Binge eating, by itself, can be very dangerous. The main danger is not overweight, contrary to the literature. Eating a lot of food, no matter how you do it, will certainly cause weight gain. However, binge eating is not the same as overeating.
In some countries, such as the UK, no distinction is made between overeating and binge eating (last I checked). The danger of this is that both the general population and the medical community end up viewing it as gluttony. As a consequence, the sufferer feels more need to hide the problem, and feels even more ashamed than he/she would be otherwise.
So what defines a binge? I personally don’t agree that a binge is self-defined. I’ve been in “treatment” with people who viewed one small sandwich as a binge. I’ve met others who defined “binge” as “going off my diet” or “not following my meal plan.” However, breaking rules when you eat is not a binge. I certainly enjoy breaking rules and busting myths on a daily basis.
A binge, as far as I am concerned, happens when you stuff yourself full and then keep eating until you can barely breathe, until you can stuff no more in. You may feel the food won’t go down anymore due to stomach fullness, and that you are so stuffed that the food can’t move from your esophagus to your stomach. They say the maximum a person can eat and keep down is 15,000 calories, but I am sure that this varies from person to person. To give you an idea of how much that is, a woman my size might eat 1,500 calories a day, or certainly much more if she is active. To lose weight she might eat 1,400 calories. They say under 1,200 isn’t a good idea, especially not for an extended period. Anyone on meds will need to adjust what they eat. Most meds cause deficiencies. I believe patients should be aware of this and eat accordingly, adding vitamins in powder or pill form if absolutely necessary, however, don’t expect to hear that from the average doctor. Either way, if I were to eat 4,000 calories in one day, that would be a lot, too much, and I’d feel terrible afterward. Imagine stuffing oneself, within a short period, much much more than that, and you can imagine what a real binge is.
I don’t buy that binge eating is a feeling. It’s not. It involves consuming actual large quanties. If you only feel it’s too much, but in fact, it isn’t, then to me, it’s not a binge. You may suffer from guilt or shame, but shame in itself isn’t going to harm you medically. I do not for one minute see shame as “nothing,” since I know that it can certainly affect the way a person lives. Shame could cause a person to not go out or not socialize, or to skip out on occasions such as potluck dinners or a trip to the beach.
My experience, over three decades of it, of dealing with doctors and therapists was that when I spoke of binge eating, they assumed that I was suffering from shame. This wasn’t at all what I was dealing with. I was binge eating so much that the physical discomfort became excruciating. This was what led me to quit school originally.
Doctors either ignored me, or poked fun at me. I felt like I was being treated like I was complaining about one eyebrow hair out of place. They told me, literally, that people with depression and bipolar suffered far more and were more deserving of their concern. This was repeated to me over and over. Can you see where this all led? I was told so many times that my concerns didn’t matter that I ended up lying just to get “care.”
I told them I had insomnia. This was entirely true. Of course, after a binge, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed and moan occasionally. I had to stay in bed all day after a binge simply because walking or even sitting in a chair was impossible. Not that lying down was comfortable. Any position I lay in was painful for me.
No one knew that this was going on. I wasn’t trying to keep it secret, it was just that the therapists and doctors I saw generally changed the subject whenever I tried to explain. I believe what was happening to me made them uncomfortable just to hear about it.
Don’t you hate it when therapists get like that, when they can’t emotionally handle your issues? I’ve heard this from many people, that they cannot get to the core of what is happening to them in these therapy sessions, since the therapist herself isn’t emotionally equipped to hear it. This shouldn’t be the case since we pay these people. I realize now that speaking to a person who has really been through it all is far more helpful than any “therapist.”
My very first therapist wasn’t the avoidant type, as most are. I liked that about her. But she had no clue that I had an eating disorder. Remember, it was 1981, so there was no knowledge in the field of ED. After I got to day treatment, I fonnd that the therapists had multiple issues of their own and were hardly equipped to deal with ours. I remember I brought up the fact that I was in a cult (the Moonies) to one therapist, and he immediately shut me down saying I probablly wasn’t in a cult. I never said another word about it. They also didn’t want to hear about the abuse I’d been through in high school. I give them credit for at least acknowledging it, though. After that, the therapists I saw got very uncomfortable whenever I brought it up, so I stopped talking about it. Those were very serious issues, and had I dealt with them when I should have, perhaps the trauma part of what was happening to me would have been resolved. Therapy then got worse and worse as the years went on, and less effective.
I began to speak more of the insomnia, since I figure this might make them listen. I lied and said I was “anxious” but many therapists saw through that. I was then called a faker and attention-seeking. But hey, that’s what I was truly asking for. Their time and attention to a very serious matter that was being ignored.
After years and years of my ED being ignored, even if my weight was low, I started to see myself differently. I saw myself as depressed. If anyone asked, I had “depression.” Meanwhile, I hid my eating disorder, simply because no one gave a shit anyway.
If you can’t stop binge eating early on, you will continue to binge into middle age and then, your senior years, if you are stil alive. When a person is older, the risks become more serious. Older people end up with various health problems that require a precribed diet. You can’t follow such a diet if you suffer from binge eating. This is where it begins to become more dangerous.
The risk of stomach rupture is far higher than doctors want to admit. I even had a doctor who insisted that if anyone ate as much as I did, their bodies would react by throwing up. For many of us, this isn’t true. I am one of those rare people who didn’t even throw up from half a bottle of Ipacac, which I once took out of desperation, back in the days when it was around. My dad always said I had an “iron stomach.” Guess so! Stomch rupture will kill you very fast. It isn’t talked about, but yes, it happens. For a long time, I was terrified that this would happen to me.
If you are a suffer, and really want to speak with someone about this debilitatiing problem, you might want to find a person who has been there. Otherwise, how can these “therapists” possibly understand? They might say, “Go back on your meal plan.” Of course, this isn’t helpful. Truth is, they don’t even have real answers anyway. Sad to say, some people feel so hopeless that they will ever stop that they just give up.
The DSM does binge eaters a disservice, by not making a distinction between a real and perceived binge. So when a person gets diagnosed, they might feel good about the acknowledgement, only to find out that their very serious binge eating is taken very lightly, with focus on shame. Since psychiatry and therapy are not the answer and these people are clueless as to how to help, the sufferer is told over and over that he/she is exaggerating or that it’s simply a matter of perception. While it’s true that for some, it is, but for many of us, our concerns get further shoved aside, as mine were for decades.
In the end, I solved the problem on my own. This took extensive experimentation that I could only begin once I refused to allow “doctors” to run my life. I realized that the system, and the media too, encourages worship of doctors. If you have heard on TV, “Ask your doctor,” you know this is all part of the coercion. Why should I get “doctor permission” for something I do related to my own body and no one else’s? So I had to ditch that thinking. They aren’t gods. I solved the problem nutritionally. I wish I had done this decades ago instead of going through all the hell I endured.
Hello! Wow, I have heard this question so frequently. I can’t necessarily say why this happens to every single person who has asked this question. However, I can suggest a few possible explanations as to why this happens so frequently.
Does eating disorders “care” really address binge eating?
I haven’t run the circuit of treatment centers, but from what I have seen, these places address two thing: 1. They restore weight by forceful means. 2. They try to stop you from throwing up by invading your privacy. That doesn’t exactly sound helpful to me. In fact, it sounds downright awful!
Maybe the whole time you were in there, you wondered if you would go back to binge eating upon leaving. This fear may have loomed in your mind the whole time. Since all discussion of binge eating is discouraged, you keep that fear to yourself. If this is your very first experience in lockup, maybe you are totally convinced you will never binge again, only to be find that big rude awakening following discharge. Sometimes, “staff,” who don’t truly understand eating disorders, might say, “Of course you won’t binge. You are recovered!” This might have totally convinced you that having been in this place magically makes you immune now. However, you know, deep in your mind, that the problem STILL hasn’t been addressed.
So if you purge, and they’ve addressed the throwing up, what’s going to happen when you get out and then binge? You are no longer on a “rewards” system for not purging. I’ll bet many who binge most likely revert right back to purging. Or you restrict all over again, and the ugly cycle comes right back.
Should prevention of purging be the focus, or prevention of bingeing?
