How to Stop Emotional Eating

3 powerful lessons on how to stop emotional eating or binge eating from author and blogger Andie Mitchell who has lost 135 pounds.

In the last 29 years, I’ve succeeded and failed at weight loss and maintenance no less than 400,000 times. I’ve run full force at several million brick walls. I’ve lied to everyone, and in particularly painful ways to myself. No part of this journey has been more difficult than trying to figure out how to stop emotional eating.

Emotional eating and I — and binge eating, in particular — God we’ve battled. It’s only in the past year that I’ve found myself sobering up, on this slow, quiet ferry to a better place. I’m no expert, and this post, like the rest, should have no halo of perfection around it. But for the sake of sharing, and generally making you feel less alone in your own crazy, here’s some more of me exposing parts of myself that make me cringe, and three lessons I’ve pieced together so far. The rest are coming soon in a future post. I hope they mean something to you, wherever you are on your way.

Something very particular happens when you begin eating out of control. It starts out like every other time: an old craving debt to settle, or maybe your fingers have slipped past those last few inches on the rope of your willpower; you’ve tossed back a cocktail too many; you need some relief after having been ‘on’ for longer than is tolerable. The list, the reasons — they go on, unending. You’ve got yours.

Maybe there are these three doughnuts. And you need them. Look, you’ve chosen the best ones even! And that’s all you’re having, obviously. Because that’s all you wanted anyway, right? Right. Right. Well but wait — remember two weeks ago when you wanted an eggplant parm? God that sounds good. You just wish they’d use more cheese. You know, and maybe this is crazy but — wouldn’t it be wise to just get that today, too, so that it’s all out of your system? Get them all done and out of the way on the same day, so you can start fresh tomorrow? And that way, you won’t even want them again, because you just had them! (Logic!)

You go to the sub shop. You’ve ordered the eggplant parm, extra cheese. And at the register, you see they’ve got freshly baked peanut butter cookies. I mean, peanut butter cookies? Come on, though. How could yo—well…you feel them inconspicuously just to check the softness of their centers. God that’s soft. They’re even in those little baggies that your Nana used to use, the ones that don’t have zip tops, just fold-overs, so they’re sure to keep nothing fresh for no length of time. That’s how sure these sub shop owners must be of the fresh-bakedness of their cookies. They know they’ll sell today; that’s how good they are. You buy them. Three to a pack.

You get home. Doughnuts are long gone, because who’s kidding who? Eggplant parm: hello and goodbye, old friend. The cookies: you wait. With the patience of no one dignified, ever, you’re in the bag. One. Oh hey. Two. See you. The third leaves you lying down.

The thing about this scenario — and ones like it — is: at least one part of it is blissful. It’s a letting go, a complete relinquishing of control. In life, that feels good every once in a while. And we all know some form of submission to food. Not necessarily this story — God hopefully not this story because it’s mine from four weeks ago, damn it, but we all have food tipping points that send us sliding. Maybe for you it’s family parties, maybe it’s a certain type of food in particular — regardless, it’s there. We start and can’t stop. We think, “Well…I’ve started it. Might as well just get it all out of my system.” And that brings us to lesson 1.

Lesson 1: You can not retroactively or proactively quell a food craving

At times, when I’ve lost it, I’ve had this feeling of, “Let’s pack it all in now. Here.” It’s a warped kind of logic — one in which I lull myself into believing that once I’ve started to eat, there’s good reason to seek out all the foods that once tempted me or WILL tempt me soon. I did want carrot cake two weeks ago…Or, What if I eat the Easter candy NOW? The thinking being that by the time Easter gets here, I’ll be over it. But is anyone ever over Cadbury?

It’s a strange thing to do, mostly because, while the food does taste good overall, the particulars aren’t always what I want most in that moment, or that day. The whole thought process that informs a binge becomes less about satisfying immediate cravings and more about thinking through the list of every delicious item I once might have wanted and could possibly want in the foreseeable future. It’s a frantic, five-minutes-til-close grocery store sweep.

Why does this happen? Because binges, of course, are never going to happen again. That is what we tell ourselves every single time we overeat. We’ll never binge like this again. Maybe we’ll overeat, but no, God not like this.

We’ve got to eat it all now. (And then, never again.)

The way I began to understand the trouble with this binge mentality that wants to pack it all in was to realize that the cravings, old and new, that I thought I was satisfying? They never stopped coming. When I was sure that having pumpkin cheesecake now would stop me from wanting it in spades every day in November, I was wrong. When I thought that getting a large buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese pizza was the way to get it out of my sad system, again — I was wrong.

The next day, I wanted them. The next week, too. As much as I ever did.

If I have learned anything in my struggle with binge eating it is this: there is no such thing as fulfilling a past craving or preemptively filling a craving to come. They come whether you fill them, whenever you fill them. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t delude yourself into thinking that you could stuff your heart with love enough to plug up the void of past pain, would you? You also, then, wouldn’t dare now to think you could fill it past it’s stretching point with enough love so that you won’t ever run out, would you? Right. The heart changes. It wants different things at different times. It wants things you don’t always want it to want. Mostly good things, but also heaping gobs of outrageous, lusty things. It wants, in unrelenting ways. Sometimes less, and sometimes so much you feel needy. Desperate.

The stomach, though ruled by that heart, and its friend, the head, isn’t much different. It changes. Quickly. Often.

I’ve done this so, so many times. I’ve thought that a binge could be contained to just one day if I simply ate all that I could ever want in that one 24-hour window. I was wrong. I’ve told myself that I was just taking one day off, only to find myself, three days later, in a shame spiral the likes of which only the desperate among us have seen. I’ve failed at staying sober from the addictive pattern of food addiction — God too many times to count, because I kept telling myself that this time was the last time I’d ever eat everything all at once.

We can’t fool ourselves. We’ve got to wise up.

Lesson 2: There is no food that satisfies the deep, deep cravings

A few months ago, on a late Friday night, after hours spent drinking with friends at bars around Manhattan, I walked in my apartment, starving. Now, I know something to be very, very true of alcohol and me: No matter if I’ve just eaten a hearty dinner, once I have two drinks, I am ravenous. Just downright hungry like I’ve never been before. From what I’ve gathered, this is a common phenomenon. It happens to a lot of us. It’s part of the reason we ate nothing but pizza and calzones every Thursday through Saturday night of college. And fine, Sunday, too.

This night, though, when I got home, I had food at the ready. In my fridge already sat the leftovers of a meal I’d made the night before. Great, I thought. I ate that. Then, as I grabbed a glass for water, I decided, oh what the heck, let’s just see what other snacks I’ve got. There, in the cabinet, I found a can of frosting. Duncan Hines and I had just worked out a partnership — a plan to post about fall baking — and they’d sent me, among other spicy, warming treats, a can of cream cheese frosting.

In my heyday, this would have been something to dip pretzels into, to eat with a spoon. Just something to curl up with, really. I picked it up. Really weighed it in my hands, my head. When I’d spent a good minute with the delicious thoughts of it, I set it down again. Then I put it back into the cabinet.

Even in my tipsy state, I knew. The frosting — the whole can — it wouldn’t even be enough. When a realization like that comes to you, you’re not entirely sure if you’re happy to have it, or ashamed of its sad, searing truth.

I didn’t just want a few spoonfuls of frosting. I didn’t just want the can of it. I didn’t even just want two. I wanted, and wanted, and wanted. I just had a wanting, and that wanting — the one that I tend to try to satisfy with food — isn’t the kind that takes to getting filled up. It stays wanting. I stay wanting.

What does that say?

It says that I’m not hungry. Not for food.

If you’ve ever convinced yourself that two cupcakes will be better than one, have you ever found yourself, upon crumpling the second’s paper liner in your palms, wondering why two didn’t do what you thought it would? Do you ever finish eating like mad only to feel a still-present, still-unmet want?

If the jar of frosting, the duo of cupcakes, couldn’t fill you, left you wanting, then you know: it wasn’t ever them who could do that.

I have this wanting. So many wantings. We all do. And I grew up really believing, and still kind of believing to this day, that food is a way, the way, to satisfy desires and cravings. It has nothing to do with my logical, rational brain; it’s so deep within me that undoing it feels at times impossible. And only slowly, I am changing that. I’ve got to. You’ve got to.

We need to acknowledge the moments when the frosting just isn’t going to cut it, because I think deep down, we all have an inkling when it won’t. We know when our cravings, our desires, are just too vast to fill up on…anything. And in those cases, we’ve got to ride the wave of emotions that threaten to pummel us. They won’t. We’ve got to know that whatever harsh feelings come — they won’t last forever. So we’ll sit down on our couches, and we’ll wait out the intense cravings. Or we’ll engage with something else that we enjoy (friends, an activity); but no, we won’t eat for the sake of filling some canyon of desire that won’t even take to a day’s worth of filling. Because in the end? If we try to fill it? We won’t be full. We know this. You know it because you’ve stayed wanting; I do, too. And why? Because we weren’t hungry for food. For something else, maybe. But not for food.

Lesson 3: It’s not a binge if you don’t make it one.

People overeat every day. Every minute of every day. People of healthy weights — they’re doing it right now, even. Some woman went into work this morning and found doughnuts in the break room, and said to herself, “Oh my God, I love doughnuts! What a TREAT.” She put the oatmeal she’d packed in the fridge, got a plate, and made like a buffet. By lunchtime, she was called into the conference room for a pizza party for Linda’s birthday. Guys, there was eggplant and caramelized onions on one pie. So she had three slices, an end piece of sheet cake because she’s generally a celebrator, and then she walked back to her desk and thought about how many vacation days she had left for the year.

