Episode 299 | January 3, 2023

Overcome Binge Eating with Kathryn Hansen

A Personal Note From Orion

9% of the world’s population struggle with eating disorders. A person’s relationship with food can prove difficult. In today’s Stellar Life Podcast episode, I am joined by Kathryn Hansen as she gives brain-based approaches to end binge-eating and finds tools that ground us into limitless possibilities. 

Kathryn was once a binge-eater, and has spent over a decade in recovery. She is dedicated to educating and empowering people who struggle with all forms of binge-eating. Through her books, Brain over Binge and The Brain over Binge Recovery Guide, Kathryn makes recovery attainable for anyone who wants to overcome binge-eating. Kathryn is passionate about recovery and shares more brain-based ideas and testimonies through the Brain over Binge Podcast and the Brain over Binge Course

Tune in as we discuss using your higher cognitive power to recover and free yourself to live without binge-eating!


In This Episode

  • [03:46] – Kathryn Hansen, a recovered binge eater and author of the books Brain over Binge and The Brain over Binge Recovery Guide, shares her early journey of being a binge eater and how she discovered her passion for guiding people to overcome their eating disorders.
  • [09:49] – Kathryn shares her recovery story from 17 years ago.
  • [21:58] – What are Kathryn’s memorable stories from the books she wrote?
  • [24:31] – Kathryn presents five Brain over Binge techniques you can apply.
  • [29:35] – How does Kathryn’s body image change after overcoming binge eating?
  • [31:06] – Orion talks about acceptance and self-love, and she shares a personal experience.
  • [37:01] – After Kathryn stopped binge eating, how did it affect her habits and improve her life? How does she look at that journey?
  • [45:40] – Kathryn’s three top tips for living a stellar life.
  • [46:44] – Visit Kathryn’s website for one-on-one and group coaching, and learn from her podcasts, blogs, and books. She also offers a free downloadable 30-page guide about the basic approaches to ending binge eating.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

Hello, Kathryn. Thank you so much for being here, and welcome to the Stellar Life podcast. I’m very happy you’re here with us because I’m sure that whatever you share today will help so many people. 

 Thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be here with you today.

 Before we begin, can you share a little about yourself and your passion? How did you even get to that?

 My story is that I’m a recovered binge-eater bulimic. I recovered about 17 years ago now. After I recovered, I just had a strong desire to help people. 

 It started with me writing my own story, which took a long time. I finally published my first book, Brain over Binge, in 2011. I just published an updated version, actually, a second edition. After that, I wrote a second book, The Brain over Binge Recovery Guide

Brain over Binge by Kathryn Hansen

It’s just really been my mission through these past 17 years since I’ve recovered to share a message of hope and to share a message that you can overcome this, and it doesn’t have to be so complicated. I share an alternative, brain-based approach that helps people to use the power of their brains to overcome the binge-eating habit.

 What’s the difference between the first book and the second book?

The first book is really my story. Although you can use it to have your own insights and look at your issue in a new way, it is my story. It’ll take you through what I struggled with and my unsuccessful therapy, and then how I eventually recovered.

The second book is a self-help book where it guides you through how to make these brain-based concepts that I talked about in the first book that helped me and how to make that work in your own life because everyone is different. No one’s recovery is going to look exactly like mine, so that was really the reason to write another book.

Let’s start with the first one. How did you start binge eating?

I was in high school. As many high school girls do, I started becoming self-conscious about my body and started feeling like I was putting on weight as I should have, as a normal teenage girl does. 

A lot of my friends were dieting, but for me, it wasn’t a conscious decision. I ended up having a tonsillectomy and lost a bunch of weight just from not being able to eat, and then I decided, “oh, this solves the problem of me worrying about my weight.” 

After that, I never really went back to normal eating, and then I started purposefully restricting calories. I never really resumed a normal diet after that. 

I became obsessed with it. I had that classic perfectionistic personality, and it became a compulsion to focus on my food and try to eat as little as possible. 

The primal or the lower brain tries to get you to survive, by making food the most important thing that you think about.

That lasted about a little less than two years. I really became severely underweight, but then I started getting out of control as far as the food cravings, which is all very normal. It’s the way the body tries to protect you. It’s the way—what I call in my book—the primal brain or the lower brain tries to get you to survive, by really making food the most important thing that you think about. 

