How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 5

This is the fifth and final post in my How I Beat Binge Eating series. In case you missed them, here is the Intro as well as Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. I finally figured out how to stop emotional eating and bingeing, and I hope my story helps you believe that you can change too!

Pretty Much Normal (and SO Much Happier!)

By here, my daughters were 1 and 3. My binges hadn’t gone away completely, but I was getting better and better all the time. It was exciting and satisfying to finally feel somewhat “normal” with my food and exercise. It was ironic, too, that after all my years of dieting and restricting and training for long races, I was starting to lose some weight without effort. You read that right: by curbing my workouts to 30–45 minutes a day and working in dessert a few times a week, I was losing weight! I dropped down from the mid 150s to the mid 140s by simply taking good care of myself. It felt amazing.

beat binge eating
Camping with Mark and the kids by my favorite lake up in the gorgeous Uintahs.

A Final Test

Then something devastating happened. Because I love the person it involves dearly, I’m being intentionally vague. It’s a part of my story I can’t leave out, but something I also can’t share fully here because it’s only my story by extension. I apologize for this, but I feel it’s right, and the person I’m talking about cleared what I’ve written but asked that I leave it where it is and not elaborate further.

Anyway. I found out that someone I loved was struggling with an addiction. This wasn’t something anyone knew about until this person bravely chose to come forward, bring things to light, and start the fight to be free again. When I found out what was going on, I was completely thrown off-balance. I would never in a million years have seen it coming. And, though I know now this wasn’t right, I felt partly responsible.

Guilt Again

This person had been close enough to me that I found myself analyzing every aspect of our relationship, every interaction over the past few years. I started feeling intense guilt, thinking that I’d been mean and judgmental and all-around rotten at times to this person. I was convinced that if I’d been better to this person, maybe things could have and would have been different.

I also struggled with bouncing back and forth between wanting to give this person a hug and wanting to throw them in front of a train. Some of the details of the deception involved in keeping this addiction up had to do with lying to me, using me, and generally abusing my trust. This was someone I’d loved and respected for years and years, and finding out they’d kept so much in the dark made me feel angry and lied to and betrayed. Yet when I’d feel this totally justifiable anger and hurt, a new layer of guilt would wash over me for feeling anything but sympathy for this person who I knew was suffering so much. I was both hurting for this person and extremely hurt myself, and for a week or two I could barely even function.

I don’t know what I would have done through this time if I hadn’t had Mark by my side to remind me, over and over, that this wasn’t my fault. He was and is the best friend I’ve ever had, and I don’t know how I could live without him. I also wouldn’t have made it without another good friend who had recently been through something similar and was willing to talk with me about it all. And I know for a fact I never would have made it through without my parents’  willingness to let me collapse on their couch and sob whenever I hit my breaking point and just couldn’t take it anymore.

Relapse & Realizations

During this time of high stress, I had a mini relapse of a few bad, bad binges and one purge. For a brief, dark time I felt as lost and sad as my freshman self from the past. Again I found myself trying to use food to cope. But what happened was actually really interesting: I found that bingeing just didn’t help. 

Back in the day, I’d feel massive euphoria and relief when I’d eat a huge quantity of sugar. It calmed and comforted me like a drug. But now? It didn’t have that effect anymore. I just felt overstuffed and cranky after overeating—which I’d always felt post-binge, of course—but the temporary high that used to drive me to binge wasn’t there like it had been years ago. It wasn’t a sensation of feel-amazing-then-feel-crappy like before: it was feel-crappy-then-feel-crappier.

Furthermore, my stomach couldn’t tolerate the volume of food it used to. I hadn’t had a full-on binge in so long that my brain and body had recalibrated: not only did I not enjoy them like I once did, but I couldn’t really even binge like I once had! I physically couldn’t do it.

how to stop emotional eating with healthy coping mechanisms
What DID help during this time? Running was a lifesaver, for one. I still stuck to 5K training and other short workouts, but I knocked my 5K time down to a new personal best on one particularly hard day. Taking stress out on the trail works!

