I didn’t realize National Eating Disorder Awareness week was coming up when I piled a mound of gluten, dairy, sugar, and booze onto a plate (or into a cup, depending) and spent two hours chewing non-stop. 2,000+ excess calories later, I waited for the, “What the hell have I done?” thought to present itself - and it never came.
I was a chronic binge-eater from ages 15 to about 24. When I first began my clean-eating and weight loss journey two years ago, I still binged; I just binged on chickpeas and carrots and paleo muffins and vegan pesto.
It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom last year and rebuilt my beliefs and self-care with a beautiful new foundation that I found myself able to stop the compulsion, and really get to the root of what I was experiencing and fearing underneath the addiction.
Before last week, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d binged - or compulsively and impulsively eaten dairy, gluten, or sugar, for that matter! (Don’t get me wrong, girl, I make exceptions - have you ever gone to Chicago and eaten house-made pumpkin hazelnut ice cream? Because uh, you should.) I’ve truly reframed my lifestyle and haven’t felt the need to binge - and I’ve felt more freedom around food than I can ever remember experiencing before.
So when I had this relapse, I thought I’d feel exactly like I used to feel when I’d binge: I thought I’d experience self-hatred; would feel shame, and a sense of disgust; would feel like I had to hide the evidence; would feel like I’d betrayed my mission, my self-love brand.
But a crazy thing happened: I didn’t feel any of those ways, at all.
Right afterward, I thought, “Okay, that happened. Now really isn’t the time to evaluate it; a part of me wanted it badly enough to do it, and I’m going to feel like shit in the morning - and that was my choice. Tomorrow, we’re gonna have to talk about why I made that choice in the first place."
And I did, in fact, feel like shit in the morning - but only physically, not emotionally. I had this beautiful understanding with myself: Relapses can happen, and it’s the attachment we add to them that can cause us to spiral back into those behaviors. If I’d woken up like I expected to, thinking, “Great. I binged again. I knew this would happen. I knew I wasn’t over this, I knew I was still addicted, I knew I hadn’t recovered” - I probably would’ve kept spiraling, because I would’ve expected myself to.
A relapse can be a one-time thing, and mine was; I’m back to my deliciously low-carb intermittent fasting as we speak! So how did I get right back on the self-care, self-love bandwagon, and how can you ensure you do the same?
Here’s what I did, and here are 3 things to try if you find yourself moving through an experience like this:
1) SIT WITH YOURSELF - LATER
A part of you felt like they needed to engage in this behavior, and we often disconnect from that part. We don’t want to communicate with it, because we don’t like that we engaged in the behavior in the first place. But my babe, that part needs so much love. When you love and connect with those pieces of yourself, you find out why a part of you felt the need to go back to that lifestyle, and that knowledge can prevent you from having this relapse more than once.
It is so, so hard to come back to this after we wake up the next day, after we’ve taken some space. But my love, that’s when we need to come back to it. In the moment of engaging in these behaviors, our emotions are on FIRE! So many parts of us are chiming in at once, it’s hard to hear who’s saying what and discern which emotions are which - and that's why we need to take space.
It is OKAY to feel shame in the moment.
It is OKAY to feel satisfied in the moment.
It is OKAY to feel upset and sad in the moment.
It is OKAY to feel afraid in the moment.
It is OKAY to feel angry in the moment.
There is nothing wrong with any emotion that comes up for you; these can be intense, or triggering, or emotional experiences. Allow yourself to feel however you feel as you move through the experience, and when your emotions have settled, come back to yourself and give yourself love for every emotion you’ve experienced. It’s freakin’ hard, babe. And so worth it.
2) REMEMBER: YOU DIDN'T CHOOSE THIS
Once you've developed an addiction, it can be freakin' hard to maintain separation from it! Addictions are very, very real, and it's important to remind yourself that you didn't choose to develop or have an addiction.
Focus instead on what you DID choose. You chose to get up everyday and work toward the healthiest lifestyle you can. You chose not to accept this is your reality. You chose and continue choosing how this impacts you and your life.
Sometimes we can feel like our addictions or behaviors are out of our control. Let me remind you, love, that YOU are in control. You are making the choice to face this. Keep going, Warrior.
3) ENGAGE IN OPPOSITE ACTION
If I binge, I feel bloated, inflamed, and often, less beautiful. My deal with myself is this: If I’m going to engage in a behavior that brings up these low-vibe feelings, I’m also going to engage in activities that make me feel the opposite: healthy and beautiful.
Because bingeing interferes with my digestion and increases inflammation, I'll make myself a drink of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. (This is a drink I make regularly, and I’ll often add in cinnamon, turmeric, and fresh ginger as well.)
I’ll take a bath with Epsom salts and a bath bomb; paint my nails; put on a face mask.
I’ll take a walk to remind myself my body is just as capable as it’s always been.
I’ll write a gratitude list of all of the amazing things my body does for me.
What are three ways you can engage in opposite action? Write them down so you can have a list on hand, and remember: You are enough, and you are beautiful.