Eventually, I was overcome by my first urges to binge. I ate in an out of control way. It really felt like I couldn’t control what I was putting in my mouth, and it felt like an out-of-body experience. I was like, “oh my gosh, what have I done?”

That happened during my senior year of high school. From there, it just really became, I guess, self-perpetuating. I would try to compensate by purging, go back to restricting, and then binge again and again. I couldn’t really see why it was happening. It went on for six years with the binging before I finally recovered.

What therapies did you try? What did people tell you that is the cause for what you’re experiencing?

I started therapy basically in college. I dabbled in it a little bit in high school, but really, my therapy started in college. 

I explained a lot of this in my book in greater detail, but I will briefly say that a lot of therapy is based on the concept that an eating disorder and especially binge eating is a way that you’re trying to cope with something. 

A lot of therapy is based on the concept that an eating disorder is a way that you’re trying to cope with the past, emotions, anxiety or depression.

They told me that there must be something in my past, my emotions, or something to do with anxiety, depression, or something. I was supposedly using food to try to soothe myself, avoid emotions, or cover up something I couldn’t face in my life.

It really became this mystery to try to fix myself, try to find what was wrong, learn to deal with depression, learn to cope with anxiety, learn to look at my past, and heal whatever was there. 

None of it worked as far as the binging. Sure, I learned some good lessons about coping and some good things about dealing with emotions, but none of it really turned off that strong desire to eat massive amounts of food. It was a mix of psychodynamic therapy and a little bit of cognitive behavioral therapy

I also saw a nutritionist. My therapists were great and well-meaning, but it didn’t really help me stop the binging.

And then you keep feeling like something’s wrong with me, and I’m unfixable.

For sure, that seemed to be the message; you’re broken. Whereas what I eventually learned and realized was that I just was food deprived. I wasn’t eating enough. My body was trying to protect me. I started binging, it became a habit, and then I was told, “okay, you’re doing it for all these deep reasons.” I think, in a lot of ways, that just solidified the habit even more.

That’s awful. What happened? Was it just like you woke up one night with an aha moment and figured it out? How did you figure out how to help yourself?

It was quick as far as my recovery, but there’s a little bit of a backstory, which I’ll try to be brief about.

Don’t be brief. I want to know everything.

Choose which thoughts you're going to believe and which are just junk from your brain. Recovery goes far beyond eating: It covers all facets of your life. Click To Tweet

Okay, I’ll tell it all. It’s funny because my book is over 300 pages. People are like, “tell me your story,” and I’m like, “okay, how do I summarize 300 pages?”

Basically, I had gone the therapy path for a long time, thinking that maybe there was just more I needed to solve and more things I needed to find in my past. I felt like if I could finally heal myself, become happy, be satisfied in my relationships, or whatever, then this feeling of a need to binge would go away. It just never did. 

I eventually started this medication, and it switched off the urges. That wasn’t the cure. I don’t want anyone to think that was the cure. For me personally, the urges came back, and it eventually didn’t work, but for a couple of months, the urges to eat these massive amounts of food just went away. 

It was such a weird experience because I was like, “wow, all my other problems are still here.” Everything my therapist told me I wasn’t able to cope with or all the personality traits that set me up for this—my perfectionism, anxiety, and things like that—are all still here, but I’m not binging. I don’t have this urge to eat massive amounts of food. 

Feed your body, eat enough, eat normally, and accept the way you are.

That really made me take a step back from therapy and made me be like, “okay, that’s not the path for me because I couldn’t buy into it anymore after I had seen that I could have problems like anyone else in the world and not binge.” Once I saw and experienced that, there was no way I was going back down that path again.

This is so mind-blowing. In the world of self-development, therapy, and all that, I love that you’re pointing out that some people start feeling like they’re broken because they have to fake something from their childhood in order for you to move forward. In many cases, it gives them aha moments and helps them.

I do hypnotherapy, so even with my clients, it helps. Maybe it is physical, as simple as making a decision or using those brain tools that you talk about in your second book. There is no one truth. There is no one way. Even as a coach and a hypnotherapist listening to you, I’m like, “wow, this is such a powerful point and so true.” I’m so happy that you’re shedding light on this.