In an odd way, that relapse period helped me see how far I’d come. I’d figured out, on an emotional level, that food couldn’t really solve my problems. Yes, I still overeat and even occasionally “binge,” but I now see that what I call binges in my head are really just emotional overeating that happens to come as a result of old binge thinking: I follow the same logic my binge urges thrived on, but the amount I eat in reaction is tiny by comparison to what it once was. I figured out then that I hadn’t actually binged in years. I still had overeating and emotional eating issues, true. But true, actual bingeing had been out of my life at this point for a long, long time.

Gina

This time was also heartbreaking for our family as my mother-in-law’s health began to really decline. Gina had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer back in 2012. She lived a miraculously long and full time after her diagnosis, despite the pain and discomfort of aggressive chemo. I don’t know how she was so unfailingly kind and optimistic through so much suffering, but she was. Gina was amazing that way.

But it was during these already hard months for me personally that we had to watch her finally begin to lose the fight to cancer. I’d be lying if I said I never used food to cope during the sad last few months of Gina’s life, because I definitely did. But even then, my binges were small hits of sugary comfort food rather than full-on bingeing episodes.

 

Gina McConkie
This is my mother-in-law, Gina, with the six grandbabies born into our family since her cancer diagnosis—babies she wasn’t supposed to live to meet but did nonetheless. How’s that for inspiring? My Rorie is the one in the pink swimsuit.

 

The 12 Steps: How It All Came Together

Part of the person I mentioned before’s recovery from addiction included involvement in a 12-step program. The particular program they used is an adaptation of the original Alcoholics Anonymous steps made to be (1) general to any type of addiction, not just alcoholism and (2) to fit in with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (better known as the Mormon church), who sponsors this program and of which I’m a member as well. Here is a link of a free PDF of the recovery manual for anyone who’d like to check it out.

I saw dramatic, miraculous changes in this person as a result of this program. I have no doubt that God can and does help people change. I started flipping through the recovery manual too, mostly to be a support to my loved one as they worked the steps but also out of curiosity for my own issues with food and eating. And I loved what I found there.

Now, I don’t feel that eating disorders and addictions entirely line up: there are similarities, yes, but the analogy isn’t exact. For example, feeling like slipping up and overeating is a problem or sin as serious as a relapse in drug use is silly and counterproductive, in my opinion. Thinking this way only fed into my old fires of perfectionism and guilt. Figuring out how to stop emotional eating and bingeing is a big deal, sure. I know personally how much upheaval and emotional damage food issues can cause. But still, a problem with food is nowhere near the magnitude of having a problem with illegal drugs or alcohol. Reminding myself of this was key.

So the 12 Steps weren’t a perfect, exact fit for me. But much of what the 12 steps offer is beautiful. I found the steps VERY applicable to me and still do. Honestly, writing these posts has essentially been a Step 4, as any of you familiar with the 12 Steps might  note.

Essentially, I feel like this addiction recovery manual is a great handbook for anyone who wants to change and wants God’s help in doing it. I followed the steps as far as they applied to my situation, even called into a few of the support meetings for a time, and read through the manual again and again because of the hope it gave me.

how to stop emotional eating with the LDS addiction recovery manual

Faith AND Works

The main beef I’d had with Kathryn Hansen’s Brain Over Binge was that she emphasized so much of how you can beat bingeing by yourself. She even repeatedly criticizes the approach of 12 Step Programs as fueling her old mentality that she needed an entire emotional and personal overhaul before she could ever stop her bingeing. But as someone who has been a Christian all my life, I was uncomfortable with the idea that I was every going to fully recover without God. That did not resonate with me like the rest of her book had. But something big clicked as I read through these 12 steps.

I felt in my heart that I could keep applying the Brain Over Binge principles along with deriving strength from a higher power. The saying “God helps those who help themselves” finally made perfect sense to me.

Yes, Kathryn Hansen was right: I could theoretically change my bingeing habit all by myself. But the beautiful thing is that because Jesus Christ lived and died for me, I don’t have to! I do my best to set myself up for success by eating enough calories every day, not overexercising, and trying to reframe my negative thinking. These efforts of mine generally do keep me binge free.

