You are here: Home » Case studies

I Developed a Habit of Binge Eating Without Realizing it

“My dad passed away in 2015 and binge eating became a bigger crutch and problems began to arise. I found myself unable to stop eating until my stomach was so full it hurt and my body ached. I’d lie down and wish the over-full feeling would stop.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hi, I’m Rebecca Doring! I live in a log cabin nestled in the woods in Cornwall, CT with my husband, Chris, and our cat, Gunner.

Since going through the journey I’m about to share, I’ve discovered more things in my life to enjoy, and more importantly, to finally allow myself to enjoy them.

I’m most alive when in the woods going on adventures hiking, backpacking, trail running, on my yoga mat or meditation pillow, or laughing with my husband, my family, and our friends.

I consider myself to be happy, and it is an active choice and privilege each and every day. I never knew that I could experience true happiness like this, and it’s a result of my own personal practices that I’ve cultivated and now guide others through, too. 

What is your struggle and when did it start?

My struggle was binge eating, which caused urges to eat, oftentimes at a fast pace, until I physically couldn’t anymore. 

What’s most remarkable to me is that I had this struggle for about seven years without consciously being aware of it, believing myself to just be a ‘foodie’ who let herself overindulge from time to time. 

I finally realized what was going on after joining Corinne Crabtree’s No BS Weightloss membership and finding the subgroup within that called Trusting Your Body. 

Only then did I remember when it all began – in 2013 when I didn’t have many stress management tools and had no idea how to process the grief, fear, and uncertainty of seeing my dad diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. 

My boyfriend (now husband) wasn’t home and I had the apartment to myself. I had a dull, heaviness in my body that was always there, but especially ever since my dad had been diagnosed. 

I felt helpless and somehow unable to feel. We’d been told he had two and a half years to live and yet there was also a five percent chance he’d survive. Every time a test revealed his updated cancer numbers I didn’t know if it was safe to rejoice if they were low, or if I should prepare myself further for the possibility of his death. 

Simultaneously, I was in a relationship that was so different from anything I’d experienced, and felt genuinely happy. The drastic difference between my emotions confused me more.

I made a plate full of crackers with peanut butter and jelly, stood at the counter with music blasting, and ate them. I danced and I ate. The flavors and textures were so good that I made up a second plate as soon as I finished.

I kept eating and a wonderful relief settled in my body. I felt almost high with delight. The crunchy crackers and the balance of saltiness and sweetness of the peanut butter and jelly seemed to satisfy every craving that I had. 

I decided to eat another plate until it was time to go to bed, and I fell asleep feeling a comforting, soothing fullness in my body.

That was the moment I began binge eating. 

At first, I only ate like that occasionally and didn’t think too much of it. 

It was during this time that I quit the food industry and my dream of becoming a top pastry chef even though I had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America years before, and was drawn to enter into the wellness industry. 

I longed to know how to feel calm and grounded in my body at will, and not just when the perfect circumstances created it. 

I learned those tools nearly immediately after starting massage therapy school when they introduced us to meditation. I was hooked and over the next few years, I started my own massage therapy private practice, became a Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher, and finally a Meditation Teacher.

While my career, inner well-being, and relationship were all growing in beautiful ways, my dad was getting sicker. The week before my wedding, I broke down into hysterics on the side of the road, about to pick up my wedding dress, sobbing in my mom’s arms wondering how I could be so happy and excited about getting married and so scared and sad about possibly losing my dad at the same time. 

The extreme contrast kept binge eating alive. 

Late at night when I was alone, if my husband was out of the house, I’d find myself lost in the textures, sweetness, and saltiness of foods either in front of the TV or dancing to music. 

My dad passed away in 2015 and binge eating became a bigger crutch and problems began to arise. I found myself unable to stop eating until my stomach was so full it hurt and my body ached. I’d lie down and wish the over-full feeling would stop. A couple of times I considered trying to throw up just to release the pressure, but I’d always been afraid of vomiting so I never got myself to do it. 

Even in those moments, I never considered that there might be disordered eating. As long as I never purged, I thought I was fine. I just assumed that I loved food and got caught up in wanting just a little more without realizing that I’d overdone it.

Instead, I’d go to sleep and wait for it to go away, and faced a bigger problem in the morning. 

Before I’d even open my eyes, I’d wake up to thoughts of self-loathing. I’d mentally go over every bite I ate the day before repeatedly, disgusted with myself. 

I’d get up and look in the mirror and imagine having gained fifteen pounds overnight. I’d still feel full. My mind would be so hazy, hard to think, and riddled with such intense self-loathing I’d feel terrible the entire day.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

Binge eating was like my alter ego; a hidden persona of unhappiness, pain, and self-loathing that was so deep that most times I was even unaware of it. No one knew what was going on. It never occurred to me that there was a problem. 

