E041: My Deep Dark Secret, I'm a Binge Eater with Amy
My deep, dark secret? I binge eat.
Binge eating is a topic that more and more individuals - and influencers - are talking about. Personally, I have struggled with being a binge eater for quite some time - a stress relief tactic taught to me by my father. Unknowingly - of course. During this episode, I share my experience with disordered eating and what the beginning of my healing process has looked like. I share in this episode only one experience, and in my following episode, I share another.
> Announcement Alert (00:35)
> How I got started Binge eating and my family's background around this (02:00)
> What happens with Binge Eating and how it look like? An example of how it works (06:00)
> How it affects you to grow up in a family of Binge Eaters (16:00)
> How are you going to move through this? (19:53)
E041 My Deep Dark Secret, I'm a Binge Eater
My deep, dark secret? I’m a binge eater. But I have another secret too!
Amy: [00:00:00] Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to one of the biggest secrets that I've ever really kept from my friends and my family. And wow, it feels very liberating to be able to share this with you. And I feel comfortable knowing that, not only am I not alone in this, that there's so many people out there that are experiencing such similar circumstances as I am.
That's why I have a little announcement for you.
I've really enjoyed recording all of the interviews and solo episodes for What We're Not Talking About. I just can't believe that after 40 published episodes, I'm still doing it. I'm still consistent. And I am here and showing up for not only myself, but for you as well.
Now, I do have a little bit of news and that's that I am going to stop publishing Friday-only solo episodes with yours truly. There's a lot of reasons for that. No, it's not because I want to take less on my plate. In fact, I'm actually going to be starting a new podcast. Now, I'm not going to share the details with you just quite yet, because they haven't been finalized. But I will let you know when that's up and running so you can take a listen.
The difference between that podcast and this podcast is that we're going to be focusing on trauma and how to overcome it on an individual level. I am becoming a counselor.
Or I am in the process of becoming a licensed counselor in the country of Canada.
[00:02:22] I am looking forward to sharing lots of information and insights into how we function as human beings. Plus, insights on how we move forward in this world. These insights will tell us what we need to do to become the best versions of ourselves. Or at least the best versions that we want for ourselves.
Although, I know people listening to this want the exact same thing for themselves, I don't want to push any coaching onto anyone. That's why I've decided to separate my solo episodes with What We're Not Talking About. Because I don't want people to come into the space and receive something that they're not ready for right now.
The interviews have been so wonderful and so eye opening. And the people that have come onto the show have such amazing experiences and they have overcome so much. And I really want to focus the show on that. I don't want to make it the Amy show. And that's something that I'm finding is happening with the way that I record these solo episodes.
So, it is with sadness and a little excitement that this is the last solo episode that you will hear on this podcast. This one about how I binge eat.
Again, I just want to thank you so much for being here and listening to me. And don't worry next Tuesday, that interview is going to go live, and I will be continuing to interview a vast variety of individuals from all over the world that have something that we all have in common.
And that is that we all just want to fit in.
[00:04:04] We all just want to be able to live a happy, healthy and content life. Most importantly, we just want people to understand us, to feel us, and to hear what we have to say. I can't wait to continue to do that for all the people that come on this show. And I want to fit in even though I binge eat.
As I said, I will let you know when the new podcast is up and running. So, thank you again for listening and I can't wait to share the beautiful resilience that all these humans that have come on my show have built and cultivated throughout their lives
Until Tuesday. Have a great weekend.
Amy: [00:04:49] Today's episode is all about binge eating. What it is, where it comes from, what goes on behind the scenes, and how it's affecting my life.
This is a new topic that I haven't talked about that much. And, there's a variety of reasons that that has happened. Mainly, I was really focused on managing my anxiety and other symptoms that were popping up more regularly than my binge eating symptoms.
Now, my main mental illness or my main problem or whatever you want to call it, is not binge eating. It's part of my pathology, which in psychology, that just means the symptoms and outcomes of me having multiple mental illnesses.
Now, this began for me in junior high.
