Binge eating as punishment

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Binge eating as punishment

Post by gratefuldeb67 » Thu Sep 11, 2008 12:59 pm

I just felt like putting this on the general page instead of my thread because it's an idea that Reinhard has mentioned throughout the years I have known him, and it happened to me last night.

I have been really getting into my daily walks, and yesterday I found I had let myself procrastinate too long to really be able to go. I was pretty upset with myself. I don't find it surprising that last night was also one of the days this month where I fell back into mindless night time eating. I would consider it a mini binge..Not that I ate that much stuff, but it was truly just stuffing my face and not even enjoying it.. The whole time thinking, "look what you are doing to yourself.. why are you doing this?" but still, like a depressed zombie chomping on some unholy feast (hahah I like that!) eating this bowl of non NoS approved veggie chips (Blech please someone give me real potato chips cos these just don't cut it!) and not enjoying any of them at 3:30 am.
I am almost certain that had I been happy and not upset with myself for skipping my walk, I probably wouldn't have done this to myself.
Looking back on in in the light of day, I am almost sure it was actually a form of punishment. Not even throwing in the towel cos I messed up, so who cares if I then continue to mess up attitude, but actually doing something to punish myself. I know this sounds dramatic, but when I follow the emotional changes from the time I started to procrastinate and feel "oh no you are gonna miss your walk" to the point where I was unpleasantly wolfing down the chips (again they didn't even taste good to me, so no way to say, well it was something I just *had* to eat cos it was so tempting.. this was clearly not pleasure eating) the mental workings just got more and more negative, and the feeling of disappointment was so strong, in myself, that I am certain I was in fact punishing myself by giving in to binge eating.

Anyway.. That was very long, and maybe it seems I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but I felt I had to get it off my chest, and also try to prevent it from re occurring.
Good news is I threw out the rest of the bag of chips this morning and am in a good state of mind again and *will not* be missing my walk later.
I see how important the relationship with me and exercise and over all health is, and I suppose in retrospect, the times I have been truly successful in dieting as well, throughout my life, I have always coupled it with exercise.
Have a great day NoS family.

Peace and Love

8) Debs
There is no Wisdom greater than Kindness

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Post by reinhard » Thu Sep 11, 2008 1:59 pm


I'm sorry about this incident -- but thank you for sharing it here. Though it might sound strange on the surface, I think the emotional process you describe is actually typical for binge eating. That you recognize it so clearly is a big first step.

Some relevant "teaser content" from the book:

(pages 143-145)
I’m an Emotional Eater! When I’m
Depressed, Food Is My Only Comfort

On one level, emotional eating is just an obviously ter-
rible strategy. It not only makes you fat but also it doesn’t
even work as comfort (for more than a few minutes). And
the truth is— and this is what makes it such a diffi cult
problem to deal with— that emotional eating is at least
as much about self- punishment as it is about consolation:
force-feeding as a kind of self- revenge, a sugar- coated
scourge. The mentality behind it is really quite similar to
that behind binging and purging; the only difference is
the means of discipline: more food instead of less.

It works something like this: You think, “I messed
up. I’m trying to lose weight, but I ate a cookie. I feel
low and powerless. The only power I feel I can exert
is to make myself even lower. So I’ll eat 10 more.â€
You split yourself into two parts: the punisher and the
punished. You identify with the punisher and forget
that the punished has anything to do with you; until
10 minutes later, when you come down from your illu-
sory high of self- empowerment and find yourself stuck
with your whole fat self again.

It’s important to note that the impetus for a bout of
emotional eating, the infraction you’re seeking to punish,
doesn’t have to come from something dietary— in fact, it
usually doesn’t. You could be feeling low and powerless
because you had a bad day at the offi ce; a bag of cookies
is still an effective means of self- revenge. The fact that it
superficially seems like comfort just serves to get it past
your “Whoa, that’s messed up†radar.