My health was suffering as my digestion was frequently so overloaded. I never thought about what kind of effect this might be having as I’d always had digestive problems since I was a child, it never dawned on me that binge eating might affect the way I digested food.

It got worse over time. I only stopped when I felt really sick and found myself eating faster so that I could eat more. The self-loathing got worse and no longer affected me just after, but before and during too. 

I could hear one voice shouting at me, telling me not to do it, while in a trance of sorts fixing a plate of food and eating it. The louder the voice got, the faster I ate trying to shut it up. 

Food went from being a joy, a creative outlet, and a way to experience fun in life to becoming a dreaded thing that I simultaneously longed for and feared. 

I fantasized about being able to just eat all day long forever. Then vowed to never eat triggering foods again, until the next time I binged on them, leaving me feeling like such a failure.

👉 Share your story: Help thousands of people around the world by sharing your own story. We would love to publish your interview and have a positive impact on the world together. Learn more here.

Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

I found myself in a pattern of eating so much that I’d have to lie down for hours after and would be so constipated for days that I knew something needed to change. 

I found a cookbook to help support my digestion, Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell, and showed me I had no awareness of how it felt to be hungry or satisfied. Instead, I had always either felt ravenous or stuffed. I never knew anything in between. 

I had mostly been aware of what food tasted like, what food was good and bad, and wasn’t really aware of how the quantity of food felt in my body.

However, throughout my life if I felt bad after eating something, I usually thought it was the food itself that I’d have to cut out of my diet, it never occurred to me that the way I ate it and the amount could affect how I’d feel.

That cookbook taught me that it’s important to eat to be satisfied – not full – so that the GI system has the space to actually digest food.  It also taught me how to notice the difference between real hunger and just an empty stomach, which happens two hours after we eat and doesn’t mean we need to eat again right away. 

This was the beginning of a newly connected and kinder relationship with food, my body, and myself. 

This book transformed the way I ate the majority of the time – except for binges at night by myself. Sometimes when I felt the urge to binge and was watching TV with my husband, I’d tell him I was going upstairs to use the bathroom when I’d really go into our pantry and eat whatever I could. 

It was during one of these experiences that I realized that I wanted to learn how to stop overeating – which I believed was the problem.  

That’s when I began the real transformation of my journey through finding The Life Coach School Podcast by Brooke Castillo, Break Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth, and No BS Weightloss Program by Corinne Crabtree

After I joined the No BS Weightloss Program, I discovered a subgroup within the program called Trusting Your Body, and was dumbfounded when I listened to the trainings taught by Guest Coach Jane Pilger. I learned that just because I had not been purging didn’t mean that I wasn’t binge eating.

I discovered that binge eating was a restriction, self-loathing, and shame problem, which I resonated with deeply. 

At this point, I’d been practicing and teaching meditation for years, and the rest of my life was continuing to transform for the better. Through my journaling practice and the support of The Life Coach School Podcast, I had been discovering and working through a lot of shame – or feelings of unworthiness. 

Trusting Your Body showed me that the self-compassion practices that I’d been doing in other areas of my life could be – and needed to be – applied here.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

Binge eating was never really about food. Contrary to my belief, it wasn’t actually a way to enjoy food or being a foodie. Now that I don’t binge eat anymore, and I slow down, eat mindfully, and pay attention to my body and how it feels to receive food, I enjoy food in new ways. 

Binge eating was a way to try to self-soothe when I was restricting myself from feeling good, and instead feeling unworthiness and shame, and mentally beating myself up.  

I’m very grateful that I had already been practicing a lot of the tools I needed to overcome this issue. In a lot of ways, it was like discovering many nails that needed to be hammered down when I’d been carrying around a hammer for years. 

Here are some of the core concepts that helped support my journey. 

1. Curiosity, observing, and journaling

Curiosity is the antidote to judgment. In order to unravel and rewrite a pattern of intense judgment, you need to awaken curiosity.

As soon as I realized I had been binge eating and noticed feelings of unworthiness and shame, part of me was horrified and wanted to quickly fix myself – as if I discovered I’d been broken without knowing it. 

Yet meditation had given me the practice of setting aside the need to fix, and simply observing what is instead. It turns out that this skill was crucial for working through the pattern of shame, binge eating, and beating myself up.

I started to just get curious about my experience as if I were conducting an experiment, wanting to observe and gather data. 

I journaled about what I was thinking before, during, and after a binge without filtering myself. The more I did this, the less power these thoughts had.

