Self Sabotage, sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

March 2015, I had gotten into my car on the way home after a stressful day. I had to go get fuel, as I drove to the petrol station I was still thinking over the day’s events. Whilst in the shop I seen an offer on Wagon Wheels (which I love!) so I picked some up thinking I would have one when I got home to relax and chill. I sat back into the car, think thinking about the day over and over…. Next thing I knew the entire pack of wagon wheels was gone… eaten… without any intention, hunger or desire for 6 jammy wagon wheels… but I had eaten them.

I didn’t know why, I looked down and seen the wrappers all over the passenger side of the car. I had just binged on 984 calories for no apparent reason. When I got home all I could think about then was the stress of the day, and now the frustration of what I had just done. I felt guilty, I felt even more down, and I felt disgusted with myself. Why on earth would I do that.. I wasn’t even hungry.

I couldn’t figure it out. But, the scary thing was – it wasn’t the first time this had happened. Many times in the previous months, and years (even since my initial weight loss) I had binged like this. Entire multipacks of crisps, packets of biscuits, bars, chocolates, sweets… you name it – anything sweet. Initially I had thought it was my atrocious sweet tooth and maybe if I excluded sugar it would fix it. No, it didn’t – my issue wasn’t the sugar so much as it was the fact I was a binger.

This was the realisation I had the days after the episode with the wagon wheels. I could not even figure out 1% of why I did it. It was totally consuming my mind. As soon as I woke up I would think about food, what I needed to eat, how bad I had been, literally eating myself up over why I could figure out my behaviour. I started to research binge eating and it was then I realised that I suffered from this eating disorder. It was scary, I mean – eating disorders… isn’t that something that happens to other people. I just like food, wasn’t that all ? ……… No. it wasn’t – for the first time in my life I accepted the fact I suffered from Binge Eating. Then of course I started to beat myself up about why didn’t I figure this out sooner? After everything I had been through in terms of weight loss, getting my personal training qualification, doing so much work publicly around weight loss and even supporting work for a eating disorders unit in Dublin – yet still I never seen myself as someone who fell into this category.

The day went on and I decided that I had to do something – I couldn’t continue living day to day with my mind being totally consumed with feelings of shame, paranoia, feeling pissed off, enough was enough and it had to change. I started to google eating disorder therapy in Dublin. I spent days researching, and I found one that was near me location wise I researched the Doctor and got a good *vibe* about her. Then though, I had a fear of mailing to make a consultation – I mean, if I did it would make things even more real. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about how I was feeling or the thoughts I was having so by making an appointment I felt the deepest depths of my mind were going to be opened up and it scared it.

So, I made the appointment met with the lady – and instantly knew this was what I needed. I would go into the full details of all the sessions now – as I will touch on them over the duration of my blogs, but what came from these sessions was so refreshing, a total eye opener and something which managed to finally align my mind and my body – but I will share the pieces about the binge eating today. I could now understand why I did the things I did, what it meant and how to try and manage it going forward. All this though with the realisation that I could possibly still have future episodes of binging – but that I now had the tools to analyse my behaviour.

So, what was the mean learnings I had related to binge eating specifically?

  • The main realisation was that my binge eating episodes were always around time of high emotional upheaval – usually during times of frustrations / anger or boredom / feeling down. Primarily however during times of frustration / anger. What was explained was that during these instances whereby I experienced a particularly stressful situation that I didn’t *own* or that I could change – my way of shifting the feelings to a situation that I could manage was through food. Food became my outlet for my emotions. So whilst I might not always be able to change a specific situation to the way I would like it to go, and this felt shit – the way I would turn this around to make myself feel better – was through the food. Food became my management tool for any situation that stressed me that I couldn’t otherwise influence or change.

This was such a huge realisation. Every single episode of binge eating, I could relate directly back to an event or time whereby I felt down or annoyed. This realisation and understanding meant that when I started to find myself in this situation I could be aware and now be more conscious of my behaviours.

  • The next thing was – the past is the past. No matter what you do, you cannot change it – no matter what. No matter how annoyed, frustrated or whatever you feel or become it will not change the past. No matter how much you eat or drink, it will not change the past. The only thing you can try to influence is the now, and the future.

