Making Peace with Feeling ''Full''

Zeynep Demirelli

11/25/20210 min read

I was at a big family dinner last week. We ate, drank, and talked for hours. As a family, we love eating good quality food and having loved ones around to enjoy together. This implies big and long dinners: starting with snacks, continuing to entrees, then to two main courses, followed by dessert and tea. It is almost impossible to avoid overeating and as a person who has recovered from bulimia nervosa, it is simply impossible. I usually do not lose myself while eating. However, I eat mindlessly and snack a lot. I do not keep track of what I eat because I try to focus on just being present in the conversation.

Throughout my recovery journey, eating without thinking of how many calories I am consuming is what I had trouble with the most. It was really nice to be able to do that yesterday and to enjoy a lovely dinner with my whole family, after so many years of struggling.

But it came with a cost.

Towards the end of the dinner, sometime during the second spoon of my Oreo ice-cream cake, I realized I was feeling stuffed.

Being uncomfortably full is one of the things that initiate the problematic behaviors in (most) eating disorders. When I had binge eating disorder, the feeling of being completely stuffed was my demon. I binged every day, gained quite a bit of weight, but my main complaint was the excruciating pain that came with being so full. It tortured me not only physically but also mentally because it brought on all kinds of negative thoughts and feelings about myself. The same pain was also what drove me to all the extreme behaviors I engaged in right after: hugging the toilet after each meal, exercising until I cannot feel my legs, and abusing laxatives. If only I could make peacewith the feeling of being physically full at the time.

For the last 35 minutes of the dinner, I was deep in my thoughts. I did not hear one word of the conversation. I physically and mentally used all of my energy to fight the urge to do something to compensate for all the food I ate. There were two sides to my inner conversation: the angel and the devil.

‘‘You ate too much… focus on that physical feeling. Who eats that much? Disgusting. Do something about it! Just this once!’’

‘‘It is alright… Yes, you may have eaten to the point you feel uncomfortable but it happens. Let this go, let it be a feeling of today. Let it stay only in today. If you go and do something about it instead of making peace with it, it might be the start of the chain of unhealthy behaviors…’’

In the end, I was able to tell the devil to shut the hell up. It was an extremelyuncomfortable feeling but “do I want to go back to having that almost all the time just because I cannot make peace with it for a night?” The hell no.

‘‘But how did you manage that?!’’ you may ask. I always try to picture what would happen if I actually acted on my disordered urges: If I stopped then to do something about it, there would be no reason for me to not do it again. I would tell myself ‘‘Why not?’’ and purge the next time, because I would have already done it once before. I would think ‘‘What harm could come? I did it once and nothing happened’’, which would invite me to do it again and again; exactly how my downward spiral started. Nothing happens for the first two-three times, maybe even for a month, at least that is how it feels. But it takes a while to feel the negative effects day-to-day because it is the accumulation of all those little unhealthy behaviors that make up an eating disorder. So believe me, every little thought, every small behavior makes a difference. It is never ‘‘just this once’’.

It is very difficult to get rid of those two sides when it comes to fighting with an eating disorder; maybe impossible, if you ask me. You will always have both the devil and the angel talking to you in these challenging moments where you overeat, have the urge to restrict or to purge. What is important is not to get rid of them but learning to always keep the angel’s voice just a little bit higher than the devil’s.