Imagine… You have a history of binge eating and you are in an active recovery. You are finally finding what foods work for you, what your triggers are, and how to manage the cravings and urges when they strike. You are really feeling good about life and have created a solid environment to fuel your success.
Then all the sudden you are on vacation in Europe for your honeymoon, surrounded by pastries, croissants, and a “laissez faire” attitude. It’s vacation, so you can have all the treats you want right?! This is when the bingeing is ok!
Wrong. Well not completely wrong, but mostly wrong. Here’s why…
I haven’t put in months and years of hard work to let my brain trick me into believing that spending my honeymoon bingeing on Austrian donuts and French croissants is OK just because I am in Europe. But more importantly, the shift that I have finally made in life is that it’s not about “letting” myself eat all the things. This time around, I didn’t WANT to eat all the things, because it simply wasn’t worth it to me.
One of the most monumental concepts that the Whole30 has taught me over the past few years is the idea of “worth it” foods. Being a binge eater, I used to not let any of the thoughts distract me from my mission to eat every sugar and carb filled treat in my path. I wouldn’t let my brain or body decide if any of those foods were worth the physical and emotional feelings I would deal with for the next week. All I cared about was satisfying the craving and then eating uncontrollably until I was physically sick.
These days things are very different. After completing 3 consecutive Whole30’s in a row recently, while also continuing to eat a mostly Whole30/Paleo diet afterwards, my mental and physical clarity is higher than ever. I went into my vacation at possibly my healthiest ever. My blood sugar and insulin are finally stable, my body is fueled by healthy fats, protein, and nutrient dense veggies, and my cravings and binge urges are at an all time low. I attribute all of this to eating lower carb REAL foods for an extended period of time.
You can’t fix years of disordered eating and sugar addiction in one month, which is why I use the Whole30 as the foundation for my extended recovery process. I never expected to be “healed” in 30 days, but after a solid 6 months of sticking to REAL foods and avoiding all sugar and processed crap, I am finally starting to feel the difference. But it truly took a good 4 months until the changes started to become apparent.
Going into my trip, I had a little stress, but it was minimal. I knew I wouldn’t stay Whole30 in Europe, and I was OK with that. What I did know was that I wanted to feel my very best on vacation and not let food ruin any of my time with my husband. For that reason, I was always very careful about what I chose was “worth it” at each meal. Overall, I actually ate very healthy on my vacation, and I don’t regret it one bit. I slept well every night, had tons of energy for skiing and site seeing during the day, had minimal digestive issues, and overall felt really balanced and stress free about everything I ate… Even the dinner where we weren’t sure what we ordered because the menu was only in German and all it ended up being was bread cubes to be dipped in cheese fondue. Zach was actually more stressed about me eating that than I was!
If you are curious about what I decided WAS worth it, I had 2 bites of an apple strudel that was very good but not worth eating the whole thing, a bite of a tiramisu which I had the same feeling about, a bite of an Austrian potato bread dumpling that wasn’t up my alley, some amazing french cheese that was worth it because it was so delicious, I was hungry, and we were having a beautiful picnic on the Seine in Paris (#moviemoment), and some bread and cheese fondue because I wasn’t about to send it back and ask for some veggies… and it happened to be great quality bread and cheese that was totally delicious. The next morning was definitely a little rough, but honestly not even close to what I was expecting! I truly believe that European food is such better quality than American food. I did some ingredient reading whenever possible, and they have so much less added crap in their food, even the cheap stuff at the store. I could just tell that foods I would normally eat here and not respond well to were not going to be as big of an issue over there.
So no, I didn’t eat a croissant in Paris (gasp!) because I just didn’t want one, and no I didn’t eat Schnitzel (thinly pounded deep fried pork) in Austria because it just didn’t look that great to me. Some may call me crazy, but if I wanted it, I would have tried it, and that was the most amazingly freeing feeling I have felt in a long time.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to go on a vacation with all your typical binge foods surrounding you and never once worry about bingeing on them. It was like I was a whole new person. I can’t remember the last time I had one bite of a dessert and didn’t have a total binge fest afterwards. I knew I was in a good place mentally when I got there, but I had no idea how well my food freedom exploration would go. I truly stayed so mindful and stress free about every meal we had. It was So. Freakin. Awesome. To say I am proud of myself is an understatement.