But when I have weak moments, even in spite of all my best efforts, I can pray for strength to keep doing all those healthy things. And every time,  I feel those prayers answered through God’s grace. God hasn’t fixed my problems for me, but He has helped make me strong enough to keep fixing them myself through my persistence and learning and hard work.

As tough as the entire year of 2015 was, this year was where my recovery final cemented itself as real and lasting. It showed me that bingeing no longer did anything real for me, and it showed me how my best effort alongside the grace of God would keep getting me and my eating better and better. It showed me that I could survive some of the hardest things life could hand me without using food as an unhealthy crutch. I did it: I beat binge eating.

Where I Am Today

It’s June of 2016 as I type this now, and my life is GOOD! I eat enough every day now. I eat desserts regularly. I don’t overexercise. I have a sound understanding of what my nutritional needs actually are, and I honor them. I’m able to question and analyze negative thinking rather than spiraling into self-hatred and frustration by default. And I rely on God, every single day, to help me keep these new habits and ways of thinking strong. I work as hard as I can, and He helps me along.

Family shot by the castle on our trip to Disneyland in April 2016.
Classic family shot by the castle on our trip to Disneyland in April 2016.

My life and eating aren’t perfect, but they are so far from what they once were. My bad days tend to be me eating 5 cookies when I planned to eat three, or feeling cranky and eating a bowl of cereal instead of facing the actual problem I’m facing right away.

Is my eating perfect? No. But whose is? Honestly, I’d be okay if this is how things stayed. I keep working towards getting better but acknowledging that where I am is pretty great. I feel healthy. I feel happy. And I feel like all that awfulness of bingeing is finally, finally behind me.

Back when I first decided to truly get better, when I was early in my pregnancy with my second child, I promised myself that before I became pregnant again, I would be in a good and healthy place with my eating. It wasn’t fair to a coming, unborn child for me to be pregnant again if I wasn’t healthy enough to care for a little one that would depend entirely on my health choices.

Furthermore, I know that pregnancy can be an emotional time that also comes with increased hunger, and practically speaking, it wouldn’t be wise for me to be pregnant until I had a better handle on my binge eating. Mark agreed, and so I simply worked through my eating as best I could and decided our family wasn’t going to get any bigger until things had truly changed for me long term.

I can’t help but cry as I type this final section.

Pregnancy #3

It was near the end of 2015 that Mark and I had a series of long talks. Talks about me. Talks about us as a couple. Talks about our daughters. Talks about the horribleness of the past year.  Talks about how my eating was finally, actually changing, even in times of high stress. Talks about what we wanted to do in the coming few years, and talks about how we were going to get there. And we finally felt that the miracle I’d worked for, that he’d supported me through, and that we’d both prayed for for years had finally happened: my eating was more or less better. Things had finally changed for me. And I was healthy enough to be pregnant again.

In January 2016, we got the double pink line we’d been trying for. I was pregnant! We had hoped and prayed that we’d be able to be pregnant with this baby and share the good news with Mark’s mom before she passed on. Miraculously, we were able to tell Gina about her grandbaby to come just three weeks before her passing in February of this year.

healthy pregnancy
Me at 15 weeks along with little Scarlett, right when my bump first “popped.”

 

As I type this I’m  6 months along with the little one we plan to name Scarlett Gina McConkie. Yes, she’s another GIRL! I’m going to be a mother to three daughters.

healthy pregnancy

In the past, I’ve had the thought that I was the worst person in the world God could have picked to send daughters to. I have been intensely afraid that I’d pass down my insecurities and issues with eating and be an influence for bad, not good, on my little girls. But I now take the fact that I’ve got not just one but THREE daughters to raise as a high-five from heaven. You’ve got this, Sarah, God is telling me. You’ve been through so much, figured so much out, and I want YOU to be the one taking care of some of my little girls.

 

raising healthy daughters

You Can Change!

