Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Insanity of Binge Eating Disorder, and the Long Path to Recovery

A long time ago, I developed Binge Eating Disorder. I'm not even sure exactly how that happened; I started out a normal weight, with normal eating habits. I know I began comfort eating when I lost a much-wanted pregnancy at 21. I probably ate too much in general in my early 20's just because I was a good cook, loved to bake, and enjoyed eating those things with my family. I put on an extra 20 - 25 pounds after three pregnancies and two losses in a short period of time. I ate sometimes to feel better. To stuff down the awful grief. A piece of pumpkin loaf was a nice distraction; a cinnamon roll took my mind off the fact that I was not able to hold those babies I had so loved and wanted. But it was one cinnamon roll. I didn't binge.

It didn't occur to me to binge back then. I ate normal meals, stopped when full. Maybe have an afternoon snack some days. But all of it was normal portions. I never had a fleeting thought to eat two or three of those cinnamon rolls in a day, or a week... much less six in one sitting. That came much later.

Years went by and my family grew. I guess my stomach did, too, because I found myself gaining more weight with each pregnancy. Six babies, two lost, five years. Bedrest. More comfort eating, a cinnamon roll more often now. But still just one. Still normal portions, calm feelings, enjoyment of every bite. No crazy cravings, no "food runs". Maybe a little more lasagna... an extra half piece. Breastfeeding made me hungry! The calories definitely crept up, the activity level while on bedrest was nonexistent. Poor choices in my eating, very few vegetables, lots of cheese and sauces and carbs. When I delivered #4 I weighed 200 pounds. But I didn't binge.

I exercised. I ate healthy. I joined a gym and counted calories and lost over 30 pounds. I got back down to 167 and was feeling good. But then... divorce. And after the divorce, stress. No food. No money. Scrambling to find work, wishing there was someone, anyone... an aunt, a sister, a cousin, a grandma... to help with the four little children on those long days. We started eating from the food bank then. Afraid some days of not having enough to eat, but relieved on other days when the food bank gave us 3 dozen cookies, 6 loaves of bread, a box of cinnamon rolls, several packages of muffins, and two bakery cakes. And then, I started to binge.

In one year I gained 80 pounds. It's almost a blur, all of it. I had no idea it was happening. It never occurred to me that I was binge eating when I would eat a whole box of donuts in a day. After all, that's what we had here to eat. Beans and rice or scrambled eggs for dinner, maybe some canned soup or pasta sometimes. But hey, there are 3 boxes of donuts on the counter and someone has to eat them before they get moldy or stale and I was really grateful to have them... so the kids and I ate them. Before work, after work, on weekends. Lots and lots of cheap, day-old, bakery foods from the food bank. And I didn't see the weight gain, and the stretch pants fit just fine for 20 or 30 pounds and then "wow, these cheap pants have holes worn in the thighs already! I better go get another pair from Walmart. They must have changed the way they size these things, because I swear I was a 16 and now I am an 18!" And I binged and ate and bought new stretch pants all the way from 167 pounds to 245 pounds, and never truly saw what was happening. I was too emotionally distraught by my circumstances to care about my weight. Never knew I was binge eating. It was automatic after awhile. Eat and eat, anytime something that tastes good appears. Eat it until you can't eat anymore.

Go back, read my early blog posts. I describe true binge eating disorder there. People who tell me I binged when I ate 3 cookies, or that eating a sandwich and fries at Applebee's for dinner is a binge, truly do not understand binge eating. A binge is not eating too many calories at lunch, or having a food that isn't on your diet plan. A binge is not overindulging at Thanksgiving or having an extra helping of dessert. I understand that to YOU, any excess might be called a "binge." But you are using that word as slang for "ate too much." And that is not what binge eating is.

Rapidly eating a large volume of food.
Eating more and more even when full.
Hiding the evidence.
Inability to stop.
Compulsive/obsessive thoughts about food.
Eating in secret.
Feeling completely out of control.
Eating until it hurts.

And it HURTS. I lived it. More than a decade.