Her day wasn’t ruined. She might go home, still feel kind of full, and have a light dinner — who knows? She might promise herself that she’ll stick to her packed oatmeal for breakfast for the rest of the week. Or she might be happy to have had such a delicious, albeit out of the ordinary, day. But here’s what she doesn’t do: paint it all black. She doesn’t tell herself that any plans she had to be healthy are over, done, dead. She moves on. She carries on with the generally healthy life she had been living. People with solid relationships to food and their bodies get on with it.

These are people who have more gradients to their lives than black and white. They pass through a week with an off day, a non-normal breakfast, and not a bit of it spirals them into a guilty mess of crumbs and chaos. They’re not hiding wrappers under other wrappers in the trash.

Those of us who are caught in the binge net, we white knuckle it until we can’t, and when we can’t — which is absolutely inevitable in the business of white knuckling, mind you — we fall hard and fast into that abyss. We’re wrecked by imperfection. Doughnuts at breakfast have only ever meant pizza for lunch and a cheeseburger with fries for dinner. There’s restraint — discipline, we like to call it — and then there’s oblivion.

But there’s a choice there. Even in the black and white, there’s a choice.

Shifting perspective, in any capacity, is a challenge. When I wanted to begin releasing the binge eating from my life, I realized that the way I was framing what I was doing in terms of goodness and badness was the thing that was really becoming toxic. It was this moral baggage I was attaching to bingeing that was weighing me down. Eating a lot, though it was making me gain weight rapidly, wasn’t what nagged at me constantly. Don’t get me wrong, I cared about that weight, and yes, the re-gain made me feel fifty shades of failure, but that wasn’t all of it. The rest was the terrible no-goodness of it all, the self-hatred that comes along with telling yourself that you’re broken, weak-willed, and discipline-less. None of which is true, but still.

There will always be danishes in the break room and warm bread on the table. There will always be parties. Cake. Reasons someone is celebrating something, every day. And these are not things to be avoided altogether. Life — it goes on, whether or not we’re orchestrating every note. What I’ve learned in the past 8 years of weight losses, gains, and maintenance is that we’ve got to stop dwelling on what might have been the perfect actions and we’ve got to flow a little more.

This means, when we eat less than “perfectly” — when we have the unplanned Boston Cream in the morning — let’s just live the day as we’d originally planned. Let’s keep our healthy intentions in mind all the while, but allow room for life’s fun, unexpected pleasures.

And this also means that when we gain weight, let’s acknowledge that we’ve gained and get real about it — accept it as what it is: something we’d like to change — if we do, indeed, want to change it — rather than a terminal diagnosis. Let’s not ruminate on the shame of it; let’s do something and move forward. Not stay stuck and sad.

Moving on, moving forward, is the way you get unstuck. It’s also the way you lose weight mindfully without losing your mind completely. One thing Daniel always says to me is, “The time will pass anyway.” And when he says it, he means that this ride we’re on? Baby, it’s just going. We’re going to get older, we’re going to be losing weight if we’re trying, we’re going to have to do work, we’re going to be sad if we’re sad, we’re going to be dealing with a break up — and we can either drag along, leaden, through it, or we can ease up on the resistance. We can even enjoy it a little if we want.

Either way, we’re going.

Read more of my Lessons on Overcoming Emotional Eating

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153 thoughts on “How to Stop Emotional Eating

  1. Stephanie

    Love it. This post is coming at the perfect time for me. I’m just in the beginning of my weight loss journey and you have been a huge inspiration for me. My biggest fear right now is falling off the wagon and bingeing on Papa Murphy’s pepperoni pizza and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. You are so right though, my cravings for those things will never go away, even if I have them. Just another inspirational nugget I will keep in my back pocket for my moments of weakness.

    Reply
  2. Kristin

    Hi Andie — I’ve been a reader for awhile now, and want to say thanks for being an honest, real person and for writing about the important things from a forgiving place. I’m in LA, where attitudes toward food can be toxic (especially among young women). This post was just perfect and really hits home.

    Reply
  3. Brandi

    I just discovered you last week and already felt connected to your TedX talk. This post did it though. I sobbed as I read through it because your words make my heart ache through their recognition and truth that I connect with and can’t let go of. Thank you for your openness and honesty and for making me feel less alone in this battle. I can’t wait for the continuation…

    Reply
  4. Shannon

    You’re amazing! I love reading your story! Although I’m struggling every every day I read this and know I can do it some how some way!!! That’s for your inspiration!

    Reply
  5. Joanne

    Wow, Andie. I’ve been following you for a few weeks, quietly, but never posted yet. You really hit home about the yearning inside that’s never satisfied no matter how much we go on an overindulging binge. I’ve had times I did it and felt great while I was doing it and then afterward said “why?” I still felt the same dissatisfaction, the same emptiness. Could be a relationship thing, living miles away from home, depression, stress — any of those things, but the food just distracts you momentarily. But I’ve had victorious moments where I kept my portions small and been fine. Or when I’ve just had a cup of diet hot chocolate or tea and been satisfied with that. I’ve participated with birthday cakes at work (when I was working) and stuck to one piece and just assured myself I’d get back on the wagon next day – which I did. Thank you for your honesty. I guess it’s about one day at a time.

    Reply
  6. Tara

    Dear Andie, Another beautiful letter to us all from you. What has moved me again about you as always, is of course the words of advice and support but more importantly for me the fact that you want to make me (us) “feel less alone in our crazy”. Because for me the driving force behind my need to overeat is this feeling of aloneness. I have spectacularly dived into an abyss of sugar and butter at the moment but I feel as though you’ve stepped into my inbox again (because only you know this toxic secret that we carry) and talked me slowly back up. Thank you. Your generosity of spirit never ceases to amaze me and I wish that you didn’t have these struggles.

    Reply
    1. Jill

      Yes, yes, yes!! You speak the words that we’ve all lived in this food battle of life. Thank you for your honesty.

      Reply
  7. Laura

    Ah, Andy. No one states it better than you do. I savor every word as you really understand and articulate this struggle so well. As I enter my 55th year tomorrow and I so ready to get this war behind me and am making steps to do so. Oh, and can you please be my therapist? :)

    Reply
  8. Andrea

    You couldn’t have picked a better time to post this. Today is “Day 1” once again of being binge free and your words hit home with me.

    I am constantly counting calories, starting new workout programs etc. I feel like I am either on track or off.

    Did you count your calories the second time you started losing? I am never sure if this actually helps or hurts me. Sometimes I feel it helps me not to undereat and then again it pressures me too much.

    I wonder if working on habits in combination with not bingeing actually is better in the long run.

    Reply
  9. Meredith

    Hi Andie! I’ve read your blog for a while now but have never posted. About 2 years ago I started my weight-loss journey. I’d dieted and lost weight in the past about a zillion times prior to that, but never had any lasting success. On those previous attempts, I basically picked back up with binge eating the exact second the scale hit my goal weight. With my newest attempt, however, I realized I had to make it a full-time lifestyle change. About 6 months in I had lost 40 lbs, and have kept it off for the year and a half since. I still struggle every few weeks with a huge binge, and the extreme feelings of guilt that you talk about here. While I’m able to right myself and get back on track fairly quickly now, the monthly binge-battle and subsequent day or two of depression remain a very real challenge. I’ve never found a blog that so accurately describes my own experiences and feelings, and I can’t tell you how helpful and reassuring it is for me to know someone else shares these struggles. Just last weekend I went on a vacation to a very “foodie” type town that I absolutely love. I threw caution to the wind and ate with complete abandon those foods that I had been thinking about at these particular favorite restaurants we visit only about 1x a year. That would have been fine in itself, but then I fell into the binge mentality you mentioned in lesson 3. I thought I should proactively try and fill all my future bingey needs all at once (as you discussed in lesson 1). After a 3 course, gut-busting Saturday lunch, my husband (who had eaten just as much and as extravagantly as I had) was satiated. He has a healthy relationship with food and was not feeling guilty. Less than an hour after that lunch I marched into a cupcake shop, thinking I should probably fill that particular “need” while I was on a bender. Not a special shop that I love, just a completely random place with cupcakes that didn’t even look that good. I hoped my husband would join me in my gluttony, but he declared that he couldn’t possibly eat anything. He was full, as simple as that. How nice it must be to just be content and full without feeling guilty and without wanting to continue “filling” a need that can’t be filled. His normal and logical perspective let me walk out of the cupcake shop empty handed. I’m slowly trying to get better, and I do see improvements in both my thoughts and response-times after overeating. Your blog has helped me gain clarity on my own situation and better articulate what I’m feeling. I actually sent today’s blog post to my husband, so that he can understand my struggle through your words. So sorry for the long post, but the point is that your blog has a profound influence. Thank you for so candidly sharing your story! I can’t wait until your book comes out!

    Reply
  10. Monica

    Oh, Andie. Thank you. This is exactly what I needed today, hell – every day. You could have been speaking directly to me and knowing I’m really not crazy is like a weight has been lifted off my chest (I thought about making a geeky reference to Thor and how he put Mjolnir on Loki’s chest…and I guess I just made that reference anyway NERD ALERT…but that’s what I envision, you know?).