Now I have to give some credit to Zach because he is a HUGE reason for my success. Part of the reason I was never stressed was because I knew I would NEVER be in a situation that would allow me to binge. We were together at all times. There was never a moment I was alone and could run to the store and buy all the junk food, or a moment where I could stuff my face with all the croissants in sight. This was also a very freeing feeling, because I felt safe practicing my food freedom knowing that I was in a “secure” environment. It was the perfect setting to explore my worth it choices.
Of course I had some cravings and bingey thoughts on a few days, because no I am not “cured” and yes I am human, but I was able to actually work through my thoughts and figure out what was just my bingey habit mind talking and what my real brain wanted. Being able to distinguish between those thoughts and then actually listen to my real brain is a huge win for me.
I came home with a new confidence about myself. I went 17 days without bingeing AT ALL. I’ve been really good for months about not bingeing on sugar or processed foods, but I rarely go a week without having a “healthy binge” on nut butters, fruits, RX bars, or sweet potato chips. This was really big for me. Just experiencing the feeling of not bingeing for that many days was really eye opening. I learned that I really don’t need all that excess food and I still don’t feel like I’m going to starve. I learned that I may have cravings for a day, but the next day I feel normal again and can just continue eating balanced meals. I learned that even the bad cravings eventually go away, and they can also just be ignored. One night, I really felt like I wanted to eat ALL the things. But then I had the thought, “Wait, no you don’t. It’s the habit talking. Eat a healthy meal and just see how you feel.” I chose something that I knew would not trigger any binge urges and after the meal I felt full and satisfied, cravings gone.
I’m often not patient enough at home to ride these feelings out and really focus on listening to my true healthy brain. It’s hard when the sugar dragon is yelling even louder at you. But on this vacation, I had no choice but to ignore it because I wasn’t ever in a situation where bingeing was really possible. It taught me so much about what I need to work on now that I am back, and what I am capable of.
Sometimes when you have binge eating disorder, you feel helpless. You feel like sugar and carbs have complete control over you. But if you really devote the time and energy to resetting your body and brain, practicing mindfulness, and working hard towards your goals, you will eventually “see the light”. This vacation was a huge “see the light” moment for me. I am sure I would have not had the same success had I not worked so hard for the many months before to reset my body with the Whole30, and I am so thankful that I did. Sugar addiction is so so real, but once you finally kick it to the curb and your body learns to feed off of foods like fat and protein as it’s preferred energy sources, you really feel what it is like to experience true hunger and fullness without the constant carb cravings and uncomfortable blood sugar spikes.
I used to think that Food Freedom was just something I would never achieve, but after this vacation, I realize that I am much closer to it than I thought I would ever be. But now the REALLY hard part starts. Whole30 is easy at this point. Sticking to a strict plan is the safe easy route for me. But exploring other foods and learning how to manage my food freedom is much more complicated.
I decided to do a Keto Whole30 reset when I got back because after returning home, I was already starting to make some decisions that were very NOT worth it. I did a great job on vacation, but it doesn’t mean I’m all the sudden going to make perfect decisions from here on out. I need some rules again for a little while and then I will once again practice my food freedom for a time once I’m done. It’s a slow back and forth with my recovery. That is what works for me. I’ve also been wanting to try Keto for a long time, and although I have been eating semi Keto for a while, I have never been super strict, so I am excited to try it with all the Whole30 rules in place to help me stay on track.
So for the next few weeks I’ll be living low carb. VERY low carb. And I know my body responds very well to this type of eating so I’m excited to see where it takes me. I’ll keep you posted on what happens and I’ll be doing a full post ALL ABOUT KETO very soon.
Glad to be back to regularly scheduled posts again… look for another one in just a few days!