When the poverty ended and I could finally afford to eat *whatever I wanted*, all the feelings of sadness turned to glee. I did not have to eat those day-old donuts and cakes anymore! I could eat at McDonald's every day if I wanted to, or go out to nice restaurants each weekend. I could buy or make a *good* fresh cheesecake, or good cheese for lasagna, or make a big meal of roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls with butter, and a pie for dessert. I could buy all the things I used to have to bypass in the grocery store. Haagen Dazs ice cream! Deli enchiladas! Chocolate covered nuts, boxes of chocolate, truffles, Philly cheesesteaks! As many kinds of chips as I wanted. And oh how I wanted.

Looking back it was insanity. But isn't that what binge eating disorder is? A mental illness? I couldn't see what I was doing to myself. I couldn't talk any sense into the out-of-control binge eater ordering 3 kinds of pizza for dinner and baking cookies and brownies in the same day. She was just SO HAPPY to have what she wanted. Finally. Except she didn't really want to weigh 283 pounds. But that's where this behavior led.

I know I still have food issues. Of course I know. I do still sometimes eat things I wish I hadn't. I do still sometimes get intrusive food thoughts and cravings. The difference now is:

These thoughts are no longer a daily event, but more on the order of a few times a month.
I am aware.
I think about what I am doing.
I usually put these thoughts aside and do not act on them.
I act on these food thoughts rarely, instead of several times a day, every day.
If I do act on these thoughts, I am moderate. One serving. Maybe two, max.
I do not eat rapidly and out of control.
I can stop.
I do not eat until it hurts.

I am not ashamed that I had a sandwich and fries while I was sick. I am not ashamed that I found my cup of tea with coconut milk and honey deeply comforting this morning. I am not ashamed that I had a softball-sized peach for a snack. And I am not ashamed that I had cake for dinner one day last month.

I appreciate the comments many of you leave. I reexamine my behaviors and thoughts on a regular basis, and many of my breakthroughs were sparked by words left here over the years by readers. But I also want you to know, so that you are not disappointed, that each of us has our own reasons for what we do, and our own goals for how we want our lives to be, and our own decisions to make about what is acceptable or not in our own lives... but not in the lives of others. Your ideal life is not my ideal life. There are things I am not satisfied with: my activity level, my weight, my tendencies to slip off plan when I am stressed or sick. All of those things are intertwined, all of them are things I am aware of and addressing. But there are also things I *am* content and satisfied with: finding pleasure in my food, taking comfort from something I eat or drink that is *not* harmful to my health, using this blog to write about my diet and food thoughts, and letting go of the guilt I used to feel surrounding what I eat. I am far, so far from perfect! You know this and so do I. There are hints of BED still within me. Sometimes I wish for it, I long for it, I want it: shopping sprees and grocery carts filled to the brim with junk. Evenings alone eating ten kinds of delicious foods after the kids go to bed. Giving in to the euphoria of that food-induced high. Like a druggie. But you know what? I *do* remember all the bad. I force myself to remember the pain, both emotional and physical. I close my eyes and feel how I used to feel when I came down from the binge, so sad, so hopeless, so alone, so ashamed. And then I open my eyes and I know I don't really want it anymore.

I could relapse, I know it. There is a fine line there between obsessive thoughts and actions. I pray that as time goes by my desire to stay clean from the binge will continue to grow stronger as my memories and desires for the binge fade and weaken. I am not invincible. It has taken years to stop binge eating and will surely take more years to erase the voices of the obsessive food thoughts. I do not have the same thoughts as a person who has never suffered from BED. But I also no longer have the same thoughts as a person who is fighting to break free from the binge addiction. And for that, I am deeply thankful.

Monday, September 15, 2014

AIP Breakfast: Summer Squash Hash

This morning I wanted to share a breakfast that I enjoy many days, especially during the summer months when summer squash is abundant. A breakfast "hash" is usually made from potatoes, and while I've made breakfast hash from sweet potatoes on AIP, sometimes I want a less starchy, lighter option for breakfast. Thus was born the summer squash hash.

