Brain Over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn't Work, and How I Recovered for Good

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Brain over Binge provides both a gripping personal account and an informative scientific perspective on bulimia and binge eating disorder. The author, Kathryn Hansen, candidly shares her experience as a bulimic and her alternative approach to recovery. Brain over Binge is different than other eating disorder books which typically present binge eating and purging as symptoms of complex emotional and psychological problems. Kathryn disputes this mainstream idea and explains why traditional eating disorder therapy ...
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Brain over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn't Work, and How I Recovered for Good

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Brain over Binge provides both a gripping personal account and an informative scientific perspective on bulimia and binge eating disorder. The author, Kathryn Hansen, candidly shares her experience as a bulimic and her alternative approach to recovery. Brain over Binge is different than other eating disorder books which typically present binge eating and purging as symptoms of complex emotional and psychological problems. Kathryn disputes this mainstream idea and explains why traditional eating disorder therapy failed her and fails many. She explains how she came to understand her bulimia in a new way - as a function of her brain, and how she used the power of her brain to recover - quickly and permanently. Kathryn also sheds new light on eating disorder topics such as low self-esteem, poor body image, and dieting. Brain over Binge is a brave book that will help many by delivering an informed and inspiring message of free will, self-reliance, and self-control.
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Editorial Reviews

Todd Finnerty, Psy.D.
While the author is not a mental health professional on the inside of the field, she writes from the perspective of someone who has recovered from years of experience dealing with the very difficulties professionals intend to treat. This is one of those rare instances where the "outsider" is actually the ultimate insider and the book is worth reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780984481705
  • Publisher: Camellia Publishing, LLC
  • Publication date: 11/28/2011
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 83,355
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Hansen recovered from bulimia independently, abruptly, and completely over 6 years ago; and soon after her recovery, she was fully convinced she had a powerful story to tell - a story that could give other bulimics and those with binge eating disorder hope, a new perspective, and a commonsense cure. She dedicated herself to candidly documenting her experience, in hope that her book can shed new light on these disorders that ruin so many lives. For a long time, Kathryn felt like a hopeless case. She thought maybe she could never completely recover. She thought she would have to deal with her eating disorder one-day-at-a-time for the rest of her life, but she doesn't. She has zero risk for relapse, even during stressful times in her life. She believes that if recovery was possible for her, it is possible for anyone. Kathryn recovered only after she parted with therapy and let go of most of its ideas. She found another way to end her bulimia, and now she shares her alternative approach with others in Brain over Binge. Kathryn hopes her voice can be a voice of change, a voice for those who are frustrated with therapy or who simply can't afford it, a voice that will help many escape the daily torment of binge eating and purging.
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Read an Excerpt


The stories I've read of bulimia recovery are of two types. My story is neither of the two.

The first is what I call the "butterfly tale." It goes something like this: The bulimic—the caterpillar of the story—is not happy, her relationships are not fulfilling, she tends toward depression and nega- tive thinking, she lacks true direction and purpose in her life, she holds on to hurt from her past, and she doesn't like herself. She binges and purges, supposedly to deal with her pain, but that only makes her more miserable.

Then she enters the recovery process—the cocoon—and there, she works to resolve issues from her past, learns how to cope with everyday problems and major stressors, learns how to manage feelings and emo- tions, and finds peace within herself.

The recovery process is not comfortable: it is hard work, and the transformation inside the cocoon can take an extremely long time. But when the bulimic is finally ready, she emerges as a fundamentally changed person—the butterfly of the story. She has become happy and fulfilled. She is in touch with her feelings and involved in satisfying relationships. She is at peace with her past and is able to live joyfully in the present; her ambitions for the future are quickly becoming reality. As a result of her transformation, she no longer needs to hold on to her eating disorder. She can fly away.

The second type of recovery tale is what I'll call the "tamed house pet story," and it goes something like this: The bulimic—the untamed BRAIN OVER BINGE

animal of the story—lives a destructive and dangerous life. She binges and purges, and in so doing, she finds herself isolated, struggling through every day, and never safe from her bulimia.