Where I live, we have elementary school, junior high, and high school. Junior high is grade 7 to 9, and then high school was grades 10, 11, and 12. I started to binge eat probably around the age of, I want to say 14/15, probably grade nine. So, the last year of junior high. Maybe not though. Part of me thinks grade eight was when it started because grade eight was probably the worst year for me in public school.
[00:06:24] Now, I'm not the only one in my family that has binge eating DNA ingrained in them, if you will. My father's side of the family is quite overweight and they have been my entire life. That family consists of two grandparents, my grandmother and my grandfather, my father, and two aunts, both of which are mentally challenged. Or we're.
So, right now of those five people, two of them are still alive. My aunt, who lives in a home, and my grandmother, who also lives in a home. Now, they have been in these homes for over eight years and both of them still weigh over 220 pounds. They're only around 5’ 2” and 5’7”. So, not only has binge eating been part of their life, they're also a heavier set human. Which is something that comes with genes, and it sucks, but it's just a fact.
Now, I know for sure that binge eating is part of their pathology or their symptoms because when I was younger, my father was not super overweight.
In fact, I do remember him maybe hitting around like 210, 220.
He was roughly 5’10” at the time. And, he was overweight, yes. But it was managed. It was kind of just normal overweight, if you will. This was before he started to binge eat.
[00:08:04] Now, before I go any further, I really need to break down the idea of fat shaming. I'm not fat shaming in this episode. I am sharing my experiences with my immediate family. And I am giving insight into the pain and grief and trauma that they experienced and how that manifests in binge eating.
So, what we know about mental illness, and most things, is that we learn through a biological marker as well as lived experience. What that means is there are pieces in our DNA of experience and biological markers in our parents that are passed down to us through birth. They're in our actual DNA.
However, we also live with our parents, most of us, not everyone, or caretakers. And through that, we also learn through mimicking or social construct theory, which is something that was created back in the early to mid 19 hundreds. So, we could say, “Oh, it's because my family, we can say, Oh, it's because I learned this.”
It really doesn't matter. We can get to the root, scientific reason of why I have this, but it's really not going to help me manage what's going on. Sure. It'll give me a little insight into, “Okay. It wasn't my fault.”
But I'm past that stage in my recovery where I don't personalize the fault of everything when it comes to origin.
Now, this presents in me very irregularly now. I'm very lucky. It's been something that has shaped not only my mental health for quite some time and my body image issues as most women have. But, it also shaped my physical health inside. What happens when you binge eat is that you consume a large amount of food. I mean a large amount of food within short periods of time.
[00:10:21] For instance, a typical, well, maybe not typical, but an example of a binge-eating session could look like this. Between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM you eat two Eggos with maple syrup, a tuna fish sandwich, a big bag of chips, two pops, and some candy cane. That's a lot of food to put in you in a two hour period.
Another example of what that binge eating can look like can be everything I just stayed at times three. When we go through these processes of binge eating, we stuff the food in.
Now, the reason that humans intuitively do this is because there is a link between being anxious and being under stress and your blood being in your extremities. Then when you eat, the oxygen and the blood then rush to your stomach, giving you a calmer feeling. It takes away the anxious feelings of your limbs that happened during fight or flight. I don't think most of us do this knowingly and saying, “Let's bring some blood to our stomach.”
But it's kind of cool when you think about that, we're doing this in a natural instinctive sort of way.
The problem obviously is the amount of food that we're putting in our stomach is way too much. It’s more than what our stomachs can handle. And it’s more than we should be eating in that short period of time. This is how you start to binge eat.
It also is important for me to explain that just because you've had a two hour binge window in a day, does not mean that you're done. It might mean that you're done. But it might mean that it might come up again.
[00:12:10] The reason this is a theme in my life right now is because... Now, I'm recording this on December 4th, knowing that this is going to release in late January and on December 1st was the one-year anniversary of my father's death.
Now, I've done a lot of personal development and mental health management over the course of the last seven years of my life. I really do believe that it was a combination to get me ready for this last year of what was going on.
There is a lot of drama and trauma that is happening and has happened within my family unit with the individuals that have also experienced very similar mental health illnesses as me. Although I love and I miss my father, he left me with a shit show. I don't mean like he left bills unpaid and things like that. It's more the complicated interpersonal relationships in which he left me to deal with.