    Anyway, I’m probably going to read this a couple more times now, because I don’t really have any more words, but you’re fabulous – struggles and all. Thanks for sharing pieces of yourself with us. :)

    Reply
  11. KBH

    Never has someone been able to nail that binge “reasoning” for me like you have here. Thank you, as always, for your gifts of language and honesty! It have struggled lately, with the “good and bad” of my food choices. I feel that the lessons you found are another tool I can use to process those struggles for myself.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Reply
  12. Melissa

    As always, anything you write, I love.

    I’m in my third year of recovery from bulimia and binge eating, and it has been a long and rocky road. But that anniversary feels like more of a cause for celebration than any holiday or birthday. The one thing that really resonates with me here is your realization that the whole can of frosting or the 2 cupcakes won’t ever be enough–because it’s not them that you want. Avoiding whatever the uncomfortable feelings that day/week/month are is what we really want. And it seems so much easier to console ourselves with food than it does to sit with those feelings and actually feel them. Because that hurts, and it’s uncomfortable, and we don’t wanna!

    The shifting of perspective is, as you say, a challenge. For me, it felt very forced at first. But I wanted to heal and feel whole independently of food, so I forced it for my own wellbeing. Now, I marvel in the changes and gains I’ve made over the past 2 years. I’m actually happy–genuinely happy–and my happiness isn’t dependent upon my weight or my body. It’s just something that exists. It’s my default state-of-being. I NEVER thought I would feel this way. I saw other people who were happy, and I didn’t understand. But after a lot of work, it clicked, and gradually I didn’t need to console myself with food.

    Thanks for sharing and for letting me share. You are lovely. XO

    Reply
  13. Shelly

    Thanks for sharing this Andie! I resonate with your 2nd point the most – there is some knowledge inside that no real food satisfies deep cravings. Perhaps only time to ride it out and not eat just one more cupcake, or what have you.

    Looking forward to your next post continuing this, and thank you for always being so truthful, honest and relatable.

    Reply
  14. Krizia

    Dear Andie,
    Thank you for sharing your extremely insightful thoughts on why we binge, and this is true of more than just food. One component, and maybe you plan on touching on this in future posts, is the chemical addiction that comes with wanting carbs/sugar, etc, because this is definitely a big piece of the problem as well. There are a lot of different nutrition/life plans that advise people to cut out things like white flour/dairy/rice/caffeine/sugar/alcohol (more to determine their food sensitivities/allergies) but find that after being on a plan like that, most people find that their sugar/carb cravings are gone. So I think the chemical component is important too, and I hope that you’ll address that in the future. You are truly inspirational and brave for sharing your innermost feelings. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  15. Lauren

    Ah, Andi, you’ve got a way with words. I feel the exact same way: I start every single day on plan, gonna do great attitude, and get to goal. and for the past 1 and 1/2 YEARS, i have been stuck in this pattern. Enough is enough. The beating myself up, feeling like your words: ‘fifty shades of failure’ never ever helps. I LOVE your ‘turn around’ words: your way of saying there is hope, there is success, this CAN be done. thank you so much!
    ~Lauren

    Reply
  16. Jessica

    Andy,

    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. After 3 months of binging, which was triggered by depression (triggered by a massively stressful year), I am finally back to tracking my food and exercising regularly. I have about 15-20 pounds to lose to have a healthy BMI. Despite my academic achievements, I have never been able to use logic to control my binging and then subsequent restricting. I would always see food, as you said, in black and white, where if I ate something “bad” early in the day I would consider it a failure and go to the store to buy more junk food. I really liked your lines about the cravings never going away. I think a lot of people don’t understand that – they think that if you don’t have sugar for 2 weeks it gets easier, etc. but for me that’s not true, at least for me. I’ll always want to have more food to ease my anxiety, and there will never be enough food, much like an alcoholic will never have enough to drink. Unfortunately, my addiction is one that affects my appearance in a way that is unacceptable in society (ie weight gain). I spent 30 days in a rehab center this August for my binge eating, surrounded by drug addicts, and even those people were concerned about gaining weight. Not that they were no longer injecting themselves with drugs – but weight gain. Anyhow, I digress. Thank you as always for putting so much of yourself on this blog, and for writing what so many of us need to hear. I am forever grateful to know that I’m not alone.

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    1. Linda

      This comment resonates with me too well! All-or-nothing thinking does not necessarily need to be all-or-nothing doing! You have to separate your thoughts from your actions. Most of us can do this in other areas not related to food, but we have a low-threshold (sometimes “no threshhold) for frustration and pain. Food is an ever-present balm. I still binge, though I have maintained my 20lb. weight loss for 3 and 1/2 years. I went from gratified to satisfied to anxious (about my ability to maintain– “for LIFE”) and finally to actually having to deal with whatever feelings I have. It has been peeling back the layers of the onion. Emotional eating? For me any emotion will do. Good news: bingeing episodes are farther apart and do not last as long. Don’t judge them. Just get back on track and be kind to yourself as you would to a friend who confided in you seeking help.

      This is a wonderful blog.

      Reply
  17. Stephanie

    I completely relate to this post. I’ve found that writing a journal twice a day–once in the morning and once in the evening–has been tremendously helpful. I just start this last week and have been binge free for the past four days. I type it up so that I can write as my thoughts come in just a stream of consciousness kind of way. There is no judgement and no over-thinking. I write about my feelings, my goals, etc. And I always read the post before. I’ve found that journaling keeps me accountable and allows a catharsis of any yucky feelings or thoughts I might have. It’s allowed me to see deeper into myself and understand why I binge. I don’t have any cravings hardly at all anymore, because I realize that binging does not align with my goals and only holds me back. Though I am new to it, I HIGHLY recommend journaling for anyone struggling. It has been a lifesaver for me thus far.

    Reply
  18. Lisa

    Oh Andie, you are my kindred soul!!! Everything you write could have come straight from me, albeit, WAY less eloquently written! I have struggled with gaining and losing 30 pounds for the last 20 years (wow, to see that number written down makes it seem even sadder that I have dealt with this for so long). When I have the weight off, I am happy, free, confident, adventurous, fun, have hope and self love, etc… When the weight is on, I am depressed, have no confidence (in any area of my life, ironically, not just about my appearance) feel hopeless, don’ want to leave the house, and sadly, loathe myself.
    For me, it is a vicious cycle of dieting (feeling full of hope that this is the time it’ll stick…) and binge eating, which leaves me exhausted and in a REALLY bad place, emotionally. Ironically, I was not a chubby kid. In fact, I got a lot of positive attention for my physique, which made me terrified to ever gain weight. My mom’s side of the family all struggle with their weight and for as long as I can remember, I was warned about these genes that were just waiting to express themselves. Hence, my first diet at age 12… I was 5’7″ and 125 lbs. I put myself on a strict 1,200 calories a day, low to no-fat diet, to prevent this inevitable and imminent weight gain (I was a child who was very involved in sports, so that was clearly not enough to sustain me). I REALLY believe that this is what started my struggles. Every diet has an equal and opposite binge just waiting until you are stressed out or anxious or too warn down to fight it off any longer. Then, of course, when you do manage to finally break the binge (a day, week, month later), it’s time to start that really strict diet again to repair some of the damage, which just means that you are back to the beginning of the starve/binge cycle. Ugh. I sometimes daydream about being able to go back in time and tell my 12 year old self that I am beautiful because my heart is kind and full of love, and to just chill the hell out and trust my body. I would warn her to NEVER look at a calorie or fat gram or read about diets… Just eat the way you know is instinctively right… wholesome, nutritious foods most of the time (because that’s when your body feels it’s best), treats in normal to small portions and have NO guilt. Move on. LIVE life… stop thinking about the damn food when you are supposed to be out making your day great, having adventures to look back fondly on, as you lie exhausted and content in bed each night. Also, move your body every day because it FEELS good!! Only do what you love, though. Rollerblade or hike or ride your bike because you love doing those things. Don’t run because it burns the most calories… you hate running (unless you are playing tag, lol). If I could add up how much of my life has been spent thinking about food and diets, well, let’s just say that number would be alarmingly, unhealthily, sadly high.
    I have a sister who lost 50 pounds about 8 years ago, and it was largely accidental (I know, I’d hate her, too, if she wasn’t so darn lovable!). She was pregnant, so for the first time in years, she couldn’t diet. She also didn’t want to give herself permission to gain 100 pounds, so she decided to listen her body (for the first time, maybe ever) and resolved to eat smaller portions of what she really wanted (no “bad” or “good” foods or restricting anything). She continued to eat this way after her daughter was born and when it was all said and done, was down 50 pounds (with one heck of a gorgeous physique)! She has lived this way for 8 years now (3 kids later and the weight is still off) and has told me too many times to count, that the single, biggest, most important thing she did was to NEVER allow herself to binge. Does she overeat on occasion? Of course! This is life, after all. She said it helps to use imagery. For instance, if your cell phone screen is cracked, are you going to throw it at the wall and then hit it with a sledge hammer until it is pulverized into dust? Of course not… that’s just crazy. So why do we turn one huge meal or that second doughnut turn into a days long bender? Well, this is probably been the single biggest struggle in my 36 years her on this planet. I, like you, work on it and struggle with it every day. This blog and your book (which, BTW, I am counting down the days until I can get my hands on it) help so many of us in SUCH a profound way. You are SO special and the work you do is so important and I thank you for sharing such an intimate part of yourself with us!! Sorry this is so long… I actually had to cut myself off!

