For 20 years, every bingeing relapse caused me so much guilt, I returned to binge eating. Until recently, I considered every bingeing relapse a disaster and myself as a failure that would never get better. Binge eating is one of the most difficult aspects of my life to discuss because I feel guilty that there are hungry people and I overeat. I also feel ashamed that I allow myself to lose control like this, so when I have a bingeing relapse, all of these emotions intensify. It was not until I stopped thinking in terms of success and failure that I began making progress, and I’d like to share ways I have retrained my brain to navigate my recovery and learn from a bingeing relapse.
Focus Is Everything When It Comes to a Bingeing Relapse
You become what you think about all day long ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Focus is an important factor in what happens after a bingeing relapse. If I focus on being guilty and failing, I will continue to feel guilty and fail. One day, I wondered if I had accomplished anything in my life by feeling guilty. The answer was a resounding no. I had to shift my focus.
If I focus on the relapse, I will continue to relapse. If I am afraid of relapsing, I am more likely to relapse. But if I focus on being myself, feeling my feelings, and on what I am doing right, recovery follows a bingeing relapse.
My co-blogger here on Binge Eating Recovery, Grace, wrote a fantastic piece: Gratefulness as a Binge Eating Recovery Tool, and being grateful is how I shifted my focus as well. By focusing on good, I see more good, and the guilt, shame, and negative self-talk get drowned out, or I at least have a better time redirecting my thoughts. For me, this process is similar to a toddler demanding cookies at bedtime. Patience, redirection, compassion, and love go a long way.
Break the Bingeing Relapse Cycle
Eating disorder recovery is a vulnerable process, and feeling safe to be vulnerable is a key factor in healing. It’s difficult to be vulnerable when you are beating yourself up. The biggest transformation happened to me after I realized how much kinder I was to everyone but myself.
To a friend struggling to quit smoking, I said things like “It’s really hard to quit, you’ve been doing it for so long, and you’ve trained your brain this way. It’s a process, and it’s not one done in a day.”
To a perfect stranger, I’d say, “I hope you have a nice weekend!”.
To me, I’d say, “I can’t believe you are doing this, you are awful.”
That’s when it clicked: I need to talk to myself like I am talking to my friends or even a stranger because putting myself down with negative self-talk was unacceptable. Once I began shifting my focus, bingeing relapse became a call to reassess my life, see what triggers I am not noticing, where I am lacking in self-care, and love myself more instead of less for the bingeing relapse. As I said to my friend, “I have been doing this for a long time, and unfortunately, I trained my brain this way. It is a process, and it’s not done in a day. As long as I do not give up, I cannot fail.”
Bingeing relapse can be a teacher. That is the best advice I can give: do not look at yourself as a failure for a relapse. A relapse can be a teacher because there are areas of your life that are triggering you or emotions you are repressing. Focus on the relapse to learn, not judge. Focus on what you have accomplished, where you can help yourself/strengthen yourself, love yourself and you can break the bingeing relapse cycle.