Binge Eating Disorder Treatment, Food Addiction

The Thing about Mindfulness and Binging

Your stomach is beginning to rumble. It’s snack time. With anticipation, you warm up your precious donut in the microwave for 10 seconds to give it the fresh out of the oven taste. You walk back to the office, look down to the small paper plate you’re holding. The only evidence you have that it ever existed, are a few gooey drops of glaze, 2 sticky fingers, and an over-sweet film inside your mouth. Damn! The image of the donut spins around in your head until you cave in and grab another… and another…

Checking Out With Distractions

This is the perfect example of how distractions can make us miss out on not only tasting our favorite foods, or food in general, life seems to pass us by when we are trying to do multiple things at a time. We don’t really focus on anything. Instead, we are getting constant glimpses of the tape of things that we still need to do scrolling at high speed through our mind. “Still need to do the dishes. Gotta prep my lunch for tomorrow. I want to finish reading this great book, but first I need to do the laundry. Oh, did this guy just get voted through on The Voice?”

We go a hundred miles a minute, even if we’re sitting at the dinner table. We’re literally checked out. I’m saying “we”, because this may not only be your experience, but this has also been my “normal” for a very long time. We are going through the motion of eating and the only way we know that we’re full is when our stomachs can’t handle another single bite of food. At the end of a meal, we feel full (miserably full), and we know that we won’t be hungry for a while. Wrong!!! Half an hour later, we are going on a scavenger hunt for ANYTHING EDIBLE that could fill the void in our chest. How can this be?

We Are Humans

I know, it’ obvious, but sometimes we need a reminder. With so much technology, expectations, and stresses in our modern lives, we have to remember that we are humans and not robots. When it comes to eating, we’re meant to enjoy our meals. Food is nourishment for our body and our soul. All our senses need to be involved. I remember that in my early recovery, I was actually yearning to taste my food, smell it, experience it. Lifting a fork to my mouth while checking my e-mail left me waking up from my amnesia only when my fork hit the bottom of my empty bowl. I wanted to eat like the French: slow, mindful, and with a feeling of bliss. Yeah, not ever gonna happen, I thought. Again, I was wrong…

This Annoying, Yet Powerful, Thing Called Mindfulness

Yes, I’ve read the books: eat mindfully and your eating problems might disappear. If I could only remember those tricks I read about when I was feeling starved. The only thing I wanted to do then was eat and get rid of the uncomfortable feelings of being hungry or thinking I was hungry – quickly. Then treatment started.

At first it was a nice routine to take a few moments before a meal to quiet my mind, to become aware of all the sounds in the room, to notice the aromas surrounding me, to let all my thoughts go and feel calm. I became hyper-aware of everything when I did my mindful moments, but let’s face it, who has time for all this mumbo-jumbo? I had a busy life, a job, a blossoming writing career…

Well, turns out that when I have my mindful moment and focus on my meal, I need much less food to feel satisfied and… you won’t believe this… I will push the plate away from me when done. The amazing thing is that when I take time to listen to my body, it will tell me what it needs and when to stop. Mind you, this didn’t happen over night and took lots of practice, but from meal 1 at the evening program, I noticed progress. Yes, I did continue eating until my plate was empty at first, but the staff challenged me to leave a bite behind at each meal. In time, the leftover bites were getting bigger, as I began to trust my body. Can it be annoying to take time and delay my meal for a few moments? Yes. Is it worth it? Most definitely!

Try It Yourself

See what mindfulness can do for your eating behaviors. I bet you will enjoy the experience.

  • Eliminate all distractions as you prepare to eat.
  • Serve your meal on a real plate and use real utensils to make the setting comfortable. You may even play some relaxing music in the background.
  • Sit down and plant your feet on the floor to ground yourself.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  • Quiet your mind by letting all thoughts drift off into the distance. You may think of a relaxing beach, a nice scenery, or have a short conversation with your higher power to get yourself in a relaxed state and to be in the present.
  • Set your intention for this meal, e.g. set down your fork between bites to slow down, be aware of the aroma, taste, texture of your food, to listen for satiety cues – whatever it is you want to experience. Remember to enjoy your meal.
  • Half way through your meal try to stop and check in with your body where you are on the fullness scale. Continue eating if you’re still hungry, or get ready to finish in the next few bites.
  • When you’re done, push away the plate or put / throw away leftovers.

So what do you think? Did you notice a difference? What was your experience? Leave me a comment below. I want to hear from you.

