Am I Overeating or Binge-Eating during ED Recovery?
During Eating Disorder recovery, whether it be Anorexia Nervosa or Orthorexia, I am sure many of you have experienced this term called “recovery binge”.
You feel like you are overeating and going from a restrictive eating disorder to a binge-eating disorder. I remember it used to drive me nuts. I thought I was going crazy, from one eating disorder to another, never going to recover.
When you start eating after a long period of starvation, extreme hunger usually kicks in. Thus, when you listen to your hunger, which is the right thing to do, and eat so much food, you start to question whether you are overeating or binge-eating. I felt like a failure and could never recover from my restrictive eating disorder, and that eating too much meant I was turning it into another form of eating disorder. Feeling guilty, I went back to restricting my food again. I “binged-ate" and then I restricted myself again. It was a never-ending vicious cycle.
I was stuck in this cycle until I learnt that the only way out is to listen to my extreme hunger and eat away. I was scared and afraid. But the human body is an intelligent machine, and it did eventually work out and my hungers returned to normal. Therefore, there is no such thing as overeating or binge-eating during a recovery. Just think logically. How can you overeat or binge-eat if you are underweight and malnourished? Overeating or binge-eating in this case is actually normal and necessary for recovery to take place.
During extreme hunger or a recovery binge, your body also has no interest in low calorie and healthier food options like fruits and vegetables. It wants to go for the ice cream and unhealthy snacks. If you read my eating disorder recovery journey, you would know that I was eating 1 tub of ben & jerry ice cream a day, sometimes even 2, for the entirety of my first month.
Minnesota Starvation Experiment
The Minnesota Starvation Experiment was a clinical study performed at the University of Minnesota between November 19, 1944 and December 20, 1945. This experiment was conducted to find out the physiological and psychological effects of severe and prolonged dietary restriction and the effectiveness of dietary rehabilitation.
After semi-starvation for 6 months, the selected 36 men binge-ate when they were allowed unrestricted amounts of food. Once they were nutritionally rehabilitated, their eating habits were back to normal and they did not develop binge eating disorder.
What should I do after a Recovery Binge Session?
Sometimes after a binge session, you may develop anxiety or panic attacks like I did. Calm yourself down by telling yourself that, “it is fine, and recovery would be even faster since you needed that food and energy intake”. And then, you continue eating normally according to your mental and physical hunger without restriction, and without skipping meals.
Binge-eating during recovery does not equate to having a binge-eating disorder. Once you have gained weight and are nutritionally rehabilitated, your urge to "eat the whole world" will diminish. If you cannot control yourself and overeat now, it is because you are malnourished. Once you are no longer in a state of malnutrition, you will stop eating abnormal amounts of food and your enormous hunger level will gradually die down.
It is imperative that you understand this concept. You can save a lot of mental torture and time as you move away and not get stuck in the binge-restrict vicious cycle. All this will pass as long as you do not give up and press on.