Battle of the Binge

Note:  I know not everyone reading this blog is Christian and while I’m not going to apologize for the use of Biblical passages herein (because they’re meaningful to me) I hope you will read through to the end and feel inspired by a passion for fitness if not a passion for faith.  As someone who respects and finds meaning in multiple faiths and perspectives, I’d also like to also stress that health and happiness are not exclusive to any one religion or faith 🙂

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disciple  dis·ci·ple;  noun:  a personal follower of Jesus during his life, especially one of the twelve Apostles; from the latin word disciples which means “learner”.

1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (NIV)

I strive to be a disciple of Jesus and of fitness though I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an “expert” at neither.  Still, Peter offers sound advice for anyone who finds themselves in the position of being a role model by their personal example and discipleship.  He essentially advises Christians to “practice not preach” and to testify when asked — with gentleness and respect.

Last week I got an email from a young woman named Amber who follows BodyConsciousness and is seeking some motivation, inspiration, and information as she starts out on her health and fitness journey.  She is exactly where I was several years ago and yesterday we met up for coffee.  (I should point out that Amber is the sister of a good friend of mine — I’m NOT in the habit of meeting up with strangers from the internet…not a good idea!)

Here’s a snippet from Amber’s email reacting to having read the first BCBlog post Disappearing Acts:

Your phrase ‘I just want to see what my body can do’ has reverberated in my mind […] I have tried literally every diet & exercise plan known to man since I was 16 and it has felt more impossible this year than ever before. I am trying to lose roughly 25-30 pounds but my overall goal is health and freedom from what feels like food addiction. Of all the “plans” I’ve researched lately, nothing has me more intrigued than the way you did it.

I was really excited to get Amber’s email!  Sometimes it feels as if my posts are going into a black hole (which I don’t totally mind feeling because at least 70% of the reason why I write a blog is for my own benefit — like a journal or diary that’s open for anyone to read.)  Still, I love getting emails, messages, and notes from people who are reading and feeling positively impacted by my experience!  It’s awesome to know people are inspired to make healthy changes in their lives 🙂

Anyway, back to Amber.  I have to say her email could not have come at a better (and worse) time for me and her mention of food addiction really hit home.

Last week while on vacation at the beach I fell off the healthy eating wagon.  Hard.  To use a different analogy it was more like falling off the treadmill while running and face-planting on the gym floor.  There were brownies involved.  M&Ms.  M&M brownies.  Potato chips.  Vodka.  Cheese curls (I don’t even LIKE cheese curls and yet somehow that didn’t stop me from eating them at 2 am.)  A moment of weakness that gave way to a week of bad choices.  I felt bad.  Emotionally — defeated and out of control.  Physically — sick and lethargic.  My pseudo-defined abs disappeared under a wall of bloated flab, so much so that I documented it with an [un]fitness selfie.  Eesh.  Even as I write this I am going back and forth on whether to post that photo or discuss it further.  I suppose I will…give it some time.

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Remnants of a late-night food and alcohol binge. Lays potato chips, jello shots, fruit loops. Yes. Fruit loops.

 

I want to say this was the first time I’d succumbed to a food-eating frenzy but you shouldn’t write and post lies on the internet…  I have, at various times in my life, struggled with “food addiction”, better known as binge eating —something that as many as 4 million Americans suffer from (Women’s Health Magazine).

I should say that I have never been diagnosed or treated for an eating disorder and am not attempting to self-diagnose nor advocating self-diagnosis.  If you think you have an eating disorder you should seek help from a professional (doctor and/or counselor).  That said, I can recognize some of my eating behaviors in the info on the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website which defines non-specified feeding or eating disorders as, “a feeding or eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment, but does not meet the criteria for another feeding or eating disorder.”  Binge Eating Disorder is the most common type of eating disorder in the US and according to NEDA has the following symptoms:

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes.
  • Feelings of strong shame or guilt regarding the binge eating.
  • Indications that the binge eating is out of control, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of shame about the behavior.

(from National Eating Disorders Association)

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However after my moment of weakness I had to remind myself to get it together and come back to a place of strength.  Amber’s email definitely helped me to do just that!

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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One of the ways NEDA suggests coping with eating disorders is self love:

“Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image.  Recognize that others pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body.  Choose to talk about yourself with respect and appreciation.  Choose to value yourself based on your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character.  Refrain from letting the way you feel about your body weight and shape determine the course of your day.  Embrace the natural diversity of human bodies and celebrate your body’s unique shape and size.” (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org)

The message of healthy self-esteem, respect, and appreciation for your body echoes the mantra I adopted several years ago when shaking off the routine negativity of self-loathing:  I will love and honor my body and celebrate what it can do.  That love, honor, and appreciation isn’t limited only to the days when you feel slender and fit.   Secondly, though your body first and foremost is for YOU, the way you treat it and talk about it can impact others.  Be a role model of healthy self-esteem and body image.

It’s occurred to me that one of the primary reasons people avoid the gym is the same reason why so many people avoid going to church:  they don’t want to feel judged.  Judgement and constant criticism are detrimental to love, honor, and respect — for oneself and for others.  This is why Peter encourages us to be disciples (learners) who testify with gentleness and respect.  I hope that others can find inspiration in my imperfection and that as we grow in our health and fitness journeys we can make time for fellowship along the way 🙂

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