Then she enters the recovery arena and begins the arduous process of taming her disordered eating behavior. After much training, practice, attention, and patience from therapists and support networks, she learns to reduce her binge eating and purging. She may even stop these behav- iors—for the most part—after a long and difficult recovery process. This type of recovered bulimic is like a wild animal who is taken into a home, trained diligently and painstakingly, given much attention and care, and learns to live a new and better life. However, even though the house pet learns to behave correctly most of the time, it still retains its untamed instincts at some level, and the owners may never be fully con- fident with the house pet in all situations.

In this type of recovery, an occasional binge is excused, just as occa- sional inappropriate behavior is expected from a tamed house pet. The bulimic falters every now and then, but she gets back on track afterward. Her relapses are welcomed as learning experiences or as signals that some- thing else in her life needs attention. When they occur, the bulimic seeks support, tries to address what she believes to be the underlying emotional causes of the binge, and learns some new coping skills so as to avoid binges in the future.

This type of recovery eventually becomes fairly secure; however, the recovered bulimic can never get too comfortable. She has to take it "one day at a time." Just as the owner of a tamed house pet has to keep it away from, or train it to deal with, anyone or anything that could trigger its past behaviors, the former bulimic has to either avoid, or ensure she copes well with, things that could send her back to binge eating and purging. She has to be on guard against feelings and life events that could allow her untamed ways—her binge eating and purging—to return. These events and feelings are termed "triggers" in the eating disorder community. The recovered bulimic has to continue to deal with issues from her past, ensure that her emotional needs are met, and make sure she eats the right type and quantity of foods to avoid triggering a relapse.

The improved quality of life of the "tamed house pet" former bulimic is, undeniably, a vast improvement over the daily torment of bingeing and purging, just as the pet animal is unquestionably better off than when it was living on its own. But remaining free of bulimic behaviors is certainly not effortless—it takes constant maintenance.

When I was in the depths of bulimia, none of these stories made sense to me. Butterfly tales of triumph are commendable and inspiring, and no doubt very real; but in six years of trying, I found I could not relate to the idea of a long journey into a rich and full life while strug- gling daily with my incessant urges to binge. My failure to transform myself into a butterfly wasn't for lack of effort. Sure, I wanted to become happy and fulfilled; but that was not happening for me, especially while I continued to eat thousands of calories at a time and while I was exercis- ing to exhaustion to try to undo the damage to my body.

No matter what I uncovered from my past, no matter what I resolved in the present, no matter what I envisioned for my future, my urges to binge eat still consumed me. No wings grew, no brilliant colors appeared. No matter how well I managed to cope with emotions and feelings and conflicts and problems, I still gave in to those urges time after time. As time went by, I saw what should have been some of the best years of my life quickly passing. I began to think that if I was waiting to become a butterfly to stop binge eating, I could be waiting forever. I began to think that the "tamed house pet" type of recovery was my only chance at a semi- normal life.

Yet the tamed house pet recovery stories didn't really appeal to me any more than butterfly tales did. These stories don't even promise the complete freedom of the butterfly tales, because even after recovery, the bulimic is still very much reliant on therapists, therapeutic techniques, and support systems in order to remain recovered. I was tired of meal plans; I did not want to have to follow one every day after recovery. I did not want to continue going to therapy and support groups indefinitely. I did not want to have to deal with my bulimia one day at a time—I wanted to be free of it completely. I wanted recovery to mean a life where BRAIN OVER BINGE

I would no longer have any desire to binge eat, no longer have to be on guard against triggers, and no longer binge—ever. As I write today, I am completely free of binge eating, purging, and any type of disordered eating. I don't have to watch out for triggers, and I don't have to follow meal plans or attend therapy. I no longer have any urges to binge, and there is no possibility of relapse. Yet my recovery did not involve any major self-transformation—I found another way to end my bulimia. My daily struggle with food is finished; the pain that my habits brought me has disappeared; the misery of those years of binge eating is gone. The relief I feel to have put my eating disorder behind me is beyond words.