    Reply
  19. Maria

    Andie — you manage to articulate so generously and forgivingly and intimately what so many of your readers have felt (or are feeling) at some point in their lives. This ability to convey emotion and need is unique and special. You are the Geneen Roth for our generation (wear that title proudly, because it is so true). Thank you, a million times, for your words!

    Reply
  20. Katie Marini

    Andie,

    What can I say? I feel like you could be writing about me. Thank you.

    And quickly, I can totally relate.

    I have been dieting, trying to lose weight for the second time, since June. I’m about 15 pounds from my goal, and last weekend my husband and I went out to the mountains to stay in a cabin–kid free.

    And we brought all kinds of goodies. Crackers and blue cheese (the really buttery kind), lox, chocolate, steaks, bread, and copious amounts of alcohol. After the first bite, I had this feeling that I need to eat it all, because this was my “splurge” weekend. That feeling became a sort of obsession for a while.

    But I thought about how I would feel if I ate and ate and ate. And I decided it would put a damper on my trip. So, I ate and drank whatever I wanted, but I didn’t binge. In other words, I ate a big and filling dinner and had a s’more for dessert. But I didn’t need another.

    I think being focused on the “present” and being in tune with your physical body can help quench binges. Also, I’m trying really hard not to get upset about the unexpected goodies that life has to offer. Thanks for sharing this. Can’t wait for Part II!

    Reply
  21. Abby

    Though I’m typing a comment to you, I’m really laying in the middle of the floor reeling from this post. I had to stop reading it several times and make myself come back to it because all of it was SO TRUE and I needed to hear this so badly. Maybe the most true thing I’ve ever read in my whole life. I’ve never equated over eating with binge eating. I always thought of binge eating as being passed out in front of your now empty fridge cuz you just had to eat all the things in it. This made me come to terms with how malicious I become to myself when I “mess up” and how, almost daily, I tell myself I’m too far gone to lose any of the weight I have. This was like a therapy session – well actually better cuz no therapist has ever laid it out so simply.

    Thanks for your honesty and your transparent journey. I feel like no one ever addresses this stuff. They tell you if you want to eat better then just do it! it’s not that hard! when it’s the hardest thing in the world and you can’t explain that to someone whose relationship with food is healthy. Ugh. Seriously I’m gonna go lay in the middle of the floor.

    Reply
  22. Lori

    Man, why on earth do I pay for my therapist, when your thought provoking and compassion posts seem to be all I need? :)

    Just kidding. I need my therapist, but I also love reading everything you write. I love your narrative voice, and what you are compelled to write. It’ll provide talking points to my session this afternoon.

    Keep up the fantastic work, Andie.

    Reply
  23. Carole

    SOmetimes I believe you are in my head! Other times, it’s like a best friend/psychologist is talking to me. Andie, I hate that you have to go through all this, but I admire you so much for sharing your journey with the rest of us. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  24. Christina

    I’ve been a reader for a while now (after reading all your posts for several hours over the course of a couple of days), but this post has all but forced me to come out of the shadows and actually comment. This. Is. My. Life. I’ve been seeing a therapist for the last 5 months for my binge eating, and just… I wish more people would be so open and honest about their struggles. I started this particular weight loss journey 6 months ago, and while I haven’t lost that much weight, the things I’ve learned are immeasurable. I remember first reading your blog and thinking… “That sounds just like me.” And when I first read that binge eating was actually a thing, and not just something I did because I lacked self-control and willpower, I felt such relief and hope that maybe I could be fixed. And I found a therapist, and I kept reading through your blog, and I was so happy when you started posting more regularly because I could relate so much to you. And reading your struggles and realizing that we all struggle and we are all imperfect and we all have demons that we deal with in different ways and binge eating is not a joke, it’s not something to be made fun of. Just… I don’t even know if this made any sense because I can’t italicize anything, but thank you. Just… thank you.

    Reply
  25. Hootie

    The images in my head are so clear when I am reading your writing…I can see my hand slip past that rope!
    I am on that journey with you for sure. I think I have made mental progress even if i *still* haven’t been able to see the results physically.
    I have begun enjoying and easing up on the resistance as you mentioned.
    In John Greene’s “Looking for Alaska” the reader is given the question “How are we going to get out of this labrynth.” My answer…My Dear, we aren’t! But, we will not resist it and not spend our time here suffering with the struggle or even overly focused on getting out. We will be. We will observe. We will go with the flow. We may even use our humor and perspective to help us find joy and enjoy! I…will keep thanking God for each day that I am not yet having to endure all the cat calls that will surely come! I believe for my outer to match my inner and plan to be in action and eager antcipation of that enjoying today :) mindf***? Yes. Working? We shall see, but this too shall pass.
    Love your writing. It resonates.

    Reply
  26. Haley R

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Andie! These are such wise insights into the world of food addiction and binge eating. I’m recovering myself and still slip. I’m proud to say that I’m becoming less hard on myself when I do slip. Thank you for being so candid and honest with your experiences, it really helps to know we’re not alone doesn’t it? I myself have lost 70ish pounds over the past two years with 50ish more to go. It sometimes feels like it will never happen, especially in hard moments. But I’m so lucky to have people in my life (bloggers too) that lift me up, tell me, “Keep going” and empathize with the real struggle. Can. Not. Wait for your book btw. :D

    Reply
  27. Chelsea Delynn

    Sweet Andie. I don’t know how you do it! I don’t know how every post feels like it was written for me and discussed rather than what it really is- a post for every woman and read behind my desk alone. Every word you said (typed) I gave a silent “amen”. Loved this post and I will leave feeling empowered and alive.

    Thanks friend. Truly.

    Reply
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  29. andrea @ my kinda perfect

    i’m on day 16 of my self-imposed 30 day challenge and it’s going great. why? because i’ve acknowledged all of the things you said above.

    for me, a binge is almost always one thing and just a ridiculously massive amount of it. like an entire pint of ben and jerry’s. or the pizza dip i make for my husband. or cookies at christmas. or “fun size” baby ruths on halloween. or cadbury mini eggs at easter. or a plateful of mashed potatoes on thanksgiving.

    the reason i think i’m successful this time around (down 9 lbs and 22″!), is two-fold. firstly, i recognize that food isn’t going anywhere. there will be ice cream, pizza dip, cookies, candy bars, etc. always. they aren’t dinosaurs afraid of going extinct…it’s food, which is always available. secondly, i’ve learned (in a 2+ year period of time) how to be mindful of what i’m eating, without being obsessive. (i love food like you Andie, so it’s hard to not be obsessed with it!) if i know i have a dinner out with my girlfriends on the weekend, i make sure the rest of my day is thoughtfully prepared (whether just plans or actual food prep) so the special meal out won’t be a gut-buster, but i will still enjoy the time out with my friends (because isn’t the time spent with friends the most important part?). or if something comes up unexpectedly and i end up with a larger/different/richer meal than i had planned, i do my best and then move on. no point in beating myself up. just remember the thought and try to do better next time.

    has it been a challenge? of course! it’s a learning curve…but i’m finally getting the hang of it. i mean, for the first time ever, i had exactly ZERO halloween candy. not just on halloween, but entirely. not one single piece. i did take two little bars (baby ruth and butterfinger) and put them in my desk at work. i decided that after my 30 day challenge, i could treat myself to a piece of the candy. or…i could continue to exercise my willpower and prove that i can do it. because i know i can. and really, the candy isn’t going anywhere.

    as usual, thanks for your honesty friend!

    Reply
  30. Liz B

    In all the (embarassingly) many books I’ve read about how to quit bingeing and such, I’ve never read such an accurate description of my feelings during/after.
    You nailed it. You have such a gift with words and I appreciate that we can emerge through this binge battle together. WE GOT THIS! Love you.

    Reply
  31. Danielle

    Andie, I consider it a true blessing that I stumbled upon your blog (thank you howsweeteats). Your messages warm my heart and strengthen me in my battle with my own mind. Sometimes I hurt and I feel broken but your stories, which are honest and full of light, help me feel more alive and more connected. I can’t thank you enough and I hope you know how truly special you are to the world.

    Reply
  32. Morgan

    Jeeeeez. I love you, girl.

    I don’t particularly binge eat by the standard definition, I more so eat what I want when I want. Which is mostly donuts, burgers and tacos. Sometimes I think I’m just too comfortable being the way I am. A couple of times a month I’m reminded that I don’t want this (the being overweight part.) And I mean REALLY reminded, sick and crying in bed type. Stubbornness is also a big part of it. That skinny girl ate a scone and an iced coffee, the world is unfair and I must make it fair by ALSO eating that scone and having an iced coffee. It doesn’t ever end. But you make it a little bit more easy. Thank you for that.

    Reply
    1. Tracey

      Hmmmm, Morgan…..Perhaps more time on the being comfortable with the way you are -because that is just fine and because your weight is NOT who you are.
      You are strong. You are smart. You are gorgeous. And you, exactly as you are, are just fine.

      Reply
      1. Morgan

        Comfortable may not be the right word. I’m never truly comfortable. It’s more that sometimes I FORGET about the situation I’m in (being overweight) and then I get friendly and unfriendly reminders sometimes. But during those periods of forgetfulness, I tend to not watch what I’m eating. As in donuts instead of oatmeal for breakfast, etc. Thanks so much for your kind words! xo

        Reply
  33. Emily

    Andie- I am completely inspired by your honesty in each of your posts. This one too hit home as I tend to binge on my staples- pizza, mozzarella sticks…anything Italian! I don’t eat the best 100% of the time. I’m curious though- you mentioned that you have a partnership with Duncan Hines. Why would you choose to partner up with a company who makes unhealthy food that is not made from real ingredients. I know you’re not a nutritionist but it seemed out of place to see that you’d be behind a company who is making the very foods that cause obesity. Sorry to be such a harshmellow but it just struck me as odd.

