Disordered eating can range from mild to severe and from intermittent to constant, but its core characteristic is eating in response to something other than physical hunger. Like drugs and alcohol, food can be an escape from uncomfortable emotions. In particular, foods such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, and dairy are known to have properties which affect the reward centers of our brains. This also numbs our feelings, enabling us to go about our daily lives without ever acknowledging or addressing how we really feel. Crazy, right?
If you are like me and the idea of being an emotional eater, compulsive overeater, or binge eater resonates even a little bit, you’ve probably tried every diet in the book — twice. The problem is that diets don’t work, at least not in the longterm. This is why I and so many others have lost hundreds of pounds, only to regain them. Diets create an environment of emotional and physical deprivation, which inevitably results in binge eating.
Neuroscience research shows that our brains work in a way that is both protective and resistant to change. We are wired to seek rewards and avoid pain or discomfort, particularly fear. When fear creeps in, we have a strong desire to return to our familiar, comfortable behaviors and thought patterns. As a result, any substantial change will automatically be resisted.
So how do we change? After years of trying to understand the science, psychology, and spirituality of human behavior, I stumbled across the work of Dr. BJ Fogg and his work at the Stanford Behavior Design Lab. His research aligns with what I observed in myself and others in recovery. He clarifies that there are only three things that will change behavior in the long-term:
Option A: Having an epiphany
Option B: Changing your environment (what surrounds you)
Option C: Taking baby steps
Option A is tricky. Creating an epiphany is difficult at best. Having a “spiritual awakening” is the intended result of the twelve steps and it does work very well for some people. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project refers to this category of change as ‘lightening bolt” moments. They can happen when someone has an experience that drastically shifts their view of the world, such as having a child. Needless to say, this is not the option you should rely on.
Options B is a good. Changing your environment means not only your location, but also the people you surround yourself with. For many people, this is not practical for financial or emotional reasons. It is worth pursuing, as the places and people you spend time with have a tremendous effect on your own behavior.
Option C is the most effective. Anyone can start taking baby steps right now. It doesn’t cost a penny, you don’t have to involve anyone else, and you can do it on your schedule.
I’ve spent the past 6 years unraveling a lifetime of disordered eating and slowly putting myself back together. My goal is to share how building tiny habits over time completely changed my life and helped me to recover from obesity, food addiction, binge eating disorder, and bulimia.
I just found your blog, and I can’t wait to read more. I am 28 years old, and weigh about 265 pounds. I have have also tried multiple diets that never last longer than a couple weeks. Lately I’ve been so disgusted in myself. I’ve been noticing my binging has gotten worse, but I don’t know how to control it. I eat when upset, but mostly when I’m bored. I really hope that reading through your journey will help me start mine.
Hi Fatty in NY – I was also 265 odd pounds only diff being I am older at 45 years. Over the last one year, I have dropped a total of 100 odd pounds (I have stopped counting now) and have completely turned my life around. To be honest, people are astounded at the change – and let me share a funny thing with you – earlier when I used to drop 5 or 10 pounds here and there, society around me (friends, relatives, acquaintances etc.) used to shower compliments almost patronizingly….like a pat on the back almost, you know, “keep it up” kind of a thing. Now, however the very same people are almost into a stunned silence – I am thinner and healthier than most of them.
Inspiring story and wonderful that you have found a path that lays a foundation to your success. I’m in my mid50’s and your experiences described resonate 100% with mine…from childhood to present. It has taken me this long to realize that having a support system (outside of my immediate family) is key to achieving my health & fitness goals.
You darling girl are fabulous ang my sedentary, binge-cyclical weary heart feels great admiration for sharing your precious self and your amazing journey!
I would like very much to be a companion on your journey while beginning my own at 54.5 years young. Hugs to your bravery ❤️
Hi Donna, Welcome <3 Thank you so much for your kind words. We are on this journey together. I hope you are on my mailing list. I am starting a new community initiative called #SelfCareProject and I would love for you to participate. Xx
Wow! Perfect timing to stumble upon your blog at the beginning of my journey. I am going to keep checking back to learn more and to help me stay motivated. I am a size 26 currently (not sure how the heck that happened… the last I checked I pretty much struggled to stay at size 22) and have a goal of size 16; hopefully within a year or two. I have plantar issues in my feet and sore knees from being too heavy for my 5’5″ frame….. Thank you….
Hi Ann! Welcome 🙂 I relate to the plantar fasciitis. It makes walking so painful, but mine has pretty much disappeared as I have lost weight. How are things going for you?