Journaling had once been a safe place to vent as a kid, but now is a powerful tool in transforming even the oldest patterns and realigning with the truth. I journal every morning and believe I’d personally still be binge eating if I hadn’t used this tool to my advantage. 

2. Getting to know my body’s signals, sensations, and rhythms 

In our modern culture, many of us eat habitually, based on what time it is – not based upon if our bodies are actually hungry or not. Many of us grew up being told to finish our plates, regardless of how our bodies felt. In the most basic of ways, many of us have lost touch with knowing our own neutral, hunger, satisfied, and full signals. 

The cycle of binge eating blinded my awareness of my body when it came to eating. Instead, I was only aware of the binge cycle where I had the urge to binge, became acutely aware of the desire for flavors and textures on my tongue, and a haunting chant in my head saying, “just one more bite”, always focusing on wanting, never being aware of having. 

Connecting to my body through curiosity and observing became a lifeline. 

At first, I became aware of how my original pleasant feeling of being full that night in 2013 (and a subsequent good feeling I chased for years) wasn’t always true. I discovered that feeling full left my physical body heavy, dull, and sluggish, and wreaked havoc on my digestive system. 

Then I got to know how wonderful it feels to stop eating when satisfied. 

I noticed a light, pleasant energy afterward. I realized that this was what it felt like to fuel my body with food as opposed to just being present with the flavors and textures in my mouth. 

When I practiced shifting my attention to feeling my stomach and body instead of only my tongue and the urge to keep eating, I realized there was so much more to experience and enjoy. 

3. Allowing, feeling, accepting, and compassion

While getting to know my own body and its sensations, binge eating is mostly an emotional issue. Without confronting the emotions, it would’ve continued. 

When in a pattern of unworthiness and shame, our natural instinct is to turn away from ourselves, judge ourselves even more harshly, and either ignore ourselves altogether through distraction (TV, overworking, overeating, etc) or try to beat ourselves up in hopes of fixing, or changing our ways until we become ‘better’. 

This was my experience for as long as I can remember until I found the personal and spiritual development world. Meditation taught me how to get to know and befriend who I am, as Pema Chodron says, “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are already.” 

Rather than trying to throw my binge-eating self away, I needed to learn to allow her to be there with kindness and eventually acceptance and compassion. 

I had already spent years beating myself up over the issue and the issue only got stronger. As soon as I began allowing the issue to be there, and observing it with curiosity, the issue began to fade.

4. Having a plan in place

The Trusting Your Body program taught me to create a strategy for times when a binge occurs. Rather than trying to stop cold turkey, they guided us in learning how to binge better and developing deeper awareness, kindness, and compassion for ourselves along the way. 

Another crucial step that helped me reverse the pattern of binging, was to share it with someone safe at the moment. Brene Brown says, “As a shame researcher, I know that the very best thing to do in the midst of a shame attack is totally counterintuitive: Practice courage and reach out!”. 

An urge to binge is a sign of a shame attack, and Trusting Your Body taught me to reach out. At first, I only reached out to the Trusting Your Body community. Then I eventually shared my story with my best friend and husband. Both of them had no idea and felt honored that I told them what had been going on. They both became wonderful, non-judgmental, and compassionate anchors for me in those moments. 

5. What do you actually need?

Geneen Roth’s book, Break Free From Emotional Eating taught me to pause before, during, or after a binge and “ask” the food what I really needed. Every time I remembered to do this, I was amazed to receive an answer. 

I usually needed kindness, a break, rest, compassion, appreciation, and love. I didn’t need these things from others – I needed them from myself. 

My urge to binge was usually followed by mentally beating myself up. I realized that I craved soothing, and just wanted a break from the ridicule. 

I didn’t want to be restricted from pleasure, joy, love, connection, and my own worthiness anymore. What I needed most was to finally allow myself to feel, to be supported, and to embrace life. 

6. Allowing myself to feel good and intuitive eating

A final piece of the puzzle was realizing, from Roth’s book, that another simple reason I binged was that I had been restricting myself for years. 

I had also grown up with digestive issues and was always trying different restrictive diets to help. My health had gotten stronger in 2012 and I stopped those diets right before I began binge eating.

Diet culture teaches us that food is good or bad and when we get cravings for the ‘bad’ food and give in to them, we’re making a mistake – which further perpetuated the issue of judging myself, beating myself up, and binge eating. 

Roth introduced me to intuitive eating, letting go of the idea that food is good or bad, and allowing myself to have the things I craved if I was hungry and ate them mindfully. 

It felt like I was alive for the very first time with food! I had thought I loved food before, yet subconsciously I was sabotaging the joy of the moment with self-judgment over every bite. 