Many people who purge tell me that if only they didn’t binge, they’d have no reason to purge. Others have told me that they don’t binge, but when they feel too full, the temptation to purge is very strong. From what I recall of “care,” they filled us up, often via tube feeding, until just about everyone felt bloated, then monitored us to ensure we didn’t throw up our food. This addressed nothing. We had no control over our situation. Many were dying to get that control back, no matter what. Some say that eating disorders are all about control, and there we were, controlled like robots.
Getting out is overwhelming because “treatment” is oppressive.
When you get out, or shall I say when I got out, I felt like I was in a world that had suddenly become too wide. Too bright. Too much space. I’d adjusted to the cramped environment and artificial light of the “unit.” Now, I was in this new thing, Freedom. I usually left dehydrated, so as soon as I could, I’d try to get fluids into myself. However, I also often binged. Was Freedom too much for me? That’s what my therapists claimed, stating that I couldn’t manage and therefore needed long-term lockup. But I knew that wasn’t true.
I binged because I’d been in an oppressive environment, literally a prison. Our bodies react to this. Many studies have been done on both humans and animals that have measured the effects of being behind locked doors. But do we need studies to prove what we already know?
Does the average “staff” even know just how destructive binge eating is?
I used to bite my pride and approach staff as discharge neared. I’d ask, “How do I stop myself from binge eating?” The response was generally to pass the buck, simply because the staff had no real solution to this. So they’d usually say, “Ask the nutritionist.” I’d wait for days to see this person and then finally ask. I asked a number of them. Their response? “Follow your meal plan.” Or, more often, “You should take that up with your outside treatment team.” If I ever said that these tactics never solved the problem in three decades, they’d shrug and say, “Then you aren’t trying hard enough.” Really? I found that remark insulting. I wanted so much to be free of ED!
I have clear memories of that first binge following release from lockup. I remember telling myself all the while, “This shouldn’t be happening. Aren’t I better now?” I’d ask what went wrong. I never came up with an answer. Afterward, I’d feel terribly sick.
Why do we see the “revolving door syndrome”?
I know many run right back to lockup. Have you ever done that? I remember seeing these patients come in. They looked ashamed, often hiding their faces or bodies and not saying much. I felt bad for them, the repeat offenders. I’d hear things like, “I guess I wasn’t ready to leave before.” Is this true? Maybe. Maybe they were repeat offenders because the lockup joint failed them, again and again.
However, from what I recall, if they had no solution to binge eating, how did these facilities expect anyone to magically stop? This is one of the major ironies of such “care.” If you pick apart their logic, you will find this logic is flawed, to the point of being rather absurd.
Anorexia, jealousy, and inappropriate comments are a major factor.
I found it rather difficult to face the outside world because they’d put so much weight on me. Many people I knew that I saw in person gave me that “look,” that up-and-down look, checking out how much I’d gained. I’d hear, “You look so healthy now.”
I felt so ashamed hearing these comments, even if the intent was not to harm. I’d ask what was behind these comments, which frankly, are somewhat rude. I realize now that the jealousy factor is at play at times. Not always. But some people who have issues with their own weight might see you heavier and then take out their frustrations on you. They feel relieved to see you at a higher weight, but why? Are they truly caring about your health? Or do they feel relieved because you are not such a threat to them anymore?
Yes, a threat. Those of us who have been at a low weight become familiar with the envy factor. Some people feel challenged by us, even jealous. They might privately ask themselves, “Why can I not control my eating, while this anorexic person struggles to get every bite down? It’s unfair!”
When many of us leave, we look different, and we are often told to suck it up.
I remember going home from “care” feeling so ashamed. I always hoped the next few weeks were cold, so I could keep my body covered with a coat. I felt bloated and sick from “refeeding.” I wanted to avoid the looks I got, but it was hard because my face was still visible. My self-esteem dropped.
Meanwhile, I was terrified that I would binge. I felt like I was always looking over my shoulder with dread. I’d tried so hard to tell them in “treatment” that it was imperative that I lick the binge eating. I was scared that it would get so bad that I’d get suicidal. If I did binge and ended up back there, they refused to address the cause, simply because they had no clue how.
On and on and on and on.
For the most part, these expensive rehabs don’t really work, despite their claims.
So much of this lockup nonsense doesn’t work. Same with the expensive “residential” programs. They might look nice in their pamphlets and websites, but then you find out you can’t even go outside unsupervised, and the rules are rigid and illogical. You might find yourself STILL locked out of the bathroom, and that your basic human rights are taken away in residential, just like lockup all over again. But you feel guilty because someone is paying an arm and a leg and counting on your “recovery.” Whatever the hell that is.
Why do I binge in the first place?
In part, binge eating comes from stress, a physical body reaction. Another reason people binge is due to malnutrition or even a reaction to the standard water restriction imposed on patients. The diet I had to follow in there wasn’t at all healthy. I was force fed junk food, processed crap, and I was shamed if I didn’t finish everything. The whole time, I was dying to get out just so I could eat plain, healthy, whole, unprocessed delicious food. Never mind tube feed, which is loaded with hydrolyzed blah blah blah, cheap corn products, and other rather unhealthy stuff.
Perhaps we might not ask, “Why have I binged after treatment?” But, “How could it possibly be avoided?” Perhaps you were assured, “Of course, you are bingeing. It’s a sign of healing.” Some doctors and therapists poo-poo binge eating because they don’t know how to treat it. They don’t want to admit this, of course. They blame us, over and over. “You didn’t follow your treatment plan.”
No, the treatment plan was oppressive, and therefore, harmful.
“Mental health” is in fact a human rights issue.
The one thing no one needs is to be railroaded like cattle from group to group. No one needs to be told over and over that they aren’t the authority on their own bodies. No one needs the typical gaslighting you get from staff if you dare to speak out against the regime. Treatment is a lose-lose situation.
We all deserve basic human rights. We need to find our own path.
These days, I am often asked how I solved my eating disorder rather quickly by ditching the meds and the lies force-fed to me in “therapy.” I can tell you it took a lot of experimentation. I found that no way is binge eating or restricting “poor coping.” It saddens me that so many people latch onto this lie like it is a given. It’s not even true.
We’ve already been through that for years. We’ve tried so, so hard to pinpoint just how poorly we cope. This basic false notion holds people back. Instead, see binge eating as YOUR BODY demanding food. Not just all food, but a particular nutrient, or handful of them. It is crying out to you. Have you listened to your body today?
Sadly, in “treatment,” every time we tune into your bodies, we are told, “That’s Ed speaking.” Well? It’s entirely your choice if you want to believe this, but I personally have never met this Ed. Show me the dude inside my head and I’ll show you mushy-looking brains. Nothing else.
There is no Ed. It’s a marketing ploy, like Santa Claus, designed to deny you what you need. It’s a way they control you. Ditch it.
You are you. All your thoughts are your thoughts. Own them and embrace them. Embrace your body. Your body is crying out for respect, dignity, and privacy that you have been denied for so long. Isn’t it time we demanded these very simple things?
So I am sitting here writing rather spontaneously. I am laughing because this stuff just comes out of me, for whatever reason, and usually, I end up leaving it just as is. For you. Because I truly want the best for you. Be happy. Live.
Here are some links that explain the way the stomach works:
This one explains how satiety is sensed by the stomach and how it signals the brain to stop eating:
This link explains stomach anatomy and physiology:
Here are a variety of opinions.
Each person is different. Therapy assumes the urge to binge is psychological only and works according to that rather limiting idea. This is why, for so many people, therapy never helps. Instead of acknowledging the variety of reasons why people binge, it focuses on psychological defect.
I know for myself, I had three decades of therapy that harmed more than helped. I don’t know a single person who stopped binge eating via therapy alone. Most who went to therapists ended up with other diagnoses. It’s sad that this happens because we end up ignoring what’s really happening and we end up participating in expensive, time-consuming, unnecessary, and often harmful “treatment.”
The BED sites that tell you therapy is effective most likely rely on faulty statistics. A person might fill out a feedback form regarding a therapist or therapy, but mostly, these are “satisfaction with care” surveys and have nothing to do with whether the therapy actually helped or if the results lasted beyond a few weeks. Many of these questionnaires, if you read them carefully, ask about your experience of the “red tape” part of therapy.
Is the therapist on time? How nice is the office? Are the secretaries polite? How easy is it to make an appointment? Is the office clean? Did the therapist explain things in a way you could understand?
I rarely see this question: Did the therapist help you with the problem for which you sought assistance?