I'm also now responsible for my grandmother and my aunt, because I'm the only quote unquote “able-bodied being and cognitive...”
Actually, I don't know the right word. I'm the only one that's legally allowed to make decisions on that side of the family. So, there's a lot of responsibility here.
This week has been especially hard because I for one have never had my own apartment to deal and process during these really hard times. I also felt emotionally responsible for my aunt and my grandmother during this time. Then to top it all off where I live has been under a two week lockdown, ish. The city where I live, we're not allowed to leave the parameters of the city.
Obviously they cannot necessarily track me. But because I'm going into two government homes to visit my grandmother and my aunt, it makes everything very, very complicated.
[00:14:22] That being said, I had a five-day binge eating period. I really struggled. However, I did notice that during that time, the heavy emotion that I experienced lasted a much shorter period of time than it normally does. It started on Monday. It's now Friday. And it only really lasted really bad for two days. That being said, yes, I binge ate yesterday and the day before.
It's actually incredibly hard for me to share this with you because it's an element of my mental health process I don't openly talk about. The reason that I am bringing this to light and really starting to talk about it more, is because in the course of the last week, I have been more vocal about it with certain friend groups. And they too share that they do similar things.
Now, I do have to point out something that adds to this instance.
And that is that I am on a medical prescription of cannabis. So, I am using cannabis to manage certain elements of my mental health, which does wonders for me.
When I'm under severe stress and medicated, in addition to experiencing these binge eating episodes, it is a combination of fucking disaster. If you've ever smoked cannabis a lot, I would say most people get what they called the munchies. And that doesn’t help if you already binge eat.
So, what happens is that when you smoke cannabis, the cannabinoids basically make your taste buds amplified. So, everything tastes so much better, scientifically. This is science. I promise. It makes it taste better. So, an Apple, although it's normally the crappy food that tastes better. An apple might not be a good example.
[00:16:34] But for instance, I don't particularly enjoy eating chips. They're very dry, they're salty. I like salt, but they're not amazing. To me, that doesn't mean I don't eat them. They're just not something that if I'm like, “Oh, man, I could really use something delicious and yummy,” I'm going to eat chips.
However, when I'm smoking cannabis to help manage my mental illness, I love them. I love, love, love them. So, that combination with my binge eating tendencies can be incredibly detrimental. It's something I've been dealing with for over 15 years. Since, I have been using this illegally at the start and now legally to help manage what's going on in my head and body.
That is one reason why I haven't openly talked about it.
Because there's a lot of shame without then adding the cannabis aspect. The reason that I do add it is because one, I like to be transparent. And two, we need to break down the cookie cutter boxes of what binge eating or what any type of mental illness looks like. So, people might come to me and say, “Hey, just stop smoking weed. You'll be fine.”
That's all well and good. Believe me, I've thought a hundred million times that that would be fine. But, when my body goes into anxiety or I'm experiencing bouts of severe depression, I am able to turn to a natural plant to help me feel momentarily a bit elevated.
[00:18:12] This treatment is not for everyone. It can take a really long time to adjust your behavior to be able to function, quote unquote, “normally” while medicated. So, I don't necessarily suggest it. If you're interested in it, please reach out to your doctor. Do go that route. I have a medical marijuana license, regardless of the fact that in Canada, it's legal to smoke weed. That's because I want to be prescribed a certain amount. So, I know how much I should be using.
Okay. This is not about cannabis. This is about binge eating. I've been so stressed because I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, I binge eat. I eat to ground me. Plus, I eat because I will now intellectually know that the blood is going to rush to my stomach. It's going to make me feel less anxious and, as I said earlier, more grounded.
Because there's a lot of shame in this, I will not binge eat in front of other people.
I was raised to insufferably care what other people think. I hate it. And I curse my parents for this. But, it's something that in this specific case works to my advantage. So, if I put myself around other people, I will not binge eat.