So as scary and crazy as it seems to put all of this personal stuff about my life out there where anyone can read it, I wanted to do it in case what I’ve learned can help anyone else on their way. I want to shout from the rooftops that you don’t have to starve yourself to be beautiful and healthy. Dieting and restricting aren’t the answer. A number on the scale can’t make you happy. Food can’t heal your hurts and heartaches. And most importantly of all, if you too struggle, know that YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO CHANGE if you’re willing to give it time, never give up, and trust in God!

I don’t know who you are, but if you’ve been through any of the things I’ve described,  I want you to know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t crazy or broken or bad or beyond help. You’ve got this. You’re going to be okay. Getting better is absolutely possible, and I know that if you’re willing to give it time and work, you will make it!!!

I’d like to wrap this up with one of my favorite quotes of all time:

beat binge eating

How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 3

This is How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 3. And good news! Here’s the part where things start to get better, and where I finally started to truly leave disordered eating behind! 🙂 In case you missed them, though, here is the Intro, Part 1, and Part 2.

Newly pregnant and terrified that I would slide back into my old ways, I decided that nothing mattered more than figuring out what “healthy” really was and then fighting for it tooth and nail. One night, when I was about 8 weeks along with Aurora, I promised myself that I’d once and for all tackle all my food issues, and that I wouldn’t stop working until I’d figured it all out and truly gotten better.

I’m proud to say that I’ve kept that promise.

pregnant
Here I am at 29 weeks pregnant with Aurora.

Trying Out Intuitive Eating

One of the first things I did that night was dig out the book my counselor from my freshman year had  recommended. Intuitive Eating, it was called. The main tenets of intuitive eating (as I understood them) are as follows:

  • If you simply listen to your body and eat when you are hungry and stop when you’re full, and allow yourself to eat whatever foods you feel like, you will settle into a pattern of feeding yourself exactly what your body needs and wants.
  • Furthermore, your weight will stabilize at a healthy, happy place.
  • Your body comes pre-programmed to be hungry when it needs nourishment, and if you listen to it, it will also tell you when it’s had enough.
  • Reconnecting to internal cues is the ultimate key to normal, healthy eating and ultimately a healthy weight.


Aren’t those beautiful ideas? I read Intuitive Eating from cover to cover within the week, and I wanted what it offered.  The lifestyle the book described of listening to your body, eating the foods you want without ever bingeing, and never following a diet again sounded like a dream come true. I wanted that. And  I was determined to do whatever it took to become an intuitive eater.

Julie

I went online and found a list of dietitians and therapists who specialized in helping patients master intuitive eating. I signed myself up to see both a dietitian and a therapist in my area that very evening. I committed to seeing them both regularly for as long as it took to straighten out my eating.

The dietitian I went to see, Julie, was absolutely wonderful. Julie was a practicer of intuitive eating herself and was convinced that it was a wonderful way to live. And I truly believe that for her it was the answer. She seemed healthy, genuinely happy, and all-around what I wanted to one day be like.

I loved meeting with Julie. She was kind, compassionate, and a wonderful listener. Yet she was also willing to tell it to me straight and help me see where my thinking and eating simply wasn’t healthy or logical. She reacquainted me with basic nutritional information I’d learned once but forgotten thanks to so many diet books and magazines. I learned that many of my old ideals—1200, maybe 1500 calories a day tops, for example—were insanely low for someone of my age and height and activity level. I also learned that trying to stay under 100 grams of carbs a day (something I was trying at one point) was similarly nuts. No wonder I was grouchy so much of the time! Most importantly of all, she was able to convince me that I needed to eat much, much more than I had been eating, especially now that I was pregnant.

We talked a LOT about how restricting was never, ever going to be the answer to my problems. And for me, restricting took on two forms. I was limiting how much I ate, as I’ve described, but I was also very restrictive in what particular foods I deemed okay to eat.