    Reply
    1. Hannah

      Emily,
      I can’t speak for Andie, but I’m thinking it’s probably because that company’s food doesn’t cause obesity… You can eat a Duncan Hines product every day and not even be overweight. It’s way deeper than just unhealthy food causing obesity. It’s how we deal with emotions or stress, it’s habit, addiction, health problems, medication, lack of physical fitness…
      With everything in life, moderation is key. :)
      Hannah

      Reply
  34. Leslie

    I love your description of the regular person who overeats. I long to be that person. And even after 5+ years at my goal weight I still loathe this person.

    What I have to remind myself of ALL the time is that this is not a curable disease. I am not going to wake one day and be that person. So, I am happy for her (no really…) and although I am jealous it is just not someone I am going to be. Just like no one in my family has six-pack abs- it isn’t in the genes for me. Accepting that helps me accept other things and concentrate on the things I do have and the progress I have made.Which is easy on the good days and almost impossible on the bad. But… there is still an almost, which means it is not a wash and the possible still exists. So, I try to move on.

    Reply
  35. Pamela

    After another nerve wracking day at work today I could barely contain myself as I waited for the medium-sized ooey gooey double cheese pizza to arrive. I did my usual gobbling down of a slice before the delivery man had even pulled out of my driveway before descending to the family room and hoovering the remainder.

    And then I read your post. And then I cried while saying yes, yes exactly get out of my head Andie. I have struggled with binge eating for over 10 years. I am aware of my emotions and my triggers and the actions that follow and I’m aware that they are irrational and that I am not eating out of hunger, I am eating my emotions. Eating my anxiety.

    The next time that these feelings come up, and they will without a doubt, maybe tomorrow maybe next week, I vow to sit with those emotions, let myself feel uncomfortable. That is something I’ve never allowed myself to do is to be uncomfortable with the emotions that have led to my binge eating. What’s the worst that can happen? I cry, I maybe shriek, I have a full blown temper tantrum and throw myself on the floor!

    What a fantastic feeling it will be to overcome my emotional need to stuff my face for the first time. How powerful will that make me feel, take that you calzone you!

    As usual you bring clarity, comfort, a sense of validation that I am not crazy, I am not alone in my feelings. Thank you for your courage!!

    Reply
  36. Jessica

    Andie,
    There’s a reason I always come back to check in on your blog, and why I’m so thrilled to find a new post: I can always relate. When I’m staring guiltily at the empty bag of cookies and still wondering what’s for dinner, you get it. I’m just starting to learn how to voice my emotions instead of bury them(and/or eat them), and I always know I can come here for encouragement.

    Reply
  37. Danielle

    Beautifully insightful and articulate, Andie – as always. It’s taken me 20 years to overcome my binge eating disorder; I know that I’ll always be learning more about myself and my relationship with food. Such a wonderful community you’ve created here.

    All the best to those of you on the journey to beat binge eating. You’re all amazing!

    Reply
  38. Autumn

    Andie,

    I love your blog so much, and what a great post. Having struggled with an eating disorder myself for so long, I’m really appreciating life in recovery free from the constant worry about how many calories I’m eating, whether the food I consume is “good” or “bad”, how much I weigh, and whether my appearance is the defining measure of my worth as a woman. It’s taken so long to separate “bingeing” from the body simply feeling deprived, malnourished even. I wonder what your thoughts are on the idea that binges only happen in the presence of dieting/restriction, ideas promoted by such individuals as Geneen Roth (“for every diet there is an equal/opposite binge”) and Gwyneth Olwyn (her site, youreatopia.com, is a tremendous resource for many of the topics you address, as well). Anyway, thanks so much for being such a beautiful and inspiring individual!

    Reply
  39. Natalie Irwin

    This is exactly what I needed to read today.

    You are SO my soul sister. I feel as if you were describing me! I have such a struggle with food and maintaining weight. I totally rely on it to provide with me pleasure, just as you have described. But food cannot provide the true satisfaction that I seek and I think I’m finally realizing that. I didn’t even realize I had those expectations! But you are so right. There are a lot of us out there who enjoy stuffing our faces… hoping that a second cupcake will be that much more satisfying but it so is not. It’s so not worth it.

    Food is a passion of mine and always will be. I love to be creative with my cooking and baking but now I think I can set that boundary between worshiping food and simply enjoying it. I have been trying to eat healthy on again off again and ALWAYS beat myself up when I have one slip. I need to stop doing that. I need to realize that having a slice of pizza every once in a while is perfectly fine!

    Thank you for your words. Looking forward to Part 2!

    Reply
  40. Jessica

    I know I’ve commented once already, but now I have an anecdote to add that happened this morning.
    Yesterday I bought an individual slice of cake from the grocery store as part of a binge and in my shame following said binge, I did exactly what you mentioned. I hid the plastic container under other trash in the kitchen. Imagine my surprise this morning as I’m washing the dishes when I spy the container waiting to be washed. Busted. My husband had never said a word, just placed it in the sink as a gentle reminder that he knows I’m struggling, he’s here if I want to talk, and don’t forget to recycle. ;)

    Reply
  41. Jennie

    Andie,

    Thank you for showing that vulnerable part of yourself to the masses. Like many others who commented here I too have followed you for some time. I too wonder how you managed to put into words what I’ve felt for ages but could never verbalize. You have a gift in the ability to share so eloquently those experiences and feelings. After reading this post, couldn’t help but respond to say Thank You. Thank you to someone I will likely never meet, but who has made an impression.

    Reply
  42. Nichole

    Oh where do I begin? I feel like crying as I read this. Crying that I can relate, crying that you are SO right, and crying because well yes, that is me. The perfectionist – the black/white, I need more grey. When I binge and spiral I lose control and you’re right it’s nice at first. But gah, again thank you as always!

    Reply
  43. Sarah C

    Great, just great. I know that sense that once you’ve slipped for the day you might as well keep going, but I read once a great analogy that helped my thinking. The person said that if we were stopped on the side of the road with a flat tire on our car, we’d try to fix it and keep driving – we would NOT shoot out the other three tires because hey, once one is busted the others might as well go too, right? So it’s just like you say, eat the donut, but then go back and have the salad you planned for lunch instead of checking the whole day off as wasted and doomed. Easier said than done, of course, but reminders like this help.

    Reply
  44. Carol

    Hi Andie,
    Thank you so much for addressing the things I struggle with most. I have been a binge eater since middle school. It haunts me like I am a drug addict; I makes me feel so ashamed that I cannot admit this to anyone but my husband. Just this week, I ate an entire bag of stuffed pretzels, and I think that I am beginning to feel/internalize how this practice does nothing for me; it numbs me for a bit, but the sickness, pain and shame come back with full force and lead me to make further bad decisions. I have started a weight loss plan AGAIN where I allow myself the things I crave, and I am hoping this helps foster a better relationship with food. It didn’t 8 eight years ago, but I am a different person now truly, and the things I’ve learned about me are AMAZING and to be celebrated…..
    Thanks for sharing so eloquently.

    Carol

    Reply
  45. Elle Fischer

    Thank you for this inspiring blog! I have been fighting this battle for a while and I know what you are talking about. Thank God I already lost 22 pounds but I still got a long way to go, I just started my blog on losing weight, just sharing some advices that worked for me and trying to inspire people to change habits (has worked for me) rather than jumping from one diet to another – I also hope it helps me to keep on the right track!

    Elle
    http://delightfulloss.com/

    Reply
  46. Genia

    Unbelievable …. you said everything and said it perfectly. Thank you ever so for sharing your ride with us. I appreciate it (you) so much!!!

    Reply
  47. Michelle S.

    Thank you for putting words down so eloquently that seem to truly capture my thoughts and all there really is to weight loss and living healthy and just living.,

    Reply
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  49. Suz

    Thank you so much for this post. I so needed this. I feel like I’ve woken up, and I have a lot of work to do.

    If I recall correctly, you have recommended books that helped you through this process. I have searched the site but am unable to find your list. Would you mind sharing the books that helped you through this process?

    Thank you, again.

    Reply
  50. Meg @ Adventures in Verdance

    I’m just getting back on track, too, after a hungry hiatus. I just stopped caring one day because of the vast intensity of what I was going through. After 6 months of this, I finally caught myself and promised myself to do better. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It was enough for me (I’m much better now).

    It’s all downhill from here. There will be bumps along the way, but it will get easier. We are all behind you. :)

    Reply
  51. Hannah

    Andie,
    Thank *you* so much for opening up yet again to your truth-hungry readers. I know how much umph it takes to bare those ugly bits. Binge-eating is a nasty truth is so many people’s lives. It’s what drove me to bulimia and now what I’m battling most in my recovery from my ED’s.
    I wish you well in your healthy-relationship-with-food journey!! You have been such an inspiration in the past few years I’ve been reading CYSFD. It makes me sad I don’t know you in real life, but happy you’re here to share your experiences and wisdom!! :D

    Reply
  52. angela

    I had to break this into several readings because it hurt so much. The truth of it all, the way I related, it all just hurt, like staring into light. Thank you for sharing this. This post was very healing for me.

    Onward we all trod, to health, to self love.

