064. A Deep Dive Into Binge Eating ft. Kathleen Reilly, RDN; @nutritionbykat

Kathleen Reilly

Written By:

Category:

Ryann Nicole


Connect with Kathleen

📲 Instagram: @nutritionbykat

🖥 Website: kathleenreillynutrition.com

Episode Transcript

Ryann

Let’s go ahead, dive in, Kathleen. Thank you so much for coming on today. So appreciate your time. Super excited to pick your brain on all things binge eating. That is my area of expertise. I know that that is something that you talk a lot on. So I’m really excited to bring in your perspective and kind of really dive into the nitty gritty of breaking down what the Judy is and all of that good stuff. So thank you so much for coming on today.

Kathleen

Yay, you’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited.

Ryann

Yes, so for anybody that doesn’t know you yet, doesn’t know your story, what kind of led you to this path of becoming a dietitian, becoming a dietitian that specifically focuses on the other side of weight loss, not weight loss, and weight neutral perspective, finding a healthy relationship with food. Where did this all begin for you?

Kathleen

So that is a great question. It’s been like a very much a journey for me. So I, to take it way back, I started actually as a nursing student in college where I was doing my clinicals in the hospital and I realized that nursing wasn’t for me but I actually met with a dietitian there and I was like oh this is really cool and my motive to get in why I got into nursing school was I wanted to help people but I had no idea the all all that nursing school had like having to clean people and do all this stuff. Like I did it to really take that into consideration.

Ryann

The things that they don’t highlight on Grey’s Anatomy.

Kathleen

Yeah, exactly, exactly. So long story short, I realized that nursing wasn’t for me, but I was like, oh, this is really cool. I can sort of help people prevent disease by living a healthy lifestyle and nutrition. So I just dove headfirst into becoming a dietitian. So I did my undergrad, I did my dietetic internship. Both of those trainings was very much like a weight-centric approach, which I think a lot of dietitians can relate to. A lot of school and your internship is very weight-focused. And my first job out of my dietetic internship, when I first became a dietitian, was at a weight center where I was helping people lose weight. And in that time is when I really realized that something wasn’t adding up. I was seeing people over and over again, helping them lose weight and they weren’t, they weren’t losing weight. They were more stressed around food. If they came in, like their mental health was at jeopardy a lot of times because they were so stressed, it wasn’t working. It was consuming their thoughts. And I started to just like my my curiosity just heightened. I was like, wait a second. Something isn’t adding up here. So I read the intuitive eating book. I started listening to podcasts connecting with help at every size practitioners and it just like clicked for me. I was like, oh my gosh, this is this is what I want to do and so many people that I was seeing that was coming in for weight loss actually had either an eating disorder, binge eating disorder, anorexia, disordered eating patterns, like that were just being overlooked because we were just focusing on weight loss, right? At any cost, we just wanted to have weight loss. So that’s really where my sort of interest and specializing in binge eating disorder and chronic dieting and relationship with food really started was seeing why it didn’t work. And I started my private practice in July where I am full-time now just working with men and women who are looking to work on their relationship with food and make peace with their food and body.

Ryann

Amazing. And I so appreciate you sharing the fact that like, you worked in that environment and also you saw what kind of came about in that environment. I feel like it’s really, really hard for anyone on the outside to just look at what we see on social media or what we see in advertisements. And it’s hard not to take that at face value and really see, okay, but like, this is like a small percentage and we don’t even know the whole story. And like being like, okay, but like, this is the story that I saw and something isn’t adding up. I wanna know, like from the clientele that you worked with when you were in that weight loss setting, did you see a lot of binge eating there? Did people come out and talk about binge eating? Like, tell me about that side of it.

Kathleen

Yeah, I mean, I would say like, yes, but not intentionally. Like they didn’t say like, hey, I am binge eating. It was like, hey, like when I am on this diet, then I like fall off the wagon. And it was very like felt normal to a lot of folks of like, this is, you know, dieting and then not dieting and that you need to get back on the diet and this time it’s gonna work, right? So it wasn’t like a lot of people were outspokenly saying like, hey, I am binge eating, but had a lot of those tendencies. And I worked in a clinic that had bariatric surgery and just behavioral weight loss. And in both populations, I mean, a lot of these people were going undiagnosed with binge eating disorder.