“Scary” Foods

We sat down and listed all the foods I thought were “bad.” Candy. Cookies. Cake. Doughnuts. Sugary cereal. Brownies. Ice cream. You get the idea. We grouped them into the “scariest” foods—the things I’d never dream of taking home and keeping in my kitchen for fear of bingeing—to things that were less tempting to me. One of my lower-tier “scary” foods happened to be Golden Grahams cereal. Julie challenged me to go and buy a box of Golden Grahams and have some. I was supposed to then keep them around the house and eat them whenever I wanted to, and when I ran out of them, go buy more.

WHAT?!?

I was terrified of this idea. Why on earth would I keep something like that close at hand? And then openly eat it whenever I wanted to? Well, as intuitive eating explains, the magic of forbidden foods wears off after a time once they’re no longer deemed forbidden. Sure, you are likely to overeat at first, but eventually the Golden Grahams would become nothing special as I granted myself true, full permission to eat them. The idea was to eventually reach this place with all foods. Nothing would be off-limits. All foods were mine for the taking whenever I was hungry.

birthday dinner
The dinner I ate on my 24th birthday. A big-but-not-insane plate of my favorite things with a sugar cookie instead of cake because I LOVE SUGAR COOKIES and was finally allowing myself to eat them guilt-free again. Being able to sit down and eat a meal like this was a major victory for me, because before this point my meals were tiny plates of only foods I deemed “okay,” and I was simply bingeing in between as a result of being so restrictive.

So I dove in, doing everything I could to follow Julie’s instructions. I bought the Golden Grahams and kept buying them. I moved onto other favorites: sugar cookies, ice cream, Cadbury chocolate. I kept them around and ate them, doing as best I could to not feel bad or guilty for doing so. In a lot of ways, it felt so, so good. I was no longer a sinner, a loser, a joke every time I ate a brownie. Detaching moral wrongness and rightness from certain foods was a big deal for me in seeing myself in a more positive light.

Along with all this, of course, I was also focusing on another core principle of intuitive eating: figuring out when I was both hungry and full. I was trying to listen to my body for things like tummy rumblings and headaches that indicated that I was physically hungry (as opposed to just in the mood to eat). And when I did eat, I tried to really savor my food slowly and determine when I was full. I always had permission to eat again any time I felt hunger, but I was to try to stop once I was satisfied.

Changing My Disordered Thinking

As I mentioned before, I was also meeting with a therapist during this time. It was scary and embarrassing and humbling to call up a counselor and schedule myself that first appointment, but I’m so I chose to do it. If you think this is something that might help you, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help too.

Anyway. I’ll call my counselor Karen. Karen was a key figure in my getting better as well. I feel like Julie helped me untangle the knots in my disordered eating, and Karen helped me finally start to change the disordered thinking I’d had such a hard time shaking off before this point.

The major takeaways I had from Karen were this: I was so, so negative and mean and critical in my self-talk. I was outright cruel in the way I’d berate myself for even the tiniest of mistakes. Karen helped me see myself more clearly and appreciate that while I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be, I was doing a lot of things really well. I’d been practicing mean self talk and negative thinking for long enough that I think I needed an outside source of help to pull me out of my old patterns.

She also helped me “reframe” a lot of my thinking in general. I used to make a LOT of assumptions about others’ intentions and about what was true. For example, back in college, I was sure everyone thought I was fat and ugly. But had anyone actually SAID I was either? Ever? Once? No. Had anyone done anything to me that suggested they thought that? No! This was something I simply assumed everyone else thought, for all sorts of dumb reasons that didn’t hold up to logic when I wrote them down or said them out loud.

half marathon
Old assumption: “I’m not really a runner and I don’t have friends.” Oh, wait. Isn’t that a picture of me right after running a 1:54 half marathon and surrounded by friends who did it with me? Unraveling all my old wonky, negative, illogical thinking was part of what made the clouds finally start to part for me.

More Key Realizations

Another big assumption Karen helped me tear down was that being thinner would help me be happier. It’s sad to look back and see how fiercely I believed that. It’s true that our society puts a premium on appearance—remember how much attention I got for losing weight both in junior high and at the start of pregnancy #2—but Karen helped me reason through how in my day-to-day life, thin doesn’t really correlate with happy. Taking good care of you body does, yes. Being a good mom to my kids certainly does. Taking time to get back in touch with things I loved doing, like writing and playing the piano, could too. Running could as well if I kept it in its place and didn’t do it excessively. But would simply being thin make me happier? NO!

