Monday, August 18, 2014

Binging and Fixing the Mind, Body, Food Connection

"Ok I've gotta eat strict, have to eat clean. Nothing processed, no junk, nothing high fat high carb can touch my lips..... except maybe I'll have the one cookie. DANG IT. Well I've gone and screwed it all up. I'm just going to finish the whole box."

"80% Diet, 20% Gym? Ok I guess that's how it works! But mannn.... I just ate 10 oreos.. so my diet portion is messed up. Well I guess I messed up my day anyways, a workout isn't going to help anything, so I'm not gonna work out today."

How many times have you ever had these thoughts, or similar runs, running through your head?

Don't you wish you could just Eat when you're hungry and just STOP when you're full or satisfied? Why do we feel the need to just STUFF STUFF STUFF when we're not even hungry?

Here's a timeline of my Strict Eat Clean/Restriction to Binging to Restricting again to Binging to IIFYM to Binging to Intuitive Eating + No More Binging:

  • Summer 2012: Strict Clean Eater, Low Carb, 700 calories a day, 2 hour workouts a day. Killing myself, not just physically but mentally as well. Couldn't do any activity without feeling weak, tired, lethargic. I couldn't see that I was slowly withering away, making myself weaker and weaker. My family talked with me about what was happening, and so By the end of the Summer, I started to increase my food and try to get to a higher weight.
  • Fall 2012: Hired a personal trainer who put me on a restricted meal plan, same foods every day, 1000 calories with intense weight training sessions that burned 600+ calories every day. With the restriction of the summer and the restriction of the workout plan, my mind couldn't take it anymore. "Why are you taking everything away from this body? Why are you putting me through so much stress?!" And that's when I just let go. Started having treats here and there, the temptations of being a sophomore in college didn't help, with all my friends eating their delicious "naughty" foods and not caring at all about the calories, macros, how "fattening" it all was, because at that time, I thought any "bad" food would immediately cause me to blow up. Which I now know is not the case, but I will talk more about that later. I started with eating some cookies, to eating the whole box. From eating a peanut butter sandwich, to eating the whole loaf and a jar. From eating a slice of Pumpkin Pie to eating 3/4 of it on Thanksgiving. It was a terrible time. If anyone's experienced binging, you know it's a dark place. You have no control, you just want to eat. I think my body was just fed up with being deprived for so long, that it got a taste of the good stuff and said:
"OMG what is this fantastic stuff?! I haven't had this in FOREVER. So might as well indulge, get it all in, before this crazy girl cuts it off again! It's so new and yummy and I have to eat it all before it goes away again!"  

