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Brain over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn't Work, and How I Recovered for Good Paperback – January 1, 2011
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About the Author
Kathryn Hansen recovered from bulimia independently, abruptly, and completely over 6 years ago; and soon after her recovery, she was fully convinced she had a powerful story to tell - a story that could give other bulimics and those with binge eating disorder hope, a new perspective, and a commonsense cure. She dedicated herself to candidly documenting her experience, in hope that her book can shed new light on these disorders that ruin so many lives. For a long time, Kathryn felt like a hopeless case. She thought maybe she could never completely recover. She thought she would have to deal with her eating disorder one-day-at-a-time for the rest of her life, but she doesn't. She has zero risk for relapse, even during stressful times in her life. She believes that if recovery was possible for her, it is possible for anyone. Kathryn recovered only after she parted with therapy and let go of most of its ideas. She found another way to end her bulimia, and now she shares her alternative approach with others in Brain over Binge. Kathryn hopes her voice can be a voice of change, a voice for those who are frustrated with therapy or who simply can't afford it, a voice that will help many escape the daily torment of binge eating and purging.
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I related so much to her story that I felt like I could have written it. But.
Truth be told, I think I was in denial about the fact that I actually had an eating disorder. I always felt like there was something wrong with me but I never considered that I might actually qualify for an official E.D. Reading this book has really opened my eyes. I've never gone to therapy for my weight issues but I've read every diet book and tried every gimmick. I'd do well for a bit but then go crashing down, doubling the weight I had lost. I thought about food constantly. When I wasn't thinking about it directly, I was thinking about it in the form of shame for what I had eaten or wanted to eat and how horrible it feels in my body. I was miserable, not understanding why I had this exremely strong desire to stop eating out of control but yet remained just that--out of control. It was like Optimus Prime and Megatron were having a battle in my mind. Eat the food! Don't eat the food! You want the food! I can't believe you just ate the food!
It was a constant fight all day every day. I loved to go out and eat a big meal and then stop at the store and buy snacks to go home and eat in private. Part of me would say, I am not going to buy junk food while the other part was scanning the aisles. It was nothing to down a whole box of creme pies in a matter of minutes. I would buy whole birthday cakes and packs of cupcakes and eat them by myself. I would order pizza and have Ramen noodles and a sandwich and a microwave burrito while I waited and still eat the whole pizza when it arrived. Then, of course, I needed something sweet.
Every single day I ate like this.
I could do okay at work but
I would pull in the driveway and immediately start a mental inventory of what I had to look forward to eating when I got in the house. Consuming consumed me.
When I think back, this all stems from the time I did the South Beach diet. I had lost 60 lbs in about 5 months. I was happy and I felt good. I didn't think I ever felt deprived. I remember passing candy and cake displays and not even batting an eye.
But then I got laid off. I got depressed. I sought comfort.
My first binge food was a pack of creme horns with a chocolate milk. I ate all of them in my car and downed the milk and then ran into my backyard to try and throw it all up. I was so disgusted and disappointed in myself. I couldn't do it though. I've tried before and forced vomiting is not a skill I could master. Hence, the 80 pound weight gain over the last several years which has led me here. I have a binge eating disorder but I don't purge so I'm just fat. Probably technically, "obese".
I've read all the approaches that say it's an emotional thing. That if you're wanting to eat when you're not hungry, it's because of a feeling. You need to figure out what you're feeling and address it instead of eating. But that didn't work for me. I didn't feel lIke I was burying any childhood hurts or escaping any unpleasantries. I never could find that emotion or feeling and I still wanted to eat and I did.
I know a lot of people say they were disappointed by this book and didn't think it was much more than the mesage "just don't do it". It seems too simple. But it's really true.
I'm sure we've all tried that appraoch. And as she states, everything won't work for everyone. However, it has worked for me.
Since reading this book, I have not binged once in the last 7 days. I've hardly had any urges. I wake up and I'm excited to recall all that I did NOT eat the night before.
Prior to this week, mornings were filled with regret and dread as I remembered what I had done. How much I had eaten. All the calories and junk. The climbing number on the scale.
I don't know how to explain exactly how but this book just made it click for me.