Just a last note: If you were struggling, it’s okay. If you had a single positive experience, that’s already an improvement to before. Why don’t you write it down in a little journal? Keep practicing and make notes of your yay! moments. You’ll be surprised on how fast they add up!!!

Lot’s of love and don’t give up!


Binge Eating Disorder Treatment, Food Addiction

Eating Disorder Center – My First Day

help-66609_640I made my decision. I had to get treatment for my binge eating disorder. Now.  Backing out was not an option. The eating disorder center in my city offered an evening program that I could attend 3 nights a week for 4 hours after work. I had no idea what to expect.

The Interview

Nervous about what I was about to get myself into, I sent an e-mail to the treatment center I had found out about in my internet search the night before. The next day I received a very friendly e-mail that I should schedule an interview with them. They also attached a packet for me to fill out and to bring with me. The following Thursday, I was standing in front of an office building not knowing what to expect. Would they accept me? Was I even bad enough? I knew that I had a problem, but wasn’t sure what would qualify me for treatment. I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic. I just ate a lot, lots of times, and I couldn’t stop once I got started. I knew I needed help. But would it be bad enough?

When I entered the building, I found the suite of the Eating Disorder Center of Denver right away. Session was on that day, so when I walked in, I saw a couple of very skinny girls heating up their dinners and getting called into a room to get weighed. Woah!!! Was I in the right place?

A very cheerful therapist welcomed me into her office and we talked for an hour about my binging, the program, and went over the insurance paperwork. I felt at ease and had no trouble opening up to her. Finally, she said: “You are high-functioning with your eating disorder.” I still didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing, or if I would even get accepted. She continued, “I think we can help you get better.” I was so excited, because I knew that an inpatient treatment center would’ve been out of the question for me. Only celebrities could afford that! I had a job and a life, after all. At that point, the outpatient program was my only hope and I was going to do whatever it took to get better. “Can you start next Wednesday?” the therapist asked.

Treatment in Session

Again, I had no idea what to expect on my first evening of treatment. I was excited about finally getting help, but I was also nervous as hell. Tucking my uneasiness away, I entered the center. As I walked in, I met a few more therapists and other patients that were in the program. Everyone was super nice and welcoming. Since we were supposed to eat dinner as group, I brought leftovers with me, and heated them up. Again, I felt very much out of place, because I was the only “big” girl and at 43, most of them could be my daughters of what I could tell.

A therapist called me into an office to get my starting weight and I filled out a form to “check-in”. One of the therapists then went over the form with me, which documented how I was feeling that evening, if I ate all my meals that day, had any cravings, and what my goals were. I learned that this was a ritual we did 2 of the 3 sessions each week. Mondays was “confession night”, as we called it and we had to fill out a different sheet and share how we fared throughout the week – good and bad.

My First Meal

Dinner was enjoyable. We had a “mindful moment”, a moment before dinner where we focused on relaxing, being in the moment, and our intentions for the meal. Mine usually was to eat slow (instead of gulping) and taste my food while also paying attention to my fullness signals. I noticed how some of the girls struggled to eat their food. Not me! I was beginning to doubt that I made the right decision to get treatment at this center. I was totally opposite from them, but I hung in there. After dinner, we had to answer some questions again about how we felt, our hunger levels before and after the meal, if we had any eating disorder behaviors, or if we practiced any new skills. It was a little awkward.

I Was Wrong

After a short break, we transitioned into a class to learn personal interaction skills. That’s when I realized that I was wrong with my earlier judgement. It didn’t matter if the others were there because of their bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating disorder, or something in-between. We all were dealing with the same crap in our heads, the insecurities, the fear of confrontations, not dealing with our feelings. My mind was officially blown, as it was many times during my treatment (which I will talk about in future posts). We had the same disease, it just manifested differently, depending on how we were coping with difficult situations.

Art Therapy? Really?

Finally, our last class that day was art therapy. Okay. I consider myself an artsy person. I always loved crafts, writing, needlepoint, etc. I had no idea of what it had to do with eating disorder treatment. Were we supposed to draw food? Our therapist walked into the room and she totally looked her job – colorful clothes and very relaxed.

Before the session started, she asked us to make our mark on a sheet of paper hanging on the wall. “Draw how you feel.” Huh? I just put a heart on it, because I love hearts. To my horror, we had to talk about it, our feelings, and what we needed from the group that night. I had no idea what to say, so I just spouted something out. I guess, I did okay.