    Reply
  53. Asha Lee

    Wow, I know exactly what you mean here. I pick one piece of candy out of the jar, and next thing I know, I’m 10 deep. Then I need something salty, like pretzels to kind of even out my taste buds. Donuts are certainly my downfall. Pizza, too. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in my search for healthiness.

    Reply
  54. Heather

    Hi Andie,
    I’ve been reading your blog for years, and you are the only person that seems to put my same feelings into words, sometimes without me even realizing it until you say it. Your writing jumps off the page and speaks right to me. It is so easy to feel alone in the struggle you describe when all of my friends have a healthy relationship with food. Reading your blog posts always make me feel less alone, like there is hope, and I owe you a huge thank you for that. I don’t even know you, but I have always felt this strong connection to your writing. You are an amazing person, please keep doing what you’re doing. I admire you and look up to you, for your faults, struggles, and successes all the same. Your brutal honesty gives me hope. Your words are truly a gift to me, and from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

    Reply
  55. Sara Stein

    I have no idea how you keep doing this. You manage to be raw, real and honest about things most of us have no way to put into words. During times when I wonder if I’ll ever escape the cycle I’ve worked myself into, I come here. This never ever fails to inspire me to just keep right on going because if nothing else at all, I’m certainly not alone.

    Reply
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  57. Kelley

    Andie–you inspire me not only through your tremendous weight loss (and maintenance) journey, but through your incredible bravery. You have an innate ability to be a completely transparent writer. Your courage to be genuine makes me wish I could do the same on my own blog. You’re constantly saying what I’m feeling–or have felt at some point–and I’m so drawn to your honesty.

    I’ve been here. I’m still here. Binge eating and I have been intertwined for 26 years now. There are days–nay, weeks–when I can’t seem to untangle the two of us. We’re sisters in sadness, and I’m constantly looking to emancipate myself.

    Your particular voice means so much to me, and I’m so happy to have found your words on this great big blogosphere .

    Xo

    Reply
  58. Cathy

    Thank you! I don’t know what else to say because I’m speechless after reading this.
    Please keep writing, you are an inspiration to me.

    Reply
  59. Cortney

    This is the first post I’ve ever read on this site and I am definitely going to stay. I am currently battling with binge eating and this post made me sit down and come to accept the battle I have ahead of me. It’s not just a matter of willpower (though it definitely has a huge role). It’s about admitting what’s really happening. I’m eating to fill a void in my heart and soul that will never be filled by binging.

    Thank you SO much for sharing these thoughts. You’re really an inspiration and I appreciate you for that.

    Reply
  60. e

    read this during the day. felt all strong then went home and ate 4 cookies at 200 calories EACH blew my whole deficit. then got into the chocolate. argghh

    Reply
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  63. Ashli

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! For opening yourself up and telling it like it really is. You are amazing and have such a gift! :)

    Reply
  64. Joanne

    Hi, Andie, it means a lot to see what you have to say about being realistic regarding the temptations of eating the unavoidable “goodies” that will always be around. As a counselor, I’ve had to “take some of my own medicine” and be as good to myself as I would to a person who came to me for help, An indulgence occasionally in a piece of cake or snack isn’t going to kill me or drive my weight up to an unmanageable level. Sometimes when I am feeling the urge to stuff my face it is because I am stressed or depressed (that old emotional overeating thing). It’s surprising what happens when I substitute something else for it, like listening to upbeat music that makes me smile or making a phone call to a friend so I don’t feel so alone, or just asking my husband for a hug. If I absolutely “have to” have something in my hands to put in my mouth, these cold days it works best if its a cup of hot chocolate or hot apple cider. They’re actually a lot more emotionally soothing and take longer to drink than it would take to scarf down a half dozen cookies! It’s the little things that give us victory.

    Reply
  65. JJ

    Andie, what a great post! Stumbled across your blog for the first time today. I’ve subscribed to the blog & pre-ordered your book.
    I especially like the way you make it apparent that dieting is not just about the food. A month ago I started on diet number gazillion and 2, & I’m just now starting to wrap my head around this concept. Which is why I was looking for some online inspiration. Which you’ve supplied. Thanks!!

    Reply
  66. John

    Brilliant article thanks for sharing!

    This is a very realistic article as so many of us struggle to resist temptations and can relate to this.

    Finding the underlying issue which is causing you to binge eat and accepting that you have issue with the quantity of food being eaten is a great starting point.

    Reply
  67. Brad

    Awesome! So grateful for you sharing this abundance. This is something i’ve allowed to challenge ‘me’ but have never read anyone’s thoughts on it before and find it so helpfuL! Ah, glorious gifts of the universe :-)

    Haha that logic, “This will be the last time,” “Must finish this now!” Ah, gets me some time. Silly mind how it works.

    Perhaps the challenges i’ve experienced with food is part of the reason i choose to simplify things a bit by basically not using any money, preferring vegan foods, and preferring to read or journal or meditate in the evenings instead of go out and party, because hey…the party’s always going ;-)

    Anyway, Love and Gratitude in superabundance!

    Hallelujah!

    Reply
    1. Joanne

      I know when food hasn’t satisfied when I’m done inhaling it, feel physically lousy, and say to myself “why did I eat that?” It turned out to be something that wasn’t nourishing, and I was stuffing my face instead of facing my feelings. I write in my journal, listen to meditations and try to expose myself to positive thoughts, instead of beating myself up over an isolated binge eating incident. It doesn’t happen every day, so on those days I’m victorious. And when it does, maybe i just need a hug from my husband or a little support from my friends online, and I ask for it. Loving touch is better and more healing than inanimate junk food any day.

      Reply
  68. Rachel

    This post is everything I have experienced. I especially love what you wrote about people who are able to see past the black and white thinking and living. I recently started a weight loss blog, and I have found that the writing is therapeutic, even if nobody is listening. Sure, I have had cravings since I have started. But the realization that the food isn’t always actually what we are hungry for or craving is powerful in and of itself. It is comforting to know that other people have felt what I have felt, and have been where I have been. Thank you for your wonderful posts.

    Reply
  69. Christina C

    This was beautifully written, with mindfulness and emotion and truly sums up the struggle of bingeing. Thank you so much for articulating what it feels like every time a binge comes on and the reality of what a binge is other than the downward emotional spiral of self hate.

    Every binge in my life has always been just one last time, it will be different next time. I’ll have the willpower next time. Every time I’ve binged, the hate, the anger, the utter lack of control was so overwhelming that for much of my life it ended up with me purging.

    Two years ago I lost 60 lbs. Currently that loss now is 40. I’m trying to find that balance between 60 and 40 lbs where I’m happy. At my lightest I found myself so excited to be at my skinniest, but I was also not happy, which is a whole other story. How can the one goal I’ve always wanted my whole life not make me the happiest person alive forever? I learned that weight loss and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness comes from inside regardless of the outside.

    Thank you for your post, the struggle is real, it is life. How we choose to deal with it, learn from it, is what matters. Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting this into words.

    Reply
  70. Samara

    Thank you. Just…thank you. You’re right. It’s too easy to assume that you’re the only one in the world who struggles with issues such as binge eating. By facing your fears, you’ve helped me to accept mine and take a first step forward. I’ll forever be grateful and in your debt, so once again…thank you.

    Reply
  71. Sangria

    I’ve read your post “What I don’t miss” about a dozen times (and can relate), so I feel you have a lot of knowledge about these kind of things, so I must ask: What do you think about eating unhealthily (candy, cake, fizzy drinks) only one day of the week?
    I actually have stayed with this for a while, and it works for me – if working means that I only eat these kind of things once a week, and not every day. But then again, I eat a LOT when I do. But it helps my mind when I crave something another day of the week to think “I’ll have that on Friday, not today”.
    Do you have any experience with this – “saving” up all the unhealthy stuff for one day of the week? (And I’m not talking about eating a chocolate bar, I’m talking about a bag of crisps, a chocolate bar and a bag of assorted candy for instance, plus regular food).

    Reply
    1. Gayle

      I did the whole “one free day per week” for a couple years. It made my binge eating SO MUCH WORSE. I was always good and would always wait for my day, but that day got bigger, and bigger over time. You find yourself trying to stuff more and more in before the end of the day. You don’t want to go to bed because you know the fun and release is over for another week. You find yourself not sleeping the night before in anticipation of what you will eat the minute you get up in the morning. You are legalizing a binge…almost requiring it because in mere hours, the shackles will be on again!

      Reply
      1. Sangria

        Thank you for your input, and thank you for your input!
        Yes I see what you mean – cramming in more food than what one would think was possible in one day.
        May I ask what you do now?

        Because I don’t want to give up eating “unhealthy items” now or then, but having one “cheat day” a week keeps me from eating it EVERY day.

        Reply
  72. Denise @ Do you have that in my size???

    I just found you today, through a link on Theodora’s blog, and omigosh, I’m blown away. This one statement sums up everything for me: “People with solid relationships to food and their bodies get on with it.” That! I now have words to describe what my goal is for maintaining the 95 pounds I’ve lost over the 22 months – thank you SO MUCH for that gift because without knowing what to call it, I’ve just been drifting, aimlessly, and dropping into the binge-shame cycle on a weekly basis. I think you may have saved my health (and most certainly what passes for sanity).

    Reply
  73. Ross Boardman

    Great post. Sounds unbelievably familiar :) I had got myself in to a healthy eating routine but I still had a problem. Mainly at weekends.