The standard advice for how to deal with emotional
eating is to fi nd other comfort activities that don’t
involve food. The problem is, as I’ve pointed out, that
emotional eating often isn’t really about comfort— on
the contrary. So I’m not sure how effective that strat-
egy will be. By all means, have an emergency- response
activity lined up when the urge strikes; just keep in
mind that the response isn’t necessarily about replac-
ing a comfort.

Your most important countermeasure is to recog-
nize the self- destructive element of emotional eating.
This is bad stuff. Take it seriously. Don’t be fooled by
the sugar coating: You’re not being nice to yourself by
indulging; you’re being profoundly mean. It isn’t mis-
guided tolerance; it’s misguided intolerance.

Merely seeing the real problem isn’t going to solve it for
you, but it’s a start. Here are some more practical tips:

* Redirect the self- punishing impulse behind emo-
tional eating so that it fuels something positive.
Bad as this impulse is, there is something you can
work with here, a redeemable neutral core. With a
little bit of planning, you can turn destructive self-
punishment into constructive self- discipline. Exer-
cise is great in this respect because let’s face it, most
of us don’t like exercise. So what better form of
“self- punishment†than to hit the gym (or equiva-
lent) instead of yourself. Taking a walk works really
well for me. It clears my mind and keeps me far
from the refrigerator, and I can do it at a moment’s
notice; it doesn’t require any special planning or
equipment. And it’s pleasant, once I get over the
hurdle of deciding to do it— an actual comfort.

* Because you’ve identified emotional eating as a pri-
mary problem, be superstrict about not doing it.
Instead of an excuse, it should be an anti- excuse:
forbidden to the highest degree, a self- hate crime.
You need habit on your side— and quickly— to beat
this problem; strictness is the key to enlisting it.

* I hate to pass the buck, but being overweight is
rarely the sole or primary cause of the depres-
sion that fuels emotional eating. Try to identify
the other nondiet problems that are getting you
down and break off tractable chunks to deal with
as you can. The smaller the chunks, the easier
they are to deal with. If you’re left with chunks
that still seem overwhelming, it might be time to
seek professional help (probably not a bad idea in
any case).

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Post by Blithe Morning » Thu Sep 11, 2008 2:04 pm

Self sabotage is perhaps the most unrational of all human behaviors. It's not just in eating that I've seen this, either.

I used to work in benevolence ministry at our church and time and time again I would see people taking huge strides to better their financial situationthat required a great amount of determination and hard work ... only to see them just walk and self sabotage everything they had spent months working for.

And this would happen over and over.

In doing a lot of thinking about this, I've come to the conclusion that it was an unparseable, intertwined set of dynamics going on.

Part of it was the inner voice telling them they didn't "deserve" success; a voice that came from others who were threatened by what would be lost if the person/people in question really were able to move on.

Part of it was a fear of success. This is an internal fear when they realize that maybe they would fail at something very big and very public thereby "proving" what losers they always thought they were. This is worse than not succeeding. Better to fail sooner rather than later.

Part of it was just being tired of the hard work and not getting the reward anticipated. They've been out of the "bad place" (wherever that may be)for so long, they forget what an achievement that is in its own right. Instead, they feel stuck like they aren't moving ahead anymore so they bail.

Part of it is just the emotional familiarity of something they have known for a very long time.

And, some of it was sheer human orneriness. I am one of those who doesn't think every human behavior can be explained in therapeutic terms.

Deb, being able to recognize this self sabotage (and the fact that it doesn't really give you any reward) is huge, huge, huge. Plus, you were able to cut it off fairly quickly... what's one night out of 365? 0.3% Well done on being proactive to set yourself up for success next time.