I hear a lot, “Are you satisfied with the care?” I was plenty satisfied, sure. I wasn’t any better. Instead, I kept going back to something that never worked for me, hoping for a cure. I guess they don’t even dare ask if you are better. Most people aren’t, because their real problems are never addressed.
I have suffered from binge eating and anorexia for over three decades. Through self-observation, I note the following:
1) I don’t have a problem with overeating. I overeat less frequently than most people and I don’t have a “grazing” problem, either. These binge eating episodes are sporadic. They come on suddenly. Otherwise, I have no trouble choosing wisely. Is this true for you, or do you usually overeat or undereat?
2) I don’t binge as response to hunger. When I am hungry I am more likely to eat according to what my body needs. I believe it’s a myth that hunger leads to unwise choices. It may be true for some, but not all of us. What about you?
3) Almost always, when binge eating occurs, it is after a meal or when I feel full. If I experience bloat, I am at much higher risk for a binge. I’ve heard that this isn’t all that uncommon. What about you?
4) My food choices are highly influenced by availability, and especially, price of food items. Binge eating has significantly affected my budget for decades. I believe this is due to urgency. I grab whatever I can find that is closest and most easily obtained. At those times, I am at risk for overspending.
5) I’d say my spending habits, good and bad, are average for my income level. Doing a budget is easy because I have so little money. By all means I don’t need an accountant nor need to consult an “expert.” Most of the time, “budget” means paying for necessities and nothing else. During a binge, I completely ignore my budget. This tells me that the binge urge when present takes priority over my usual self-control with money. It also supersedes common sense when it comes to eating. Is this true for you, too?
6) The one “soft spot” I have financially is for stationary and school supplies. I tend to get indiscriminate and buy notebooks, paper, writing instruments, etc disregarding my usual spending limit. My solution is to stay away from the stationary aisle. We don’t have Staples here but I’m sure there are similar places in Montevideo or in the larger malls outside of the city. Most people do have a spending Achilles heel. What’s yours?
7) No way can a person’s eating problems be correctly assessed while in any form of captivity or while out of their usual environment. That’s one reason why inpatient “treatment” often fails. You put patients together in a room where social pressures run high, eating habits will be affected. “Monitoring,” that is, being intensely watched or stared at by authority figures, also affects eating habits. Being required to keep a food journal and show it to an authority figure will affect how we eat. Monitoring can be negative or positive. If the monitoring is against the patient’s will or doesn’t respect basic privacy, I cannot see how it can possibly be helpful. If the authority figure is domineering, judgmental, threatening, or controlling, eating will be negatively affected. On the other hand, if the authority figure is encouraging, open-minded, non-judgmental, answers questions honestly, and listens well, then the influence is positive. What has your experience been?
8) The only way I have ever “gotten better” from anorexia was when I made the deliberate and conscious decision to eat. I did best when I knew I was choosing this. I made the deliberate and conscious decision that I wanted life over thinness. I found a reason to make this choice. When I couldn’t find one, one came to me by circumstance, or it was presented to me. I, in turn, made the decision that the idea was logical or inspiring, or rejected it as illogical or uninspiring.
9) I did best when I designed my own program. I found it far easier to stick to. When I needed to gain weight, I chose how to do so and when. I took into account various sources of input, weighed my options, then chose. Can you relate?
10) The times I chose thinness over life were times of oppression. Oppression isn’t a feeling, it’s reality in one’s environment. To want life, I had to change my environment to one of less oppression. This, again, is why “treatment” failed for me. “Treatment” put me into a situation of drastically increased oppression. I needed less force, not more. How do you respond to forced care?
11) At times, I do research online. I keep in mind that my own experience is my best source of information. I know my best online sources are not “experts,” but sufferers themselves who have far more expertise than those with traditional credentials. I read with this in mind. How about you? Do you find research online helpful? Are you able to discern between information that’s helpful and that which leads you down the wrong path?
12) Food shopping, for me, is best done with a list I prepare ahead of time. This decreases the time I spend shopping and decreases unwise purchases. Do you find shopping lists helpful?
13) To end binge eating, I should find out what happens in the body as response to fullness or bloat, that for me, so often triggers a binge. For now, I try to avoid becoming that full, or avoid the substances that cause bloat.
14) Many people have foods or substances, which when consumed even in small amounts, will trigger a binge. I hear that by far, the most common trigger is sugar. I don’t have a problem with sugar. I do have a problem with most diary food. My mother also seemed to have a problem with dairy. This has been the case for a long time for me. I hear that recent research comes up with casein as culprit for many people. Have you ever noticed you have problem foods other than sugar?
15) I have been avoiding gluten entirely because it causes digestive problems for me, including bloat. I have heard that many people are gluten sensitive but the figures I see vary widely. I have read one out of three. I have also seen one out of seven. An extreme form of gluten sensitivity is Celiac disease. This can be detected through internal investigation, usually a scope. I hear also some labs have the capacity to test stool samples for intestinal damage such as Celiac. Gluten sensitivity can also cause lowering of mood to the point of severe depression, or mimic other so-called mental disorders. When I stopped gluten I felt much better physically and mentally. If I consume gluten due to carelessness or in a binge, I am very sick afterward. I know that many are not gluten sensitive and are fine eating these foods. Have you ever suspected you had allergies or sensitivities?
16) Drugs can cause binge eating, even those that are said to be helpful to bingers. I found that many SSRI and related pills caused binge eating for me. Other drugs that caused binge eating were Zyprexa, Seroquel, and similar pills. I knew that I needed to avoid these and alert any prescribing doctor to please not prescribe these to me. Most were respectful, but some didn’t understand and made light of this serious problem. I hear that for some, marijuana causes binge eating. I also hear that Ambien causes lapses in memory and night eating, including driving a vehicle while only partially awake. Have drugs ever caused these problems for you? What happened when you told your prescriber?
17) Even if a person is underweight, binge eating has serious physical consequences. The most serious consequences, contrary to myth, are not weight gain, though for some, this becomes a serious problem. It seems to me that more serious digestive problems and damage to other body systems and organs, even death, can result from rapidly ingesting large quantities of food. As I see it, the medical establishment downplays these, assuming the worst that can happen is weight gain. This attitude harms any sufferer of any weight. Have you ever been told, “It’s nothing to worry about” when you knew there was far more to it?
18) I hear that many have a “pleasure response” to binge eating. I don’t believe this is true for all binge eaters. I have known for a long time that I do not respond this way, though I do usually find some foods more pleasurable than others like anyone else. This was further apparent to me when I filmed myself during a binge in November 2013. You can see that I am wincing in pain during most of the film. I don’t enjoy pain nor am I a cutter. A long time ago I cut very briefly but that was in response to concurrent abuse. I have never shown the film I made in November 2013 to anyone, but I’ve thought of donating it to science.
19) In the past, I found binge eating physically disabling and this alone made it impossible for me to work or attend school. I am happy that right now, the problem is infrequent, so I am able to have improved quality of life. I attribute this to my own investigation into the causes, and inventing and trying out my own solutions. I feel that “therapy” didn’t help, but instead, significantly delayed recovery for me. “Meds” such as lithium (now documented to help binge eaters) were more effective while I took them, but these shouldn’t be taken long term. Lithium is so dangerous that I believe it should be taken off the market. The drugs caused so much permanent damage that I now feel they weren’t worth it. I know now in hindsight only that I wasn’t properly informed of the consequences. I feel that people can make the best choices without the influence of middleman such as pusher, doctor, or insurance plan, who have their own agenda. What about you?
PS: The book “Brain over Binge” is highly recommended because it contains the story of one woman’s personal self-exploration and describes how she found a solution that worked for her. I only wish the author would alter the second half of her book title, because it’s not a book about bulimia.
Have a nice day.
Hello, my name is Julie Greene. I am not a “mental health professional” so this isn’t “professional” advice. I cannot provide “medical advice” because I don’t have MD after my name. Actually, I was a patient in the mental health system and a silent sufferer of eating disorders for over three decades, so I think that makes me a professional, in a way, due to having lived with it for so long. This is often called “lived experience.” You may try these suggestions if you wish, but be aware that they may not apply in your situation and they could, for some people, even be harmful.
I am just going to list what I have tried and state if the results. This list is a result of decades of trial and error on my part. I had only myself to experiment on. I found that “doctors” had a poor understanding of binge eating. The DSM also has it all wrong even though binge eating disorder is now in there as a classification of mental disorders.