However, it also creates this shame monster or, as loud mouth calls it, the shame wizard. It really creates this horrible dialogue in your head about not feeling worthy of getting help, not feeling healthy enough, or whatever it is. There are so many scripts running in my head, I can't even think of them.
Why is this especially hard for me? Now for me, this is very complicated. Taking all of the information in about my father and my family... We have to also recognize that I was raised during a period of my father's life, in which he went from relatively okay to severely depressed, severely overweight, and severely anxious. I watched him not take care of himself for 10 years.
[00:20:36] So, at the age of let's say eight, my dad was 5’ 10” and 220. By the time I graduated high school, so I was 18, he had shrunk. So, he was like 5’ 8” and 520 pounds. My father put on 300 pounds through his binge eating and cannabis use over the course of, we'll say 10 years. That's 30 pounds a year. If you break that down, it's, what, like two to three pounds a month. It's not that hard to see that that could happen to someone that suffers binge eating, right? to three pounds a month. It's not really that much.
Now, this has created quite a complex, we'll call it a trauma, around food, cannabis medication, and a bunch of other things, as well as my father.
Because I was very resentful to him and I still kind of am. Why? He didn't take care of himself, and he didn't care enough about his family to not binge eat and to not do that.
However, now that I'm in his shoes, I also feel bad for putting these expectations onto my father. I recognize that he was suffering and he couldn't get help. Or he chose not to search out help.
Then that makes me sad. So, you can hear the different elements, layers, and complexities that happen when you grow up in a family who binge eat. Especially if it impacts their daily quality of life, which it did greatly.
[00:22:22] Now, to my knowledge, none of my family, nor family members, have purged after this. And that in itself is a good thing, I guess. I'm not really sure. But what that also does mean is that all the food I ate, which is most of the time is junk food. That excess amount of nutrients and hormones and toxic materials that they put in the food is now at an even higher level in my body.
What that results in is hormone fluctuations, which creates problems in women with their period, PCOS, fibroids, things like that. It also messes up your skin. It messes up your gut biome, I believe is how you say it. And it creates a series of illnesses that aren't directly related to your mental health, but is a causation of it.
For instance, I have an autoimmune disorder and so did my father.
Now, it's funny because after he passed away I realized that our autoimmune disorder is actually the same thing. It's probably caused by the binge eating, but he couldn't see it like that. He saw it as different. Also, doctors and medicine have greatly evolved over the course of the last 40 years. We're looking into root causes over band-aiding the symptoms.
So, here's the question that is most important. How am I moving through this? How am I overcoming and processing and dealing with the emotional, psychological, and physical pain of how we binge eat?
Now, I did mention that it's been a while since I went to this extreme. That doesn't mean I have an overate. But that does mean that I haven't had these insane binge episodes where I'm eating a ridiculous amount of food in two hours for quite some time. I mean maybe Thanksgiving, but like who can blame me, but that's different. Right? That's something totally different.
[00:24:35] I don't really have a great answer for you. And I think this is one reason why I was feeling so called to record this. Because sometimes we don't have an answer.
I am going to give you some tactics. I am going to explain to you what I am personally doing, and maybe this will help you as well.
So, the reason I've started talking about this is because I realized to binge eat was still very much ingrained in me.
There was a moment or two - and by moment, I mean like a few months - where I thought I had overcome it. Where I thought I wasn't at risk to fall back into these old coping mechanisms where I binge eat. However, when great trauma and great stress re-materialize in my life, I realize that that's not the case. So, what I'm currently doing to move through this and process it is to actually talk about it.
It's important that we create narratives around our lives or stories around certain elements of our lives to help us better understand and feel in control of the situation. Granted, that control may not be reality. But, if we can feel in control, that's the first step. Then, we can get into action and actually become in control if not only for a day or for a few days. And then we go away, we come back.
But creating a story around it is very important. I'm going to be talking about it more. I'm going to be sharing about it more on my Instagram and my TikTok. And I'm going to really stand here and talk about it in a way that I don't see being done a lot online.
[00:26:22] There's a lot of eating disorders and I have seen a lot of anorexia and bulimia. But, overeating is something that we don't talk about. Because also we are in a society that tells us most of the time, subconsciously, to celebrate with food.