I appreciate that. Everyone has a different path. As I mentioned in the beginning, my story is not going to be everyone’s story. Everyone has different things they may feel like they need to do, but I feel like at some point if you go down that path for long enough, the habit is not changing, and your behaviors are not changing, then it’s time to look for some other solutions.

When a certain negative habit or behavior doesn’t change, even after working on yourself, that’s a sign that it's time to look for other solutions. Click To Tweet

Absolutely. I’m sorry I stopped you. Continue on with your story. I just had to point it out because I really enjoyed listening to you.

What I was saying was that the medicine stopped working, and my urges came back. Also, I had side effects from it. The doctor had said, “oh, you can just increase your dose,” but I had side effects. It wasn’t making me feel normal, and like myself, so I stopped the medicine, but then I never went back to therapy.

I forgot exactly how many months, but it was months later—maybe 3–6 months—that I came across a book called Rational Recovery by Jack Trimpey. It’s an older book in Britain from the late ’80s. It was an alternative at the time to Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a book about alcohol and drug addiction.

He basically argued against the disease concept—that’s what he called it—of addiction. He argued that addiction is basically a habit of the primitive brain. 

We all have what he calls a beast brain inside of us—I call it a lower brain or a primal brain—that’s just really instinctual. It’s driven by pleasure, avoiding pain, reward, habit, and instinct. 

I realized that when I started dieting, I sent my primal brain into a survival reaction which made food the most important thing that I could think about.

What happened is I took these ideas, really applied them to my own situation, and realized that when I started dieting, I really sent my primal brain into a survival reaction that was trying to protect me. 

I mentioned a little bit earlier that food just suddenly became the most important thing and the only thing I could think about. It wasn’t because I was trying to cope with life. It was because I was trying not to starve. My body was starving. Even people who don’t develop full-blown binge eating—if they’ve ever been on a diet—can probably relate to that. Everything seems normal, you start cutting back on your food, and all you can think about is eating. 

Some people are just more prone, for whatever reason, to develop full-blown urges to binge. The statistics say that upwards of 50% of anorexics eventually do become bulimic because their body fights back. It’s pretty common. 

What I went through wasn’t something abnormal. It’s all understandable in the way our brain works and tries to protect us, but then when someone binges, if anyone out there listening has binged, you feel so guilty and so shameful. You feel like, “oh my gosh, I have to do something about this.” You feel so out of control that when you get control back is when the purging comes in. 

I had tried self-induced vomiting and, thankfully, was never able to, so I did exercise.

I can never vomit on my own. I tried. When I was sick and was trying to vomit, I couldn’t do it. Thank God.

Most people think, “wow, I can’t believe people do this”, but when you’re in that desperate state after a binge, and you feel like, “oh my gosh, I have to undo this”. It seems like a solution. It’s a very dangerous thing. It’s not a solution at all. 

The Brain over Binge Recovery Guide by Kathryn Hansen

Thankfully, I wasn’t able to. But I turned to hours and hours of exercise. I would binge, and then the next day, I would purge. My purging got up to maybe seven hours of exercise the day after binges. It was terrible. It consumed my entire life. My entire life was just binging and purging.

It’s such a vicious cycle. You go to the gym, and seven hours of depleting your nutrients, electrolytes, and everything. You’re also tired and so depleted, so you just go binge again. That’s horrible.

Exercising just perpetuates the cycle because you’re telling your body, okay, you’re deprived again. Let’s keep sending out those urges. That drives the cycle as far as the deprivation and your body trying to protect you, but then it eventually just becomes a habit.

I hate to use the word pleasure, but it starts to feel rewarding in some way. It starts to feel like something you want to do and something that you need. It’s like someone who starts smoking without thinking that it’s gross, and then suddenly they think it’s the most appealing thing in the world until they quit, and then they think it’s gross again. It starts to become appealing. That’s the brain’s job, to maintain habits and make the behaviors it thinks are necessary seem appealing.

It eventually felt like what I call a conditioned need. It’s a need that’s not a real need, but you’re conditioned for your body to feel like it’s a need. That’s the habit part of it. I think if you don’t understand what’s going on in the brain, it can just feel like you don’t have a choice. What the book Rational Recovery gave me was the ability to start choosing again.

What did he say there that gave you that aha moment? What is that thing that made you feel like, “oh, this is very different, and now I can take control over my life?”