And it’s unfortunate that a lot of those folks go to clinics like that, and don’t necessarily get diagnosed. That’s really why I wanted to start my private practice to help people, you know, stop pursuing weight loss and, you know, body trust and listening to their bodies and intuitive eating and all that. So, yes, definitely saw a lot of people in that setting with binge eating.

Ryann

I can only imagine. So diving into that, well, first before we do that, can you give us just a general definition of binge eating, like in your words so that we’re all on the same page?

Kathleen

Yeah, so how I typically see it is eating a large quantity of food in a short amount of time that follows with feelings of guilt, shame, typically you’re changing your eating pattern the rest of the day based off what you ate previously.

Ryann

Ooh, I love that you added that element.

Kathleen

Yeah, and I mean, what the DSM-5 says that it occurs once a week for three months, so it typically happens for a period of time. But I feel like the biggest, the thing that is the differentiator between emotional eating and binge eating is really how we feel after, right? Like with emotional eating, we often feel like positive or neutral, accept that we had, you know, used food as comfort, whereas with binge eating, it is, like I said, feelings of guilt and shame. So that is, for me, like sort of the things that stand out for me when I talk with clients.

Ryann

Yeah, totally, totally. I so appreciate that differentiating factor. And I think even too, the difference between binge eating and just eating a lot of food, right? Because what somebody might consider a binge versus someone might just say, that was just a meal for me, are really those feelings of guilt and shame. And that is the nitty gritty of what we’re about to get down into. So what would you say, just like from what you’ve seen, the education that you have is the underlying cause of binge eating.

Kathleen

Yeah, so I mean, the number one is dieting, pursuit of intentional weight loss. Because when we diet, we restrict, right? And restriction is really the cause of binge eating. Now there may be other reasons too, but most often that’s what I see. Whether it’s a physical restriction of being on a diet like Weight Watchers or Keto or intermittent fasting, whatever it is, or if it’s just like disordered behaviors like counting calories, counting every macronutrient that you eat, weighing or measuring your food, right?

Like this sort of restriction is what often causes binge eating. Yeah, the one that I see the most is like the wellness, the wellness diet of like, I’m only eating healthy foods, avoiding all junk foods, and then having like the cheat day, right? And it often feels so normal because our society makes it normal, but it’s not.

Ryann

Yes. Oh my gosh, and I mean, that’s a time for another conversation to have about the fitness culture and the fitness world, but yes, the normalization between like, I eat quote good all week, I eat quote healthy all week, and then Sunday’s my cheat day, Sunday’s my day to do whatever it is that I want, and having that be so normalized, where like, I thought that was normal for a while, that’s what I did for a while, kind of like justify, you know, what I was doing, but also to kind of essentially white knuckle it because Sunday’s the day.

Sunday’s the day that I get and if I can just get to Sunday then I’m fine and then eventually it moved from Sunday to Sunday and Wednesday and then everything in between and oh my gosh so I I want to take a step back because I think that you brought up a really good point when you said the wellness diet. Just in, you know, getting this terminology down behind diet and recognizing that diet isn’t necessarily just keto or Whole30 or low carb or whatever. So like, what is the definition of diet? Like, how do you define diet?

Kathleen

Yeah, I mean, how I define diet, how I’d like to define it is just like what we eat in a day, right? But I feel like what oftentimes is portrayed is like fat diets, right? Like the keto, like the intermittent fasting, like things like that. But the wellness diet is like that really, really sneaky one that is just healthy eating, quote, unquote, you know? Like just really trying to be clean, quote, unquote, you know, like, and it feels so normal in our society to do that because it’s very much praised. But yeah, I mean, my definition of diet is just like what we eat, right? What we do in a day. But I don’t know if everyone feels that way.