I myself suffered from binge eating in massive quantities. In other words, there was a clear distinction between what I did and “overeating,” which many people suffer from. I needed to separate out “overweight” because I realized that the binge eating itself was the danger, not the resulting weight gain.
Given this, these are the things I tried, in no particular order:
1) Therapy. It never helped. In fact, it made me needy and dependent and did more harm than good. I was in therapy for decades and had over 20 different therapists. A few helped me in other ways but therapy never helped binge eating. I had different types of therapy, and after a while, these “cures” seemed to be designed for people who were immature or uneducated.
2) Psychiatric day treatment. It made me far worse. I was in Options Day Treatment twice, NEWW Center twice, and the MAP/GAP programs at McLean once. None of these programs were at all helpful. I went to a few other programs over the years but I don’t count them cuz I didn’t stay long. I wouldn’t recommend these programs to anyone.
3) Gould Farm. When I arrived at Gould Farm in 1984 I was told that they didn’t treat eating disorders and that they were going to ignore my eating disorder completely. I found their program to be grueling slave work and I hated it. I used to call my parents and beg them to put me in a hospital instead.
4) Hospitalization. I was in a hospital, that is, a psych ward a few times before Gould Farm and continued to end up on psych wards over a period of decades. What hospitalization did for the most part was to stop the binge eating for the time that I was hospitalized. I began to see these places as refuge or safety. But the personnel there hardly understood what my problem was. Back in the 1980’s they said eating disorders were trivial problems that rich kids had. Until 1983 when Karen Carpenter died, the personnel in hospitals had no awareness of how dangerous eating disorders were. They had no clue how to deal with me and so they ignored my eating problems entirely. Even if I lost a bunch of weight while there. And the problem returned as soon as I left.
5) OA. I do not suffer from overeating. I usually eat reasonably okay and have no “control” problem for the most part. I suffered from binge eating. I usually wasn’t overweight. Often, I was underweight to some degree, or so thin that I was clearly anorexic. I found that I am not a sugar addict. OA is based on the assumption that all sufferers are sugar addicts and all you have to do is stop sugar (and white flour) and you’ll be cured. It never worked for me. It seemed that what OA was saying didn’t apply to me. People would look at me and assume, “Oh, so you must have been abstinent for years to be that thin.” Seriously. I found that OA varies from group to group. I tried many of these groups but still, I found their sugar theory to be irrelevant.
6) Group therapy. I think it was nice to share with other people who may or may not have similar problems to my own. I felt relieved, in a way, to meet other people from different walks of life. Group therapy was helpful if the group was comprised of mature people who didn’t whine. But it never helped my eating disorder. It only provided a social outlet, I suppose. After a while, I realized I’d rather find companionship some other way. Plus, I felt that these groups were a waste of time in a way. I felt that I should be spending my time doing something more meaningful and productive. I didn’t want my life centered around “group.” Especially since “group” wasn’t helping my eating disorder at all.
7) Medication- lithium. I tried many. At first, I begged for drugs because I figured this was the answer. But most medications made binge eating worse, not better. Oddly, lithium reduced my appetite enough to stop the binge eating for several years. I wasn’t bipolar. But I felt far less depressed with the binge eating out of my life. So “doctors,” seeing my brighter outlook, assumed this was directly caused by the lithium, when really, it was secondary. Only now, decades later, they are uncovering statistics that show that lithium does indeed stop binge eating. I wouldn’t recommend it though, because this drug also destroys the thyroid and kidneys. This damage is often permanent. Kidney damage will shorten a person’s life. Some people are immediately affected and die of kidney failure even after taking lithium for a short time. Therefore, I think this drug should not be given to anyone. I took it for 16 years and was totally convinced this was The Way. I had no clue it was slowly destroying my body, nor was I fully informed of just how serious the risks are. The other effects included the “shakes” and pimples, which affected my social life. I was shaking so much that trying to get a job was a joke.
8) Other drugs- antidepressants. These drugs either did nothing or made the binge eating far worse. One did help binge eating, Imipramine. I took it on two occasions and the first time it did nothing for binge eating. The second time, it was helpful. But it gave me the “black box warning” effect. My doctors had no clue and didn’t respond to my reports of agitation (mental and bodily) and other physical complaints. They told me these were “nothing.” I lost many friends due to the way I acted on that drug. I also nearly committed suicide. These near misses with suicide occurred in 1984 and 2012. The “black box warning” effect lasted long after I got off the drug, in fact, during the withdrawal period I was a raving maniac. Please be careful with antidepressants!
9) other drugs – antipsychotics. These, of course, all made binge eating far worse. They caused weight gain, akathesia, sunburn, Tardive Dyskinesia, insomnia, confusion, too much sleeping, sedation, heart damage, trouble with balance and walking, slurred speech, mental lethargy, and many other problems. I wouldn’t recommend even giving these a try nor would I recommend taking them for sleep.
10) other drugs – sedatives. I tried a few and they did absolutely nothing. No effect. They didn’t do anything for so-called “anxiety.” They weren’t usually helpful for sleep. Anxiety wasn’t my problem and I didn’t binge eat when anxious necessarily. Occasionally, I tried taking one of these pills if I thought I was going to binge, but this never worked. I had treatment-induced panic attacks for a year and these drugs didn’t help the panic attacks. These drugs are addicting and you develop a tolerance or dependency very quickly. I saw no point in taking them and never asked for them or any type of sleeping pill again.
11) other mood stabilizers – I tried Depakote, Trileptal, Tegretol, and Lamictal. The latter two literally made me unable to stand up. Trileptal made me “sway.” I found out this is a dangerous condition called ataxia and it’s ankle weakness that made me sway. Trileptal clouded my thinking so much that it made me into a “basket case.” Lamictal caused double vision and finally, when I couldn’t even stand up, I stopped the drug. Depakote didn’t do anything but made me put on lots of weight and I became overweight.
12) Naltrexone – this drug is designed to eradicate the pleasure part of addiction. The theory was that if you don’t get high from doing the addiction, you’ll stop. This never worked because I never derived any pleasure from binge eating. It was incredibly painful. It ripped my mouth apart and my throat and stomach were killing me the entire time. I did try Naltrexone but it never did a thing for me.
12) Topamax – this was the only drug that really did stop binge eating with minimal side effects. Yes, it can cause a dopey feeling or make a person spaced out. It didn’t do that to me. Of course, it “cured” depression because I was so happy to have stopped binge eating. I was on this drug from 2006 until recently. There is a possibility of poop-out, meaning that it stops working and has no effect after a while. Because it was no longer working as of a few months ago, I tapered off the drug and stopped it. I had stopped before and the binge eating worsened, but this time, that’s not what happened. My eating was unaffected. Physically, I felt better off the drug, so I stayed off. There are plenty of risks associated with Topamax and it’s not a cure-all. Actually, for most people, it doesn’t work and causes more harm than good. Other side effects include tingling in toes and fingers, eye problems, confusion, and it can affect sleep. Any of these drugs can affect your ability to drive. Be careful!
13) Seeing a nutritionist. This can be helpful for many people. Find one that understands eating disorders or who was a sufferer her/himself. Also, I personally found that those who had only traditional “food pyramid” training didn’t really know about many of the problems I was dealing with. Be careful whom you select. Unfortunately, most people are given no alternatives and they are stuck seeing the one they are assigned to. Some nutritionists aren’t trained in eating disorders but in diabetes and weight loss. I found that those folks weren’t helpful at all except when I had weight to lose. Many charge ridiculous fees. I’ve seen $300 a session and upward. Most insurance won’t cover nutritionists.
14) meal plans. A meal plan might help to get someone in a routine or disciplined if that’s what they need, or teach them to eat properly. No, these didn’t help with binge eating, but some folks find them helpful. Be aware that following a meal plan can cause “rigidity” in one’s eating and this is a problem, too.
15) Exercise. This is usually a good idea anyway. I found that moving my body when I could made me feel better. I didn’t have a problem with overexercising for the most part. Twice I did overexercise, and was sorry when my knee gave out! But for the most part I haven’t had a problem with exercise addiction. I truly believe that these “eating disorders specialists” who insist a person stop exercising are full of it! Unless it’s medically dangerous to exercise, or do a particular exercise, I think to force someone to stop is cruel. Each person needs to find their own particular type of exercise that suits them. Do you like walking your dog? Do you work better in a team or alone? Do you enjoy gardening and working outdoors? Does your job include physical activity? Mopping floors and vacuuming are also exercise. Waiting on tables or delivering materials on foot will keep you physically active. Do you use some form of exercise in your commute, if you work or go to school? Do you like the structure of an exercise class? What about dancing? If you hate exercising, you probably have been trying the types of exercise that aren’t a good fit for you. Try something new. Be daring. If you smoke, you will find that you are quickly motivated to quit! It was back in the 1980’s that Jane Fonda wrote about how exercising helped her eating disorder. Many complained that her methods didn’t apply to them. So invent your own.