It definitely wasn’t just one line. It was a whole perspective change. I really stopped believing that there was any deeper reason for me doing what I was doing. I stopped believing it was a coping mechanism, and I stopped believing that it was pleasurable. My brain made me think it was, but I stopped believing my brain when it was telling me that. I basically stopped thinking that it helped me in any way. I separated myself from it. 

We all have things that we don’t want to do that our brain makes us think are appealing, but we have the ability to say no.

He separates the brain into your beast brain and then your human brain, which he calls the I and the It. I realized that I was separate from this primal instinct and habit that was going on in the lower brain, so it was suddenly capturing my power not to be overrun by this. 

He also explained that you and your prefrontal cortex and higher brain—at the time, I don’t even think he used the term prefrontal cortex—as time has gone by and we’ve learned more about neuroscience is the part of you that gives you the ability to have the self-control to be able to veto instincts and things you don’t want to do. We all have things that we don’t want to do that our brain makes us think are appealing, but we have the ability to say no. It was capturing that ability to say no in the face of a really strong habit.

It’s almost like you were a victim of your situation, and you were broken. There is always a new thing that needs to be healed in order for you to get over this situation, but now, when you read this book, you’re like, wait, I’m whole; I’m complete. This is a habit. I do it for pleasure. I do it because it’s fun in a way and because it makes me feel good. I’m choosing and owning, and from a place of ownership, the shift happens.

I think that’s a good way to put it. Not even so much that I’m doing this for fun. It’s like I’m doing this because my brain is telling me that it’s fun, but I know it’s not. It really realizes that it wasn’t me. This wasn’t who I was, this wasn’t what I wanted to choose, and this is what I felt compelled to do because of these forces in the reward center, you can call it. The limbic system or whatever was driving this habit was apart from me.

Another important thing as far as reframing was my therapist always told me I was binging to cope with something like emotions, problems, and things like that, but I realized that I was only binging to cope with the urges to binge because when those urges came up, they were so uncomfortable. They made me feel so much desire, so much anxiety, and so much, oh my gosh, you have to do this that I was binging just to make those urges go away at some point. Even though my brain told me it would be fun, I think I knew it wouldn’t be, but it was just to make those urges stop. I felt like there was nothing else I could do to make it go away.

It will make you feel normal or okay.

The brain's job is to maintain habits and make the behaviors it thinks are necessary seem appealing to condition your body to feel like it’s a need. Click To Tweet

Yeah. The urges will go away. But then, once I was able to step back from those urges and realize they’re not going to hurt me, these urges aren’t me, and this isn’t what I truly want, I could be with those urges from a more detached perspective. I could observe and experience the urges without letting them get me so upset and without feeling like I had to make them go away. Once I realized, “okay, I don’t have to make these urges go away, and they can be here while I do whatever I need to do in life”, it was easier to ride them out. Then eventually, the habit just deconditions.

That’s awesome. Tell me a little bit about what reactions you got to that book and how it helped people heal. What are some of your most memorable stories?

When I wrote the first book, I self-published it. I hope people will read it, but I thought that maybe if one person reads this, that will be enough. My goal will be accomplished. I have started just shipping the books out from my own house. I had a website, I printed boxes of books, and I would pack them up myself in the early days. I remember getting my first several emails from people saying, oh my gosh, this helped me so much. 

It was wonderful. I’m like, “wow, I’m actually helping people.” Then, everything grew from there. Amazon became a bigger thing, as we all know. The book started being available on Amazon, and then I started having more and more people contact me.

Rational Recovery by Jack Trimpey

My favorite thing about the second edition of Brain over Binge is that Brain over Binge was a story, but then I added a final chapter, which is the recovery stories of other people who agreed to contribute their stories. I just thought that that was really powerful as far as showing people that there are different paths. 

I basically stopped the day after reading Rational Recovery. I had maybe two more binges after that. But not everyone has that same experience, so I think it was great to incorporate the stories of people whose recovery looked different than mine.

Can you share a story, for example?

Actually, I can do better than that on my podcast. Some of the people have been coming on the podcast. If you go to the Brain over Binge Podcast, you can actually hear the people. It’s episodes 101 through 104, and then I have a couple more coming out. You can actually go listen to them.

Actually, I was editing one today, a woman who recovered after 38 years. It’s just amazing to hear her story. Just always thinking something was wrong with me and always stuck in dieting just to eventually start nourishing her body, start eating enough, start realizing that her weight can just regulate itself, just be free to live her life and discover what she’s interested in.