Ryann

Totally, totally. So I know that for me in the beginning, when I started working with a treatment team and a dietician, when I started working with that dietician, she was like, okay, you are not eating enough. And that is what is really contributing to this binge eating. And I was like, no, but you don’t understand. Like the problem is that I’m eating quote too much. Like, didn’t you hear that I tell you like that I have these like crazy binges and like, if I could just stop that, then everything would be fine.

Like my problem is not what I’m eating. My problem is that like, you’re not getting it and so I hear that a lot and I and I see that a lot with my own clients as well so from our like fundamental needs as a human being how could eating more food actually end that binge eating?

Kathleen

I mean and that is it’s sometimes a really hard thing to wrap like a client for them to wrap their mind around is like, wait, I’m eating tons of food and you’re telling me to eat more?

Ryann

Yeah.

Kathleen

And it takes usually like a few, for me, it takes usually a few sessions for them to start to like realize that and put it into practice is that when we eat more food during the day, we’re less likely to eat it, you know, maybe at nighttime or whenever that binge does occur, right? Because biologically speaking, when we are not going to, if we’re not eating enough, if we’re not getting enough adequacy and nourishment, we’re going to find it elsewhere. Right. So if we’re not eating enough, right, if we’re just eating, I don’t know, like say we’re skipping breakfast or just having eggs and avocado for breakfast.

And then by mid afternoon, we’re just really craving like salty or like, you know, carbs. It’s for a reason, right? Like that is our body giving us a signal like, hey, something’s happening. And you know, again, our body’s smart. We’re going to find it elsewhere. We’re going to probably feel out of control with food when we are starving and eating more, you know, in that evening time. So it is definitely something that’s tough to, I think, initially wrap your head around. But when you eat more food during the day, you’re less likely to feel out of control because you’re well nourished, right, you’re not feeling starving. You’re not getting to that point of just, like, needing, biologically needing food and needing nourishment, which is often what happens with binge eating, when we’re dieting, not getting enough food, and then we binge, right? So.

Ryann

Yeah. So where would you suggest somebody start to maybe add in more food when they’re in that extreme, extreme fear of adding in?

Kathleen

Yeah, I mean, I really try to meet clients where they’re at. So I would definitely say breakfast tends to be the thing that’s often skipped, or just having a coffee, which then suppresses hunger even more. So if we can eat something within two hours of waking to make sure that we’re getting enough fuel. And I actually, this is kind of going maybe a little off topic, but I find a lot of times that people are nervous to have breakfast because they think it’s going to stimulate their appetite. And it’s going to make them hungrier.

Ryann

Can you clarify that? Like, what is actually going on? Because I hear that a lot as well.

Kathleen

Yeah, well, I mean, so if you don’t feel hungry in the morning because you’re just not eating, like you never eat breakfast, that makes sense, right? Because your body adapts and gets used to that. Same thing, like when you start to incorporate breakfast, maybe you’re not hungry the first few days or first few weeks, but over time your body gets used to it and it does get hungry and it stimulates that appetite, especially if you’re not getting enough food the rest of the day, your body’s like, Hey, this is good. Let’s keep, let’s keep it up. Let’s feed me a little bit more, you know? Um, so it’s basically just your biology speaking and hunger is not a bad thing, right? Like hunger is your body saying, Hey, I need, I need some more energy here.

Ryann

Totally. So going off of that, that’s a really good kind of segue. If someone is totally disconnected from, I mean, let’s just start with hunger cues because we can’t feel fullness without hunger first. What do you suggest to help get back in touch with some of those like bodily cues if it’s been so long or someone’s like, I just like don’t feel hunger cues, like I just like don’t feel them.

Kathleen

Yeah, just start listening. Really just start listening. Starting to add in structure of eating, right? Like if you’re somebody that does not experience hunger at all, is starting to add in, you know, like eating every three to four hours consistently throughout the day. And again, over time, when you give your body that nourishment, it’s gonna get used to that and it’s gonna send you those signals. But starting to do, you know, adding in that structure and then listening, listening to hunger, because hunger is not just stomach growling. I mean, it comes in so many different shapes and forms and, you know, signals.

