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Binge Eating Disorder and Grief

May 31, 2022 Emma Parten

Yesterday, I received a phone call about someone I love who is not well. I took this particular phone call while my dinner plate was in front of me. I pushed around vegetables with my fork, listening and processing the news. After the call, the evening went on. I covered a page in my sketchbook with watercolor stripes. I read Shel Silverstein's poems. I noticed I didn't feel the urge to scour the pantry for food to snack on as I had in the past. Sometimes binge eating disorder (BED) flares amid grief, and sometimes it stays dormant.

When we lose someone we love, or maybe someone we love is suffering, the loss casts a heavy shadow. In my experience, when someone I love is struggling to get through the day, it's difficult for me to feel happy without guilt. When I am facing the reality of grief, I feel the old temptation to curl up small, binge eat late into the night, and try not to think about anything. 

Grief and Binge Eating Disorder Recovery

Emotions like fear, dread, helplessness, and regret have always been igniting forces behind the urge to binge eat and comfort myself. I have worked to find new ways to relax and take care of myself in these moments since I began to recover. I do what I can to help myself through to the other side of emotion without binge eating. Sometimes it works, and occasionally it doesn't.

Here's the thing. Grief strikes with no warning. Grief shakes the stability we try to maintain. When a death, loss, or realization hits you, you are left raw with a mess of complications. When I experience periods of grief, every positive thing I could do to take care of myself suddenly feels pointless or even meaningless. Why paint? Why write? Why walk down the road I've walked up and down a hundred times? 

How to Face Grief in Binge Eating Recovery

Everyone who experiences grief has a unique experience. If you told me about what you grieve over, I could support you from the outside of it, but I'd never be able to completely know precisely what you are feeling. This can compound the feeling of loss and longing to be comforted, which is why it can be difficult to ignore temptations to binge eat when that has been a source of isolated comfort in the past. 

Here are some suggestions I have to help you make it through grief while recovering from binge eating disorder,

  • Don't forget you can speak your experience -- In my case, I forget all the time that I can talk about what is going on to the people I feel the most comfortable with. Sometimes all that comes out is, "I'm scared," or, "I don't know what comes next." It still is a relief to reveal even a snippet of your interior experience to someone that wants to help.
  • It's okay if you slip in recovery -- There is no official award or point system for keeping a streak of no eating disorder behavior. As humans, we are constantly adapting to new circumstances, good, painful, and the whole spectrum in between. It would be impossible to know what could trigger a binge. You will get back on track. It doesn't make you weak to struggle with grief. Acknowledge when you are struggling with BED and grief, but know that you haven't completely lost your progress.
  • You might need the exact opposite of what you think you need -- When I am in the middle of grief, I cannot sit still. I am stoic and focused on keeping myself together. I also know that whatever my instincts are when I am grieving, I might need to lean into the opposite. I need to slow down and turn down extra activities for a while. I need to tell someone what I'm thinking about or write it down. I also need to allow myself not to have it all together, especially when my perfectionist behavior revolves around food. How do you respond to grief? What might you need when you're in the middle of grieving?

I hope these suggestions help as reminders, but it's always going to be difficult to do what we know is good for us when we are struggling. The best we can do is try and know that we are trying. It's possible to continue to recover from binge eating disorder while recovering from grief. 

Please take care, and I welcome you to share your experience with grief in the comments. 

In this video, I share more ways I get through disruptions in BED recovery. I hope it's helpful! 

APA Reference
Parten, E. (2022, May 31). Binge Eating Disorder and Grief, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/bingeeatingrecovery/2022/5/binge-eating-disorder-and-grief



Author: Emma Parten

Connect with Emma on her personal blog.

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