I swear.... my mind actually thought that, and of course whatever the mind believes, the body falls in line. 
  • Fall 2012 - January 2013: Binging continued. Kept saying I'd start over, start clean, but then would fall right back into place. Over break, I would eat til I was stuffed all the time. Came back to school feeling like a bloated whale and I couldn't stand it. Again I said, "this time is different. I'm going to stick to a plan, get fit, get healthy, get to my goals". Maybe I'd last a few days of "being clean", but then fall right back into the vicious cycle of binging again.
  • February 2013: Decided to buckle down and prep for my first Bikini Competition. I thought, "HEY, if I can force myself through this discipline, I can conquer my eating and can do ANYTHING!" Probably the worst possible decision I could make at that time.... still mentally weak, still vulnerable, thinking that restricting FURTHER would help me gain control in the long run? PSHHH. That obviously didn't work. I did have a FANTASTIC coach though, I just wish I had been stronger for him mentally to see it through. He first introduced me to macros, getting a set number of protein, carbs, fat, and fitting my food intake for the day to fit those numbers. Check out my past posts on IIFYM to read more about that. He never had me on too low cals or deprived carb macros. But simply the IDEA of being restricted got to me, and of course, I backed out of the competition because I couldn't stick to the eating portion of the plan. I felt defeated, weak, like a quitter.
  • March 2013 - May 2013: Finished out my Sophomore year miserable. Continued down the spiraling path and cycle of clean vs binge. I couldn't control myself and I hated it. I knew I needed to make a change, but of course I kept looking for the quick easy ways. Tried to do low  carb, tried to do Keto (high fat and protein, low carb), tried to do clean, of course all ending back to square 1. I thought I'd never get out of it.
  • May - July 2013: I lived back with my family for the summer, ate their delicious food, didn't workout as much. Was just fed up with the lifestyle of trying so hard and just failing. I wanted to quit honestly. During this time I just ate on their schedule, started to not binge as much, I think my body was like "Ok, we got all the good stuff. It's not as exciting anymore, so we can chill." I realized the less I cared about "dieting", the less my body cared about binging. I didn't have a thought anymore about restricting, and I let myself eat freely. I began to eat like a "normal" person again. Sure, maybe some of my portions were too big or I snacked a little more, but I definitely didn't binge as much. I started listening to my body, feeling its cues of hunger. I wasn't perfect, but I wasn't stuffing cookies down my throat in the wee hours of the night to satisfy my crazy cravings.
  • July - August 2013: I realized I still had goals to reach. I was at a good place... hadn't binged for a few months, but still wasn't happy with where I was at. I looked up IIFYM, hired a trainer who gave me macros to follow, and I started doing that. I have to tell you, IIFYM did save me. I felt free to eat what I wanted, while still getting to my goals. Read all about THAT HERE. But of course... nothing lasts. 
  • Fall 2013: When I went back to school for Junior Year, of course all the temptation of friends, partying, socializing, FOOD, treats, got to me. IIFYM was difficult in the college environment. I was tired of having people wait on me to eat because I had to weigh my food. I was tired of having to sneak my phone at dinner to check My Fitness Pal to see how the macros were on the restaurant's dishes. I was tired of being stuck and controlled by numbers. So guess what? BAM you guessed it... THAT kind of mental restriction caused me to bounce back AGAIN. I ate, and thankfully it wasn't as bad compared to my past binging episodes, but I did start to overeat again. Not to mention I started seeing this guy, my current boyfriend, and with that comes dates, and food, and movie nights with popcorn, etc. I thought to myself,
"Come on, SERIOUSLY?! You were doing so well Josie, I can't believe you're back in this mess again. This cycle of binge, stop, overeat, stop, etc. WHY is this happening?! Why can't you just control yourself?!"
  • I seriously thought that IIFYM would've fixed all my issues... but it didn't. The thought of being restricted... even though IIFYM is awesome in the way that you can fit WHAT YOU WANT as long as it fits your macro numbers.... I still felt restricted due to an app on my phone, a food scale in my kitchen, and macro numbers dictating what I could eat. But following these numbers caused me to sometimes eat when I wasn't hungry in order to fit the numbers, or eat too little when I was super hungry that day because once you hit those numbers, you were done for the day. Again, came the thoughts of "Oh I already messed up my macros, so who cares, go crazy"  or "Man, I went over on ___ macros, so I'm just going to quit for the day". It was that black and white mentality.
  • Winter 2013: For winter vacation my family and I went on a cruise, and of course with that came the delicious nom-tastic foods. While I was on the cruise, I read the book: Intuitive Eating and it was a life changer. What is Intuitive Eating?
"Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body--where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.   It's also a process of making peace with food---so that you no longer have constant "food worry" thoughts.  It's knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as "bad" or "fattening”. "

The things I read in that book seriously opened my eyes to WHY I've had a horrible mind-body-food connection, why I was in the cycle of diet/binging, and HOW I needed to stop. I seriously do recommend anyone with any sort of dieting problems or eating disorders to read this book. There are so many good tips and material that I couldn't even sum it all up if I tried. The basics of it: STOP DIETING. STOP RESTRICTING. STOP SAYING NO TO YOUR BODY'S INTUITIVE CUES. The more we deprive our bodies of what it wants, the more it'll lash out against us. The more we believe food is black and white, clean vs dirty, the more our body is going to be confused. Let me just say this right here right now:


Being in a surplus of calories will add fat, being in a deficit will lose fat. Eating one candy bar will not cause you to gain 4 pounds of fat. Maybe eating 40 candy bars will. It's not about the food, it's about the QUANTITY. With that said, of course we want to fill our body with NUTRIENT DENSE AND ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS, but just saying, eating a candy bar won't kill you. I made myself believe that a cookie was the worst food in the world, and because I consumed one, then hey why not, might as well just eat them all because they're all the same "horrible fattening foods" as that one cookie I ate. Now that I'm focusing more on the AMOUNT, eating 1 candy bar isn't going to kill me. I simply move on after I've had my treat!
  • Spring - May 2014: I worked on my mind-body-food connection. I said no to macros, to counting calories, to counting anything and restricting anything. I worked on being social with friends, doing well in school, being with my boyfriend, and didn't focus too much on being strict with my foods. I relaxed, I lived, I took a breath and looked at life and saw that it's not about being OBSESSED with foods or OBSESSED with fitness. It's about balance. Balancing the lifestyle you've chosen. Working out when you can, because you want to, not because you're forced to. Eating what you want when you're hungry, and stopping when satisfied. Eating a salad when you WANT to, not because you HAVE to or are FORCED to. Eating some candy when you're craving, because if you don't then you KNOW you'll end up going back later and eating the whole box. I realized after a few months of eating this way and living this way, my body wasn't craving Binges anymore. There was simply no more NEED to. I wasn't restricting, I wasn't telling myself I had to not eat this and had to only eat this. The foods I loved weren't a "new and exciting food that I had to scarf down" anymore. My body got used to eating the foods I loved everyday, so it was like, 
"OK, that plate was YUMMAYY, but you can have more tomorrow! So we're full now! NICE!"
  • Summer 2014 (Current): I've been living at home with the family, eating intuitively still. NOT restricting, not "dieting", working out most mornings, and if I miss one, it's not the end of the world. Of course I do have urges to go back to counting and back to IIFYM because I reached my ideal body type when I was on it, but then I think about all the pain and hurt that came after it and after restricting, and I said, no, it's really NOT worth it. So I continue every day to be an intuitive eater, listen to my body, and still work hard to achieve my goals. Yes, some days I still overeat, some days I'm not my best, but I can honestly say I can't remember the last time I've had a huge binging episode. And I'm SO SO SO happpy that I can say that. It's a terrible thing, a terrible feeling, the scary black hole that it puts you in, but to come out and leave it behind you, it's amazing. And if any of you are struggling with this same thing, DON'T WORRY. YOU WILL GET THROUGH. I used to think I'd NEVER be able to stop. That I was stuck with it. With all the yo-yoing and back and forth, that I'd grow up, grow old, and pass on with this problem. But No, it stops. It ends. You just have to make the effort to fix your mind-body-food relationship. And you CAN.

 Tips I've Learned:

  • Give into your craving: if you're feeling like a bag of chips or some cookies, EAT IT. Don't try to eat other things in its place to fill the hunger/craving. If you want a cookie, EAT it! Don't eat celery instead. Because you know what will happen? YOU'RE STILL GOING TO CRAVE IT AFTER YOU STUFF YOUR BODY WITH "FILLER FOODS" IN ORDER TO AVOID THAT CRAVING! And then you're going to go back anyway and eat more cookies than you would have eaten if you had just listened to your body in the first place and intuitively eaten that one cookie.
  • Get rid of black and white:
    I know I was stuck in this style of thinking too. Too many diets messed up with my head, giving me rules to follow and guideline to live by. With one misstep in the wrong "diet" direction, I was saying those exact words at the beginning of this blog post.
    Well, I've snapped out of it. Trust me, it wasn't over night. It took me a long time to battle the "Clean vs Dirty" and "On Point Diet vs Binging". Every time I messed up, you'd find me in the kitchen scarfing down whatever forbidden foods I had hidden away. If I missed a workout for the day, I'd continue to be lazy and gluttonous because I had already messed up, so what's the point right? WRONG. EVERY LITTLE THING you do matters. I don't care if you had a hotdog or an oreo or a cookie. YOU KEEP MOVING ON. Don't let slip up dictate the rest of your day. You have the power to change your route, to move in the direction you need to go in. To simply say, "Ok. So I had ___, but now I'm still going to treat this day as if it were every other day and kick butt in the gym and in the kitchen".
  • Balance your foods: So I know I said I don't restrict, and I DON'T, but I'm still aware of what I'm eating. If I've eating not so nutrient dense foods (sweets, goodies of that sort), I still make sure I get all my greens and nutrient rich foods in as well. I have my power smoothie in the beginning of the day, and fill my foods with lots of greens and healthy fats and complex carbs, and then I also get to have my fun simple carbs like candy too. I never let 1 day go FULLY "naughty" foods, and every day I do let myself indulge in some kind of treats. Also, if my day has been Carb Heavy (like lots of rice or pastas or breads), I'll try to balance it out by not eating too many carbs at night. Same goes for fats as well. Protein, I always keep that high! Want to keep all the lean muscle I can. Again, this isn't necessarily RESTRICTING by balancing out my carbs and fats and "naughty vs nice" foods, it's just being aware of what I've eaten that day and finding ways to balance it out.
  • Eat Slowly: you'll be surprised that if you eat slowly, you can actually be more in tune with intuitive eating. It takes time for your stomach to feel full or satisfied, so give it time before scarfing down too much food too fast!
  • Get Rid of Triggers: if you KNOW that a certain food will trigger binges for you, then get rid of it! Or if you know that having a full plate stacked high will trigger you because you're used to finishing a whole plate at meals, then make your portion smaller. Don't tempt yourself if you know it'll end badly.
  • Read and Research: I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't read Intuitive Eating. Get to researching, expand your knowledge on how to fix your problems. There are lots of help books out there about food-body relationships! Another good book I've heard about but haven't gotten to finish is Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat
  • Let People Know: It's difficult going through this on your own. I spent my whole sophomore year with this, alone, struggling to find support, and it was miserable. This year, I've let my family know, I let my boyfriend and roommates know, and they've been so supportive with advice, with watching me to see if I'll rebound. Having a support system is always great!
  • Do it because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. Once you put it in your head that this is a task, or that you HAVE to do this, do a workout you hate because you have to, eat foods you hate because you have to, then of course you'll rebel. Find exercises you enjoy. Find recipes that will taste good and be good for you. Don't torture yourself through this lifestyle.
  • You don't have to think about quality all the time; sometimes it's about the quantity. I had said earlier in this post that there is not one fattening food that will cause you to blow up. You can have that candy bar and be fine, or those cookies and be okay. Just be aware of the AMOUNT. I'll allow myself to have a candy bar or a few cookies, but now I no longer stuff them down to get all I can get. Now I know that a day isn't over because I've had 1 or 2 cookies or chips or whatever, but I do still keep in mind that eating SURPLUS of those things will not be very good. So don't ditch the day because you had a little screw up. Just continue on. Just get enough for the taste and satisfaction of it!
    • **Note: I'm not saying it's always going to be quantity over quality, of course don't neglect getting in your nutrient dense foods! I just say this to emphasize that eating a not-so-nutrient-dense food isn't the end of the world or your "diet". 
  • No Restrictions: Trust me, after you intuitively eat for a while, get your body used to having treats every now and then, you won't crave them as often! No foods should be in the danger zone, or restricted or banned forever. You won't crave things that you have access to all the time. So don't give yourself limits. Yes, have guidelines as to what you should eat, but never put foods in the off limits category, or you'll just crave them more in the end.
I think that's all I have for you now, but I hope it's helped. If I think of more tips down the line, I'll be sure to post about it on Instagram, or Twitter, or here on my blog!

