You guys as my readers know this by now: I once really struggled with binge eating. Now I just kind of, occasionally do. I’m still a work in progress, but I feel like I’m out of the woods and that the change in my life has been AMAZING. So what got me from point A to point B? My About Me page gives a bit of my background by way of introduction. But I felt from the start that the main point of having this blog would be to tell others how I stopped binge eating. Hopefully, my story could help others do the same.
But first, let me digress a bit.
This past weekend we went TO the woods, literally, on a little overnight campout. Yes, I am 5 months pregnant, and yes, I slept in the tent on the ground and have lived to tell the tale. You may hereafter refer to me as superwoman. 😉
We had a great, great time. We had a scary few minutes when a ginormous MOOSE showed up while we were hiking. It was running around like it was ticked about something and wanted to impale somebody. Eek! But luckily, the demon moose calmed down and retreated back into the woods, leaving us unscathed. It was a calm, gorgeous, relaxing little time out in nature with my family. Our girls loved being able to explore around the campsite, throw rocks in the lake, and roast marshmallows. And I loved seeing them have so much fun.
But. If you’ve ever struggled with binge eating, you know that trips can be tricky food-wise. It’s really easy to let yourself think, “Oh, this is a trip, and trips are special occasions, so I’ll have two more S’mores even though I’ve already had three and then be good again tomorrow.” Which often ends up being an extra five S’mores instead of two. Then that line of thinking progresses into “Oh crap, I’ve totally blown today so who cares now” thinking. And that leads you to polish off any remaining marshmallows straight from the bag instead of roasted. Next you sneak the extra hot dog your husband didn’t finish . . . and soon you’re bingeing.
The Cycle Broken at Last
What I described above has been the story of far too many vacations and holidays in my past, but this weekend it wasn’t. In the evening I had a generous but not insane quantity of both hot dogs and S’mores, as I’d pre-planned for myself in MyFitnessPal, and in the morning I woke up ravenous but stuck to 1 1/2 bagels with cream cheese plus some applesauce. I’d pre-planned just the one bagel, and I’ll be honest: after that extra half bagel, that old binge thinking came sneaking in: “You’ve messed up the day! That was too much! Just have another bagel now! It’s Saturday anyway so just go home and eat whatever and then start over with the new week on Sunday.”
But I was able to say to myself that all those were stupid, illogical, irrational reasons, especially in light of my “blowing it” being a measly half bagel over what would, in my head at least, have been ideal. Furthermore, I was actually hungry, so eating that extra half was a totally legitimate healthy choice anyway! So I told that binge thinking thanks, but no thanks and went on to be just fine eating-wise for the rest of the day. What a change from how things used to spiral out of control so quickly for me!
This ability to stop binge thinking in its tracks is something that took me years to figure out. I guess I’m not totally “normal” in that I still have those binge thoughts fairly regularly, but most of the time I can shut them right down whenever they creep in. So what has changed? What made my binge eating go away?
I feel like something this blog of mine needs to do better is connect the dots from my past to my present. It’s fun to write about all the good, exciting, healthy stuff that’s going on for me in the present, sure. But what about back then? What has actually changed over the past year or so? How did I get from my worst version of myself in terms of binge eating to the imperfect-but-pretty-darn-okay Sarah that rocked this weekend of camping?
How I Stopped Binge Eating
For the next few weeks, I’m going to be blogging about this. I’m going to do it in a several-posts series since, well, it’s kind of a long story.
Now, I don’t think it does one lick of good to rehash my worst moments. Nor is it helpful to give graphic descriptions of what my bingeing and purging looked like back at its worst in 2008. That doesn’t do anything to help you or me. But I want to frankly share my story. I want the series of turning points that finally all came together and gave me the courage, knowledge, and power to stop binge eating to be out there.
I can at last tell those persistent binge thinking patterns to go right back to hell. And because of it, life is so, so good. And if you struggle, I promise: you can change too!
This is going to be hard for me. But I know what tremendous good has come of people sharing the raw, real versions of their struggles with me. And I feel strongly that I should do the same. I know this is maybe naive and Emily-Dickinson-ish of me, but if even one person out there is helped by something I put out there, then I feel that I’ve done something worthwhile. If you’re wondering how to stop binge eating and stumbled on this post, I hope that something from my experience can help YOU.
