If you looked through The Women’s Issue, our most current magazine, you might recognize the name: Lizabeth Wesely-Casella graced Beutiful Magazine two months ago with an article related to shame-based behavior and seeking help. I’m thrilled to say that over the past two months, we’ve kept in contact and have joined Lizabeth and her company, BingeBehavior.com, for Binge Eating Disorder (BED) Week. The original mastermind behind BED Week, Lizabeth has first-hand experience with Binge Eating Disorder and is now using her company to help those living with Binge Eating Disorder and other binge/impulse-related behaviors. We asked Lizabeth about her personal experience with BED, and she was kind enough to share her story and insight in this interview. Enjoy the interview and remember – if you are interested in following along with BED Week, you can join the event on facebook or follow it on twitter by using the hashtags #BEDWEEK, #DSM5, #BEDAWARENESS, #EATINGDISORDER and #ED. How did Binge Eating Disorder begin for you? I don’t think I’ve ever looked at food as simply fuel and I’m not sure most people do; but it was clear to me very early in life that certain foods had certain meanings and that eating was an integral part of my extended family. As a child there were foods that simply went with certain occasions and to eat them was almost like extending the festivities. If we went rafting with my cousins, my mom and aunt would make cookies that were part of the tradition; if a holiday meal was held at our house, my dad and I would make plans to steal away with leftover pie and eat it together and laugh. I’m sure it wasn’t indicative of a disorder but in my mind I was creating strong associations that food equaled belonging and caretaking and love. Were there warning signs? It wasn’t until I sought help that I realized it, but yes. When I was in my early 20s I was struggling in a relationship and, though it was the most important one I’d had, I should have walked away and spared us both a lot of heartache. During that time I began to sleepwalk and eat food without being aware of it. Entire boxes of cereal at a time, meals for the two of us that I’d prepared for the week. Unfortunately this played into my distrust of him because I was convinced he was hoarding our food, or worse, sharing it with another woman. I eventually realized that food would go missing wherever I was so it had nothing to do with him, but mentioning this to doctors for 20 years, nobody brought up the possibility of Binge Eating Disorder. That’s why it’s so important to find a specialist or better yet, a team. Do you think you had any behaviors that put you at special risk for Binge Eating Disorder? I’m not sure. Certainly I was as diet-conscious as anyone in my teens and beyond, but that’s cultural and probably has a blanket effect that didn’t put me at any more risk than anyone else. I know that I have a history of being overly critical and harsh with myself in a way that I would never be to others and that has emotional and mental health consequences. In light of that, I’m conscious of my inner critic now and I try to think through my self-talk rather than make snap judgments. It’s sort of funny but I was never one to lend credence to ‘self affirmations’ prior to getting help for my BED, but have come to find out they are really powerful. Amazing enough, I learned that gentle and quiet things stay around a lot longer than loud, staccato beratings. How has Binge Eating Disorder affected the way you see yourself? If you are asking about how I see myself in the mirror, the short answer is that I struggle. The experience I’m having in my recovery reconciling the various “me” images is the hardest work I’ve ever had to do. In a post I’ve written called What Does BED Look Like? I talk about the fact that I’ve been a binge eater at every size of my personal spectrum. That should indicate that I’ve never felt great about the way I see myself, and in addition, the disordered thinking that I’m prone to glamorizes the really thin images and that sets me up to feel shame and failure about any other shape or size. The upside to that is that I understand what’s happening now and I engage in “mirror work” to reinforce my objectivity every so often. This involves looking at what’s actually in front of me, not making comparisons to anyone or anything else and trying to listen to what is going on inside. Afterward I ideally write down what the experience was like. Some days performing this exercise is real work and others it’s real proof of the progress I’ve made in my recovery. Some days I can’t spend any time without a cacophony of noise and distraction in my mind and I have to understand that I’m asking too much of myself to sort things out. Then I write that down to better understand what’s standing in the way. Other days can be surprisingly easy. Days like that are when I can see and appreciate every smile line that I’ve earned or the round fall of my bust or simply that I don’t have to struggle to quiet down the old negative tapes about being wrong, bad and inadequate. Those are days where I feel that I have the tools I need to engage in self compassion and kindness and I know that I’m making progress. Describe your worst Binge Eating Disorder episode. This is as good a place as any for a little levity so I’ll share the worst “oh-no-tell-me-that-didn’t-really-happen” episode. During the holidays a few years back, I was staying at my husband’s parent house and, being the holidays, I was stressed as would be expected. I had a sleep eating episode where I went downstairs to their fridge, pulled out a whole chicken, ripped it in half leaving half the carcass on the counter and took the other half to bed with me. I woke up the next morning to my husband saying, “Honey. I think you’ve got to talk to Mom.” To which I began to open my eyes and ask why when I saw him pulling a pile of bones out of the bed. I prayed I would die right then and there. I’m thankful in hindsight that I didn’t croak because I wouldn’t have seen how amazing my Mother in Law was when I told her I had anxiety