Ryann

Yeah.

Kathleen

I think that’s the start.

Ryann

I so appreciate you saying it’s not just stomach growling and also just bringing in the ideal that it’s different for everybody and like what, I always give this example to my clients where when we’re reconnecting with hunger, I’m like, when we’re reconnecting and figuring out what that feels like in our body, it’s different for everybody. So for me, I learned that when my stomach is growling, I’m like beyond, like I am beyond for me, that is a signal that I am ravenous. Now for my fiance, his stomach just growls and it’s time for him to eat. So realizing that it can feel different, but like you said, we can’t hear those signals if we’re not listening or paying attention, and that can be such a key element as well.

Kathleen

Yeah, and when we’re dieting or restricting our intake, most diets tell you to suppress your hunger. It takes sort of little tactics to suppress your hunger and that you shouldn’t eat more if you’re feeling hungry, right? Like not to shout out Weight Watchers, but like for instance, like when you run out of points for the day and you’re hungry, it says don’t eat, right?

Ryann

Yeah.

Kathleen

So like we sort of train our brains to get used to not honoring our hunger. Um, and so, yeah, I mean, I think listening and like you said, everyone experiences it differently. Um, the one that I feel like is most common that I see is just simply thinking about food is a sign of hunger. And so many people think it’s a bad thing. It’s like, why am I thinking about food? And it’s because you need, right? You just need nourishment. So I think that’s one that often doesn’t get classified as hunger, but absolutely is.

Ryann

Totally, totally. And I know that like, for me, again, I was like, but you don’t understand. I think about food all day long. And what took me so long to realize is that even when I was eating, I wasn’t eating to satiation. And so I was never satisfying that hunger. And so I kept getting that mental cue of thinking about food and it took me so long to learn that.

Kathleen

Yeah, and that is like the mental restriction piece.

Ryann

Oh yeah.

Kathleen

Right? Yeah, like, you know, you may, and I see this a lot too, is that you may start to add in foods, and maybe a forbidden food or a fear food that you add in, but there maybe is a certain amount that you’re allowed to have, right? Or you mentioning that you’re not satisfying that hunger completely is like, you should only be eating this much, and that’s the amount that you allow, right? And we’re still relying on those external cues to tell us when to stop eating, when really we wanna work on those internal cues, when our body says, hey, that’s enough.

Ryann

Yeah, yeah. Oh my gosh. I’m so happy you brought up that mental restriction piece because honestly, at the end of the day, like that is what keeps so many people stuck, right? I always use this example where I’m like, you know, this is the difference between an ethical vegan being able to restrict, you know, meat and dairy and not have it turn into binge eating and me not being an ethical vegan, but saying I’m going to be a vegan to quote lose weight and then still having the binge. It is that difference of thought process, even though the restriction is the same. And I feel like that is one of those pieces where it’s like so hard to understand, but also that is the missing element.

Kathleen

Mm-hmm, right. Like our intentions are so important to focus on, right? Because the action may be the exact same.

Ryann

Yeah.

Kathleen

But if our intention is weight loss, first our intention is just like ethical reasons. Like it’s very, very different, right? And that is something I talk about a lot is intentions with food and really, you know, seeing if it’s a food role or is it a food preference, right? That’s a huge one as well. And it’s like this very fine line.

Ryann

Totally, totally. So I want to know, like, this is like totally switching gears, but in regards to weight fluctuations and set point weight and all of that, as someone is moving from binge eating to intuitive eating, how do you help clients kind of just like gain some peace around weight fluctuations as they are moving from binge eating to intuitive eating?

Kathleen

Yeah, so I, well, one is that I encourage all my clients to put the scale away because, I mean, 99% of the time, it’s not doing any good, right?

Ryann

Yeah.