I just thought they were all great stories as well. I have a coach working for me now, too, who’s helping women use these brain-based concepts and implement them in their own life. Her name is Coach Julie. Her story is on there. She’s episode 101. They’re really just all very inspiring.

Awesome. What are some of the Brain over Binge techniques that you use?

I basically have five components that summarize what you can do to change your perspective when the urges come up and are there to not feel so compelled to act on them. I used to call them steps, but they’re really components. They all come together to help you see your urges in a new way.

The first one is to view your urges as neurological junk. That just means you see them as a brain glitch, something that’s not you, and basically meaningless, powerless, and harmless. They’re just junked from your brain. That’s the first one.

Once you get your life back, you can do whatever you want with it. That's growing your self-love and learning what you want to focus on, what you enjoy, and what fills you up. Click To Tweet

The second one is to separate yourself from the urge to binge. That’s what I talked about basically that you realize that those urges are not you, you realize that you’re much more than that, and you realize that the urges are not expressing your true wants or true needs.

The third is to stop reacting to the urges. That is to stop reacting emotionally, stop getting upset about them, stop getting frustrated that they’re not going away, and really just be as unemotional as possible when the urges come up.

I don’t know if you have any questions. I feel like I’m going on and on. Do you want me to go to the next one?

Before you go to the next one, I have a question. When you’re in the heat of the moment—it can be binge eating or anything prior to those techniques—where your brain is hijacked, it can be hormonal, emotional, or whatever it is. How do you actually go into your left logical brain when you’re so emotional and be like, oh, that’s not me; I’m a separate identity now, and I’m not doing it, but at the moment, you see red, or you feel very intense emotions?

Alcoholics Anonymous by Anonymous

I think those moments are definitely the most difficult. For binging, it’s giving yourself that little extra time and space if you can even commit to yourself to not binge for two minutes, not start the behavior, and just give yourself that space to calm down a little bit.

Go to the bathroom and breathe. Lock yourself and breathe. If you need a pattern interrupt, put a lot of iced water on your face.

Any of those things could work. Any of those things that you feel will pull you out of that state could work. Then, you connect back with your higher brain, and you can remember that, “okay, I know what’s going on here. It’s not a surprise. This is just how I’ve taught my brain.”

Also, that actually brings me to the fourth component, which is obvious, to stop acting on the urges. In those moments that you’re just feeling like that, just focusing on not acting is so important. You may not be able to convince yourself that it’s just your lower brain, or you may not be able to convince yourself that you’re separate, and you may totally feel in it, but if you can convince yourself not to act in those moments, then you come back and realize, “oh, wow, I’m so glad I didn’t do that.” 

I don’t think anyone’s ever binged and thought, “oh, I’m so glad I binged.” You’re always so glad you didn’t act. If you can get through those moments, not act, and really celebrate—which is the fifth component to celebrate your success—then it just solidifies the change. Once you do this over and over, then your brain does change. 

We know this through neuroscience and neuroplasticity. Our brains hold that ability to erase habits. When you don’t act on the compulsions, the brain stops producing those compulsions.

Did your body image change since you stopped binging?

When you don’t act on the compulsions, the brain stops producing those compulsions.

For sure, my binging brought my body weight well over my natural weight, so there was a lot of shame involved in that because I was living in a body that I felt wasn’t really mine. I had a hard time. My therapist would tell me, “oh, you need to learn to love your body in order to stop binging,” but I just felt like it was almost impossible to love my body during that time. 

I don’t even know if loving your body is necessary to have a full life. You can have a perfectly full life and take care of yourself without feeling like, “oh, I’m so happy about the way I look.” I just don’t think it’s that important. I definitely feel like it’s important to take care of yourself, but too much emphasis placed on that in the eating disorder field is like, “oh, you have to love your body.” 

For some people, it feels like an unattainable thing, but it’s important to accept your natural weight—whatever your weight is—when you’re nourishing yourself and eating in a way that works for you and your body.

Everyone’s body shows up in a different way, and learning to accept the way your body naturally shows up is really important. That was much easier for me to do once I stopped binging because my body did regulate. I did gradually lose the weight I had gained from binging. I never dieted ever again. I just feed my body, eat enough, eat normally, and just accept the way I am.

