Like everyone else I have struggled with my own personal problems and issues. That’s part of being human, right? But one major problem I had took almost 15 years to resolve — Night Eating Syndrome, a form of Binge Eating Disorder. My name is Alen Standish and this is my story.
How It All Began
As a kid I constantly struggled with my weight. I always thought of food as a comforting friend, especially when I was stressed. I was a perfectionist and when things weren’t perfect I became anxious and would constantly snack and eat large portions at mealtimes to make myself feel full and content. I obviously didn’t have good eating habits.
I remember my first out of control eating binges beginning right after college when I moved my family across the country and started working full time in a stressful career field. I would force myself to eat well throughout the day and I exercised routinely but late at night before bed I could not stop myself from eating — a lot.
I’m not talking about just getting a late snack after dinner. No, my late night eating routine would start as soon as everyone else in the house fell asleep. I would crawl out of bed and sneak into the kitchen and then gorge until I almost made myself sick. Leftovers, bags of treats and lots and lots of peanut butter straight from the jar. I craved and would eat anything that was high in carbs and fats. I would then stumble back to bed, disgusted at myself for not being able to stop putting food into my mouth. I would easily exceed 3,000 to 5,000 calories a binge. Sometimes far more. I felt out of control in so many different ways. I knew I had a problem but didn’t know how to stop myself.
The Pain of Binge Eating
Binge eating hurt me physically and mentally. I struggled with my weight and progressively became heavier and sicker as the years went by. I increased my physical workouts each morning to try to make up for the night before. I also began extreme dieting and really restricting what I ate during the day. Unfortunately these only made my binge eating episodes worse. High blood pressure, cholesterol problems, chronic heartburn, oh yeah, I got all those along the way as well. Mentally I felt embarrassed and depressed. I did not want to talk to anyone else about my problem. Not even with my wife. I’m pretty sure she’d tell you that I’m a typical man.
The Search for Answers
I secretly read all the books and scoured the Internet for information. It did not take me long to figure out that I had a Binge Eating Disorder. I continued my search, trying to figure out how to stop binge eating.
On one extreme I only found shallow tips and tricks and on the other I found “experts” pushing intense treatment plans, surgeries, drugs, group counseling, and expensive therapy. To make matters worse most of these books and treatments seemed primarily aimed at women and talked a lot about women’s thoughts and relationship problems with men. Being your typical guy I just could not relate and felt weird thinking I had a disorder that only women seemed to have. I also knew I didn’t want to pour my heart out to a therapist or share my feelings face-to-face in group sessions. Doing so would feel even more embarrassing and I certainly didn’t want my friends finding out.
Starting Down the Right Path
My binge eating and continual search for a solution went on for almost two decades until one day I saw a news story on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. What the heck, I decided to give it a shot. I was under all sorts of new stresses at my job and desperately needed to manage how I was coping. Besides, learning meditation would be cheap (cost of a few instructional books) and was a very private activity (no groups or doctors!). I read up on several meditation techniques and began practicing them each morning while sitting in my favorite chair before anyone else in the house woke up.
Meditation taught me to be mindful, to better live in the moment and to create happiness from within myself. It helped to relieve almost all my daily stresses after just a few weeks of practice. Never in my life up until then had I experienced such clarity and felt such a deep calm. But as great as it was it did not fully stop my binge eating. It just took the edge off it a bit and reduced my binging frequency.
Pulling it All Together
A few months later, by sheer serendipity, I read a random comment someone had posted on a blog mentioning how they used the Addictive Voice Recognition Technique® (AVRT) to finally break their binge eating habit. I researched AVRT and quickly appreciated its “take responsibility for yourself” approach while being mindful of what you are feeling inside. The premise is our brains are made up of the ancient survival brain (flight or fight) and human brain (modern consciousness) with the survival brain never wanting to feel hunger or pain, only pleasure, with no understanding of consequences.
The survival brain is very powerful and will always try to convince the human brain to give in. AVRT helps to see this struggle for what it is and gives our human brain the weapons it needs to fight back and ignore the urges coming from the survival brain. In my case my survival brain was convincing my human brain to binge eat because my survival brain only wanted to feel good and not empty or hungry. That’s typical of an addiction like Binge Eating Disorder.
Using the observation skills I learned from meditation while applying the AVRT along with the many other tips and techniques I had picked up over the years I was finally able to cure myself of my Binge Eating Disorder. It only took about a month for it all to finally come together. Success! Freedom! Control!
You Can Beat It Also
I shared my story so others can see the power this disorder can have over a person. I also shared it to show people who also have this problem that they can overcome it also.
For the guys reading this, Binge Eating Disorder affects men just as much as it does women. Men just don’t talk about it as much. However it’s just as real and dangerous a disorder for us also. Maybe more so…
Thank you for taking the time to read my story…