I actually did not have a weight problem until after I had children and then it slowly crept up on me. I was always athletic and could eat almost anything until my metabolism cratered after having my two incredible boys. I also went through a couple of lousy marriages (one was 14 years long and the husband cheated on me 13 years out of the 14!). So I have found over the years, I eat my feelings and my feeling tend to be cookies, cake, ice cream, potatoes, bread, chocolate, etc. My feelings are not veggies, salads, fruits, low fat, low carb, etc. I turn 50 this year and I really want to get back in to shape. I had a total knee replacement 9 months ago and I am still recovering but I can exercise I just find I do not have the will to do it most of the time. I live at home alone with my cat. My two boys are grown and have moved away. I work a lot and I live in Texas where it is extremely hot during the summer. ( I do not like the hot) So when I do exercise, it has to be really early in the morning or really late in the evening (when I am usually really tired from work. 🙁 I find I need encouragement. All I ever seem to get is….wow you have put on weight maybe you should stop eating or you need to get to the gym more (who has time?) or you would think with all of the work you do everyday, you would be able to lose weight easily. Ugh, I wish it would just fall off!!! Anyhow, I am trying to walk and do stairs at my high school stadium at least 3 times a week and I have been cutting out a lot of stuff from my diet, but nothing seems to work. I am a property manager/housekeeper so I am not usually in a kitchen or able to sit and eat my lunch every day, so it is hard for me to eat a prepared meal for lunch. That is a bad area for me. I tend to eat something fast and easy for lunch. Which is usually not good for me. It is hard for me to eat good. I grew up on good ole southern food. FAT food! HELP please!! I need to learn to eat well every meal!
Love your story
Thank you Teri 🙂
I feel like we are kindred spirits. I am 310 pounds and I’m a size 22. I would ultimately like to be a size 12 just like you. I eat like crap- 95% of the time. I find healthy food unappealing and I overeat every thing I do put in my mouth. I want to learn to exercise more and eat healthier, but you’ve inspired me to take a couple baby steps at a time. I’ve found that when I take on too much (I tried to do a strict Whole30 diet and workout regimen last month that didn’t work out well at all) I fail miserably and just give up on my health. The doctors have told me that in my current weight and with PCOS, I’m unlikely to have successful pregnancies which is a concern for me and my husband who want to conceive. I’ve been so disgusted with myself and even look back on my wedding photos in disgust, which no one should do. I want to learn to love myself at all stages in this journey. Thank you for inspiring me.
Hi Rachel! Welcome 🙂 Thank you for the kind words. I think you are on to something with learning to love yourself at all stages of this journey. Xx
I am 50, diabetic and overweight. I have a very difficult time losing weight on my own. I need to do this.
Hi Sister! Welcome 🙂 You are not alone. Did you sign up for my newsletter? That will give you access to my online support community where you can connect with me and many others who are dealing with these same issues. I think it’s helpful to shift your mindset from needing or having to do something to wanting to do something. What sorts of habits would you like to have that you don’t now?
I am 75 and have done a lot better thru the last l5 years but still have issues with bingeing, very interested in what you have done with dealing with some of the same problems
Hi Joan! Welcome 🙂 I am glad to hear that you’ve found some relief over the past 15 years. I have found the most relief from binge eating when I make sure that I’m addressing my emotional needs. I cover this in depth in my course, but I plan to share more in blog posts over the coming months. Is there anything specific you would like me to address?
I am a 56 year old Female, and I am extremely overweight. Had a Child late in Life ( second) at 32 week, a Preemie! I have steadily gotten bigger over the years, and too busy to focus on my Weight. Now I have high BP, and other complications i.e…. Heaving Breathing, Low Energy, and Ankle Pain. My Current weight is 236 pounds. I am single and have no hope of developing a relationship with my weight as it is today. Hearing back from you would be a great start!
Thanks so much, Wendy in Mississippi!
Hi Wendy! Welcome 🙂 I am so glad that you shared some of your story. You are not alone. Unfortunately, being overweight and experiencing all the painful symptoms that bubble up as a result can make change seem impossible. I’m here to tell you that change IS possible, no matter how busy you’re life is. I think one of the most important things you an do is shift your mindset. I don’t know what your day to day life entails, but you mention that you are a parent. I can only assume that you want to around to care for your child. We will always be “too busy to focus on weight” but that’s not what life is about. Life is meant to be awesome and focussing on food restriction or painful workouts will never be sustainable. Take a look at your current habits and behaviors that contribute to you being overweight. Do you eat fast food? Are you sedentary? What is one small thing you can do that will get the momentum moving in a direction toward better health for you and your child?
I am a binge eating sugar addict! I am only very slightly overweight at this stage in my life but, I work really hard to stay that way. I eat a predominantly whole food, plant based diet which is how I have lost and maintained my weight for more than 4years but, no matter how far away from the junk food I get…. I am still tempted by it and, god forbid, I breakdown and have a sweet treat, I often will go way overboard and binge on it to the point I am very uncomfortable. I feel depressed about the fact that I will always struggle with the sugar thing! I wish I didn’t care about sugar! Totally frustrating!