Binge Eating: Guilt and Shame
I was a sophomore at UCLA and was feeling lonely and stressed. Being a student at a very large school, can at times feel very overwhelming and impersonal.
I was living in an apartment for the first time and on a tight budget.
I went to the student store to get dinner and instead grabbed the bag of cookies.
It took several minutes, before I realized I had eaten the entire bag and then the disbelief and disgust take over.
What had I done? I was so ashamed. I threw out the bag and told no one.
Binging Creates Shame
Binging is a very dark place. You have to face the painful truth of not living up to your own expectations.
“I’m so bad,” or “I have no control,” or “I deserve to be fat.”
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong.
The focus in this book is about the process of, as she puts it, “reckoning and rumbling” with shame so you can rise from it as a stronger, more complete, “whole-hearted” person.
When you feel shame, you feel isolated, alone and unlovable.
You feel small. You want to hide and disappear from the world.
So you turn down social invitations.
You watch TV and eat to comfort yourself.
This is the flight reaction to “fight or flight.”
Dealing With Shame
I’ve always been more of a fighter, so when I encountered dieters’ shame I always blamed myself.
This meant punishing myself by skipping meals or putting in two hour at the gym.
It meant counting every last calorie, until I felt like I regained control.
When we feel shame we hide or destroy the thing that is making us feel unworthy.
Bene says it is destructive, isolating and keeps us from feeling whole.
Shame vs Guilt
Shame is different than guilt.
Brené explains, guilt tells you “I did something bad,” and shame tells you “I am bad.”
The difference is huge.
Guilt can help you learn and grow, while shame pushes you further into the darkness.
Simply being aware that you are experiencing shame is what Brené calls The Reckoning. You start off by being curious about the feelings you’re experiencing.
What Is Your Story?
My 19 year old self that ate the bag of cookies believed that she had to be thin to be accepted and loved.
That she had the free will to choose a healthy dinner over cookies and since she didn’t make that choice she lacked integrity and felt disgusted by herself.
She didn’t want anyone to see this weakness.
Admitting our failures feels terrible, so we avoid it at all costs.
Brené argues owning up to our shame, actually isn’t nearly as bad as hiding.
The next step in the Rising Strong method is The Rumble, where you dig in to find the false assumptions and misinformed judgements that keep you stuck in your shame story.
You acknowledge both your strengths and imperfections called “owning your story.”
These days, I understand all the errors that were in my original “bag of cookies” story…
That it’s okay to eat foods I love, even if they aren’t perfectly healthy.
That it’s okay to want to comfort myself when I’m feeling stressed.
That willpower inevitably breaks down when we are exhausted and this does not represent a personal or moral failure.
And that if I do make a mistake, its okay to share it with others and get support and comfort.
Of course, these thoughts sound logical and healthy, but when you’re in The Rumble its hard to have clarity.
You feel lost and depressed.
This is the hard work of life, but you can’t skip it.
It is the only way to stop the shame and get to the other side.
The Revolution is the next phase of Rising Strong.
Once you figure out the deeper truth, you are forever changed.
For me this was when I finally let go of dieting and beating myself up.
It was when I learned to eat healthy and exercise out of love for my body, instead of hate for it.
This was a big, long-coming rumble.
It was very hard. But every day I’m grateful I went through it.
All of us struggle with shame in one way or another.
If you’re ready to stop hiding from and move past shame, I’d love to help you.