During her three-week stay at Green Mountain, blogger Shauna Reid took part in our Pathway™ program. It’s a dive deep into the whys and wherefores of emotional and binge eating behavior, through a combination of small group group therapy and activities. For Shauna, it was a rich and world-shaking experience that helped her find a way forward from decades of binge eating issues. Today she shares what she learned.
1. There is a way forward
Before Green Mountain, I was stuck. I’d sought help for my binge and emotional eating struggles but nothing quite gelled. I read loads of books, which helped me understand my behaviors, but I hadn’t managed to translate book-learning into meaningful action. I looked at various programs and treatment centers, but they were either out of my budget or more suited to other kinds of eating disorders. I’d almost resigned myself to binge eating just being my thing, and that I’d spend the rest of my life trying to keep the genie in the bottle.
Pathway™ showed me that there was… a path forward (see what they did there?). Firstly, it was led by professionals who truly got it. I didn’t feel any awkwardness talking about the nitty gritty details of my behaviors. They had heard it all and they spoke my language. Best of all they had a box full of tools to help us understand why we do what we do, then how to start moving forward.
We were told this pathway would take time and patience. It would be deep work. After the empty promise of diets, I found that refreshing and empowering. Progress would be a winding path, not a dramatic before and after. Bring it on!
2. You are not alone
Binge eating disorder is a secretive beast. For years I hid the true extent of my behaviors from everyone in my life. Planning the binge, acquiring the food, disposing of the evidence, riding out the shame storm afterwards—the whole process was private. And I was so exhausted by it.
Pathway™ was like letting out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. Going through the process and getting binge eating disorder help with a small circle of women was incredibly powerful and healing. After all those years worried I was the only one who did this stuff, there were tears of relief and laughs of recognition. Oh, I’ve done that too. I feel like that too.
We were at different places on the continuum, but we understood each other so easily. The cozy group size meant there was plenty of time for everyone to listen and share. With every story shared, I felt my shame and loneliness slowly diminish. We were in this boat together.
3. Get to know yourself
Pathway™ taught me that the key to moving down the continuum of eating behaviors is to know ourselves. So many times I’ve binged and wondered, “How the heck did that happen? Why do I do that?” The program’s activities taught me to “reverse engineer” an episode of emotional overeating or binging and pinpoint the thoughts, feelings and underlying needs that led up to it. A binge doesn’t really happen by accident—there’s a combination of hunger, habit and emotion lurking behind it. It’s trying to tell us something; it serves a purpose. Pathway™ helped me to figure out my triggers and stress points and I’m getting so much better at catching myself before it ends up as a binge.
4. The little things are the big things
I used to be suspicious of the whole idea of self-care, thinking it was all scented candles and chanting on a cushion. But Pathway™ helped me see that self-care as a fundamental tool of recovery from eating struggles. It’s what keeps us from swinging to that depleted place binges occur.
I learned that it’s important to define what self-care looks like. What makes you feel good? What lights you up? What makes your day run more smoothly?
For me, it’s the little things: getting to bed with a book by 10:30 pm. Eating my meals at regular times. Coffee dates with friends. Actually showering and getting dressed properly when I work from home. Getting to that weekly yoga class.
My years on the diet treadmill left me thinking change had to be dramatic to be significant. But it’s the small, sustainable, everyday things, repeated over time, that make me feel good and keep me on an even keel; living in the present instead of disappearing into my head.
5. Self-compassion rocks!
While we learned about self-compassion in the Green Mountain retreat program, Pathway™ is where I put it into practice. I felt so much compassion hearing my Pathway™ peep’s stories that it helped me give myself more compassion. My default mode was to berate myself for “falling off the wagon”—a truly unhelpful approach that only led to more shame, anxiety, and avoidance. I now understand that there’s no wagon anyway and that it’s more effective to be kind, compassionate and non-judgemental. It’s an ongoing practice to change my inner dialogue, but I’m getting there!
Bio: Shauna Reid is an Aussie freelance writer, author and blogger living in Scotland. She writes about her life, travels and wellness journey at shaunareid.com. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.