Kathleen

Unless you have congestive heart failure and you really, really need to see that number, but otherwise, it’s not usually a positive thing. So that is like, I usually, we don’t talk about weight ever in my practice, but the idea of sort of giving up weight loss is often a conversation and it’s a hard one. It’s a really, really hard one to work on. I usually like to sort of say like, hey, you know, your desire for weight loss is totally valid and you have body autonomy to want that, right?

But let’s try to put it on hold for a month and sort of try to work on our relationship with food and these things, and then sort of like, let’s talk about it. And nine times out of 10, when we do that, we may come back to that conversation, but it’s approached a little bit differently. And there’s a little bit more understanding behind why focusing on weight loss is not productive, right? Because it’s not a behavior. It’s just something that we often stress about.

Ryann

Yeah, how could focusing on intentional weight loss perpetuate binge eating?

Kathleen

Yeah, I mean, well, intentional weight loss is you relying on oftentimes external things to tell you when, what, and how much to eat, right? So when we’re working on binge eating, it’s a lot of like listening to your body and maybe not initially, maybe a structure is really important in the beginning, but working on weight loss and working on binge eating is just like very counterproductive. It’s not going to work together. And I think sometimes it’s a really hard conversation to have with folks, but it’s true. And I would love to hear your sort of experience with that too, of weight loss and binge eating, if that was ever something you would do.

Ryann

Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s one of those things where just like you said, they can’t happen simultaneously because as long as you’re pursuing intentional weight loss, you’re disconnecting from your body. For the example that you gave with Weight Watchers entirely because when you’re focusing so much on those numbers, you’re going to say, oh great, the scale went down, I’m gonna allow myself a little bit more flexibility today, which then can trigger into, oh my gosh, I allowed myself too much flexibility, what is gonna happen? I’m gonna gain weight, blah, I need to eat it all now. Exactly. But also that restriction piece of when I’m focusing so much on the numbers and I’ve hit that number, then I can’t have any more.

And then all of a sudden there’s this urgency of, well, I can’t have any more and we want what we can’t have. And it is one of those things where when we look at binge eating as the symptom and not necessarily the problem and getting down to the root of the problem, the problem is this obsession for weight loss. The problem is, you know, not being able to be okay with whatever you’re feeling and deflecting with weight loss. And I think that, you know, as long as there is this intention of, I’m going to lose weight, or even this is something that I see often, and I know I was guilty of this too, of I’m gonna work on this, I’m gonna figure out the food stuff, and then I’ll lose weight. It still creates this impending deprivation of at one point down the line, that means that food is gonna be taken away. And so even if the restriction isn’t happening now, the idea that the restriction is gonna happen in the future can still perpetuate the binge.

Kathleen

1000%. Yes, and that is that like, it’s that mental restriction that sometimes may not feel very present in the moment because it’s like a futuristic restriction that we’re having, but it really holds us back from actually healing binge eating.

Ryann

Yeah, yeah.

Kathleen

And the urgency that you mentioned, right? Like the urgency of like when we start to restrict our food, the quantity or what it is, then there is this urgency with foods that are quote unquote like, you know, cause weight gain in our minds, that, you know, it perpetuates binge eating. So absolutely.

Ryann

So I want to know, after somebody has a binge, I know from a psychological perspective why it’s important to continue eating as normal and not to restrict, but from a biological perspective, what is actually going on in your body? Why is it important to continue having consistent meals after that even if you’re not necessarily hungry?

Kathleen

Right, because it perpetuates a cycle of binge eating, right? It’s that when we binge, oftentimes we don’t want to eat, we may not feel hungry, but it is so important to still have a meal and not to not change your eating patterns because of that binge, because if we are not giving ourselves enough nourishment, it is going to happen again, right? So again, restriction being the cause of binging for the most part. I mean, there’s other causes like, you know, emotional, you know, eating in response to strong emotions and things like that, but oftentimes it’s this restriction that really causes it.

So making sure that you are getting enough energy in the day is so, so important and is like the number one thing that I recommend all my clients to do is making sure that you’re getting enough. That may be not listening to your hunger if you’re not feeling it. That could be using your practical hunger of like, I’m eating this because I know I need to, and I know it’s time, right? And that is sometimes hard to wrap our mind around when we’re, you know. I think especially with intuitive eating, sometimes it’s like, oh, just listen to your hunger. And it’s like, that’s not always useful, especially when we’re healing from an eating disorder like this, right?