"I" am in control. Not my urges. Not the habits I have formed.
When I've had times where I considered eating for no reason, I tell myself,
"You don't want to eat. You're not hungry. It's a habit and to break a habit you must stop doing it!" For the first time in my life, I'm telling myself no and I'm listening.
To accompany that, I've stopped dieting. I've stopped restricting foods. I've stopped telling myself I can't have certain things.
It has freed me.
I know it's only been a week and I've got a long journey ahead of me but I am so thankful that I found this book because now I have some confidence in my ability to fight and WIN.
I'm finally seeing the scale go down and I'm no longer completely obsessed with food and hating myself for wanting or eating it. I'm not acting on insane urges to gorge myself because I'm not having them at the intensity that I was before reading this.
The brain mechanics just make sense to me and I'm able to view myself as a person with a normal and healthy brain that just got too good at remembering how to do a destructive thing. I've trained myself to brush my teeth twice a day without fail and now I'm training myself to stop eating food just because it's there, or I had a bad day or even a good day.
I will post an update as time passes but if you've had a similar experience and using the emotional appraoch hasn't helped you, I definitely recommend you buy this book and read it in one sitting!
I have not binged once since I began reading Kathryn's story that terrible day, laying sick in bed. There was no "final binge". I did not miss it. It was just over. My urges are subsiding day by day. Yesterday in fact I forced an urge just to test myself - by eating my trigger foods. And not only did I not binge... it didn't even bring on an urge.
This book has saved my life.
However - this book is not for everyone. I see stories on here of those who it did not help. People who are saying "what is wrong with me?" I don't believe there is anything wrong with those people. They aren't "missing" something that the rest of us saw. It's just, eating disorders manifest in different people for different reasons. While Kathryn's approach has worked for me because we had very similar paths (anorexia and then bulimia as a result of starvation and finally habit), I'm certain binge eating can develop in others for other reasons. There are probably those who grew up in families where food was a theraputic tool and where binging was common. I don't think this approach would help someone who came from a situation like that. I think this Brain over Binge approach would work for those who developed bulimia as a result of anorexia.
Finally - even for those who developed bulimia as a result of anorexia, I can still see situations where it wouldn't work. I think this approach will appeal to people who have a personality of wanting to fix everything themselves, those who are obsessed with understanding *why* something is the way it is. Why am I experiencing this? What caused it? I'm a mathematician. This is ingrained in me, so this appealed to me. Also, those who are sometimes averse to therapy. I'm a very self aware person, and often shun therapy. Maybe I shouldn't do this. But sometimes, it's hard for me to look at another person (therapist) and believe that they have more insight about who I am and why I do what I do than me. I have always resisted this, and so again, this book worked for me.
I just don't want people to think this is the end all cure all for bulimia. And the author doesn't make this claim, either. It is simply another approach, and while it will work for some (and work WELL at that), it will not work for others. I believe you need to have the right combination of having developed your bulimia/BED as a result of starvation, as well as having certain personality traits (strong self awareness, and a constant/obsessive need to gain clarity over why you do the things you do) for this book to work.
EDIT: Jan. 17, 2015, 3 months on...
I am binge free. I still can not believe it. Binging feels like a distant nightmare of my past, that is the only way I can describe it, as I have literally no urges now.
I did have a slight relapse in the fall, which I realize now was due to extreme restriction. Of course it was me giving in to the binge urges, but they were very easy to give in to because they were quite logical, taking on the form: "you are starving, you need to eat."
I am still on a calorie restricted diet, but it is a healthy one, and I am finally losing weight in a healthy, steady way without extreme calorie restriction. I do not deal with hunger because I'm eating a reasonable amount of food.
I think this is an important note to give to other people.
Anyway... try it people... I have my life back.
Sept. 28, 2015 - It's about a year since I initially read this book and I want to give an update, for anyone who is curious if the solution lasted long term. I'm happy to say I am free of my eating disorders now. I did struggle here and there within the last year, but it was minimal, and I never again endured any relapses which were so terrible that I was sick. These days, I go many weeks and don't even recall that I once struggled so mercilessly with this disorder. It used to be something I thought about every day throughout the day. I realize now, this book is essentially teaching mindfulness.