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This may be a strange discussion to be posting on the internet, but I am reaching a point of desperation and don't have the resources to seek private help, so I am reaching out to a community that I hope will be supportive and offer a helping hand. I read this blog everyday I have found it to be such a helpful source health education (and enjoyment- thank you Alicia). I have been a healthy vegan for over two years, the person in my group of friends who always gets asked all the questions about what to eat when your sick or when you just want a feel good recipe. But for the past couple months I have been cultivating a very dangerous habit that is wearing on my mental well-being. I can't stop thinking about food and have started binge eating, often coming home from work and eating a bag of chocolate chips (organic vegan ones... but still, not good) and half a jar of peanut butter... staying up for hours moving on from one thing to the next, and I can't stop. Even as I am thinking, "Please stop this, please stop," and thinking, you know this is wrong and unhealthy, so just STOP, I can't. I have never experienced anything like this before. I feel so powerless. It seems so simple, but I try so hard, but there is a part of me that doesn't want to stop, that wants to see how far I can push it. To my friends and family, I seem fine, meaning, I am naturally thin and happy, but no one knows what I am doing at night. And I am starting to see myself gaining weight and breaking out ( of course I would be, with the sheer amount of sugar and fat I am consuming). This seems so trivial in the grand scheme of things, but I feel so awful and overwhelmed by this problem. Am I alone in this? Has anyone on this site dealt with this? Am I ridiculous? I want to stop so I can focus on being a positive force in the world, but food, something I used to be able to enjoy, has become an obsession. Any advice or support would be so appreciated...
I want to commend you on being so open and honest with not only this forum, but yourself for that matter. A lot of time binge eaters are in denial about what they are doing and sometimes won't even admit to themselves that what they are doing is terribly wrong. First of all I want to start with telling you that binge eating is an addiction and a disorder--it is a form of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are both mental and physical. I know because I used to have one. They are very painful and difficult to deal with and recovery can be a long process. It is possible to get over it alone but often times those suffering gain assistance from outside sources like nutritional and psychological counseling.
People often turn to food for comfort. It sounds like that is what you are doing. You may be going through a difficult time with work, a relationship, family, anything stressful, you name it. Often times people turn to foods for comfort because when you eat it releases chemicals in your brain like endorphins--"feel good" chemicals that make the stress, sadness, anxiety or anything else going on in your life temporarily disappear. Compulsive eating can be very dangerous. Aside from your mentioned weight gain and skin problems you are wrecking havoc on your organs and digestive system.
You also may be binge eating for loss of control. Binge eaters often feel like they have been depriving themselves of things in life in other ways, controlling everything just so, and they finally need to release the tension so they overeat--feeling the need to lose control. Binge eating is often a result of food deprivation. I am not sure if this is your case but look at your diet overall. Have you become so strict with your vegan diet that you are feeling deprived? Are you a calorie counter? I am not telling you to give up your vegan diet, because it is the healthiest decision a person can make for their body. With that said-- a bag of vegan chocolate chips is not healthy for anyone. Period.
I can't give you a solution to your problem but I can say there are many support groups out there for compulsive eaters. The first step is admitting you have a problem, but now you need to try and deal with it. Honestly weight watchers is a great program for compulsive eaters because it assigns points to food items and you can only allow yourself so many points a day. There are local meetings in almost any city. You can alter your weight watcher program to be Vegan as well. Feel free to contact me with any additional questions, I don't want to babble on this thread for too much longer. Stay strong :)
Here is my story: http://lovesveggies.blogspot.com/p/my-vegetarian-journey.html
Hi SMY, I just wanted to let you know that I think its great you are able to talk about it. In my early teens (long before veganism entered my life) I suffered from anorexia. For me, it was a 'control' issue - eating (or not eating) was the only thing in my life I could control. Also, I had previously been teased mercilessly about being a chubby child and so I was addicted to the validation that I received being thin. I also understand the 'obession' factor you are talking about. I was obsessed with counting calories, weighing and measuring food, thinking about what I would eat next, even looking at pictures of food!
I noticed how you mention that you are always the 'perfect' person in your group of friends. I felt that I had to be that way too, and I still am the 'caretaker' and 'peacemaker' in my family. Some comedian once said: "its not what you're eating, its what's eating you..."