Sometimes we really need to use that practical hunger of I’m eating at these regular times because I know that I deserve to nourish my body and I have to. Biologically speaking, it’s going to set me up for a binge later on if I do not.

Ryann

Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, I think that that’s such an important element in knowing that we are disconnected from our bodies after coming off of dieting for so long and knowing that like these things might not feel quote, right in this moment because we are disconnected but that doesn’t mean like we shouldn’t do them or whatever the case may be. I think that bringing in that consistency is so key for not only you learning how to trust your body, but your body learning how to trust you back as well.

Kathleen

Yes, yes, 100%. And that is like a huge, huge, like, that’s a huge thing is that your body needs to learn to trust you because for so long, it hasn’t been able to, right? So it takes time and how much time it takes is different for everybody, but it definitely takes time for your body to learn to trust you again.

Ryann

Yeah, so when somebody is working on moving into getting enough food and adding in more things, what suggestions or tips do you have, especially as a dietician, on building balanced meals and snacks and things that are like billing and nourishing.

Kathleen

So for meals, typically you want to have some proteins, some carbohydrate, some fruit and veggies if you want. Fat is so, so important to promote comfortable fullness. And then that’s, you know, the fun food, the satisfaction factor is so important. And I have found this for me personally, is like, if I don’t have that satisfaction piece, I’m going to find it somewhere else, right? Like I’m gonna find it later on elsewhere. So I might as well, I might as well find it right now. So I always encourage, you know, my clients to add something that’s satisfying. S

ame thing with snacks. It’s like, whatever that is, make sure that you have it. Of course, there’s ways to build a balanced plate that can help with managing blood sugars, managing your hunger throughout the day, like things like protein and fat and fiber can be super helpful. So those are the things that you can consider when planning a meal, but I think just making sure that you’re satisfied is really, really important.

Ryann

Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I totally agree. I love to use the example of even something as simple as like, let’s say chicken, rice and broccoli, right? Like the classic diet meal of, you know, whatever the case may be. Now we can take that same meal and add in some teriyaki sauce and like roast the veggies and some olive oil and some seasoning and it’s the same food, totally different experience. And, you know, just like that mental restriction piece being kind of the cherry on top, I would say that satisfaction piece as well when you’re building your meal is really cherry on top.

Kathleen

It’s so important. And I find with a lot of diets, and personally, I remember, I don’t know, maybe it was like 10 years ago now, but I used to remember that if I, I would think that adding olive oil to cook my eggs was bad. It made it bad. And I would use Pam, because I was like, that’s healthier. And it doesn’t, I mean, then it’s not as satisfying, because you’re not getting that crispiness. And it’s just so interesting how these one foods can make you think that it ruins the meal, or it’s bad. So I think it’s important for this example, adding the teriyaki sauce, that is so important. And that is going to make the meal so much more fulfilling, in that no one food is gonna make or break your health one and like food is not bad, it’s just food.

Ryann

Right. Right, I know that I mean, when I’m talking with people and looking at okay, what is the fundamental goal of this? Because really the goal isn’t necessarily like stop binging, stop binging because we don’t want to create this like binge eat diet where it’s like, I’m good when I don’t binge and I’m terrible when I don’t. It is really getting to this place where it’s like, whatever happens with my food, I am okay. I am okay. Where it’s like, I am so unfazed, where eventually one day I’ll realize, wow, I haven’t binged in a while, but it wasn’t something that I was like, thinking about, I was reading this article the other day by Isabelle Foxen Duke. Have you ever looked at her stuff? Do you know her?

Kathleen

I don’t know. I don’t know.. Yeah. I’ll have to.

Ryann

I’m in her mentorship program right now. It’s epic. But anyways, how she was talking about the fact that like when we are trying to end diet mentality with diet mentality, where it’s like when we’re moving into don’t binge with like the restriction of like binging is bad, it is still in that diet mentality. And I was just like, I never thought of it like that. That is so genius.