I like accepting, but I also like loving. I think the next step is loving yourself just the way you are. It comes from radical acceptance. One of the things that I teach people is about self-love and loving themselves. This is because I’m doing it for myself. I had to learn it for myself from a place of really not liking myself and then learn it again. 

From my point of view, when you are in deep acceptance and self-love, life is just easier, and you feel happier and more sensual from the inside. You’re actually more loving toward other people when you are in a place of, I’m good now, and my cup is full, so I can share some with you.

Our brains hold that ability to erase habits.

I had this experience recently. Three weeks ago, I went to Costa Rica. I did a photoshoot with this amazing photographer. Three months leading to the photoshoot, I was dieting a little bit and really searching for my new identity or identity as a person because it really changed after being a mom, going through a C-section, and having all those body changes. 

For me, when I went there, I was like, “oh, okay, the photos are probably okay,” but then I got them, and I’m like, whoa, the way I think about myself and the way I see are not aligned. 

Actually, they looked gorgeous and amazing. I’m so happy that I did that for myself so I can see myself as greater than I am, as beautiful, and as glamorous as I want to be. 

Also, what I loved about my photoshoot is that it’s not only smiling faces. Some of them are sad, some of them are shy, some of them are raging, and some of them are arrogant. It’s really embodying the different archetypes of the feminine, accepting all of them, loving all of them, and seeing how different they are.

Self-love or body love goes into loving your emotions, flaws, and accepting that you are not broken.

I feel like self-love or body love goes deeper than the physical. It goes into loving your emotions, loving your flaws, and accepting that you are not broken and that there is nothing broken in being emotional. There is nothing broken in being enraged. It can be a teacher, or it can be something that brings you down.

I just felt like something clicked there. On another level, hanging out with some people from Costa Rica, what I really love about their culture is they really don’t care about what you look like. It’s almost like an illusionor sometimes I’ll call it even a sicknessof living here in the US and in other Western countries. Just seeing how people are in full acceptance of who they are and who you are just because you are.

My makeup artist never wears makeup. She just loves makeup. It’s art for her, but she never wears makeup. She puts feathers in her hair and lives on a farm with horses and whatever animals. Her kids grew up to appreciate friendships, hanging out with people, and being outdoors more than Instagram, the way we look, and what makeup we wear. 

I feel like in my journey to embrace who I am, and I help others embrace who they are as well. Do you feel the same way about yourself?

First of all, everything you said was wonderful and much needed. I think people need to be talking about this. Self-acceptance is a wonderful thing. It’s not necessary to overcome an eating disorder. I don’t think that because that can keep people trapped to think, “oh, I have to develop this self-love before I can stop this habit that’s really harming me and really making me not love myself.” I really think we have it a little backward.

I’m not saying you can’t work on both at the same time. Sure, if you can work on self-love and stop an eating disorder at the same time, and that works for you, then wonderful. The more self-love, the better. But at least in my case and a lot of people I work with, it seems so impossible. As you know, self-love and acceptance are lifelong journeys. If you think you have to get to some point of self-love of this ideal version of acceptance or whatever to stop a habit, then I think it can perpetuate the habit. I hope that makes sense. It’s not like I’m against self-love.

Absolutely. I feel like we’re totally aligned on that. They’re both very important. As I said, it was a very refreshing point of view that sometimes, you just have to go to the habit and behavior and just stop it. 

When the habit of binging stopped, it naturally allowed me to focus on improving myself in other ways.

When you stopped the habit of binging, did it affect stopping other negative habits in your life?

I think it brought me a long way toward improving my life in so many ways. I had tried long in therapy to really improve different areas of myself in my life. With the binging going on, it was so hard to do any of that, so once it stopped, it just really naturally allowed me to focus on improving myself in other ways. 

It wasn’t that I tried to force myself to. It was like, “wow, I have all this mental energy back.” I have all this time back. I’m not spending seven hours in the gym every other day. I’m not spending hours and hours getting food and consuming it. There was all this time, energy, and space to create a life suddenly, and it was super exciting. 

That’s something people can hold on to and look forward to. You’re going to get your life back, and then you can do whatever you want with it. That’s growing your self-love and learning what you want to focus on, what you enjoy, and what fills you up.

If you look back on your journey, would you change any of it?