    My issue was cheeseburgers. Double bacon cheeseburgers. After booze, all I wanted was cheeseburgers. Often more than one, sometimes three.

    I decided to stop drinking for a bit whilst I got my weight under control. Guess what? I didn’t eat half as many cheeseburgers and the weight started to come off.

    I still have the occasional treat (not three) but I don’t beat myself up about it anymore. Life is for living.

    I’m still working on fixing the “hunger grumps” but healthy protein snacks are helping lots with that.

    Reply
  74. Cathryn

    I have loved your words for a long time, and this post is no exception. Excellent insights. A wonderful reminder to be gentle with ourselves, to be kind to ourselves. Thank you!

    Reply
  75. Becky

    Sister, this is me. I could have written this (of course not as eloquently). Every word resonates. Thanks so much for sharing and giving hope to something that I’ve struggled with and suffered through with my whole life. (and from reading the comments, many other do too!)

    This sentence “at least one part of it is blissful. It’s a letting go, a complete relinquishing of control” really struck a cord in me. You hit the nail on the head. Perfectionism is killing me – physically and mentally.

    Thank you for the wonderful words.

    Reply
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  77. Sarah

    What a powerful post. It’s really hard to truly just let out one’s inner feelings and be honest and open. Thank you for sharing your experiences, struggles, and challenges. I work in the weight loss industry and this post just hits home with so many of my clients’ thoughts and feelings. I’ve shared your blog with them. Thanks a ton. It’s always good to have tools around or reminders that the extra food or the extra whatever it is just won’t satisfy what’s really “missing” or what you’re really “hungry” for.

    Reply
  78. Joanne

    Every time I read your post about this, Andie, I get something more out of it. I can feel your emotions and intermittent frustration. I’ve found one thing I need to do is to just keep large portions of goodies out of the house. If they’re not there, I can’t eat them! Of course, there are times I get cravings when I’m shopping, so I try to buy small bags or boxes of stuff I’m tempted by, instead of huge servings I can catch myself munching on till the whole thing is gone. Preparation is key. In this weather I like warm comfort food. A warm drink is way more comforting than chips or cookies. And less calories too!

    Reply
  79. Ruby

    I came back to read this again, as I have been struggling with binge eating again recently after years of being over it. I’ve gained back all the weight I lost and I know it has everything to do with emotional pain that I just wanted to eat away. I was honestly hungry for a snack when I opened up this webpage and was mulling over the leftover pizza and some hershey’s kisses that are for my kids. Cause if I was going to eat, I might as well fulfill all the cravings. You know what? After reading this I chose a greek yogurt with a sprinkle of chopped almonds. Not because I felt guilty, because pizza and chocolate aren’t necessarily “bad” foods, but logically I know they are just not the a good choice for a mid morning snack. I realized that if I was going to eat because I was hungry I might as well eat something that would make me feel good physically today, not something that would feel good just while eating. Lesson #3 was especially eye opening for me, to understand how a normal person would react to celebratory treat foods and imagining how they can fit in “moderation”. Truly you are right, it is NEVER enough when you are eating emotionally. Andi, the way you write about food issues is so profound for me. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  80. Shane

    Hey Andie. I just want to say: you’re absolutely amazing! To read your stories inspired me all the time! You know every day is so hard for me and I really have to struggle with myself and then I read your stories and I feel hope inside of my heart! Thank you so much, you are my inspiration!

    Shane

    Reply
  81. Gayle

    You are perfectly right. Binging has nothing to do with the food (well, other than food is delicious)…it’s the mind and heart. We crave and obsess because it is labeled as good or bad in our minds. I love the paragraph about the woman’s day of eating…because this is normal. I wanted to be allowed to be normal with food for 33 years…but mentally I had accepted that it was “bad” for me…which cause me to feel crappy on every level and drove me to eat obsessively (or to diet obsessively when I couldn’t stand myself any more). Have you read “Intuitive Eating”? It sounds exactly like this is where you are headed. Stopping the food judgement, realizing that your desires for food aren’t the food itself. Sitting with the discomforts we are trying to avoid with food and un-demonizing food are two major steps to that food freedom.

    Reply
  82. Cristina

    Andy, thank you so much for this post, and for all your words of wisdom. I loved watching your TED talk, and have been a fan of yours for a couple years now. I love your recipes! Thank you for sharing every part of your journey, even the lows. Your openness and honesty about your struggles with food is something that really strikes a chord with me, a fellow food lover. Thank you!

    Reply
  83. Tricky Fitness

    Hello Andie. I really love your blog. Your blog will serve an inspiration to all of your readers and followers.

    Reply
  84. Tracey

    I’m tired of this body- of hating it, of not appreciating the incredible things it does for me every day, As much as I tell myself it is not about how I look, what I weigh and that it IS about the fact that I am a triathlete, that I am strong , that I am SO SO much more …….I succumb every moment, it seems, to what I KNOW is absolute bs.

    And the depths of my despair: Yesterday, I went for a liposuction consult. How sad- harming my body even more with the trauma and false promises of plastic surgery.

    Reply
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  86. Leslie

    I wish I could have a cookie or a piece of pie at a party and move on, but I can’t. It would ruin the party for me. I would spend the rest of the party thinking about eating or not eating more, more, more. It would cloud my thoughts, I would feel sad when they covered up the pies and washed the knife, knowing that dessert time was officially over… And then I would feel like some sick food monster for being the only person at the party that noticed the pies were put away.. So then I would feel hungry and depressed. If I just don’t have any, I am ok. I can drink a cup of coffee and remain present, controlled. Any is a trigger for me. I go from enjoying the party, to thinking when can we fffing leave so I can go home and eat? I think it’s a good thing we are not friends, we would have wild delicious times together but never get anything done besides meal planning. And snack planning.. And late night snack planning… Good night

    Reply
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  88. Bennie

    This is great! i feel hope. I am currently on the road to weight loss surgery. I have been since july 2014 and will continue at least until July of 2015. I can’t wait any longer for this. I can’t spend another year of my life waiting for something to change me. I have to change me. I can change me. I read everything you wrote word for word and came across to me as it just passed through my lips onto the paper. I felt the desire burning inside to fight for me! I haven’t felt that in a long time. Thank you.

    Reply
  89. Amber

    Thank you for posting this. I have been reading your blog for a while now, and love it. Only when I read this article, did I realize that I have a problem with binge eating. I’ve always known my relationship with food is a little messed up, and I’ve recognized for a long time now that my attitude toward food and health is too black and white. If I eat something “bad” (which I know is a horrible attitude about food to have in the first place), then my whole day/week/month/whatever is ruined. I go through periods of eating so nutritiously and feeling fantastic, and then something happens, a switch flips, and I spiral out of control. Everything you wrote here felt so familiar as I read through it. Realizing now that I do have a problem with binge eating, and seeing how many others feel the same feelings I do, makes me realize there is some hope in finding a path toward health. Thanks again!

    Reply
  90. Sandi

    My problem is a little different in that I don’t binge on specifics, rather I graze my way through the entire kitchen eating small portions of ALL the things (not even all ‘bad’ things) available, trying to find the one thing that will fill that empty space in my emotions/brain, until I’m bloated, uncomfortable, mad, and still have the empty space. I have come to the conclusion that for me, it’s just best if somethings don’t come in the house since I’m rarely motivated enough to go get them in the wee hours when these things usually strike. The good things that OP bring in my life I’m OK with. Fortunately I’d rather not go into grazing mode with an audience, so I can usually have just a normal amount and walk away. I’ll never be skinny again, nor I realize do I want to be anymore. I just want to be healthy.

    Reply
    1. Alyssa

      I do this too… graze on everything trying to fulfill the craving for the thing I “can’t” or just don’t have. Usually when I get home from work starving, but before I’ve made dinner. Then I sit down to a meal. I’ve gotten better at not doing this, but it still happens. And then after dinner I’m usually so full I want to puke. It’s just not worth it.

      Reply
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  92. Alyssa

    Everything about this post is so perfect, I just love it. I haven’t really been a binge-eater since my teen’s (I’m 28 now), but I’ve struggled with my weight for more years than I care to count and have definitely had those feelings of “eat everything today, because the diet starts again tomorrow,” or “when am I gonna get a chance to have birthday cake again??” Probably next month. Or next week. But that’s not how I’ve ever looked at it…
    I’m just now learning what you’re learning, what you said in this post. And it’s all so true and so real. I’ve been steadily (rapidly) gaining weight for the past couple of years and have just recently lifted my head out of the sand to deal with it. I’ll be reading your entire blog today, apparently. I think it will help. So thanks for that.

    Reply
  93. Naomi

    I’m crying!! The eating and stuffing it all in is exactly what I do. I am COMPLETELY obese, and I’ve hidden what I do so know one knows. But they do. They watch me gain weight and most say nothing about it, because they don’t want me to be hurt. I applaud you and thank you from the very bottom of my heart for this.

    Reply
  94. Angie

    I found your blog today and I am binge reading because today I grazed all day and I felt like I binged until I read this article. I don’t have to call it a binge, I actually even had victory in that I chose to come home after work and take a bath instead of go to the grocery store and get all of the items that I crave that I did not have available to me at work today. I chose me, I chose to stop and come home…now I don’t need to feel bad about the day or the food I ate. I can feel good that I am seeking out healing because I was trying to fill something that is deep and empty inside of me but the food never touched the emptiness. I prayed in my car before I got out to walk into my house, I prayed that God would help me be ok with today and just be still tonight. I prayed for the courage to face the demons inside of me and He led me to you and your blog. I am grateful to hear the compassion you have for yourself and am moved to have grace and compassion with myself tonight. I thank you for living out loud Andie!!! I also watched your Ted talk and my take away from that is the question, can I just not binge for today. I am actually saying to myself, “Angie, can you just not binge the rest of the night? We can deal with tomorrow in the morning.” I also liked your suggestion about journaling which I am going to go do now. Thank you so much for letting myself and the world into your thoughts so that we know that we are not all alone…I feel so isolated in my relationship with food but you just gave me hope……thank you thank you thank you!