Hi there. My name is Sarah McConkie. I’m a mom of three daughters. I’m a wife of an MBA student. I’m a writer, a runner, a lover of all things involving cake batter, and a Pushing Daisies/BBC Sherlock/Gilmore Girls fan (in that order). And I’m out to conquer binge eating forever. Essentially, I’m a former foodaholic that is finally starting to figure things out. My quest is to stay binge-free forever and help anyone else out there who’s sick of the food fight to do the same.
I’m writing this blog because after lots of frustration, tears, and figuratively crumpling up the paper and starting from square one all over again, things are starting to really click into place for me.
Scarves & Green Apples
Now, a bit about my blog’s name. Does anyone else out there LOVE the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic? I think it is absolutely hilarious and adorable (plus the hot British guy totally looks like my husband. Hehe).
But I digress. If you are a fan of said movie, you probably know my blog name references it in a big way. The girl in the show, Rebecca, ends up writing for a money magazine about personal finance. But the trouble is that she’s a shopping addict with rampant credit card debt—something she doesn’t mention to her boss or anyone else at the magazine. But throughout the movie she overcomes her problem with shopping by figuring out what’s really important and then biting the bullet to make hard changes and simply STOP her old patterns. And that’s what I want to do. Rebecca’s pen name for her magazine writing is “the girl with the green scarf.” I want to be the girl with the green apple: someone who had a real problem—eating in my case, not compulsive shopping—but who overcame it.
In case you’re curious, here’s a bit about where I’ve been. (This is the Reader’s Digest version, btw. If you want the whole thing, check out my How I Stopped Binge Eating series of posts on my Binge Eating Help page.)
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a hard time eating sugary foods. Sugar has always been hard for me to eat in a moderate and normal way. Even as a kid I remember occasionally being embarrassed at how many cookies or brownies I’d eat if my mom made a pan of something yummy. I knew I was eating more than any of my other family members ate and felt ashamed of it. However, the negative feelings bounced away pretty quickly. I was a fairly happy kid and then a fairly happy teen.
My freshman year of college was when I became really worried about my overeating for the first time in my life. That was also when I began overeating more than ever before. I was freaked out! I’d just moved away from home. I was dealing with my first real heartbreak. The economic downturn that year (yep, it was 2008) meant my dad got laid off and a scholarship I’d planned on using to pay rent didn’t get funding. I wasn’t getting along with my roommates like I’d hoped I would. It was a lot of things all at once, and I didn’t handle it well.
Full-Blown Disordered Eating
I began full-on bingeing about once a week as a freshman. The binges happened when I was feeling particularly stressed or sad or scared. After a few months of that, I began making myself throw up after overeating to try to compensate.
I purged after bingeing a total of five times over a three-week window before realizing that what I was doing was scary and just plain wrong. I felt sick, weak, and shaky after purging. I didn’t want to do it anymore, but I was afraid of the weight I’d gain if I didn’t get a handle on my overeating. I panicked and cried and prayed. And though it was scary, I finally told my roommate and my mom about what I was doing. With their encouragement I went to go see a counselor at my university.
I’m grateful that I sought professional help. I needed it then, because at this point of my story what I was doing was extremely unsafe. However, I feel bad that my counseling there wasn’t a fantastic experience, or at least one that proved helpful long term. My counselor and I met a few times and we’d talk about all the things I was worrying about, and he did give me some good strategies for dealing with my feelings and fears more healthily. But after three visits over three weeks my counselor seemed to think the problem was resolved since the purging was over (the last time I did was even before we began meeting). He told me to just come back if it started up again. So there we go: I was “better.”
So I carried on. And in a lot of ways, life was great. I graduated from college I got married to a wonderful guy. We had two gorgeous daughters. All in all, things were really, really good.