My favorite squash for this is patty pan squash. It is colorful and sweet and seems to release less liquid than other varieties. But I've also made hash from zucchini and yellow crookneck squash with success.

First, get your bacon started in the pan. I usually cook 2 slices for my breakfast. You'll use the grease to cook the hash; if you are not making bacon this morning, you can just use some reserved bacon grease. It gives a very nice flavor. Be sure and use uncured, sugar free, pastured bacon. Also check for spices; some bacon contains paprika which is not permitted in AIP. I buy my bacon from the local farmer's market.

While your bacon is cooking or grease is heating, wash and prep your chosen squash. You'll also need a sweet onion:

pattypan squash and onion

Chop enough squash for your liking; amounts are not important. Just remember it will shrink down a bit while cooking so cube up enough squash for your breakfast. Cut it into little cubes, like hash browns. Also, dice 1 slice of onion for each serving of squash.

When your bacon is done, remove it from the pan and pour off most of the grease, leaving enough to coat the pan. Add the squash and onion to the hot grease and cook until translucent and browned. You will want to stir it a few times when it is first added to the pan, but then stop stirring long enough to let the edges brown a bit. When the vegetables are browned and tender, add some sea salt. If your protocol allows, you can add black pepper and/or some herbs to the hash at the end. (The strictest form of AIP prohibits pepper).

I serve this with bacon, avocado, and fruit.

Autoimmune paleo AIP breakfast hash

It's a simple, delicious, and filling breakfast. I look forward to trying this hash recipe with winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc) this fall. Hope you enjoy it!

For more AIP-friendly recipes, check out Phoenix Helix's Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable! New recipes each week!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Feeling Lousy

I cannot believe I am still sick. I think the head cold turned into a sinus infection. Bah, not good. My daughter caught it too. We spent today laying around the living room and taking naps. Zero energy.

So that's two weeks sick, and I am going to the doctor this week if I am not improving. I haven't blogged because what good are a bunch of posts saying "yeah I am still sick, don't feel like blogging"? But I will update what I can and hope for something better next week.

What I weighed on Sept 1: 226
What I weighed a couple days later, still 100% AIP, but sick: 229 
What I weigh now: I dunno, no idea. Scared of the scale.

What I ate the first week being sick:
bacon, ground beef, AIP sausage, fish, chicken thighs
beets, greens, sweet potatoes, other veggies (I stopped writing things down a few days into being ill)
strawberries, blackberries, peaches, other fruits (ditto)
avocado, olive oil, olives, coconut milk
decaf black tea, honey, beef broth
I did make myself a pot of chicken soup from chicken thighs, onions, garlic, celery, and carrots and ate that most days.

Exercise that first week:
Before I was sick I went swimming once (20 min) and walked to school once (1.25 miles). Nothing since then.

What I ate the next week being sick:
I started falling apart. Headaches, fatigue, frustration. Felt too tired to cook, but I did try. Made some roast and cooked some veggies. Thawed some AIP "chili" and had that. But also lost my motivation and ate some white rice. I was at that point still trying to think of the best "non AIP" thing to add if I was going to go off plan... and I knew I was. After 7 solid weeks of 100% AIP, I felt like I was losing it and could not eat one more cup of chicken soup or plate of vegetables. I ate a lot of white rice. I had to go out and run errands and stopped and got a latte, which I have not had coffee, milk, or sweeteners in 2 months so it did not go over so well. I knew what I was doing, but I felt like I had no energy or motivation left to fight it. That turned into a bowl of ice cream, and on another day a sandwich and fries. And a bowl of potato soup.

You have no idea how crappy you can feel until you are not only sick but also go diving headfirst off AIP like that. Holy cow. My daughter looked at me yesterday and asked, "Why is your face so red?" Yep, that redness that I had before came right back. My face broke out and looks just awful. I have congestion and a headache and keep falling asleep in the daytime but waking up in the nighttime. My joints ache. I know part of that is just being sick, but I also know that eating that junk made me feel even worse. I don't need to go into the why's. I think anyone who's ever eaten something because they *wanted it* even though they knew it wasn't good for them gets this. No excuses, but I've got to clean up my eating and get back to AIP. I know I'd feel so much better.