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Post by daahling » Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:17 pm

Well this is interesting...I was just about to say goodbye to you all today, because yesterday and today I failed and snacked at liberty. I went back to my old ways and ate just for the hell of it. I'm pretty low because I've never weighed 140lbs in my entire life (except when I was pregnant 10 years ago). I am just about ready to pack it all in and give up trying. But something keeps nagging at me to keep trying because this is the simplest and most sane diet I've ever been on, and I know that if I fail at this, then it means I am not capable to ever lose the weight any other way. Today I even made an appointment with my doctor to discuss my stopping taking certain medication, because about 4 months ago I changed my prescription and my weight has just sky rocketed, becoming especially chunky round my mid-section. I know I may have eaten a bit more than usual especially over summer, but it doesn't justify a gain of roughly 6kgs!! To me it feels unnatural and I'm permanently bloated. So after the beginning of October, if my doctor agrees, I'll change my prescription and try something else. Meanwhile, I'll keep fighting the good fight one day at a time... but I must say I've never felt more demoralised than right now. I was doing well, having managed to shed 2lbs, but now they've come back and brought 2 more friends!!! Aaargh... I hope it's only temporary. I don't want to remain in this shape or worse for the rest of my life.
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Post by kccc » Thu Sep 11, 2008 5:05 pm

Deb, what an incredible insight. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us, and best wishes for avoiding such "blips" in the future. (Because in terms of your overall patterns, it was just a blip.)

Daahling, you sound so frustrated. It's a feeling I know, so I'm going to tag on to Deb's "binge eating is a form of self-punishment" and encourage you to be really supportive and gentle with yourself as you work on changing habits. The meds sound incredibly frustrating in themselves!

When trying to change our own behavior, it's common to bend ourselves out of shape with the pressure we apply. It's as if we put ourselves in thumbscrews, thinking "if I tighten down enough, this will work." But it really doesn't - at least not in the long term. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, being gentle works better.

That doesn't mean not being "strict" with the rules; it means not beating ourselves up when we miss. "Mark it and move on" (can't remember who first said that, but I love it). Learn what happened, so it can be planned for/avoided next time. And above all, keep trying. As long as you keep getting back on the wagon, you are succeeding, no matter how many times you fall off. The rides will just get longer over time. :)

Daahling, hope you stick around. If you're having trouble, phase in the habits. Set them at a level where you think, "oh, I can do THAT!" and feel it's almost ridiculously low. Then achieve them. The wave of success will carry you to the next level of "habit challenge," until they're all there.

And yes, it will take a long time... but what else are you doing with it? (Slightly related memory... I remember when I was contemplating starting my graduate degree that I was appalled at how long it would take. I said to my husband "This will take four or five years! I'll be XX years old when I'm done!" Wise man that he is, he asked "so how old will you be in four or five years if you don't do it?" Yeah, it takes time. So does life.)

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Post by blueskighs » Thu Sep 11, 2008 6:27 pm

Another great thread!

Debs thank you for sharing your experience and insight. When I first read the excerpt Reinhard posted from his book, I got it in a vague way. But as I have progressed on No S diet and felt frustrated about this or that I have realized that my desire to binge has been amplified in these situations ... why? I want to punish, torment myself.

Blithes morning list is pretty great. I think it covers almost all the bases of why we are afraid or nervous to move through the changes.

That is WHY it is so important to be gentle and encouraging with ourselves and then just "keep the faith".

I really believe No S works. So sometimes I just have to beleive it and not let the other voices get louder.

The program that I completed before No S was Shrink Yourself. It pretty much attacks emotional eating from every angle. Anyway, it does address the whole issue of self talk and how we can actually change "grow up" our inner voice by validating it with reality.

Overcoming emotional overeating is not a one shot deal, but I am starting to really beleive it is possible.... keeping my fingers crossed,

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Post by gratefuldeb67 » Fri Sep 12, 2008 4:01 am

Thanks everyone :)
All your replies are greatly appreciated!

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Post by funfuture » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:36 am

Thanks for the thread, Deb - all the replies have been really helpful to me too. I've also noticed that NoS is relatively easy on the days I exercise but it can easily go out the window on the days I don't. The exercise seems to both calm hunger and emotional stress.

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