My recovery was not typical. It did not involve special diets, emotional self-discovery, or spiritual enlightenment. It did not result from a decrease in anxiety, an increase in happiness, an improvement in self-esteem, a new medication, or any major life change. It was simply me, armed with a bit of knowledge, finally taking control of my own behavior.

Today, perhaps I am not the perfect, successful, confident, shining example of what a recovered bulimic should be—"in love with life and in love with myself"—but each day, I do have the opportunity to live a real life, with all the joy and pain it brings. I still have many of the same faults, problems, and weaknesses that I had when I was bulimic; but without the bulimia, those problems are immeasurably more manageable. I now have a family of my own, and I can be available to them and to all the people I care about. Without my bulimia consuming me, I am better able to tackle the daily challenges that I face, even if I don't always cope well. I hope that my story will point other bulimics in a new direction— away from the myths of the butterfly theory of recovery and the con- straints of the tamed house pet theory of recovery, and into a kind of recovery that is secure and lasting. I believe that, at any time we choose, we can take another path and use our own resources to end bulimia. This book is divided into three parts. Part I is a memoir of my eating dis- order and my recovery. I share how my bulimia developed and grew over the years, my experiences with unsuccessful therapy, and how I finally conquered my bulimia on my own. Part II is an account of my journey to figure out what my bulimia was all about to begin with and to explain to myself how I was able to recover so quickly and completely. The answers I found were surprising to me, and very different from what I had learned in therapy. In Part III, I discuss topics that were often the focus of my unsuccessful therapy, such as low self-esteem, poor body image, coexist- ing problems, and eating a normal diet.

In this book, I primarily address bulimics and those with binge eat- ing disorder (BED); but anyone dealing with episodes of binge eating can benefit from what I've written. For those who are unsure if they fall into this category, here is a definition of binge eating adapted from most recent edition of the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), published by the American Psychiatric Association:

An episode of binge eating is characterized by eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances, and by a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feel- ing that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

Binge eating disorders affect many people. BED is more common than bulimia, with an estimated 2 percent of all adults in the U.S. affected (as many as four million Americans), according to a 2001 report.9 Bulimia occurs in about 1 percent, although the rates are probably much higher because bulimics often hide their disorder from others;10 furthermore, bulimics are harder to identify because they do not have emaciated bod- ies like anorexics.11 Among teen girls, bulimia may affect as many as 5 percent.

So far, I have used a female perspective in describing those with eat- ing disorders; but this book can benefit men as well. Although 90-95 percent of those with bulimia are female,13 males can develop the disorder BRAIN OVER BINGE too. BED affects more men than bulimia; for every three females with BED, there are two males, which amounts to well over one million men.14 For ease of writing, I will continue to use feminine pronouns; however, this book is not excluding males, and in fact, my ideas may be especially appealing to males who feel alienated by female-oriented, emotionally intensive "talk" therapies.

It doesn't matter if you are male or female; it doesn't matter how old you are, how frequently you binge, how long you've been doing it, or how large the quantities of food you consume—binge eating can create havoc in your life. So even if you don't quite fit the typical pattern of bulimia or BED, or you don't meet the diagnostic criteria for either disorder, you may be able to relate to my story and find help in this book.

A word of caution: all this book can help you do is end your destruc- tive eating habits. It won't tell you how to become assertive, spiritual, emotionally satisfied, or happy, or solve any of your other problems. It won't teach you how to love yourself, build meaningful relationships, heal hurt from your past, eat a perfect diet, maintain your ideal weight, or exercise optimally. Recovering from an eating disorder will not magically change you into the person you want to be. That's a lifetime's work. But putting aside your bulimia or binge eating disorder can be the first step in a process of self-transformation, if that's what you desire.