16) Not eating at all. This I did, or I ate hardly anything at all. I don’t recommend this because I nearly died in the process. I have heard that fasting can be helpful but probably it will worsen the situation in almost all cases. Especially if you are already underweight.
17) Chinese medicine, namely, acupuncture – yes, do try acupuncture. This is rarely explored and standard medical practitioners will tell you it’s hogwash. But it isn’t. It really works! If you find the right acupuncturist you will be amazed. Acupuncture helps with pain and sleep especially. I have heard that statistically, acupuncture has an excellent success rate for people with eating disorders. But finding the right acupuncturist is essential. It must be a good match. Sadly, many people don’t have a huge selection in their geographical area. And many won’t even give it a try. It’s not all needles! Many offer a sliding scale.
18) Various vitamin therapies. This will definitely be helpful for many people. Sadly, most folks assume vitamins do nothing or have very little effect. Or they are told scare tactics and they don’t even bother trying. You may be binge eating due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Some deficiencies don’t show up on a blood test. Some people find that they need unusually high doses of certain vitamins and they never find out for years. I hear that there are specialists in this such as naturopaths and if you find a good one, take their advice! I myself have tried various B vitamins, fish oil (which isn’t a vitamin but an oil), and others. Chronic dieting will cause deficiencies. I have heard Thiamine, zinc, Riboflavin, and others are helpful. Be careful, though, because overdosing on vitamins is possible! I’d say, “Ask your doctor,” but medical training doesn’t include this and chances are, your doctor will just shrug and say, “I don’t know. It can’t hurt” and little else. Integrative medicine practitioners, including MD’s, are more qualified in this area. Also, be careful mixing anything with any pills you take.
19) other things you find in a health food store or online – I have found fish oil helps with depression. I either take fish oil or eat fish regularly. I don’t suffer from depression anymore. I had high blood pressure from one of the pills I had to take. I used CoQ10 (I think that’s what it’s called) for a while, and it did bring my blood pressure down after nothing else worked. I tried chromium picolinate and it didn’t have any effect at all. I tried other trendy stuff (some ridiculously expensive) which did nothing. I tried 5-htp which did indeed help binge eating. It really worked! Don’t mix it with psych meds, especially antidepressants. Also, don’t stay on it for long periods. This goes for l-tryptophan and other single amino acids as well. I have heard l-tryptophan helps some people with sleep. Melotonin also. But neither of these did anything for me. Some swear by l-glutamine. I tried it and it did nothing for me. I found that pine nut oil was immensely helpful, but it can be expensive. Actually, other oils will do just as well, and have a similar effect, even olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Please don’t use unhealthy oils to prevent binge eating. I doubt they will be helpful. Don’t use anything you are allergic to. If you are allergic to tree nuts, stay away from oils from tree nuts, or oil blends that may contain tree nut products.
20) caffeine. Believe it or not, caffeine is amazingly helpful to me. For some, stopping caffeine will in fact cure them of binge eating. I find that for me, it’s quite the opposite. Caffeine does indeed stop binge eating for me. Caffeine can be habit forming so use common sense. I have never taken uppers such as Ritalin, and don’t want to do those drugs. A simple cup of coffee or pure unprocessed cacao can be amazing. Some swear by green tea but I cannot stand the taste. I wouldn’t recommend caffeine for everyone, only those who are certain they won’t overdo it. Don’t use caffeine if it interferes with sleep. Also, be aware of that caffeine will give you a lift for a while, then suddenly bottom out, just like sugar. Don’t use it like a diet pill.
21) Keeping a food journal. I would recommend this so long as it doesn’t cause obsession over record-keeping. Do it for yourself, not for someone else. It’s your body. Notice which foods cause what.
22) Getting rid of the scale. I tried that. Those were the years I became overweight, gaining over 100 pounds. Not knowing my weight was certainly not helpful. I believe I am adult enough by now, and I should know my body, including what it weighs and looks like. I don’t believe in the use of deception, ever, nor hiding facts.
23) Not eating “trigger foods.” I have found this helpful. However, don’t assume your trigger foods are junk food or sugar. I found that dairy makes me binge. I am still exploring this. If you see a naturopath or doctor who has awareness of these issues, you may find that you have food sensitivities that you never knew about. Eliminating these foods may solve the problem entirely. You won’t know till you try. At one point, ANY food, anything I tried to eat would set me off. But I got past that. Don’t keep known trigger foods lying around. After a while, you may be able to reintroduce them. Or maybe not.
24) Grocery shopping. This can be a pitfall. I found that if I went to certain stores, I’d be overwhelmed by the pretty packages, bright lighting, muzak, and “sales.” I found that the marketing alone was overwhelming, and even frightening. You may need to avoid such places for a while.
25) Getting away abusive or oppressive situations. This is an absolute must. If you are being abused or oppressed, please leave the situation. Sometimes, it takes stepping back and seeing your life for what it is to realize exactly what the oppression is.
24) Honesty – be honest with others and yourself. It’s a good idea overall to tell the truth. Only lie if you absolutely must for survival’s sake. If someone is threatening you or abusing you, you may need to hide the truth just to save yourself, or even lie. Let this be temporary. The exception. If you are around good people, you don’t need to lie anymore, but this doesn’t mean you have to reveal everything you think and feel. Use common sense.
25) Forced weigh-ins. These aren’t treatment and did nothing for me. I can’t believe the doctor charged my insurance just to weigh me. I was threatened repeatedly over my weight. I would say that forced weigh-ins are harmful to most people. Instead, weigh yourself at home and if challenged over it, be honest. If you have a doctor who refuses to trust you, find another doctor. Relationships should be based on trust. Go ahead, let the doctor weigh you occasionally. Keep ’em happy. But refuse regular forced weigh-ins. They won’t make you better.
26) tube feeding. I found tube feeding to be degrading. I also found it physically painful. During the time I was tube fed, I farted nonstop. It was physically painful to eat. The similarities between tube insertion and rape are striking. Especially if you have a “We’ll call security if you don’t” threat. Avoid being too influenced by immature patients who use the tube as status symbol. Eat instead. Remind yourself that you are saving your own life. You are in the driver’s seat. That, in fact, feels decent. Tube feeding, if not done properly, can cause medical complications such as refeeding syndrome, which is often fatal.
27) Being monitored while eating, or supervised meals. I think this can be helpful for some people. So long as it’s by choice and not forced. The people monitoring need to be respectful of you. If they aren’t, this monitoring can turn to abuse. Your partner can monitor you, or your parents or other family member. You may choose to eat with supportive friends. Try sharing food with others. Breaking bread together leads to meaningful relationships. Again, if the monitoring is forced or anything like policing, this is abuse, and never helpful. There’s a difference.
28) soup kitchens. Yes, I have heard amazing stories of people who go to soup kitchens. If you are poor you qualify. Some soup kitchens will allow anyone to eat there regardless of economic status. Go with an open mind and heart. I tried to do this but every time I went to the soup kitchen they were one of those that had discontinued or lost funding. I know people who regularly go to soup kitchens. It’s a good exercise in taking what you are given and being thankful you are alive.
29) Grow your own, fish, or hunt. Getting close to the land is most likely a good thing. Go to an apple orchard and pick apples. Go out and find wild herbs (be careful of allergens in the process). Climb a mountain and pick wild blueberries. Don’t go hiking without carrying food and water.
30) share your food with others, even your pets. This is something I do myself and I find it helpful. I share my food with Puzzle. She eats good food, people grade food. She and I don’t eat the same, but what I can share, I do. I put it in her dish and won’t let her eat off of plates. If it’s in her dish, she knows it’s for her. Know which foods aren’t good for your pet and don’t give them to him/her. Some pets are very sensitive. When switching your pet over to home cooked food, do so gradually. Ask your vet, too. You’ll be surprised at how much vets know about nutrition compared to how much MD’s know about human nutrition!
