This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
This story makes mention of eating disorders that may be disturbing to some of our audience. To find support, contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre at 1-866-NEDIC-20.
Kenzie Brenna is celebrating a milestone.
On Sunday, the Canadian body-positivity advocate shared an Instagram Reel marking 181 days free of binge eating at home as a “coping mechanism.” In the video, Brenna described snacking on chips and popcorn, specifically, as her longtime method of “numbing out” at home to manage stress.
"I have abstained from eating chips and popcorn at home for 181 days. That's a really big deal to me," she began before noting that for her, chips and popcorn were “beyond” comfort food; they were her safety in moments of distress, providing a sense of “hypoarousal."
"To abstain from that was so hard for the first 30 to 60 days, and now I don't even miss it at all,” she shared.
Brenna noted that while she managed to keep chips and popcorn off her radar at home, she allowed herself to eat popcorn at the movies occasionally, as it was “complimentary to the experience.”
Brenna assured followers that the journey wasn't about dietary restrictions or achieving a thinner body, but about setting boundaries and making conscious choices about her consumption.
"For people who emotionally binge eat, these are really big accomplishments. Especially, when the goal is not to make your body thinner. The goal is to exercise your boundaries and make clear decisions around what you're ingesting," she said.
“If you struggle with food consumption, if you struggle with binge eating and emotional eating, and you snack out quite a bit at home, I have a lot of compassion for you. It's so painful to address,” she added.
In her caption, Brenna reiterated her message of self-love and resilience. She recalled growing up with chips and popcorn always readily available in her home, making it especially challenging to let them go, writing, “We have always had them in our house and the ability to abstain from them has never been in the realm of what was possible unless i was dieting.”
The Toronto-based influencer admitted that even when she was dieting, she would “abuse” herself on Sundays by eating whatever she wanted. “I would say, ‘Well on Sundays I can have whatever I want!’ and then would proceed to abuse my body.”
Brenna confessed she felt “ridiculously silly” sharing this milestone, writing, “I shame and judge myself for the fact that it is hard to say goodbye to these foods… It is hard for me to confront the truth.”
“I’ve never felt more proud of myself,” the content creator penned. “You have to trust that it will be okay, in the moments when your body and brain is screaming for it."
What is binge eating disorder?
Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by consuming large quantities of food in a short period of time. Although similar to bulimia, people with BED don't purge after consuming large amounts of food. After a binge, people with BED often feel a loss of control, or guilt and shame afterwards.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) symptoms of BED include eating more rapidly than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry, and eating alone due to embarrassment about the quantity of food consumed.
Statistics Canada reports that BED affects a significant number of Canadians, with 2 per cent of the population experiencing the disorder in their lifetime.
At any point in time, approximately 600,000 to 990,000 Canadians meet the criteria for an eating disorder; 80 per cent of people with eating disorders are women. These disorders are not just about food; they are complex mental health conditions that deeply affect a person's identity, worth, and self-esteem.
People are at a higher risk of developing BED if they have a family history of disordered eating, have a history of addiction or substance abuse, have body dysmorphic disorder or depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or a personal history of abuse and trauma.
What are the complications of binge eating disorder?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, some health complications from binge eating disorder include:
Type 2 diabetes
fatty liver disease
Aside from physical health complications, people with untreated mental health issues are at risk for self-harm, increased antisocial behaviour, increased depression and anxiety, erratic behaviour like stealing or hoarding food.
Binge eating disorder is often under-diagnosed
The CMHA reports that BED is under-diagnosed among women, partly due to stigma and a lack of awareness. Many women may not seek help due to shame or not recognizing their eating behaviours as a disorder.
Effective treatment for BED often requires a complex approach, including psychological counselling, and sometimes medication. There's a growing recognition of the need for gender-specific treatment approaches that address the unique challenges and societal pressures women face.