January 24, 2020

The Urge to Binge - Kara Richardson Whitely

Say It Brave community question:
Does it ever stop? 

Kara's response: Oh, Honey. I know. I used to ask myself this a lot about the urge to binge. And I know what you’re asking. For so long we’ve been schooled in the idea of the “before” and “after.” We’ve been sold on the idea of 30-day diet success stories. Of being cured. Of being done with this.

And there have been many times in my mind that I’ve asked myself, “When will food just be food? When will I eat three square meals a day and be done with it?" It was as if I could never be a whole person until I followed the right formula – a prescription, a plan. And then I would be perfect if I could do just that.

This question “Does it ever stop?” occurred to me once while I was staring at the ocean. My feet felt heavy on the sand. They were cold, as it wasn’t a day meant for swimming; it was just a day staring into this massive force of water that covers most of the globe.

"Does it ever stop?” seemed just as massive and daunting as the ocean to me in that moment. However, I realized this question is one that implies a very rigid sense of what recovery is. The truth is that recovery – the work, the skills – is as fluid and powerful as the ocean.

The resilience we learn on the journey gives us the life preserver so that no matter what part of the sea we’re in: the solid shore, the tide pool or the waves that jostle us. Or even if we get swept up by the riptide, we have the ability to get our head above water, more quickly. Recovery gives us a community that will pull us to shore if we feel overcome.

Recovery for Binge Eating Disorder 

What recovery has stopped is our defeat. The ocean – the eating disorder – will not overcome us. Instead, we’ve learned to swim. For some of us, maybe we are just treading water.

“Does it ever stop?” Well, my urges to binge have quelled, but I still have the same brain. I am the same being. It’s just that, after recovery, I have a whole new set of skills.

Will you find peace in recovery? Yes. But you’ll also find discord. And you’ll have to reach deep within to find the skills and strategies you’ve learned in your recovery. Most importantly, you’ll have to reach out. Acknowledge that this is a tough day. Find support in the circles you have found that have held you. Find new people and places that connect you to the hope and promise that you will emerge on the other side, stronger, more resilient even if you have felt broken along the way.

“Does it ever stop?” In recovery, we learn a new set of strategies. We learn how to eat with intention. To plan our meals.

I’ve learned that there isn’t a before and after. Instead of an ending, there is only the now. A great presence in each complicated moment. And I have a new circle of professionals, friends and strangers who understand me and can help me through anything.

At this moment, I’m distracted by a leaf blower on the neighbor’s yard and am annoyed but find the space to be grateful that my neighbors are so nice, kind and are preparing for a party that I’m invited to. And, more importantly, that I’m going to. When I was in the depths of binge eating disorder, I didn’t go out. I backed away. I became consumed by frustration. I held on to it, swallowed my emotions.

Recovery is forever unfolding. And it isn’t always easy. In fact, some days it is awful. But we are all warriors on this path that continues through life.

It isn’t an ending but an amazing, wonderful, terrifying and beautiful beginning of a whole new journey, and I am with you. 

Kara Richardson Whitely is the author of "Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds," "Weight of Being" and is an executive producer on an upcoming project. She serves as an Eating Recovery Center Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate. You can follow her journeys on Instagram
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