31) Service animals, emotional support animals, pets. Yes, yes, yes! Go for it. Animals are amazing. A service animal can remind you to eat, can help you in public situations such as grocery store shopping, and many other things.
32) Spirituality. People tend to go through phases with this. Certain times of our lives we may find spirituality helpful, often even lifesaving. Sometimes, our spiritual practices work for us, but other times, you may find you are without faith nor do spiritual practices hold much meaning for you. Allow for these variations and forgive yourself. Over time, change happens.
33) shock treatments. These didn’t help at all. They caused confusion and nearly ruined my life. Some people find them helpful but ask them again in a few weeks, and they are back to their usual depressed selves and they will tell you the treatments wore off or never really worked. They never helped my eating disorder at all. Not recommended.
34) Lobotomy. I don’t know. I’ve never had one.
35) stomach stapling. I have never had this done and never was that overweight. The people I know that had this are either dead or became rather ill from the surgery or its effects. It does help a person lose weight but these surgeries are done indiscriminately and the long term consequences aren’t really known. Ask around and ask people who had this done many years ago. It isn’t recommended for binge eaters that I know of. They’re supposed to screen for various things, but often, these doctors don’t, or people get around the screening by being dishonest. I have heard horror stories about this surgery. I suppose it works out okay for some people. But ten or 20 years down the road? I have no clue.
36) Diet pills. I have heard that Meridia has been used for binge eating with some success. I have never tried it. I took that Garcinia stuff and it gave me super bad hot flashes. I had a significant raise in body temperature for a short while till I figured out what was causing the fever. I stopped these pills and never took them again. I have stayed away from diet pills mainly because financially, they were too expensive for me to bother with. The ones I tried I used for binge eating, not to lose weight. It was NOT worth it because of the side effects and cost. Most didn’t stop binge eating.
37) Prayer. This didn’t work. I tried praying that the binge eating would go away. I tried many times. No way did it work at all. If it helps you, go ahead and do it. I believe it can be very powerful. I can’t say it helped my binge eating, though.
38) Yoga and meditation. I tried a yoga class and hated it. It’s not my thing. Some love it but I don’t like exercise classes. I find them degrading. Sitting around saying Om seemed stupid to me when I could be doing other things and spending my money on more fruitful endeavors. I knew someone who chanted and she taught me how. I hear it helps some people. It’s a form of meditation. I was shocked when I realized this person was actually addicted to chanting. I realized her addiction was destroying her, and not helping her as she thought. I hope she came to her senses. I do know many people who take time out of their day to meditate. Just don’t get addicted. I don’t know how common this addiction is.
I will stop here. I have listed many of the methods I have tried over the three and a half decades I went through binge eating. I hope this is helpful. Again, these were experimentation on myself, and your situation and experience may be different.
I want to say, first of all, that this incident occurred a long time ago. No need to worry about me. Rather well-intentioned people run across my blog, read stuff, and say, “Oh my god, I’ve got to DO SOMETHING or this girl is gonna die!” No, folks, this happened a long time ago and I am quite fine. Please, if this applies to you, READ THE DATE on the blog entry and don’t be so fast to call 911. And I sure wouldn’t call 911 based on a blog entry anyway. Anyone can write anything. How about picking up the phone and calling the person and ASKING if they are okay? Again, this occurred ages ago and I am fine. Also, what I am describing is a bit disgusting. Be forewarned.
So here’s what happened: I was in a store, and saw some nondescript whatever. I honestly thought, “Hmm, what interesting-looking food.” However, it wasn’t food. No way. But I bought it.
Now, it was rather clear to me that it wasn’t food on first bite. Hard as rocks. Inedible in every conceivable way. I had purchased 20 ounces of the stuff, that is, well over one pound. For those of you who think in kilograms, it’s 2.2 pounds per kilo to my knowledge. So Puzzle is 13-1/2 pounds, that would make her (getting out my calculator) just over 6 kg. She’s a little dog. So I had purchased a rather large bag of this nonfood item, about 1/2 kg. Hope I am calculating correctly on this.
I brought it home. As soon as I got it home I realized it wasn’t food. No way. It had sharp edges once I bit into it. Eeks! However, the “pica” in me said, “eat it.” The binge eater in me said, “eat the whole damn thing.” So there you had it.
Not only that, but I am physically unable to throw up. Never have had this ability. I was stuck with this stuff inside me and had no clue what to do. I’m not sure throwing it up would have been the best idea anyway. I could have punctured my esophagus, however, having no experience whatsoever, I’m unsure.
Now, if I were a little puppy dog, the answer would have been simple. My owner would have taken me to the very nice vet. The very nice vet would have done surgery and taken the nonfood item out, petted me, and said, “You are a very normal little puppy dog who has gotten into mischief. Don’t do it again, okay?” The bewildered little puppy dog would have no clue, and may or may not do it again.
However, as a human, I was terrified to show up at an ER. I risked permanent psychiatric imprisonment. Especially after I’d been horribly abused at Mount Auburn Hospital last summer! I wouldn’t go to any doctor or call one, no way! I would end up locked up. Labeled. Forcibly drugged. Even wrongfully called “danger to self” when what I have is an eating disorder and have begged for help for it for years. There is no such “help.” Only imprisonment and inhumane “care.” No nice vet.
So I would have to use my smarts and deal with this myself. Alone. Painfully alone. As usual.
I used my excellent memory. I remembered being a little girl. My mom used a rectal thermometer on me, as was per usual with kids back in the 1960s. My mom left the room only for a few minutes. I got curious. I pushed on the end of the thermometer. Oops! That thermometer went in too far. In came my mom and she was furious. I heard her call our pediatrician, Dr. Abelman. I begged her not to have Dr. Abelman come to our home, but she said he was coming to take that thermometer out of my butt.
I don’t know if he wore gloves and I don’t care. I had never left my parents’ bed where I lay. He pulled out shit in addition to, eventually, that glass thermometer, whole. Was I screaming? Of course!
So, there I was, with 20 oz of nonfood inside of me. I had to get it out without going to an ER and without telling anyone. I had to avoid a “doctor” or ER to stay away from psychiatric imprisonment, as I figured it.
I put on a glove. The glove broke. I tried another. That one broke, too. Geez. I said, “Fuck this. I can wash my hands later.” The whole procedure took not minutes, not hours, but several days.
Yes, days. It took days before everything was safely out. I had done surgery on myself. Taken debris safely out of my intestinal tract and as far as I know, there were no punctures.
Folks who binge eat in large quantities are at much higher risk for stomach rupture than medical science admits. I believe this is because of their flat out refusal to research binge eating. They insist on taking the psychiatric approach and emphasizing “guilt” instead of taking the nutritional approach to binge eating.
If “guilt” was the danger, then there would be no difference between a binge on one slice of bread and a 15,000-calorie binge. However, there is physical danger to the sufferer who partakes in an extremely large quantity binge. Medical science ignores this and focuses on “personality.” In fact, that’s crap. I think the personality of the examining doctors is at fault here. They just plain refuse to even look for the answers, and they don’t want to admit it. They lump us all together instead, categorize us, label us, when in fact, we’re all different.
I was glad when it was all over. Only a month previously, I had filmed a real binge, a food binge, of fair quantity. I stopped the camera before it was over. I still have that video, somewhere in my archives. I will make it public someday. No one will come after me. I do this for a reason. For us all. Because I hope someday to enlighten the public that folks do suffer quite a bit from this. I hope someday there is REAL research. It’s not just “fat people” nor the very thin (anorexic) who suffer. It’s people of all ages, male and female, of many shapes and sizes.
There are no answers, there is no “treatment,” and after 3 decades I’m physically sick every single day
That’s the reality of it. Back in 1980 or 1981, had I only done the right thing and gone to the acupuncturist in town instead of the mental health center, I would have been a lot better off.
What can I say? There was a fork in the road. I took the wrong path. It led me down a rocky road and I could not turn back. I got lost.
The road led me to a new town where I didn’t belong. I had to lie to get by and pretend I fit in, just to survive, just to stay afloat. I really had no choice because who I really was wasn’t accepted there. So I had to be someone else.
Let me explain. As a person with this bizarre thing “eating disorder,” which was unheard of in the early 1980’s, I walked into the mental health system and was told, “You have a trivial, nonexistent problem. Get lost.”
However, I was indeed suffering. So I went back and was again told, “You are making a mountain out of a molehill. You won’t die of an eating disorder, after all. Here’s your bill. If you can’t pay, give it to your rich parents.”