I think our assignment was to draw something that made us feel good using any medium we wanted. I drew a happy worm with dots crawling on grass with sunshine and a few clouds in the sky with smelly markers. It was fun, but when I saw everyone’s artwork and we had to talk about it, I felt like mine looked like 3rd grader art compared to theirs. “This sucks! Mine looks like scribbles…” I was so hard on myself and my perfectionism reared its ugly head. Apparently negative self-talk was frowned upon. I learned that the hard way… The therapist asked me pointed questions about why I felt that way and I realized that I actually did feel good when I was drawing it and that should’ve been all that mattered. That’s why they call art “therapy” and we found another area in me that needed some work.

What made me want to continue

Even though I was the only binge-eating disorder patient in the group at the time, I realized that just in one evening I learned so much about myself that I knew that this program was the right fit for me. I didn’t even have a one-on-one with my therapist or a session with my dietitian yet. I’ve read hundreds of self-help books in my life, but just this one night convinced me that I needed to do this if I ever wanted to be free from my cravings and binges again.

If you want to be notified when I write future posts about my experience in an eating-disorder treatment center and my recovery, just click the blue follow-me button on the upper right of this page.

And as always, feel free to leave comments below. Are you currently struggling? Are (or have you been) in recovery yourself? What’s on your mind? I love to hear from you!



Binge Eating Disorder Treatment, Food Addiction

Binge Eating Disorder – There’s hope for you, too!

binge_eating_disorder“Just another bite won’t hurt me. The damage is done. I might as well keep stuffing my face and start fresh tomorrow.” Does this sound familiar? I’ve been dealing with food issues for most of my life and I want to share my struggles and recovery with you.

Somehow, dieting didn’t work for me…

Since my teenage years, I tried every food plan under the sun in hopes to find “the one that worked.” I’d do well for a few weeks, hit a tough spot, craved, binged, and undid every bit of progress I’ve worked so hard for in just a weekend. As the years went on, these cycles intensified. I felt like a failure, because I didn’t have the discipline to even follow a simple diet plan. I was obsessed with food, especially the kind I would not allow myself to eat. Those foods were forbidden… but I had to have them and my mind wouldn’t rest until I caved in to my cravings. I could always start fresh tomorrow.

Fighting & Giving Up

With every new diet, my confidence that this would be the one to save me from my cravings skyrocketed. Soon, however, I realized that this new diet was just another variation of the one that failed me just two weeks ago. My bookshelves were overflowing with self-help, diet, and cookbooks, yet, I didn’t feel any better than before. I felt worse. Another failed promise. “Why do I even try,” I thought. There was no hope, only disappointment.

I Needed Help

About 6 months ago, I hit rock-bottom. My blood-sugars where constantly out of whack, and one day, I had to go to the ER at work because I was dizzy and couldn’t formulate my words right. That’s when I realized that I needed help. This had to stop! My blood-pressure, my blood-sugar issues, my obesity – all were a direct result of my bingeing. It suddenly became clear as day: If I wanted to get better, I needed to deal with my food addiction. But how? I’ve read a ton of books about this topic, but wasn’t able to get my binges under control.

I opened my laptop and searched for therapists specializing in eating disorders in my area. I found several, but had doubts that I could afford them. After continuing my search for a while longer, I found an evening intensive outpatient program as part of the Eating Disorder Center of Denver in my city. I contacted them the next day and found out that I was accepted in the program. I was officially diagnosed with having a binge eating disorder, which was just recently recognized as an actual disease and is now covered by most insurances. Knowing that this could be my one and only shot at this level of recovery, I threw myself at everything this program had to offer. After 11 weeks of outpatient treatment of 3 long nights a week, my therapist suggested that I should consider stepping up to a partial hospitalization program in Denver for a few weeks. (I always thought that these recovery centers were only for the rich and famous, but my insurance covered most of it, to my surprise). So I went.

I want to share my experience with you!

For years, I was looking for help and wasn’t sure how to find what I needed. When I came back from treatment (I was pretty open to where I’ve been for the past couple of months) friends and co-workers opened up to me about their struggles with food, asking me about treatment, how to stop eating, etc. I told them that I can’t offer advice (I’m not a therapist and I don’t want to go to jail), but I can certainly share my own journey and experience with them and point them in the right direction to find help.

I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to go through treatment and I know that there are many of you who wish they could or don’t know where to start. I’m a writer (usually paranormal romantic comedies), but I felt the strong urge to share my story with you, to give you hope and inspiration. DON’T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!

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