Suzanne started her first session saying she had tried everything and feared that out-of-control eating would be a part of her life forever. “I just keep pigging out,” she said flatly, then glanced down and laughed nervously. Then she began describing her binging ritual—
After work, especially after a stressful day, Suzanne would pick up a pint of chocolate peanut butter ice cream (sometimes two) along with candy bars and chips. To relax and reward herself in the evenings, she would space out in front of the TV and lose herself in junk food. Sweet flavors, salty flavors, fats— she would just graze the foods in front of her without thinking, until they were all gone. Later, she would go to bed, feeling stuffed… and guilty. Suzanne did this almost every night. Sometimes she could stop. She even stopped for 6 months once, but would eventually relapse.
By the time she was six years old, Suzanne was a little girl who often felt “dead” inside— usually when she was feeling ignored by her parents. One day (as an adult, Suzanne could still recall the memory in detail), she discovered some strawberries in the freezer. The moment she took her first bite, Suzanne suddenly felt ALIVE and stopped noticing her lonely feeling of deadness. A powerful feeling of euphoria immediately washed over her. Suzanne loved the strawberries and even after she was done eating them, she would return to the memory over and over in her mind, savoring the strawberries.
Actually, six-year-old Suzanne was savoring the feeling of aliveness that the strawberries gave her. Suzanne really needed that feeling when she was feeling the opposite of alive— dead— which is what she felt most of the time when she was ignored at home or her parents would fight. Too young to articulate her feelings, Suzanne’s mind would just wander to the memory of eating delicious food when her parents would argue, or when they would leave her home by herself.
Without knowing it, Suzanne was slowly beginning what eventually became a long pattern of eating in order to temporarily get the feelings she was missing in her emotional life. She would eat one kind of food when she was feeling dead, in order to feel alive. When she would let others at work walk all over her and she felt taken for granted, she would choose other foods which made her feel the opposite— cared for.
Unbeknownst to her, Suzanne was seeking out foods that would give her the exact opposite experience of the uncomfortable feelings she was trying to avoid.
Diets didn’t work, at least not for long. Gym memberships seemed to do almost nothing. Suzanne saw some progress when she worked with a personal trainer, but all her results went down the tube after she had a few especially hard days at work and ended up binging again a few days a row. So in shame, Suzanne gave up on her work with her trainer.
Even though Suzanne came to The Breakthrough Clinic nearly ready to give up on ever getting better, within a few sessions she was able to identify her emotional triggers which had been causing her to binge, and using a special process which helped her unlink binge eating from feeling “alive,” Suzanne began to notice her excessive eating began to fade. She still enjoyed food. She still was able to feel alive. But it was through healthier alternatives. She picked up sailing. She started speaking up for herself more at work (eliminating one of her binge eating triggers) and soon, life began looking up.
Now growing in confidence and feeling more relaxed in her body, Suzanne signed up for a dating site, ready to begin a close relationship. Less ashamed of her body, and with no 3 hour long binge eating ritual to hide anymore, Suzanne was able to move forward with her life and eventually into the health and marriage she had longed for (she had recently gotten engaged). “It took work. Not 'dieting and exercising' kind of work so much, but the work of having to identify my triggers and work on my uncomfortable emotions."
"I couldn’t look to peanut butter ice cream to soothe all my discomfort. I know now, my problem wasn’t ultimately about food. It was about managing my emotions in life like an adult. Binge eating was just the symptom. When I think of the newfound energy, the confidence and the fiancé I now have, starting my path out of binge eating has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. It was an investment in myself, and that’s been completely worth it.”