What was I to do? All the other patients were telling me how much they suffered from their depressions and bipolar and the like. So I went back to the clinic and told them I had depression. They didn’t buy it. Of course, by then, I was indeed rather depressed. I was depressed of course because it had by then been a couple of years and everyone was brushing me off and I was being treated with obvious antisemitism.
So I lied. Got myself into a hospital just so I could get onto medication. I figured meds were the answer. Problem was, they put me on the med of the day just cuz they couldn’t think of anything else to put me on: Thorazine. They had no diagnosis for me. They refused to believe I had an eating disorder cuz they knew nothing about eating disorders and refused to believe what I was saying all along, that I was scared I’d die from it.
Often, my eating was so out of control that I had nowhere to go and nothing I could do but to go running back to the hospital, which wasn’t an eating disorders hospital by any means, but the only place I could go. I’d lie and say I was “suicidal” just to get in. This went on not for months, not for years, but for over a decade.
At one point, a guy proposed marriage to me. This was in 1981 or 1982. My main consideration was this: If I marry him, will it stop my binge eating? I had no liking for the fellow at all. I was only desperate to stop the binge eating and that was all I cared about. I found out that he didn’t care about me, either. He wanted my family’s money. I dumped him.
I went into day programs hoping those programs would stop the binge eating, and they didn’t. There were no answers there. Those therapists that I hoped and prayed had answers had no answers at all. In fact, they knew nothing whatsoever about the condition. I found they actually were lying and winging their way through sessions. Kinda groping their way in the dark, working by guesswork, not anything based on science or knowledge. I realized they had no real understanding of what a binge even was! I quit in disgust.
What I’ve realized, over the decades, is that my own particular type of binge eating is relatively rare. There isn’t just one type of binge eating, there are many different types. What I also know is that the type I have is indeed potentially fatal on its own, that is, it will physically kill me at some point, not by making me fat, but the act of binge eating itself will at some point end my life.
I’m sick every single day. Each day has limited functional hours for me. One or two that I can even get anything done at all. You wonder why my house is a mess? Why I put off making phone calls, why I cannot seem to get this book written, why I say I’m gonna do something and never get it done? I have only a couple of hours a day of functional life, if that. Some days, none at all.
So, I live in poverty. My family doesn’t really give a shit. My two nephews and niece grew up without me. I got ostracized by the church I joined two years ago. I got abused in hospitals and by a couple of therapists real bad, and psychiatric medications caused permanent damage to my body, and have shortened my life. I have had near-death experiences.
Sometimes, I just stop eating. I seem to be good at that. So I starve myself. The whole world treated me rather crappy, so starvation has in the past been an excellent way to say “fuck you.” The world still treats me crappy. I can’t promise I won’t starve again, or that it isn’t an option, cuz it sure looks tempting right now.
I’m tired. All I want to do is lay in bed most of the time and hold onto my dog, the only one who understands and loves me, and won’t let me die.
Simple answer for binge eating: it’s not psychiatric at all, just suppress the appetite
I truly believe this. You don’t need hocus-pocus to stop binge eating. You can do it with simple appetite suppression. Anything that will suppress the appetite will work. Exercise would work, and in fact, does. The problem with exercise is that it must be titrated properly otherwise it can backfire in a very nasty way. For instance, if you exercise far too much, you’ll get injured. Exercise is generally a good idea but pick the kind of exercise that’s a good match for yourself. If you are a solitary person, try fishing, running or biking, and if you don’t like being alone, maybe try doing the kind of exercise that involves others, such as a doing something as a family, or class or team sports. And if you don’t like exercising, for godsakes, don’t. And don’t let anyone guilt-trip you over it.
Another way to suppress appetite is by changing the way you eat. Some people find that eating foods in a certain order will reduce appetite. All you need to do is to take a bit of edge off, not take hunger away entirely.
It’s absolute hogwash that eating at night as opposed to eating at other times will put excess weight on you. I have no idea where that idea got started. I don’t care when you eat, if it works for you, go for it! Some people like to eat at night and some don’t. I would highly suggest, though, if you are going to eat after dark, at least switch a light on so you can see what you are eating. That way, you won’t spill stuff.
Why do psychiatric meds work for binge eating? The reason is because these are the drugs that the docs have used on people because they have assumed that these problems are psychiatric.
There are many substances on the market that have not even gone through scientific trials because medicine won’t put the money into it. That’s because these substances aren’t pharmaceuticals and Big Pharma isn’t going to profit.
We do know already, and have known for over a decade, for instance, that for something like mood, fish oil is far more effective and safer than any antidepressant out there. Many psychiatrists are in fact well aware of this, but they continue to prescribe antidepressants for their patients.
All you have to do is to eat fish a few times a week or take a bunch of fish oil and you will pretty much beat depression. If you don’t believe me, try it and see. If you haven’t actually tried it yet then you don’t have much of an argument.
I personally found that if I eat fish at bedtime I will sleep better, but that’s just me.
However, when it comes to binge eating, again, you need something that will suppress the appetite. Try 5-HTP. I have heard that you cannot combine 5-HTP with any antidepressant, that it’s just not safe, and I’d say it’s not safe to combine it with Abilify either (due to its antidepressant effect) or any psych med. Please don’t take my word for it! However, 5-HTP has been shown to be absolutely amazing and I myself have had good results with it. Try taking a lower dose sublingually. You can expect it to kick in faster that way. I have asked various therapists and doctors about 5-HTP and the ones I’ve asked were clueless and hadn’t heard a thing. So I had to experiment on myself. I’ve been doing so since maybe last May or June.
Another thing I’ve tried and had very good results with was pine nut oil. This comes in various forms. You can buy gelcaps of it or liquid bottles of it that last forever. I have searched endlessly for bad side effects that may result from this and I have never come up with anything. I suppose maybe if it didn’t work for you, you’d have wasted money, and that would be a side effect of an unwanted bill, but that’s the only thing I can think of. I’m guessing you’ll pay $40 for a bottle that might last a year.
Some people use “uppers” and various diet pill type drugs to suppress appetite, but these are addicting and it seems that these are also far too mind-altering. I’ve seen folks get messed up on speed. I’ve heard that if you stop cold turkey you end up with a headache at best, but you can end up with far worse consequences. I’ve heard that people can crash off of these, too, and become extremely depressed, even suicidal. Some folks are even sensitive to coffee and I would say proceed with extreme caution with anything stimulating, including antidepressants.
The only reason lithium worked for me to stop binge eating for many years, of course, was due to the fact that it probably made me a little nauseous and therefore suppressed my appetite, even after one pill. After I began taking it, I immediately stopped binge eating and didn’t binge for a number of years. I was quite happy about this and resumed normal life. So everyone assumed, never understanding anything about my secret eating disorder, that I’d been bipolar all along. Wrong-o. Then they wondered why I lost weight on lithium instead of gaining weight. They just weren’t accustomed to seeing me a tiny bit thinner. It was all such a huge misunderstanding that I was never able to clear up.
Funny, I honestly didn’t care that I had this extra incorrect “diagnosis” of schizoafffective hanging around. I suppose I didn’t care until I wanted to actually do something with my life and they claimed I was mentally incapacitated, jolted me with voltage, and sent me into a whirlwind. Whoa, baby, watch out. I’m electric. I’m a burning, raging fire nowadays, and I’m having a blast.
First of all, my views on this are highly unconventional and probably controversial. Much of what I’m talking about has hardly been discussed or researched. You won’t find this in the DSM-5 or any DSM and most shrinks, even “eating disorders specialists” don’t know this stuff. Why? They have never experienced massive binge eating themselves.
Secondly, some of what I am saying won’t apply to certain populations. If you vomit afterward, none of this applies. I’m only talking about what happens if you don’t vomit. Also, if you are diabetic and are insulin-dependent or have other serious medical conditions and you experience a binge, then what I’m saying here about what happens following a binge may or may not be true for you PLUS you may also have further serious medical complications not listed here. Consumption of alcohol or drugs will also complicate matters.
If you are reading this and are in medical danger, don’t even read further. Get help. I do know a binge can be serious. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t, or trivialize it.
Now, that saying…I disagree with the DSM! Why? The DSM does us a great disservice by classifying all binge eating into one lump diagnosis category. So what happens is that there are all different kinds of binge eating, and it’s all lumped together as the same “diagnosis.”