For the first time I questioned my erroneous assumption that weight loss was my ticket to everything I wanted to have and be. And once I’d kicked it off its false pedestal, it was much easier to relax in my eating. Eating a cookie was now eating a dang cookie, not making a choice that would take me away from the happy life I dreamed of and therefore something to feel extremely upset and guilty about.

Learning how to think logically about my thinking patterns was a huge, huge deal. I began to consider other possibilities than my own assumptions when it came to my outlook on life. I used to be so quick to conclude that others didn’t like me, or that qualities and problems I had automatically made me a bad person, and so on. Reframing my thinking finally gave me the ability to start changing my actions.

I slowly began to accept that maybe my body had looked just fine all along. This was the biggest breakthrough: my realization that although I had been absolutely convinced that I needed to lose weight, maybe I’d never needed to. Maybe all of my reasons for believing that were bizarre, illogical, overly negative assumptions. Finally kicking the stuffing out of my disordered thinking was a tremendous, important victory for me.

Internalizing those key ideas from Karen was a critical turning points for me. I’m grateful that she helped me so much in this way. After our first few months of meeting, though, I felt like our talks became meandering and odd. Karen didn’t seem to listen well anymore or understand the things I was trying to say. Sometimes things got so strange and irrelevant to me in our sessions that I wondered if she had me mixed up with somebody else. In retrospect, I should have kept trying to find a therapist that was a better fit instead. But I decided to keep on trying with Karen in the hopes that maybe all the random things we’d talk about at our appointments would eventually come together and make sense. But they didn’t. So once my baby Aurora arrived and getting to appointments became tricky and stressful anyway, I decided to call it quits with Karen and simply work with what we’d accomplished to that point.

Intuitive Eating: Not My Answer

I carried on with my meetings with Julie and efforts to eat intuitively, though, through, that entire pregnancy as well as for few months after my Aurora was born. I was diligent in noting my hunger and fullness. I sincerely tried to stop restricting food and thinking of it in terms of good and bad. I read and re-read the Intuitive Eating book, marking helpful sections in hot pink and orange highlighter. I did every last thing Julie urged me to . . . yet still didn’t see myself becoming the intuitive eater the book promised I eventually would.

My Rorie was born August 15, 2013. I'll always look on my pregnancy with Aurora as the time when I really began to change. How fitting that the name Aurora means DAWN.
My Rorie was born August 15, 2013. I’ll always look back on my pregnancy with Aurora as the time when I really began to change. How fitting that the name Aurora means DAWN.

I felt like many of the ideas and principles from Intuitive Eating were things I needed in my life. I needed to stop hating my body. I needed to allow myself to eat enough food to stay nourished and energized. I needed to stop allowing myself to eat so little from day-to-day and totally restricting certain types of foods, because all that ever led to was more bingeing. And my life’s mission was so, so much more than to simply hit a certain weight.

These are things I still strongly believe, and I’m grateful for the time I spent with intuitive eating because of what it taught me. I wholeheartedly recommend intuitive eating to anyone who thinks it may be helpful for them. But I couldn’t deny a few troubling things that I was seeing in my eating patterns throughout this time I spent trying to eat intuitively.

Maybe I was doing it wrong. Maybe that year I devoted to it wasn’t enough. Maybe I wasn’t really giving myself unconditional permission to eat. I don’t know what to say except that while I felt worlds better emotionally and was finally seeing myself in a more positive light, I was still overeating pretty regularly. I resisted thoughts of “you shouldn’t eat that” when it came to sugary treats, thinking that was my old diet thinking coming into play, and just plain ate a lot of indulgent and sugary foods. I’m sure the total number of calories I ate was dramatically lower than when I was full-on bingeing, but the quality of my day-to-day nutrition tanked. And I began to feel the effects physically after several months.