No, just because seeing what I went through was able to help other people. I’m really glad I went through it. For a while, I felt regret about the wasted years. I wasted all these years of my young life that I wish I had, but that’s all really gone away. I thought about that a little while after I recovered, but then eventually, you just move on with your life. You appreciate that you still have time left, and you can reach out to help others. You can help others avoid wasting that time. No, I don’t think I would change anything.

It seems like you’re very much a giver. Even when you wrote your book, the idea of I’m going to just help one person seems very pure. Coming from that place is what gravitates people toward you and what they can learn from you. You come across as very genuine, very real. This is who I am, and this is what I’ve been through. Your intentions are very pure, so I really appreciate that.

 Thank you. I appreciate it. When I wanted to write the book, I was actually in the depths of my bulimia. I wrote in my book that I was always a writer. I like to write. It was always my strongest subject. I was never a good speaker, so these interviews were a stretch for me. I was always just better at writing. I told myself if I ever find a way out, I’m going to write a book about it. I promised this to myself when I was in the thick of my problem.

The fundamental idea that all of your thoughts aren’t true and all of your emotions don’t need to be given so much significance has transformed my life in a lot of ways.

My recovery was so different than I thought it would be. I really thought my book would be about me transforming, suddenly having all this self-love, and suddenly being able to cope with my life really well. I thought that would be my story because that’s what I thought was necessary. When I recovered, in a way, that was like, “okay, I stopped binging, but I’m still a mess.” I felt like I had to share that. I felt like, gosh, just get rid of the habit; it’s okay; you can deal with your other problems. You don’t have to fix everything.

The fact that my recovery was unconventional really motivated me even more. I thought like you said, if I could just get this to one person, then it just spread from there. I’m very happy that I could be that alternative voice. It was a little scary at first to speak out against traditional treatments and stuff, but I feel like it’s been worth it.

Do you have any other ways that you change habits in your life?

The fundamental idea that all of your thoughts aren’t true and all of your emotions don’t need to be given so much significance has transformed my life in a lot of ways. Once you realize that, then you can choose which thoughts you’re going to believe and which are just junk from your brain. It goes way beyond eating. It goes to everything in your life. I’m definitely not perfect at it.

Do you journal?

I haven’t, really. Like we were just talking about, I have four kids. They’re finally at the age now where I have a little spare time, but I don’t do a lot of journaling.

Do you have any rituals that you do in the morning or during the day? How do you ground yourself and prepare yourself to handle your career, life, and kids? What do you do to help yourself be grounded?

I am busy and typically don’t spend time in silence and peace, but I like to listen to things like podcasts, motivational things, and life coaching stuff through podcasts or audiobooks, so I’ll have earphones in my ear when I’m doing the dishes or laundry. I feel like that helps ground me because otherwise, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts and feel resentful about everything you have to do. But if you can focus on the bigger picture and bigger perspective, I think it helps me feel more grounded.

Keep moving forward until you learn and overcome binge eating.

Looking at yourself from the place of the witness. I don’t know where I heard that. It’s one of the million things I studied. It’s like you absorb yourself from the outside. 

It takes some practice to do that. You can’t do it in a minute. You have to practice a few times until you get that. Getting to the habit or breaking your habit takes time.

I agree. Even if you do have awareness and you do realize that not all your thoughts should be taken seriously, we all get caught up in it. I still get caught up in anxious thoughts. No matter how much you know, you can still get caught up in it. 

That’s when people first learn this about binging, and they’re like, “oh my gosh, I followed an urge, and I binged.” You just followed one urge. You just temporarily didn’t realize what was going on, and you didn’t separate. It just can take some practice, but then those urges go away. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have problems in your life and that you won’t struggle with other thoughts, but I do think the urges to perform a specific habit go away. 

Anyone who’s ever smoked or who has ever quit a habit realizes that it’s not like you spend your whole life having these desires for something you can’t do anymore. You look at it as the opposite of pleasure.

Look for help, look for what’s working with you, listen inside, and open your mind to whatever is your truth.

What you said just brought up the word compassion. You got to be very compassionate with yourself. One of my mentors, Dr. Demartini, said, “whatever you did or didn’t do, you’re worthy of love. The first person that should take care of you and be compassionate with you is you.” 