issues and I was seeking help. She took one hand and whisked the ‘countered’ half of the carcass into the trash and the other one went around my shoulder with a squeeze saying she was proud of me for meeting anxiety head on. She wins a Mother in Law of the Millennium Award for that alone. How have you overcome or learned to live with Binge Eating Disorder? I have an amazing therapist whom I’m so thankful for. She works with me using both talk and art therapy and we’ve made some really important discoveries together. Most of our work isn’t food specific; in fact I don’t think any of it has been. What has happened gradually is that we’ve worked in other areas and the food has sort of fallen by the wayside. Now when I’m anxious or upset and I notice that I’m planning the next thing I’m going to eat, I’m less likely to get attached to that thought. The plan to put thing X into my mouth is not an obsession like it used to be. What behaviors have helped you in staying out of the BED cycle? What I end up doing, and this has become an almost unconscious step because it’s natural now, is working my way down my body to relax my muscles and breathe. If I can walk around calmly I do that, but if I begin to pace I sit again and I just feel the emotion that I’ve been trying to shut out. Once I give it its moment of attention, it usually fades away like a hot wet towel that grows cool. Do you have a good support system? Yes. It’s the right one for me and I’m thankful. My husband understands that it’s not about the food, it’s about mental health and he supports that unconditionally. He pays attention to how I’m doing as a whole person and he knows when I’m struggling or thriving but he gives me the space I need to go through those phases and work them out. He’s shown me that when I need him, he’ll be there no matter what. What was the defining moment of change for you and Binge Eating Disorder? The moment of change was when I realized it wasn’t just me being weak-willed and self destructive. When I found information about what was actually happening when I binged and the shame that followed, I soaked it up like a sponge. I was already in group therapy because I used to drink, so I was open to seeking professional help. What spurred me on was that after I stopped drinking my binge eating was uncontrollable but all of the substance abuse therapy in the world clearly wasn’t going to get to what was going on with my eating. It was clear that I was substituting one form of self soothing for another so I was eager to find someone to help me. What I didn’t know was that it wasn’t simply a ‘behavior for behavior’ swap, it was more involved and would require specific treatment with clinicians using a specific skill set. That’s when I found the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) and I began to read and learn and eventually I reached out to ask for help. What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about Binge Eating Disorder? That restricting is a HUGE part of BED. It’s taken me a long time to get it through my head that when I was at my thinnest I was as much, if not more, a binge eater than at any other time in my life and it takes work to really accept that. As an extension to that, I catch myself thinking about skipping a meal in order to reduce calories or some other justification and have to remind myself that that is disordered thinking and the beginning of a slippery slope. What does the inclusion of Binge Eating Disorder into the DSM-5 manual this year mean to you? It’s actually very emotional to me. It means that there are fewer people that will have to feel the way I did and that’s what motivates me. The thought of my nieces or nephew feeling bad about themselves to any degree simply because someone else imposes their misinformed views on them makes me want to get the right information out as loud and as clear as I can. When I read about other people, like me, who have given up or are lost in depression and think life has to be trudged through in a vessel they no longer know or like, I want to surround them with the message – BED is not a life sentence and hating your body is not the natural progression of anything. BED is a disorder that thrives on shame and if there’s one thing that shame-based behaviors can do, it’s make us question ourselves and our needs. With the American Psychological Association having recognized BED and codifying it in the DSM-5, it has in a way ‘legitimized’ those needs and made them more difficult to hide from ourselves. The way I look at it is, that’s one less hurdle to cross with regard to finding the information and resources that we need to help ourselves truly thrive. Was Binge Eating Disorder your main motivation to start BingeBehavior.com? Yes it was. My recovery has helped me learn how to deal with much more than my relationship with food, it has helped me understand more about how to take better care of myself and shed some light onto why I wasn’t doing so in the first place. It just seems natural that since I found all of this good information and resources for myself, that I would want to pass it on. Lizabeth Wesely-Casella is an advocate for people with binge and impulse control disorders. She is the Founder of BingeBehavior.com and she uses her experiences with binge eating, binge drinking and trichotillomania to support others through activism, writing and speaking. You can follow BingeBehavior.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google +, and you can email Lizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org! BingeBehavior.com is a social network created to support people who struggle with bingeing and impulse control disorders, specifically binge eating, binge drinking and binge shopping. It is an interactive community offering professional Q&As with leading experts working with impulse control and binge disorders, member written articles, human interest series and a blog. Also featured are forums to encourage member-to-member support, profile areas and soon behavioral charting tools will be available to help members track their episodes.