Kathleen

Absolutely, allowing the choice to binge. Like having that choice is so important because again, then it comes from this black and white thinking of like, binging is bad, I cannot do it. And it just sets us up to not trust ourselves. We’re nervous that it’s going to happen. We need to really give ourselves the permission, like it’s okay if it does. The goal is for it not to ever happen again. The goal is for it to be maybe less frequent. Or maybe it’s stubbing your toe or getting stuck in traffic was the trigger previously for binging and now it’s something way far more upsetting and stressful that triggers the binge, right? So like noticing and recognizing where you’ve been and where you’re going and the difference is really important.

Ryann

Totally, totally. And going off of that, I would love to know like what are some things that you suggest for people to do when they are experiencing that binge urge?

Kathleen

Yeah, so riding the wave. When that binge urge comes on is like riding that uncomfortableness that you may be in and taking a step back and just getting curious. Judgment and being hard on ourselves is only going to sort of perpetuate it and make it worse. Like giving ourselves that self-compassion, just getting curious in what happened. Like taking a look at the day. Did I eat enough today? What emotions am I experiencing right now? And how can I look in this at a lens of a learning experience? Right? And again, giving yourself the permission to binge, right?

Like, it serves a purpose, it is a coping skill, right? But the difference between binge eating and emotional eating is that with emotional eating, you oftentimes have multiple coping skills along with that, you know, eating to cope with an emotion, whereas with binge eating, that’s often the coping skill, right? And so if we can also take a step back to pause, have self-compassion, see if there’s something that we can help calm this feeling that we’re experiencing, can be really helpful with.

Ryann

Yeah, I love that you bring up that there is a purpose because I think, and I was guilty of this too, a lot of times it’s like the binging is a problem. That’s the issue. It is the devil. But when we can look at the fundamentals of binging, like binging is actually a really good thing. Like I know for me, I’m alive today because of binging. Because if I continued on the path that I was going down before I started binging, I might not be here. I might, like a little, like, you know, and for a lot of people it’s the same thing where it’s like The reason why binging is it’s a survival thing. It has a purpose.

Kathleen

Yes 1000% it’s such a it has such a purpose and it can be a good thing a lot of the times, right? And yeah, I feel like that’s sometimes really hard to notice Is that only binging is is has a purpose and it’s a coping skill, right? And probably has protected us from a lot of other things in our lives that we’re dealing with.

Ryann

Oh my gosh, I think looking at that from that lens of just like, thank God for it, thank God for it, thank God I’m alive and like amazing, let me learn, let me grow, can move you away from that judgment piece that you were talking about into just compassion.

Kathleen

Absolutely, how did you find compassion like in that time?

Ryann

Ooh, it took a long time. It took a long time and I love to share that openly because I feel like it’s really easy to look on social media and see, oh my God, like they just got it so quick. And I’m very transparent in the sense that it took me seven years. I went to, you know, two therapists, OA, EDA, all different programs before I finally became willing to like actually do something different. And it took a lot of work. It took a lot of work, a lot of rewiring to be able to notice the thought, reframe the thought, and I made it my mission. For one summer, I was like, this summer, all I am working on, all I am doing, all I am focusing on is healing me. And I wouldn’t say that it happened all in that summer, but that was the summer where I was like, I’m changing everything that I’ve been doing because I know that there is a better life for me to live and I am done.

Kathleen

That’s amazing. That’s amazing. And it’s really important to show that your recovery may not be linear, right? It’s not this sort of straight shot of you start and it’s like you end in this amazing place. Like there’s often a lot of like learning experiences and ups and downs and different roads and trying new things, right? And like, that’s amazing that you’re so open about the process of what it took.