Even when you try, fail, and make a mistake, just keep doing it. Look for help, look for what’s working with you, listen inside, and open your mind to whatever is your truth. Not everybody else’s truth, your truth. From there, you can achieve whatever you want.

I agree with that. That’s what adds so much to this approach. As I mentioned, we have a coach, Coach Julie, who is working with people one-on-one and helping them have that self-compassion, helping them also in a group as well, and helping people see that if you binge, it doesn’t mean all is lost. You just keep going and keep moving forward until you learn and overcome it. You look at the specific challenges you’re facing, and you don’t think, oh my gosh, everything’s a mess. You zero in. Okay, what specifically am I struggling with? For a lot of people, it’s the eating part. 

Some people don’t want to give up dieting, so it’s a lot of making them realize it’s okay to nourish your body. You need to nourish your body because it’s so important in binging. You can stop the binging, but that’s not going to work for very long if you’re not eating enough because it’s just going to come back. It’s really the two components of eating enough and then also learning not to act on the urges. When you do both of those things, you erase the habit.

What are your three top tips for living a stellar life?

One of them would have to be what I said earlier, not all your thoughts are your own, and you are empowered to choose which ones you’re going to believe.

Not all your thoughts are your own, and you are empowered to choose which ones you’re going to believe.

Second, just own your own truth and don’t feel like you have to copy what other people are doing, then be yourself type of thing.

Three, don’t go on a diet. I understand that some people need to eat in certain ways for certain reasons, health, and all those things. I never want to discourage health, but I think it’s so important not to deprive your body of the aim of losing weight and not to put yourself in that starvation state. It just creates a lot of problems. Just nourishing yourself would be my third tip.

Kathryn, before we say goodbye, can you share a little bit about your website? Where can people find you? Where can they find you on social media and all that good stuff?

My website is brainoverbinge.com. There, you get my podcast, my blog, the coaching I talked about, one-on-one coaching, and group coaching. You can learn about my books. My books are also on Amazon. 

I also have an online course that’s self-paced. That’s also at brainoverbinge.com. For anyone who’s new to this approach, I do have a free ebook on brainoverbinge.com where you can just sign up. You can download a 30-page guide that brings you all the basics of this approach to see if it’s right for you. Hopefully, that will give you a place to start.

That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for this conversation and for helping so many people by being true to who you are.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Thank you. And thank you, listeners. Remember to be empowered, choose your own thoughts, and nourish your body. This is Orion. Until next time. 

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓}Focus on your healing and trust the process. In order to stop binge-eating, you need to remain focused on what you can control to achieve recovery.

{✓}Stop comparing yourself to others. Recognize that you are on a unique recovery journey and let others’ success fuel your own motivation.

{✓}Reflect on what urges your binging behavior. Develop a strategy to reduce your urges to binge based on how your thoughts and feelings when the urges to binge arise.

{✓}Feel free to let go of restrictive dieting if it doesn’t work for you. To simplify your recovery, observe how your brain responds to each preventative process you try: If it’s not serving you, it’s not for you.

{✓}Your weight does not define you. Prioritize nourishing your body and develop eating habits that suit you.

{✓}Remain focused on the bigger picture. Give yourself the power to decide how your days will unfold. Breathe good thoughts into your body and use your higher cognitive power.

{✓}Be patient with yourself and take things slowly. Take time to appreciate each moment as you recover.

{✓}As you overcome your eating disorder, continue co-creating your destiny with your inner wisdom. Use your recovery and your talents to inspire and help others. Your recovery journey can serve as an example for those suffering from the same disorder.

{✓}Reframe your understanding of your urges through Kathryn Hansen’s 5 components. Urges become meaningless and harmless brain glitches once you learn to channel the appropriate emotion and embrace the positive changes that occur as your body recovers.

{✓}Visit Kathryn Hansen’s website to listen to her podcast, follow her blogs, and have a one-on-one or group coaching session with her. Enroll in her self-paced online course or sign up for a free eBook on Brain Over Binge Basics.

Links and Resources

About Kathryn Hansen

Kathryn Hansen recovered from bulimia in 2005, and since then, she has been dedicated to educating and empowering people who struggle with all forms of binge eating.

She is the author of Brain over Binge (2011) and the Brain over Binge Recovery Guide (2016), and she hosts the Brain over Binge Podcast.

Disclaimer: The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Orion Talmay, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.

Facebook Comments