I purged a total of two times over the next six years, and my overeating calmed down from the extreme pitch it had hit back in college. But my overeating never really went away. Sometimes binges were directly correlated to stress, sometimes they were a “last supper” response to my deciding I’d start another diet the next day, and sometimes they seemed to happen for no reason at all. My binges/overeating episodes weren’t multiple pizzas plus entire tubs of ice cream, but they were often 1,000—2,000 calories in one go of rich, sugary stuff, and they made me feel horrible physically and emotionally. I found myself perpetually worried about my weight and shape, sure that many of my problems would go away if I hadn’t been “so fat.” I think the dieting attempts that began in earnest beginning with my freshman year were the #1 factor in leaving me totally unable to stop bingeing, simply because I never let myself eat enough to be full consistently.
The years went on and the overeating/restricting went on about as I’ve described. I felt like I was in this weird limbo: I didn’t have a full-blown eating disorder, but I wasn’t happy with where I was with food. I was stressed about it constantly and scared of it. I seemed stuck on a wheel of restricting (both in terms of what I ate and how much I allowed myself to eat) and then rebounding with binges. I wasn’t doing anything dramatic or scary or unsafe anymore, but I just wasn’t completely happy.
If you’re in that same camp, my friend, I wish I could give you a huge hug. Because I know firsthand that it sucks. I also know that SO MANY PEOPLE, especially women, are like me. I’m amazed at how often I get the response “Me too!” when I share with others that I struggle with eating in a so-called “normal” way. So many of us are not full-blown anorexics or bulimics, but we aren’t happy with our relationships with food, and often that unhappiness seeps into other areas of our lives. It’s confusing and embarrassing to feel that you don’t have a “legitimate” problem, but that you still wish you could find something or someone that could help you get things straightened out. That, at least, has been how I have felt.
Better at Last
So. Years went on, overeating went on. In times of stress things would occasionally worsen, but with the help of my amazing and supportive husband as well as others who love me, I’d pull through before things got out of hand as they did back in my college years. And while none of the approaches I tried “worked” in the sense that my binges totally stopped, I gleaned helpful ideas and practices from almost every one of them that are helping me progress, and things slowly but surely began to change.
The biggest factor in my increasing success? I began letting myself eat enough. That single behavior change has been such a dramatic turning point for me. And over the past few months, I’ve finally allowed myself to say it out loud: things are starting to change for me long-term.
It feels so good! I go for so much longer than I once did between binges—weeks rather than days. And even my “binges” are things like me deciding I don’t care about healthy eating on moody days, having three pieces of toast I’m not hungry for, and then realizing what’s beginning to happen and stopping in my tracks. Really, I haven’t truly binged in years.
My thinking, my eating, my EVERYTHING is starting to finally change. And late last year I hit the point where my husband and I felt like I was in a healthy enough place to try for our third child. I’m thrilled to report that I’m currently about 7 months along with a third baby girl we’re planning to name Scarlett. 🙂
And so I began this blog. In my darkest hours as a frightened bulimic college freshman I decided if I ever figured things out, I wanted to help others find their way out too. So here I am. I’m not a professional, and I’m not yet completely where I want to be, but I think I’m out of the woods. And I want to share everything and anything that has helped me and continues to help me along my way. My hope is that someone else out there can find hope and a bit of practical help from what I write about.
I believe there’s power in being honest and vulnerable and real. There are some things that are embarrassing to share and hard to talk about. But guess what? I talk about them anyway. I’ll reference my struggles with bingeing head-on in lots of my posts. However, I’ll also write about all things healthy and happy that are keeping me better. You’ll see a lot about healthy pregnancy and post-baby recovery here too. Since I’ve been going through both recently, that’s where my head has been lately. But the bottom line is this: I’m out to have a happier and fuller life where regular binges are a thing of the past. Moderation, not perfection, is my battlecry. Everything on this blog is meant to support that idea and help you in your own quest to live you happiest, best life.
So here’s my effort to share about my journey to finding a place of real HEALTH. And by “health” I don’t mean weighing 110 pounds and living exclusively on protein powder. By health I mean genuine, all-around wellness. I want to keep figuring out how to live a moderate, truly healthy lifestyle where I’m taking care of myself not just physically but emotionally too. And I would absolutely love for all and any of you reading this to come along on this journey with me: a real, imperfect, former foodaholic who’s out to become the healthiest and happiest version of myself I can be.