much- I really needed that! Sometimes I feel really helpless about the whole thing.
It’s interesting what you say about the retreat really helping. Practically every year we go on holiday to a cabin in woodland. I swear it is the most relaxing, peaceful experience ever and within a few days I am back to normal eating!! Then as soon as I get home- it’s binge city all over again!! So strange! I hope I can get where you are in terms of overcoming the addiction.
Thanks so much for the words of encouragement and for sharing your story: it’s greatly appreciated xxx
I’m wondering, Rachel, if the “we” part is the key. What both of my experiences had in common was that I was alone with myself. Of course, in the hospital, I was with other eating disorder patients and nurses, but it was truly an alone experience — away from family and friends and the familiar. I could have never accomplished what was accomplished by being accompanied by a friend or loved one. I think that was key. It wasn’t just a physical cleansing this second time. It was a mental re-evaluating and re-directing and re-affirming my life and my insides, my limitations and what I truly value. There’s so much to tell you on dealing at home. Another key was Prozac at the time in overcoming my bulimia. It saved my life by putting my chemicals back in balance once the foods had been cleansed out during the hospitalization. And a final key was accepting myself as I was, accepting my body exactly as it was; eating all the pure foods I wanted and then, if I still wanted sugar, to go for it, but eating EXACTLY what would make me feel great and making love to it; and working with the body I had. You will discover your solutions and figure out what works and doesn’t work for you. I’m here for you. I never thought I would overcome bulimia. I thought I would be stuck with it for eternity. But I did. And you can too. I know you can. It’s so easy to feel helpless, but as your successes build, your faith and belief will also. There is life after binge eating. Overcoming an addiction doesn’t fix a lot of things, but it provides a firm base upon which to stand and face the rest. You are courageous and that goes a long way in living, loving, recovering and healing.
I’m really interested in the fact you think being alone would make a lot of difference. I think I’d really like that. I’m alone at home quite a lot, but I guess this is different to being on a retreat. It’s definitely something to think about. Thank you so much for all your input, it has given me more hope xx
I’m alone at home a lot too, but no amount of alone time has ever filled that void and fixed my anxiety issues. My alone time within the confines of walls and daily structure just keeps me functioning. However, I noticed that alone time with nature and sunshine and warmth and no anticipation of someone coming home and no need to please anyone worked wonders. An added note: I didn’t take my cell phone or computer with me in an effort to minimize contact that could distract me from my “I am”. What I used among what I brought was my Bible, a small binder for planning and notes, and a mind-opening book. The next time I go, I plan to travel lighter, taking note of what I did not use and what I truly did not need. And plans for the future include living part-time there and part-time here. I’m a big fan of what I call “environmental manipulation”, i.e. setting up my environment to encourage optimization of desired results. That goes for food as well as peace. Meanwhile, I continue to work to establish a firm spiritual, mental, and training lifestyle no matter where I am. The distinction now is that I believe in myself more, but I strongly believe you don’t need to believe in yourself to stop binge eating. I think it’s so much about getting cleansed out (changing internal chemicals), letting go and accepting oneself as is, and then setting up strategies.
Nature, sunshine and warmth sounds wonderful
The concept of environmental manipulation is a very interesting one. I think this is very important and probably something I don’t pay enough attention to.
It’s also interesting that you say you think you don’t need to believe in yourself to stop binge eating. I’ve always thought I’d need to totally believe in myself!! I keep waiting for that time to happen!! Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong!!
Wow, I never thought of massage as helping with something like this, but I can see how you explained it (someone accepting your body as it is) would make it that way. I too have borderline binge eating issues. I think I keep it under control enough though, so that it has never been a problem. But I know what that feeling is . . . for me it’s not hunger, it’s more of feeling like I just need to FILL myself with something, like I’m missing something. Eating helps sometimes, but usually not. Weird, huh? I should try massage.
Yes- the feeling of needing to fill myself up is exactly the same! Yeah massage has helped me a lot in the past- especially with a particularly good therapist who obviously loves this kind of work.
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Rachel, I just published a post addressing what we’ve been talking about. I hope it’s helpful. You can find it at http://www.juliebuhite.wordpress.com. It’s my new site — I transferred everything over from My Body My Self and altered the theme. Big hugs, Julie
Brilliant Julie!! Thank you so much, I really appreciate your input as it’s so great to have tips from someone who’s been there and come out the other side!!
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