Reading this book certainly won't give you wings, but it will give you hope, and more importantly, it will give you a clear path to recovery.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi
A Note to the Reader xvii
Introduction 1
1 A Typical Day's Binge 9
2 A Typical Day of Purging 19
3 Choice and Consequences 25
4 Introduction to therapy 31
5 My First Binge 35
6 Accepting therapy 43
7 Topamax to the Rescue 53
8 Some things Change, Some Remain the Same 61
9 A New Book and New Hope 69
10 My Two Brains 73
11 I Had Control All Along 81
12 Resisting the Urge 85
13 The End of My Bulimia 89
14 Investigating the True Story Behind My Bulimia and Recovery 97
15 Was I Really Recovered? 101
16 Why Did I Binge? 109
17 What Caused My First Urges to Binge? 113
18 Why Did I Diet and Why Was It Such a Problem for Me? 125
19 Why Did I Continue Having Urges to Binge?  
Reason 1: Persistence of Survival Instincts 129
20 Why Did I Continue Having Urges to Binge?  
Reason 2: Habit 137
21 Why Did I Follow My Urges to Binge? 151
22 Why Didn't Therapy Work for Me? 163
23 Revisiting Recovery: How Did I Do It? 177
24 Brain over Binge, Step 1:  
View Urges to Binge as Neurological Junk 185
25 Brain over Binge, Step 2: Separate the Highest  
Human Brain from Urges to Binge 187
26 Brain over Binge, Step 3:  
Stop Reacting to Urges to Binge 197
27 Brain over Binge, Step 4:  
Stop Acting on Urges to Binge 199
28 Brain over Binge, Step 5: Get Excited 203
29 Is Relapse a Possibility? 205
30 Where I Am Today 209
31 Normal Eating 215
32 Body Image, Weight, and Dieting 227
33 Low Self-Esteem 235
34 "Coping" 239
35 Triggers 243
36 Purging 257
37 Coexisting Problems 263
38 Medication 267
39 Prevention 275
40 Bridges to Traditional Therapy 281
41 Conclusion 289
Notes 291
Bibliography 301
Acknowledgements 309
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Customer Reviews

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( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 8, 2011

    The most logical approach to eating disorder therapy I've seen thus far.

    I loved that this book made the consciousness of a person's action-enforced neurological pathways sufficient for recovery. The author makes an invaluable point in stating that recovery from an eating disorder is urgent, and that by focusing on emotional issues/triggers/coping strategies/self esteem, the problem is only drawn out and, in many cases, worsened. It makes me happy finally to have found a book that gives me hope of eating normally vs. having to be constantly vigilant of relapse. Hopefully this book will find its way to many people for whom traditional therapy was unsuccessful. Great thanks to the author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2015

    I read this book to help me understand a family member who is de

    I read this book to help me understand a family member who is dealing with bulimia. I found it very interesting and I am going to buy it for her, in hopes that it will help. The only negative thing was that it repeated the same idea over and over.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    I found this book extremely helpful in recovering from my bulimi

    I found this book extremely helpful in recovering from my bulimia. Kathryn provides a different perspective for eating disorders that is not implemented in traditional therapy methods. I would suggest this book to anyone suffering from an eating disorder. It is the only reason I recovered from mine.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2012

    This is by far the best book I have read on this subject! I hav

    This is by far the best book I have read on this subject! I have been struggling for over 25 years with Bulimia and I have seen countless therapists, doctors, nutritionists, etc. I have read every book out there. It seems that everyone in the field wants to blame the patient's past or wants to find the "reason for unhappiness". I just needed to just move on and be done with this already! Ms. Hansen's book has changed my life by giving me a completely different way to view this - as a habit and something I can control. I have placed reminders of the 5 steps she uses in several key spots in my home and even in my car! I go to them now to guide me through those impulses. Finally, I have found the answer and I can say I am recovered! Thank you, Ms. Hansen, for all of your research and for writing this book to help other sufferers!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    Thank you!

    I agree with the other reviewer. This book is fantastic. I have been looking for a book to stop my bingeing. I hated trying to decipher my feelings and looking deep to find reasons for my behavoir. I could never find anything. This book tells me why and tells me how to stop. A real solution.

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