Because that's something that society kind of tells us, we don't want to break it down and be like, “No, they're wrong,” because then, you know, people have opinions.
As I said earlier, I care what people think. Also, it's very hard to grasp and hard to move forward from it. Also, food is integral to survival. Duh, we need nourishment and nutrients to live. That is an element of all eating disorders, like starting to binge eat. Obviously, that process proves even more difficult.
Whereas, for instance, if you're trying to kick drugs, you can just not have drugs. I mean, obviously it's more complicated than that. But there's this idea that you can just put it all away. You can't do that with food. So, it complicates everything way more. And it also sets up the people in recovery to fail way more.
I say fail because that's the word that I use. It's not exactly healthy, so let's say backslide instead. Creating a narrative, or a story, around it, talking about it with friends and creating a shared experience around it... Then also reading a bit about it and kind of scaring myself of what can happen physically.
The one thing that I didn't really relate for a very long time was my out of whack hormones with the amount of food that I was eating during my binge sessions. I thought it was just because of the food I was choosing.
I couldn't see this increase in sugar and salt and processed crap in my body in these spurts of when I binge eat and how they could affect my physical hormones and my period.
By learning about that and seeing that correlation of when I binge eat, it has allowed me to essentially scare myself into behaving. This is not necessarily the best tactic to get through this. But right now I just need to try some, to use this very eloquent saying, “I'm just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.”
[00:29:00] I also journal about my situation. So, I'm, again, creating a story. I'm asking myself through intuition, how can this help me overcome this? What can I do? What do I need to leave out of my life? And for me, once I am able to get a bit of structure, that's a hallmark that I'm doing okay.
When I have that structure, I feel better. I'm less inclined to eat. But because I've been under severe stress before and I'm dealing with ups and downs of depression and anxiety, routine is not always an option.
The most important part of this entire process of moving through this and overcoming really bad days is that I'm learning to be nice to myself. I'm learning to not beat myself up after I do this. I actually talk to myself and say things like, “Amy, you've been under stress for a really long time. You're only 30, you don't deserve this.” And yeah, maybe I could get all political and be like, “Well, nobody deserves it and all this stuff, but it's not about anyone else. It's about you. It's about you making yourself feel good through other means and food at that moment.”
That being said, I bet I'll listen to this episode in the middle of the binge and be like, “What the heck is this woman talking about? It's all well and good to talk about this in the aftermath.”
But, it doesn't mean that it's actually applicable during the process. So, that's why I talk about throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. Because it's so different for so many people. It depends on your mindset. It depends on your self-efficacy, which is essentially your belief that you can achieve something, your agency, your support system, your coping mechanisms, and a bunch of other things.
[00:30:52] I can't give you a solution. I don't even have a solution for myself for when I binge eat. But what I can tell you is that by choosing to try to overcome it, by choosing to be kind to myself during this process, and by choosing to talk about it, I am giving myself a head start in three ways.
So, if you're struggling with this, please don't hesitate to reach out to friends and loved ones and share your experience. If you don't have that opportunity, I greatly encourage you to reach out to someone you can talk to in a professional manner, such as a counselor or a therapist. Better Help online is great.
If you really can't afford any of that, please look for sliding scale therapy because it does exist.
It will still cost you some money, but perhaps not as much as if you just went directly to a counselor.
Or if you're really hurting, there are online websites, such as Seven Cups, which is where you speak to a stranger. I do suggest reaching out to crisis lines over Seven Cups. Seven Cups isn't regulated and who knows what wacko you'll get to talk to.
[00:32:12] I hope this episode on why I binge eat was insightful. I hope my transparency and where I'm at in parts of my healing process is helpful and encouraging. If you are looking to have any specific aspects of this covered in a future solo episode or interview, please don't hesitate to reach out. My Instagram is TheEmpathyFront. My TikTok is The Empathy Front.
You can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Just make sure that you get the questions answered that you need. And if you can't find it online, please, please, please, please, please, please reach out.
Until next week, I will bid you adieu and I hope you have a fantastic Friday.