Thank you so much for all the support during my journey, and if you're fighting the same fight that I did, you CAN get through this.

<3 Josie


  1. Story of my life right there. Thanks so much for posting- I wish more people would talk about what works for them. My problem is when I give into a craving- that leads to a binge-how did you start "giving in" and preventing that negative cycle the first time?

    1. It definitely is the hardest thing to do: stop once you've already started.
      But I think of it like this:
      get rid of the "eat it all now because I'll never have it again" --> i can have these few pieces and it won't hinder my progress, and then i can have more tomorrow.
      think of the numbers --> "i have have this 1 cookie or few pieces now, and it won't hinder my progress, but if i have the whole shabang, all that i've worked SO hard for is going down the toilet". i've yoyoed so many times and so SICK of starting over. that's what pushes me!
      find something that'll motivate you! or give yourself a time out from the kitchen. like - in 30 minutes if i'm still craving, i'll come back and have a piece. then put the rest of the box away! keep temptation away if that helps too!

  2. Thank you, so much, for posting this. I've been struggling with binge eating for more years than I can remember, going through all sorts of similar cycles. I did so well on IIFYM for a long time, but then had one slip and I felt like I didn't stop bingeing for months! I'm reading a book "how to have your cake and your skinny jeans too" and it preaches a similar thing. The author calls it "Hunger Directed Eating" and it's eating what you want, but only when you're hungry. No restricting, no "good" or "bad" foods, as I refer to them. You eat whatever, and stop when you're not hungry. I've been doing it for about a week now and I'm out of what she calls the "doritos and donuts phase" where you eat lots of foods that were off limits for so long. Not a single binge, and today I'm finally craving good, healthy, nutrient rich food. It's so amazing! And, in a weird way, it's comforting to know that whatever I eat is still gonna be there tomorrow, so there's no need to stuff myself to capacity at any meal, because, if I want, I can have more tomorrow.
    You are so inspiring, and reading this was like reading something written about me. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone, and to see that recovery is possible is the greatest feeling in the world.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    1. Aww girlie i'm so glad it helped! Ooh I haven't heard of that book before! I'm definitely going to go buy it asap! :)
      I'm so glad that you've gotten yourself out of the terrible cycle and no DOUBT you're coming back stronger than ever!