I have been talking to so many people who suffer from this or have suffered from it. Some people binge primarily on sugary foods. Many of these folks discover that their binge eating is addiction-like and some of these folks benefit from eliminating concentrated sugars or certain types of dessert foods, even certain breads.
Others binge on anything, it doesn’t have to necessarily be sugar. I have heard that some binge on primarily protein foods or salty foods.
I do believe that binge eating is a physical disorder that is generally nutritionally based. It could be hormonally-influenced or even caused by seizures. And of course, any drug, whether prescribed or not, can cause binge eating, including marijuana. I have heard, also, that certain physical ailments, such as Lyme Disease, can cause binge eating or symptoms that mimic eating disorders of all types.
Back in the 1980’s, I read all the literature about what to do if you find yourself overeating when you are feeling blue. Or when mindlessly eating in front of the TV, or bored. Or if you went out and ate junk food when your boyfriend dumped you. I found that none of this literature applied to me, nor was it helpful. In fact, I found the “poor coping” theories insulting to say the least. These people who touted “better coping” had no clue what I was going through.
See, the DSM may talk about binge eating disorder but makes no distinction between the following: 1) There are those that eat a few candy bars, or a few pieces of pizza, and then call that a binge. They feel horribly guilty afterward and maybe have a tummy ache from the candy for an hour or two. Maybe they gain weight, cuz it is, in fact, too much to eat. Or maybe they don’t.
2) Others massively binge eat. I’m talking about huge quantities, like 10,000-15,000 calories. I have rarely actually counted the number of calories in any of my massive binges, but I know the quantity was around that much. I have heard that 15,000 was the most anyone can humanly stuff in, but I’m not sure that’s accurate…and over what period of time? Anyway, that number sticks in my head.
What I am saying is this: The medical profession is lumping us all together. So if someone complains of binge eating, and in fact, they’re doing mini-binges (sorry, but a few candy bars isn’t a binge in my eyes) what happens is that the medical profession and these specialists think the main problem is guilt. So they think, “Hey, they’re neurotics! These gals make a mountain out of a molehill.” That’s why those of us who massively binge get poo-pooed at the treatment centers and in doctor’s offices, and we end up wondering why.
I do think massive binge eating is indeed serious. Now, I’ll talk about what happens to a person AFTER eating those thousands and thousands of calories AND not throwing them up.
This is my own experience. I’m writing this out in second person, however, for whatever reason.
Something stops you from eating. Maybe you just can’t fit in anything else. Maybe you start to choke or the food won’t go down anymore or it seems to be filling up right up into your throat. Or you run out of food.
You are at risk for stomach rupture. This has indeed happened to people and personally, I’m positive it happens far more often than medical science is willing to admit. Rarely does a person survive if their stomach ruptures. I believe that it has occurred and not been documented because without an autopsy, the person’s death may be documented as a heart attack or other cause.
I have heard that you should never, ever take Alka Seltzer or bicarbonate of soda, also called baking soda, following a massive binge. These will increase your risk of stomach rupture. I don’t know if this is true but that’s what I’ve heard. I remember from childhood my mom used to tell us to take baking soda for a stomach ache, but I’m sure glad I never took it after a binge.
You feel sedation. This hits hard. Like you have taken a very strong sleeping pill that kicks in fast. (I’ve actually passed out, but not really fainted, simply collapsed to the floor. It hasn’t happened too often. Usually, I have the good sense to lie down before I’m out cold.)
If you sleep, you sleep deeply despite the fact that you’ve got all that food in you. How long? It varies.
Your stomach is huge. Probably it is larger than it would be if you were pregnant. Unlike pregnancy, there is expansion all around, not just in front, although I think this varies from person to person. It will stay that way for a long, long time. If you binge Sunday night, your stomach will be huge all day Monday and most likely into Tuesday as well.
You may notice swelling in other parts of your body, including your face, arms, hands, legs, ankles, anywhere.
I can see why many people are tempted to abuse laxatives, because these speed up the digestive process. It means the huge tummy won’t be around as long. However, if you have diarrhea, either induced or it just happens, here’s what to expect:
Your stomach gets extremely bloated and uncomfortable for a long time prior to the diarrhea. So it will actually be larger for a while. Your stomach will growl like mad. You may experience a lot of abdominal pain that lasts for hours, including cramping. The swelling in other parts of your body, such as your ankles or thighs may worsen. You will most likely have to defecate rather suddenly, and if there’s no bathroom around, you might leak. If you are stuck sharing a bathroom or using a public bathroom, you might go through a bit of embarrassment. I’m not going to go on and on about the warnings about laxative abuse cuz you’ve already heard them. I do know of people who have died or have permanent damage. It’s far from rare.
Another thing that happens is that your body gets revved at some point. Your heart pounds, you sweat, and you feel very hot. Some people have reported a raised blood pressure and pulse, and even raised body temperature. It sounds like what physically happens to the body when you are exercising, or when you feel afraid. However, these sensations are more a nuisance than anything else. You aren’t likely to be able to sleep while your body is revved like this.
An acupuncturist explained to me why this happens. It’s because your digestion is working on overtime. It’s working extra hard. It’s got a huge amount of food to process and it’s not designed for a “meal” that large. It’s going to take extra time, too, to process all of it.
You may or may not experience gassy emissions, such as burping or flatulence. The burps may contain stomach acid or even bits of the food you ate, or have a sour taste, or taste somewhat like what you binged on. This will affect your breath odor. Flatulence may be uncontrolled and may be in a large quantity.
Now what do these “experts” tell us? First of all, they assume we all go out jogging after a binge, or just feel guilty and otherwise go about our normal days. Given the above, clearly these “experts” have no clue what a person goes through physically following a binge.
Most “experts” will tell you to go right back on your meal plan, that is, if you binge Saturday afternoon, just eat dinner as usual. Oh, really?
As for those of you who do these mini-binges and call what you have binge eating disorder, maybe you need to realize that guilt won’t hurt you. It’s a feeling. Yes, it’s real, but you’re not in physical pain due to guilt. Guilty feelings don’t mean you will be punished, fined, jailed, or reprimanded. Guilty feelings don’t mean some St. Peter will choose Hell for you. It’s a feeling and it passes. Once you realize this, the “moral issue” of these mini-binges is wiped out. Do go right back on your meal plan, if you choose to use one, and you’re likely to be fine. You won’t even gain weight.
These “experts” have clearly never experienced massive binge eating themselves. If you try to eat again following a massive binge, YOU CAN’T! You might try, but you aren’t even capable of putting anything into your mouth for a long time after a binge. Your stomach turns when you try to eat. You may even have trouble getting liquids in for a long time, and as a result, suffer dehydration. You’re just too sick.
The experts assume some of us jog off the calories. For those who do those mini-binges, this is probably applicable. However, following a massive binge, you cannot even comfortably sit in a chair, you cannot walk, you cannot stand up. Absolutely no position is tolerable. Probably lying down is the only thing you can do, but it’s far from comfortable. If you try to concentrate on a task, you find that you cannot do so. You’re in too much pain. This can go on for a whole day following the binge. If you try to eat, you feel worse.
I’m going to address something else that’s concerning to me. People have reported to me binge eating over and over in succession, or having too many binges very close together in time. This has happened to me, too.
I’ve been going through this for over three decades. I can tell you one thing: I’ve been in the situation where I was binge eating over and over and my stomach never had a chance to return to a tolerable state of comfort before the next binge. I remember gaining weight very rapidly during those periods and I felt extremely sick.
This is truly critical. There’s no way your body can process all the food you’re putting into it. You must do something to make it stop.
The times I was in this situation, I recall desperately trying to get help, and literally getting laughed at by doctors. I had no clue what to do. The hospitals didn’t take it seriously, either. Nowadays, many still don’t, but some do.
I saw the hospital as a way to stop it, but since “I can’t stop bingeing” would never get taken seriously, I had to lie my way into the hospital. I assumed the hospital was the answer. Get myself locked up so I won’t binge. I had to say I was suicidal so that they’d take me seriously and maybe admit me. This went on for years, sadly. I wish there had been some other way. I wonder what other things I could have done instead of subjecting myself to all that lockup.
I have tried to tell doctors about all this stuff, about the sedation, the sweating, the farts, everything. No one has ever taken the time to listen except that one acupuncturist I had quite a while back. That’s why I’m documenting it here.
Take care you guys.