***This post was written in July of 2013. It is not intended as a diagnosis or to provide medical treatment. It is simple a reflection of my own struggles and how I worked through them. As an update, I am now happily eating disorder free!*****
After finally coming to terms with the fact that I was binge eating; after reading all about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options; after analyzing my own behaviors, talking to therapists, reading books, and committing to recovery; after determining the trigger and thinking about the emotions I’m feeling when binges occur…
And then to be told I don’t actually have BED at all?
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) JUST became a clinically diagnosable disease. It’s REAL! And I thought I met all the criteria for it.
I can’t speak much about Binge Eating Disorder and who really does have it (yet – hopefully one day with medical and psychological training I will be able to!) but I do understand a lot of what Gwyneth Olwyn explains on her site Your Eatopia.
I’d read it before and didn’t think it applied to me. I thought I was already completely weight restored, and according to doctors and BMI charts, I was! I thought I was maintaining, comfortably, for long enough that I didn’t need to pay attention to the site’s recommendations. Basically my pride got the best of me – “that’s not me!”
Then so many people encouraged me to read more. Even Gwyneth wrote to me after getting so much traffic from my blog that day! And it started to click.
I want to note that I am not certain of Gwyneth’s credentials. She doesn’t discuss them and what I can find is here. I do know that she sites a lot of research, and that many others have found success following her guidelines. This post is not meant to officially diagnose anyone, but rather to delve into my own history and current situation and explain why I think this makes sense for me.
I write this because if I had found something like this earlier, it may have prevented a lot of struggle:
“However, BMI 20 will be a fully-recovered weight for only 2% of all patients striving to recover from the restriction eating disorder spectrum. That leaves 98% of those who have been told to stop gaining weight fighting the body’s absolute necessity that they gain more in order to reach their own optimal weight set point.
…Binge or overeating sessions are a marker that additional energy is needed and not that you have developed a binge eating disorder.”*
Binge Eating Disorder is real, and yes I am performing lots of the same behaviors in the DSM guidelines, but the difference for me is my history with Anorexia Nervosa. If you have restrictive eating past, or if you are currently dieting or trying to eat incredibly “clean”, your emotional eating “binges” could just just your bodies natural desire for more food. More than the amount that all the diet magazines tell us we need. Enough to satisfy our personal bodies that, as women, need fat to function properly.
“Emotional factors may indeed trigger a binge, but are those emotional factors wrong? Perhaps not. Perhaps those drives to eat are more capable of identifying energy deficiency on a systemic level (despite weight restoration)?”*
As a side note, reading Your Eatopia’s theory on emotional eating being the only kind of eating that makes sense is really interesting. It puts it in a whole new light.
“Emotional eating is the only way we can stay healthy and alive. Mindless eating is an unfortunate misnomer— the mind is most definitely involved, just not the part that we think is somehow superior, namely the logic centers of our mind. “*
I still don’t quite understand how this “reactive eating” works for me, since for three years my body seemed to have a set point that it maintained quite easily. I didn’t have binges or many emotional eating periods during that time. I really did think I was fine, and by all standard appearances I was. So why, now, is it suddenly deciding it needs more food and causing these binges? What I can only figure out is that maybe there really was some sort of trigger that made my body realize it wasn’t fully recovered. Maybe this, while a remnant of a previous eating disorder, can still be set off by a new psychological trauma? Maybe I still had some restrictive behaviors that I’m finally trying to be overcome?
“It is very easy to get stuck in the first and second phases of recovery because the natural inclination is to assume that if you are back at BMI 20 then you are recovered and need to start restricting calories to avoid getting huge. While that may be an understandable inclination generated from eating disorder anxieties, it is a false one.”*
So basically what this suggests is that my body probably isn’t back to it’s set point yet. It might not be up to where it needs to be to function properly and happily. It’s hard, when you have an eating disorder during adolescence, to know where your body wants to be because you disrupted the growth process and never actually see the true place your body would have gotten to had you let it mature naturally.
Gwyneth claims that we need to be eating over 2,000 calories just to live, likely far more especially if we’re still in the throws of Anorexia or are severely underweight. She references studies often that show that the 2,000 calorie guideline is based off of what people report they eat, which is generally less than what is actually eaten. Studies that count what women actually eat report more towards the 3,000 number. I’ve eaten that much once before, during Anorexia recovery, but to do right now when I’m already at a normal weight is scary. It’s scary because it’s so more than society and the diet and fitness industry tells us we should eat. It brings up body image issues that I can’t seem to completely shake. But Gwyneth says that your body won’t keep gaining and gaining. You will get to the weight where your body is happy and then it will level out. The set point theory.
“You gain on the minimum guideline calories+ and then you maintain on pretty close to that same amount. Shocking, but true.”*
She writes a lot about people that naturally have lower BMIs or are really thin. If you are eating minimal calories and exercising a ton to maintain that, it’s probably not your set point. She says that people that naturally are thin can still eat upwards of 2500 calories a day and maintain that, because it’s just what their body wants.
So what does this mean for me?
- I probably don’t have Binge Eating Disorder. I am still trying to fully recover from Anorexia Nervosa.
- I need to eat more! I was already eating regular meals and snacks, but I will have to increase the quantity or density of each to hopefully end my body’s urge to binge. I’ll have to experiment with my body and see where it is happy. I am hoping I’ll be able to see an R.D. to help me with a plan at first.
- I might gain more weight, I might not. Often times when people start eating more they end up losing weight because they aren’t bingeing thousands of calories anymore. But maybe I’ll gain some weight if that’s where my body wants to be. That’s a whole other issue to tackle and would be a true test of my body image.
I’ve been testing this out already and it seems to be working. I’ve upped my intake by roughly 1000 calories per day (I’m not counting, just guestimating) and feel good and haven’t had a desire to binge. I may be overshooting, but I’ll figure that out later. For now I’m focusing on no bingeing! It feels so good:)
This method makes sense to me and I believe it’s worth a shot since other things weren’t working. In some ways it’s a relief to know that I haven’t developed an entirely new disorder, but rather am still struggling with remnants of an old one. No matter what my official diagnosis, I’m grateful for all of the research and information that I have found, helping me to make informed progress towards recovery.
Of Interest on this Topic:FYourED: In Regards to Recovery & Healthy Eating Bingeing Is Not Bingeing I Need How Many Calories? An Argument for Recovery: Minnesota Starvation Study Set Point Theory
*All Quotes from YourEatopia.com