      Much love! <3

  3. Hi Josei! Thank you so much for posting this. This could be my story, too. I almost cry when I read it! I've struggled with binge eating for 3 years now. I've lived all those phases of dieting, and the result was always becoming fatter and sadder. Right now I've managed to stop de binging as I used to (you know: a box of cookies, a huge chocolate bar, then a box of cereal, then some nutella, then an entire pizza and then cry to my sleep). But I still cannot control myself at night with sweets like cookies and chocolate. I ALWAYS overeat at night after dinner, and I don't know how to stop it. I mean, now I know it is a good thing to have a treat if I want it... But how about a lot of treats? And then going to sleep thinking I am useless and that I will never be fit. Anyways, I really appreciate that you shared your experience, now I am sure I'm not the only one that knows an strict diet is dangerous for our minds. We are surrounded by fit girls in instagram that only eat chicken, broccoli and oats. Those are unrealistic goals! And we punish ourselves because we are not like that... Thank you again for being different and a huge inspiration. Please, if you can give me some tips on how to stop the overeating at night for "dessert", I would appreciate it.

    1. Aww girl you can do it! it's soooo tough but definitely doable.
      Are you restricting your dinner to try and make up for your setbacks?
      DON'T! Eat a FULFILLING FULL SATISFYING DINNER! Add some sweet things in there to satisfy your tastebuds, like some baked sweet potato or some pasta, get that "sugar" craving before it hits BAD at the nighttime desserts!

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  5. thank you so much for posting! as a bikini competitor i see this behavior lots. during my first prep i went through a binge and starve cycle because my coach had me on 500 calories a day, with crazy amounts of cardio. i have now found an amazing coach who is all about balance, and it has made all the difference!

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  7. Im suffering through this right now.. I feel like I follow so many fitness instagrams and read so much and it's honestly all messing with my head. Some pages talk about IIFYM so much so I almost gave in to that, than its flexible eating, than Keto diet and I just keep going in circles in my head. I don't know which is right for me. I am a vegetarian and Indian so its difficult to find a balance with indian cooking being so different than what all these fitness pages discuss. We eat different foods (COMPLETELY different) so it's hard to find that balance. I started judging my friends for eating fat foods and than my parents...I feel like I've become so difficult on myself for trying to have a nice body. But in reality, I am not happy. My body is become so much better in the last 10 months that I started working out/ kickboxing/lifting/pilates but it's a battle every damn week.. I don't socialize much or go out too much anymore with the fear of missing a gym day and than having to take a few steps back. I just don't know what to do anymore.. and I probably binge 1-2 meals a week and it's bad, i eat and eat and can't tell if Im full or hungry so I'll continue and than i'll have a purging spree.. than it's back in circles again. Struggling with ED is so difficult and scary. I need to find this book and learn to love myself and my body more. Some days i do so well and feel like I know what to give my body, other days, i'm killing myself..

  8. It's nice to see that I am not alone Josie. You remind me so much of myself.. I just had the most disgusting breakfast ever (which started of healthy with eggs and spinach) and than i didn't know what i was craving so I gave into cookies and a whole bunch (WTH?) my instagram is Shwetsxo and I commented a few times on yours last night and I am so inspired by your battle and struggle and overcoming it, I would kill to reach where you are.

  9. i'm 15 years old, currently a freshmen in high school :) i began losing weight during 7th grade when i was at my highest weight of 114 pounds at 5'3''. i was constantly having a battle with myself about food and exercise and then i finally made up my mind and started a food journal and started restricting myself. i lost 16 pounds and i kept that weight throughout 8th grade and halfway through 9th. I was in cross country during the fall of 9th grade and that helped me maintain weight, but after it ended i crashed and i began binging and gainign weight and before i knew it i gained it all back. all 16 pounds and now i'm back to 110-114 lbs. i'm currently trying out new eating habits but the bingeing and craving never stop. i'm a work in progress but your article really inspired me to motivate myself to not eat the ENTIRE box or huge servings, but eat moderately and listen to my body

  10. I am trying to get over binging now. I always think in terms of the food's calories, and it is so annoying. I really just want to stop thinking about food all the time and making it my top priority in life. I think what you have shared with your experience in gaining control will definitely help me in my journey to happiness. Thank you :)

  11. Josie, you're so amazing and you have been a great tangible encouragement because you have gone through a lot of struggles that I have, but you are so strong and perseverant because you pushed through til the end! I am trying intuitive eating to get out of the orthorexic and restrict/binge mindset, and making healthy decisions because I want to, not because I have to. It's amazing, and I am so glad you shared all that you did. Thank you!