Coping Skills.

Over the years as I’m embracing radical self-love and rewriting the brainwashing done but the beauty and diet and fashion industries, I have developed a much healthier response to food. There’s no “good” and “bad” foods to me anymore…I don’t count calories and decide whether I’m deserving of a food based on my activity level. I don’t reward myself with food or punish myself with starvation.

BUT.

I’m still struggling with binge eating. And I mean that in the psychological sense, not in the “weight gain” sense. I’ve had many therapists and doctors and psychiatrists work with me on this Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.) but it is definitely still something I’m dealing with even as I successfully conquer so many other of my food-related issues.

For some binge eating foods begins as a way to find a moment of much needed relief from depressive tendencies, and to fill the emotional void left by a lack of serotonin. However, what begins as a seemingly innocent attempt to self-soothe, quickly gives way to a complex cycle of addiction in the body. The flood of endorphins from eating large amounts of food only temporarily alters the neurochemistry of the brain, providing brief periods of solace from emotional distress; but these are not lasting. Ultimately, the demand for food intake to achieve such pacifying effects only increases over time and the coping mechanism completely fails, exacerbating instabilities with mood.

Biology of the Binge: Food, Mood, and Serotonin

Unfortunately, as the article mentions later, it’s difficult/ineffective to just look at and treat binge eating when it’s connected this closely to anxiety and depression. I’ve had one therapist ask me to keep a food log so I could see the binges in concrete form, but then another completely discouraged that because of my already obsessive behaviors around food and calories when I was training for long races and trying to lose weight. I’ve been told that treating the depression will just naturally reduce the binging, but obviously that’s not the case in that article because binging becomes it’s own separate addictive behavior after awhile and considering I’ve had these habits for 15+ years, I’d say it’s become more of an addictive behavior by now.

I was referred to a group therapy once but I could never get over my social anxieties enough to partake in that. (Such a Kim problem: Too socially anxious to seek treatment for her binge eating disorder.) I’ve got responses I’m supposed to have when I go to binge eat, and over the years they’ve ranged in success but – just like with any addictive behavior – old habits are easy to fall back into.

ESPECIALLY DURING A PANDEMIC.

So I’m just kinda putting it back out in the open now. I AM TAKING UP THIS MANTEL AGAIN. I’m supposed to pause before a binge. Pause and think about what the feelings are under the binge. Allow those feelings a chance to flow naturally like all feelings flow. I’m supposed to distract myself. I’m supposed to treat my anxiety and depression. I’m supposed to have a support network to turn to when I’m in despair.

But man…when my brain says: TIME TO BINGE it’s like it just totally muzzles the other parts of my brain that tell me all of the coping skills I’m supposed to use. Like when I ate an entire 6-pack of donuts in the car the other day. And y’all? I SMILED WHILE I WAS DOING IT. That’s what’s so crazy about the addictive response, it really does make you feel better in the moment. And then I got a sugar headache later, and my stomach hurt, and I was beating myself up for faltering the binge again. BUT IN THAT MOMENT IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

I think another part of what’s been having me facing this demon again is watching another loved one deal with their own addictive behavior. I’ve watched their mood improved drastically just from a step into their addictive zone and it’s a visual reminder to me about how real these type of behaviors are. How they do give you that immediately surge of relief from depression/anxiety/etc. And during this pandemic, I’ve intentionally ignored this behavior like I did the increase of drinking in the beginning. Because it’s easier to let that behavior give me that temporary relief if I ignore it all together.

BUT! I’m getting my life back in order during this stressful time. I’m reconnecting with my training and my coping skills. My beers are periodic, my Diet Coke habit is finally gone again, I walked TWO MILES this morning! I can’t ignore this self-destructive binging anymore.

Especially because my psychiatrist will ask me about it in October when we talk again. I DO NOT WANT TO FORGET TO TURN IN MY HOMEWORK.

So, during September I’m looking to get control of this beast again. I’m not going to turn blinders on the behavior. I’m going to remember by CBT exercises and training in the moment instead of later upon reflection. As my psychiatrist says, waiting until [insert anxiety-inducing item here] is over is an illusion for people with anxiety disorders because there are ALWAYS ANXIETY-INDUCING ITEMS. We have to train ourselves to use our skills under all stressors.

Here’s to harnessing mindfulness, depending on support systems, and dusting off all of the other tools I’ve been given over the years. The pandemic is just the new normal, I can’t use it as an excuse any longer.

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