Saying Goodbye to Intuitive Eating

I started to long for my dieting days in one sense. I felt like committing myself to listen solely to my stomach to know when I could eat was simply restricting in another way. What if I wanted to eat lunch while my baby was sleeping simply for convenience, even if I wasn’t super hungry yet? Or what if I wasn’t really hungry but felt like having a cookie or two at a party? Or what if I was starting to feel uncomfortable with the amount of sugar I was eating? What if I truly wanted to go back to eating less of it so I’d feel better physically? I felt robbed of the ability to choose how I wanted to eat for fear that those choices were in fact “restrictive.”

More than anything, I felt like there was in fact some truth to sugar having an addictive component. Keeping treats around and getting habituated to them did take my overeating down a few notches, that’s true. But I feel like it meant I could now eat 10 Oreos at a time instead of a whole package. No matter how long I kept at it, if I had sugar in my house, I’d eat plenty of it. The “magic” of sugary foods never wore off like it was supposed to. Intuitive Eating promised that eventually I’d be satisfied with an Oreo or two, but that never happened for me.

About 6 months after my daughter Aurora was born, I decided I wanted to take back my power when it came to eating. I wanted to call the shots on what I ate and when I ate it, not rely on some book or the “hunger cues” that never did become particularly clear or consistent for me. Instead of assuming I was broken or stupid or doing things wrong, as I would have in the past, I reasoned that I had worked extremely hard at this and that it simply wasn’t the right approach for me personally. And I decided that while intuitive eating had been a helpful stepping stone in my journey, and likely was a great final destination for others out there, it wasn’t going to work long-term for me.

 

Sarah McConkie baby
Me with Aurora on Christmas Day of 2013. I was way less aggressive in taking off the baby weight this time, and ironically the weight gradually came off all the same. It took longer but I was SO much happier at this point in time than I’d been right after I had my first daughter, Sophia.

Takeaways from Intuitive Eating

So. In my year or so of experimenting with Intuitive Eating, I concluded that it wasn’t for me. In the end, I fundamentally disagreed with its logic. Would intuitive shopping work, for example? No—there’s no company on the planet that doesn’t operate on a budget, and for good reason. How about intuitive parenting? After the first time your child runs into oncoming traffic they’ll learn it’s a bad idea, right? Or intuitive piano playing? Just practice when you feel like it and you’ll be the next Mozart. Or intuitive living generally, from a moral standpoint? Just do whatever you want to in the moment and eventually you’ll end up happy and successful. All these scenarios seemed preposterous. So why was eating magically different from anything else in life? Why was discipline and structure such a key element of success in any other area I could think of, but an absolute no-no when it came to eating?

beat binge eating
More of my Rorie as a baby. Wasn’t she adorable?

I decided that I believed that overly harsh restrictions on my eating were a bad plan that would only fuel my bingeing. Intuitive Eating was spot-on there. I made a firm decision that my endpoint healthy lifestyle was going to include lots of healthy, wholesome foods, but that it was also going to include brownies in moderation. Doing so would safeguard myself against bingeing. Also, brownies are good!

But back to my beef with intuitive eating. Is structure itself always a bad thing when it comes to eating, as the book suggests? Are all forms of discipline, rules, and guidelines inherently evil? I decided that the answer here was NO. I decided a healthy lifestyle, for me, would be a  matter of finding a balance. What things in my eating were keeping me locked in a cage, and what things were acting as guardrails to keep me from careening off a cliff?

I believed I had the right to lay down some ground rules, some structure to my eating. I wanted to figure out how to eat in a healthy way that made me feel both emotionally AND physically good. Intuitive eating and counseling got me to where I was no longer terrified of food and no longer hated myself and my body, yes. But I couldn’t deny that eating as much junk food as I was during this time made me feel sluggish and generally blah. So armed with some great principles and beliefs from the two professionals I’d sought help from, but with some equally firm convictions of my very own, I decided to jump back into the fray solo. I would put my newfound experiences and realizations to work, yet allow myself to be the one to call the shots once more.

Coming Next: How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 4