No, nothing I ate tasted that good. In fact, sometimes I would have really just liked a big bowl of steamed butternut squash instead of something off plan. But it seemed like some kind of Mount Everest to cut up and peel and cook a butternut squash when I was so exhausted and sick. When I feel better, I am going to process a bunch of squash and other vegetables and freeze them, so next time all I have to do is get in the freezer and nuke some good food. I had a few things ready in the freezer but not enough. I need to do some batch cooking so I have a freezer FULL of good, healthy things to eat when I am sick or busy. 

Well enough, I am so tired and feel awful. That's my update, my crash and burn after 7 weeks of AIP. Here's hoping for a better week.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Just a quick update. I am sick... kind of miserable. Nothing major, just seems like a bad head cold and some nausea on the side. It started with lots of sneezing on Sunday, which I thought was just allergies, and then a headache on Monday. I wasn't sure if it had something to do with the reintroduction of some seed spices I was working on, so I quit those and went back to strict plain AIP. But over a few days it was clear I had a head cold. Congestion, headache, super tired, etc. I'm sure it'll be fine in a few days, but wow, the scale popped up 3 pounds overnight. I'm not eating a lot but sure wish I had some chicken soup or bone broth in the freezer. Too tired to cook.

I haven't been sick in *so long*... I am pretty sure this is the first time I've been sick this year. So hopefully it'll pass soon and I'll be back to normal in no time.

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1, 2014: Progress Report

Yesterday I shared my weekly weigh-in as well as what I ate and my exercise for the week. Today, I am looking at the bigger picture: where am I now? How is this working? I like to look at progress over a longer term to get a better feel for things. Here's a basic summary.

I started AIP in mid-July weighing 242 pounds.
Weekly losses: -2, -1, -2, -2, -1, -2, -3, -3
That totals 16 pounds gone in a month and a half:
I lost 6 pounds in July.
I lost TEN POUNDS in August and weigh 226 pounds.

Why the emphasis? Because I have been working on weight loss all this time and in the last two and a half years the most I was able to lose in one month is 3 pounds. In a month. And I was working harder than I am working now. I was also eating less than I am now... about 1200 calories a day on average. I have only counted calories on 3 random days in the past 6 weeks, out of curiosity (not restricting), and my counts were around 1400/day. I am pretty sure I eat more than that on hungry days. I am far less stressed than I used to be about eating. I eat what I want from the AIP template, whenever I want to, including plenty of healthy fats.

I attribute this turnaround to three things: 1) addressing my thyroid dysfunction. Without healthy thyroid function, it can be very hard to get the results you think you *should* get from your efforts. 2) not being confined to a chair most of the time due to debilitating plantar fasciitis. I am not sure people realize how bad this was, but yeah. It was disabling. My activity level is *normal* now. I still don't exercise as much as I should, but just being able to walk around and do stuff all day makes a huge difference. 3) starting the AIP diet, which is not magic or anything, but it does cut out a lot of foods that can give people trouble. Cutting out processed foods, grains, breads, baked stuff, fried stuff, most restaurant meals, eggs, dairy, etc really makes it easier to hold a lower calorie level and not be triggered to overeat.

I still worry I will flip out sometime and go eat a bunch of junk and not be able to get it back together for days or weeks. I hope that doesn't happen, but I have battled an eating disorder for many years and I don't think there is a "cure" for that. I guess I feel like it is in remission right now. But I know it is there, and it makes me nervous sometimes. One bad choice could lead me back down a really bad path. All I can do is keep plugging along and trying to make good-for-me choices and avoid triggering situations... although sometimes, just grocery shopping can be triggering. I'm working on ways to deal with this because I know that even if I get my diet and exercise and thyroid medication to a "perfect" (for me) place, the longstanding, underlying food issues could come out and throw me. I think I am starting to see it more as a disease... like drug addiction or alcoholism... and less as a character flaw or weakness.

Anyway, I am thankful things are going well *now* and I am doing the work to help myself continue on this healthy path. I appreciate your support.

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