    Reply
  95. Lindsay

    “Don’t paint it all black.”

    Those words are an a-ha moment for me. Countless times I’ve self-sabatoged in a way not unlike a little girl drawing a picture, and when she thinks she can’t get one part just right, she furiously scrawls all over the drawing, ruining it. SO MANY TIMES.

    Thank you for reaffirming that we don’t have to paint it black, that the imperfections are just fine each and every day and we are beautiful.

    Reply
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  97. Carie

    I have been attempting binge eating recovery since last summer by seeing a therapist. Despite making previous small changes, I am just starting to really see the work pay off. I just finished your book and really enjoyed it. Thank you for this site, and in particular, this post. You put into words what I have struggled too.

    Reply
  98. Amy

    Andie, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story. I feel like I am reading the story of my own life. I recently found your blog and immediately bought your book- I am devouring every word. My favorite part of your story was owning up to the weight gain in 2012 and regaining control. Last night, I listened to your TED talk and I was in disbelief and how true it rang for my own life. When you started talking about your dad, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I lost a lot of weight last year and was a few pounds within my lifelong goal when my dad got sick and suffered for months before eventually passing away in July. I ate anything and everything in sight, gained almost all the weight back, and basically cried myself to sleep every night. I think the depression was in equal parts due to the grief of losing my dad and the shame of eating all my feelings and constantly using him as the excuse WHY. I am back on track now, taking it one day at a time, and trying to feel the feelings this time. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you. And also, I live in NY too and I think we could be BFFs. :)

    Reply
  99. Stephanie

    I came across this post today and it floored me. I felt like you were taking the thoughts and feelings straight out of my head. Can’t tell you how much I loved this post. You are making a difference to everyone who reads your stuff and though it was ‘just them’.

    Reply
  100. Staci

    I’ve never seen anyone put into words exactly what I was thinking and feeling and to describe ways to address it. Today is my first day discovering your blog. I’m currently reading your book that another author (can’t remember who!) recommended. I’m enjoying it tremendously. I’ve nodded my head so much, acknowledging many of the same situations I’ve been in myself. I’ve cried because the truth of what you are saying hits so close to home. Thank you for sharing your experiences and putting them so articulately into words.

    Reply
  101. Sandi

    Andie,

    This is the first post of yours that I read. You had me at Duncan Hines can of cream cheese frosting. Having lived through decades of the cycles of shamed-filled bingeing followed by fear-based food plan controlled eating, I know that I know that I know food was never the problem. You completely nailed it – I’m hungry for something else that food will never satisfy.

    My understanding of that fact came when one day when I was calmly reading a book not even thinking about the can of frosting sitting in my fridge. Out of the blue, a revelation struck that whether I wanted to or not, I was going to eat that frosting. I was totally without choice in the matter. When it comes to sugar, I am as addicted as an alcoholic or a crack addict. That moment of reckoning has ultimately changed my life.

    Every time I had dipped back into the sugar, it was because I had accepted someone else’s truth as being true for me. I was ignoring my history and my own truth that no matter how much I tried to be a normal eater when it came to sugar, I simply couldn’t do it. Not everyone is addicted to a substance. But I am. And that truth and a can of frosting have set me free.

    Reply
  102. janice

    You described me perfectly. This is exactly what I’m going through right now and I needed to read someone else’s journey to not feel so crazy and alone. Thank you.

    Reply
  103. Laura

    Hey I just wanted to say thank you. I read this and started crying cause of how much it related to how I feel about my weight and eating habits. Sometimes it’s just nice to know I’m not alone…

    Reply
  104. Farrah warfield

    And I – for the first time in July life I finally don’t feel alone in my addiction to food. I’ve just started reading ur book and yor description of food and what it did for you. It was like reading my own thoughts about food. You have given me hope in beating this addiction. I’m a long way from being in control. Any advice you can offer?

    Reply
  105. Carrie

    Lesson#2, truly spoke to me. I have eaten cans of frosting, and Nutella, etc etc. you are my new guru. I happened upon your book at the library. The picture on the cover drew me, I related. Saw what it was about, immediately checked it out. Devoured it. Quoted paragraphs to my husband to try and explain me. Discovered this blog thru it and feel blessed to have your voice in my head now, joining the more detrimental voices that reside there. Thank you thank you thank you, I am not alone. I don’t know if you read all these comments, but I just wanted to express my gratitude. I did not binge yesterday, your words of wisdom helped give me the strength.

    Reply
  106. Toria

    This has to be some of the best advice I have ever read. I too am a chronic binge eater, especially on a Saturday night, and I know I am trying to fill a void that is not actually an empty stomach. I have been running from boredom, loneliness, wistfulness and a whole other barrage of emotions that, on my weekend, I really don’t want to feel, dammit!
    I think you are absolutely right when you say I need to “put the frosting back”, sit down, and just feel the feelings.
    Thanks for the insight!

    Reply
  107. Nicole

    Wow, great post. Can I ever relate. I’m slowly moving out of this phase, but it sure is hard. I’m really happy that I am not alone here! It’s not something you regularly bring up in conversations with friends!

    Reply
  108. Erin

    Oh. My. Gosh. You never cease to amaze me. This has me in tears in the greatest of ways. I needed to read every single beautifully crafted sentence in this post. I felt like you were writing my thoughts entirely with my relationship with food. Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I’m really struggling lately with food issues and this was perfect for where I am.

    Reply
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  110. Bee

    I just finished your book- I can’t stop suggesting it, more like throwing it at people demanding that they read it. I felt a peace I had never felt before knowing that SOMEONE out there knew what I felt, and feel. Especially that college isn’t always the best time.

    You’re insanely relatable and have a way of coming across as though a friend is writing to me. I plan on reading all your posts here as well! Thank you for this post, and for all you write.

    Reply
  111. Elizabeth

    Oh.my.god. I literally felt like I was reading my own thoughts… I’ve finally come to the realization that I have a bingeing problem, and it makes me feel better knowing I’m not alone in this. I too have eaten two, three…even four cupcakes in one sitting and spoonfuls upon spoonfuls of frosting…merely hoping that giving into these cravings would finally subdue them. And boy was I wrong…afterwards, it just makes me feel sad. And thus the cycle begins again. I’ve felt so ashamed and embarrassed to even think about talking to someone about my habits, so I am beyond grateful I’ve come across you, your website, and your story. Thank you for sharing and thank you for being a light at the end of the tunnel for me.

    Reply
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  115. Hibaq

    I have never seen someone capture what it means to binge eat. I’ve always had an issue with my weight since puberty, everything just got bigger and it was something that I wasn’t expecting it. So I turned to food to make me feel better, sweets are my weakness. I zero in one thing and go at it, at the end of the day I think of the “treat’ awaiting me. It used to be a pint of Ben and Jerry’s before bed, and now it’s become chocolate chip cookies sometimes six or twelve a night. I keep telling myself that it isn’t as bad as I think it is, because I devour it in seconds so I can’t see the evidence. But it’s feeling bloating, and like I want to throw up when heading to bed. I am such an emotional eater, that I don’t notice how much I’m eating. I constantly reassure myself: it’s because you had a bad day, because you’re in a fight with a friend, even treating myself when something good happens in my personal or professional life deals with binge eating. I just can’t stop, even though logically I know what I’m doing is wrong. That constant ‘wanting’ you describe is exactly what I’ve been dealing with for 8 years of my life. And I want to stop, I just want to disconnect my emotional turmoil to my relationship to food. Thank you Andie, I just found this blog and I just know it’s going to be a huge inspiration to me.

    Reply
  116. Loved article!

    I have never been overweight, but have always been on the high end of the spectrum ( except from when I was a teenager and would starve myself for days on end). It’s safe to say though, that I always had a very unhealthy attitude about weight and eating. My family consists of my mom and two sisters, and I had always been the heaviest while they were always slim. I can remember from a very young age thinking I was fat and despising myself for eating so much. So as a teen I decided to take charge and starve myself for as many days as I could in a row and then fall into a binge session. This stopped in my late teens as I became pregnant and had to take care of my unborn child first- so I ate healthy. But even after as an adult I continue to struggle with this all or nothing thinking, as you mentioned. One mistake sends me spiraling into guilt and shame, to which then I want to give up. I loved your article, as it hit a nerve for me, as I am sure many others too. Perfection isn’t real, and one doughnut doesn’t break a person. Much love!

    Reply
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  118. Sonia Kircher

    Love this article thank you so much ! One day at a time I so love this approach not next week and I am always gunna Do this and that I think I might actually get it start enjoying the ride live for today kerp cutting out food that is doing us damage. I have got rid of pepsi max and potato or hot chips . Thank you having a tough year and need to accept yes you are so right we will always be wanting wanting wanting . Thank youI start my journey right now!!!! Thank Yiu for opening up my eyes to it is possible just take it a day at a time!!! Thank you !!! Hope u have a great week! Love your blog!

    Reply

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