I'm not sure how I got better, but I started really focusing on my own internal happiness and worth, as well as eliminating truly negative people from my life. I wish you the best of luck, and I just wanted to let you know that recovery and change is possible even when it feels impossible. I also wanted to tell you that your body is just the container for something much more important, which is the compassionate and caring person you are, so please don't worry too much about the pounds on the scale - what matters is your well-being!
Well said ladies! It looks like you might be able to gain a lot of support and encouragement through this very forum! :)
Thank you very much for all that you guys have had to say. I was really nervous after my post, I thought maybe I had made a huge mistake, you know, airing my dirty laundry meant that I was going to actually have to do something about it now. The sheer comfort that just your words gave me... I also gained some perspective that was greatly needed, as well as courage. After reading the responses here, I made a very big leap in coming clean to my roommate about my problem. I already feel like I can will be able to recover. I now am held accountable for my actions by my roommate, and I also have a personal ally in all this. I am going to continue researching based off some of the advice you all posted. I'll probably keep posting on this forum, maybe more questions, or just thoughts, fears, and hopefully in some time, I can give back advice for anyone else feeling like I am. Thank you again.
I'm so glad to hear you have the support of your roommate SMY! Keep in touch and let us know when you need support. My anorexia was over two decades ago, but I remember it so well. I am always glad to talk about recovering from an eating disorder. There is so much shame and secrecy involved that people tend to suffer alone, and that just isn't good!
Honestly, you will recover from this, and you will learn so much about yourself and life in the process, that you will forever be changed for the better.
SMY, I hope you are doing well. I wanted to response from my point of view and perhaps it will also help. Perhaps there was a trigger that started this. Think back to what changed or is different. Maybe something happened that wasn't too significant, but it triggered a memory of something similar from the past. It is good that you are reaching out and talking, because the act of eating could be that you are stuffing down your feelings or things you need to say or feel. You mentioned your friends ask you for advise..often when we are the go to person, we've got noone to go to ourselves that is "at the same level." It may help to keep a journal of your feelings when this is happening. Do you notice there are times when it doesn't...?? What did or did not happen? You may want to read some books by Geneen Roth, the first I read was Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating and then I read Feeding the Hungry Heart. These books changed my life, and although I still deal with eating issues, these books helped me discover that there is a WHY to it that may go very deep. I've only been vegan a couple of weeks and it has been a good amplifier of my issues because the only time I feel like going back to my old eating ways, it's because I've just thought of something upsetting, am nervous about old pains happening again, or lonely. You are very insightful to discover a problem so quickly so I bet you'll beat this!
I just wanted to add a note to this thread. A while back, I had a similar problem with compulsive eating. I thought I had an eating disorder and sought help for that, however at a certain point I began to realize that I was having constant gnawing abdominal pain that filled me with anxiety and drove me to eat. It wasn't an obvious kind of pain; it felt like I was really, really hungry all the time. I went back to an applied kinesiologist who I'd seen in the past and who does work with muscle testing and supplements and she put me on a digestive enzyme supplement. The next day my pain and my desire to eat were 80% gone and within a couple of weeks it was 100% gone. I still take enzymes and see the same doctor I was seeing. There are lots of good digestive enzyme supplements on the market. You might consider trying one just to see what happens or find an applied kinesiologist who's been well reviewed on the internet. Nowadays, when I start feeling anxious and craving sugar (this might sound weird, but it really works for me) I squeeze a whole lemon into a tall glass though a strainer then add 1/2 teaspoon of Bob's Red Mill baking soda (you can use Arm & Hammer but the Bob's is way better and less salty) to the lemon juice. Wait for the whole mixture to bubble up and stop fizzing--it will bubble to the top of the glass, use your finger to pop the bubbles--then add 1/2 cup or a little more of good water and drink on an empty stomach. That part is really important. Wait an hour before eating again. For the lemon, you can substitute a lime or two tablespoons of raw with-the-mother apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's). From what I understand, this concoction alkalizes your system. It really helps me stave off the desire to eat compulsively.
I don't at all discount that what you are going through may be more emotional than physical. I've always eaten for comfort and sometimes eaten compulsively and I understand that there can be many layers to compulsive eating. I just wanted to share my own experiences with regards to this problem. Take good care!