  • In the sessions we spoke a lot about these internal conversations I was having with myself, about how I analysed everything food related, I would spend hours trying to plan gym sessions (but then never go as I felt crap about how I looked and too self-conscious again). We talked about how old past feelings of disappointment were returning. One of the other big things we spoke about was also about how the pressure I was putting myself under was so immense that it consumed my every thought every day. Pressure about what other people thought about me, about their judgement about me having put weight on, about them passing comment. We discussed a few specific instances whereby people had passed comment on my weight again and how this ate me up inside whereby I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. Situations whereby I hated any camera being around again – the thought of my photo being taken and people seeing me heavier than I was again, one time I almost had a mini anxiety attack when someone wanted to take some photos with me in them.

  • Throughout all these times thought I of course still kept the happy smiley Paddy face on… until I could get by myself and *manage* these situations then through the food and binge eating. To help turn my mind-set around we devised a plan whereby I would have a whiteboard and start writing my positive achievements in life, and going forward anything new I achieved – would get added. Almost like a vision board – it was a board of positivity. You see, we came to see that all day every day I was focusing and worrying about negatives – yet didn’t allow any time for the positive things in life. My wonderful family, my amazing boyfriend, my success in work, the personal achievements – I didn’t allow any time to focus on these. None. In addition to this I was asked to take a few minutes first thing every morning to do a self-check with my mind to see how things were what was I thinking and to see what feelings or emotions I had each morning. The purpose of this was that before I even got out of bed – I was aware of my emotions, I could process anything negative, and start each day with a much clearer mind. Then at night I would do something similar whereby I would simply focus on everything positive that happened that day. It didn’t have to be big things – it could be as simple as appreciate a thank you or a complement from someone

So I started, I got my white board for a few quid, I wrote a few things I had achieved and then every few days I would add something new - things like well done for completing a jog, or for completing something complex at work – basically anything whatsoever that was positive – soon the board started to fill up. I had it positioned in my kitchen so as soon as I walked in it was the first thing I seen each day.

My “mindfulness” sessions each morning, and the reflection time each evening – which by the way were literally only a few minutes – started out feeling a little odd, but oh my god – these became one of the most biggest changes in my mind-set and mental health. It was immense the impact this time out had. I actually was shocked that after the first week my entire mind-set had changed day to day – I actually started to feel a bit more confident, I felt happier and felt like I was more in control. I wasn’t going to the gym during this time as this was 100% dedicated to my mind-set and improving it. Out of everything we discussed, any of the tools I learned – the mindfulness time 100% became the most important, positive and ground breaking things I learned to do. Yes it sounds so simple, but wow wow wow wow.

I did say I would touch on self-sabotage during this blog, and for me the binge eating was my self-sabotage and I think will be for a lot of people. I knew I was self-sabotaging but I didn’t know why, of didn’t know how else to label it until I had the realisation about binge eating. This weekend I asked a question on facebook about what was it that made people fall of the wagon – the majority of people replied emotions, which aligns so much to what I have just discussed. Some others mentioned preparation and meal planning, which to be honest is down to time management. If you only fall of the wagon when you fail to prep meals, then make more time – schedule and plan better, it’s simple – don’t give yourself sympathy for not having time, make time – end of.

So then to summarise what would I say for someone who can relate to the above:

  • Consider making time to seek some professional help with a psychologist, one who specialises in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or eating disorders. It will be scary, but it literally will be life changing and much more value and impact to you than any gym membership or personal trainer.

  • Try the tips I followed, make yourself a board of positivity – it can be a large sheet, maybe a notebook – or I found the whiteboard worked really well – they are only a few quid in tesco / asda etc. Write down only positive things, things in your life you should be happy about – your family, friends, mini achievements of any size, also allow others to add to it – as they will often complement / praise you but we brush it off – so encourage people closest to you to add to this maybe your partner / kids?

  • Each morning before you get out of bed stop and think about what going through your head – is any of it things which you cant control? Then think it through and draw a line under it. Is there things you can change and influence? Then decide what one step will you take that day (this can be added you’re your board then too as a positive step!)

  • The each night recap on the day what went well, what happened that you liked. A hug or kiss from someone, a compliment, a workout, eating a healthy meal – absolutely anything positive from the day focus on it.

It’s not easy – my sessions spanned approx. 2 months this year but have been life changing in terms of mind set – now I am start Project Paddy to implement these learnings and to start creating the habits around fitness again which I will share.

Thank you for taking the time to read all this. Remember, you can’t change the past.

Oh, and if you’re wondering – I haven’t binged even once since :)


(Video on my Binge Eating experience below)

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© Paddy Cunningham