When I finally allowed myself to have what I desired and practiced eating slowly and mindfully, everything changed.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

For many years I didn’t know I was binge eating, myself – I just thought I was a foodie who overate and let herself overindulge from time to time. When I discovered what was really going on, I didn’t want to tell anyone because I still didn’t believe it was a big deal. 

I was embarrassed by it but also knew there are people out there who have more serious issues and I didn’t want to label myself with an eating disorder when I wasn’t sure that was the case. I felt silly and overly dramatic to tell anyone. 

After being in the Trusting Your Body program and experiencing how helpful it was to tell people when I was struggling, I decided to tell my best friend. 

I found it incredibly difficult and emotional. It felt like the hardest thing I’d ever said out loud. I was amazed by that; it told me that I really had been struggling with something in ways I hadn’t realized. 

After she received it with such compassion and I felt more connected to her, I wanted to tell my husband. He responded with the same level of compassion and safety, and both of them were there for me through some binges after. 

I discovered that each time I talked about it, it got easier. And as it got easier, the need to binge became smaller. 

I never anticipated that it would become a part of my journey as a teacher and a coach, and now I’m really grateful that I took the first step to share it with someone.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Just because your problem doesn’t seem that bad, or doesn’t seem like as big of a deal as what you see in society, doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve support. 

I have two important things to share that I wish I had known early on: 

One, if you beat yourself up, feel like you’re your own worst enemy, and loathe yourself regularly – that is not a sign that you’re a broken, damaged human being incapable of feeling different. 

It’s actually just a sign that you have a normal human brain that has been through patterns in your life and developed ways to protect yourself. 

Two, just because it’s normal that you’ve been in these patterns, doesn’t mean that it must remain your normal, constant way of being. 

Instead, I believe that you are capable of experiencing so much more and deserve to get in touch with the truth of who you really are. The voice putting you down, making you feel terrible inside is a voice that’s merely clouding the truth and can be released with practice. 

You deserve to find the support, guidance, and inspiration that’s out there – and there is a lot available. Whether it’s a therapist, coach, one of the books, podcasts, or programs I mentioned, you deserve to be free of this feeling and finally know what it’s like to see your own worthiness and enjoy happiness. 

I’m so grateful every day that I know what this feels like when it was a mystery for so long. Through this gratitude, I’m inspired to share my story, and passionate to teach the tools I’ve learned to others. 

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown: This was the very first personal development book I read that felt like it was written for me. I had been a perfectionist since I could remember and Brene showed me a new way of seeing myself, my life, and what’s possible that I never knew could be. This book is the first book I recommend to all of my students now. I continue to reread it once a year and always find it so supportive and relatable. 
  • Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell: This simple cookbook provided me with an introduction to Ayurveda (India’s alternative medicine system), and easy ways to get to know my own body including ways to support my digestion and wellbeing. This was the first step toward reversing binge eating for me. 
  • Break Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth: This book is for anyone who eats emotionally but especially for anyone who has binged in any way before. I was able to learn such compassion and understanding of myself through the pages. Geneen gave me the gift of allowing myself to receive simple joys in life, including letting go of fear of food and embracing the joy of it.
  • The Life Coach School Podcast by Brooke Castillo: This podcast transformed my life! I started listening to it early on in my introduction to the wellness industry and know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning the important concepts Brooke Castillo teaches. I began at episode one and encourage new listeners to do the same. I recommend it to all my students as well.
  • No BS Weightloss Membership by Corinne Crabtree (and Trusting Your Body inside with Guest Coach Jane Pilger: This program is so much more than a weight loss program. While Corinne teaches simple and doable tools to lose weight without diet culture including good habit building, what she’s really teaching is emotional intelligence, processing, and management. This is why I joined her program and am so grateful for her. I learned how to manage my own emotions without food through her support and the support of Trusting Your Body with Jane. I learned how to love my body and myself with their guidance.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

Today, I’m so honored to guide others who are struggling with similar things that I was. I love guiding other women who are craving more for their lives, wanting a new, fulfilling chapter of knowing themselves and living their purpose doing what lights them up, without being stuck beating themselves up and sabotaging their joy, and I do so in my program Inner Critic Freedom.

You can find more about me on my website, follow me on Instagram, or connect with me on LinkedIn!

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

Cheat Sheet Download Thumbnail Clean

This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Be Happier and More Productive

Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 unique tips for your mental health.

Want more interviews?

Continue reading our inspiring case studies and learn how to overcome mental health struggles in a positive way!

Want to help others with your story? We would love to publish your interview and have a positive impact on the world together. Learn more here.

Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

Leave a Comment