Ryann

Totally, and I think something too that like isn’t talked about a lot, especially when people are sharing their binge eating stories and like overcoming it and all that stuff is that this is something that you can absolutely completely overcome, right? Like I don’t feel binge urges anymore because I’m not restricting anymore. However, I’m not immune. If I go on another diet, if I start counting calories, if I start restricting the binges will come back. And so like being very clear in the fact of this is not a, okay, great, they’re gone, I don’t have the urges anymore, now I can go lose the weight.

It is, that is just lying dormant, but I am doing what I need to do to continue to grow and to move forward because that is part of my genetics, that’s in me, that is there, and that’ll never go away. Now that doesn’t mean that that is something that I have to battle with every single day because I don’t, because I do the work to be present with my food and nourish myself and check in when I’m feeling disconnected, but it is so easy to get sucked back in and you can never get too cocky.

Kathleen

Yes, especially because diet culture is everywhere and it is not going anywhere. I wish we had the ability to just snap our fingers and make it go away, but it’s not going anywhere. And especially with the holidays coming up and January being diet culture’s favorite month.

Ryann

Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Kathleen

It’s very easy to get sucked into those thoughts again, but like you said, being able to recognize triggers or thoughts or emotions that often can create that urge to binge, can be a really helpful tool, and just like awareness and mindfulness and all those things that you said. Yeah, so just to wrap things up, I mean, that was so amazing. What are, for anyone that is struggling with binge eating that maybe doesn’t have the money to invest in a dietician or is nervous about investing in maybe professional help, some tips that they can start implementing now on their own to begin this journey of freedom.

Kathleen

Yes. So, gosh, I have so many. Okay, so the first one I would say is sort of going back to our conversation about like nourishment is making sure that you just have structure of consistently eating, maybe having a frame of eating every three to four hours, something, to make sure that you are getting nourishment. I think secondly, the self-compassion piece is really, really important, because if we don’t have that, and we’re just constantly judging ourselves, it’s not going to be coming from a place of self-care, right? It’s going to be coming from a sort of a self-sabotage-y mindset, right?

So having self-compassion, I think, is really important. Starting to just bring awareness to the trigger thoughts and emotions that you may experience before a binge so that you can sort of set up a plan, form a plan around those thoughts and emotions, having a toolbox of different activities that you can try. And that takes time. That takes time to figure out what’s gonna work for you. Because what’s gonna work for you may not work for me. Me going out on a hike is really therapeutic, but for some people it’s not. Maybe watching TV is really therapeutic, or listening to music, I don’t know. So finding tools that can help you soothe those emotions I think is really important. And using each experience as just like a learning opportunity.

And I think this kind of goes hand in hand with the self-compassion is that there’s no success and fail here. It’s just that you are learning and you’re relearning your body and you’re starting to build trust in your body and your body’s building trust in you. And I think that’s really, you know, really important.

Ryann

I love all of that. So because this is the food freedom lab, I always love to ask, what does food freedom mean to you?

Kathleen

Honestly, everything it has for me, like personally, I feel like I don’t usually talk about like my own personal struggle with food or relationship with food, but it has just brought me like so much joy and so much like light and life. You know, I, and it’s funny, like when I was young, I didn’t think I had a problem with food. I thought I was just like always trying to eat healthy and then I’d have these cheat days and hiding food was normal. I just didn’t think that these things, I didn’t think I had an issue with food until now when I start to take a step back, I’m like, wow, my relationship with food has such evolved and I really healed my own relationship with food. So food freedom to me is like life. It’s like memories and laughs and experiences and like everything. So if I can hopefully give that to, you know, even just one of my clients is amazing.

Ryann

Yeah, that’s so beautiful. I love that. Kathleen, where can everybody find you, connect with you, learn more from you? Give us all the places.

Kathleen

Yeah, so you can find me at Nutrition by Kat on Instagram. And I think that’s like my only, I’m like thinking about getting into TikTok, but haven’t yet. So Instagram, Nutrition by Kat is the place.

Ryann

Sounds good. Maybe when this airs, she’ll have a TikTok that we can announce. Exactly. Cool. Thank you so much again for all of that. I so appreciate your perspective, your thoughts, your wisdom, everything, and all of the work that you do.

Kathleen

Amazing, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.