Confessions of a [Recovering] Binge Eater

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I used to be obsessed with food.

It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up, and the last thing I thought about before my mind finally shut down and I fell asleep for the night.  I was constantly obsessing about what I had eaten, what I wanted to eat, what I was going to eat next.  I looked at recipe books and food blogs and ate and thought and planned and ate…and hated myself for all of it.

I remember looking at food and seeing numbers.  Calories.  I divided foods into safe and unsafe foods, good and bad foods.

Once I wanted egg-in-a-hole (if you do not know what this is then get yourself to my house with haste and I will make you a delicious breakfast).  But I couldn’t have it of course.  Too many calories.  Too much fat.  So I modified it.  I nixed the egg.  Eggs are bad for you.  I also tossed out the butter.  Butter would most certainly make me fat.

So I picked up a slice of spongy, disgusting 40-calorie bread and misted it with cooking spray.

Then I cooked it in a frying pan.  And ate it.

It tasted weird and metallic.  It was disgusting.  But I ate it and pretended it was good, pretended that it satisfied me and congratulated myself on my self control.

And then I inhaled a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and half a block of cheddar cheese.

You see, the flip side of this sort of restrictive behavior for me was bingeing.  All that denying myself, all that carefully controlled portioning and measuring and counting and managing–it was like stretching a rubber band.  Once it reached its limit, it would snap back–with equal and opposite force.

A binge was a complete loss of that control.  I would just start eating and my brain would shut off; and I would have no clear memory of how I came to be standing in front of the pantry, holding an empty box of Wheat Thins and a decimated bag of trail mix.

I was so, so ashamed of this “dark side”.  I just knew that people would be disgusted with me if they knew how I really was.  Lazy.  Undisciplined.  Weak.  Every time I binged, I was left with a sickeningly full stomach and a massive black cloud of shame and self-loathing.

What is wrong with me?  Why can’t I stop eating?  I tried to counteract the massive amount of calories I would consume in my binges with purging, and with exercise.  I remember eating 8 pieces of pizza and then forcing myself to go on a 5-mile run, as if to atone for my “sin”.  (And just in case you think that is a good idea, let me tell you that it is a very, very stupid idea.  I once had to run into a hotel and vomit into a bathroom toilet because five pieces of jalapeño and pepperoni pizza do not make a good pre-run snack.)

I remember high school sleepovers, where our snacks of choice were Doritos + sour cream and anything we could find to dip into canisters of vanilla frosting.  I remember watching a movie, snacking on the Doritos, and not being able to stop.  I remember wondering how the other girls could just watch the movie, seemingly uninterested in the food; when all I could think about, all I could focus on, was that there was food next to me.  I would wake up the next morning with a food hangover, feeling nauseated and bloated, and all I wanted to do was go home and hide.

I literally could not concentrate on anything else when there was food in the room.  Parties and buffets were torture.  Everyone would be mingling, talking, and all I could think was when are we going to eat this damn food?!  It was like this pressure built up inside of me, and I needed to eat so I could move on and think about something else.

I used to bring my lunch to school–and eat the whole thing before first period started.  I literally could not ignore the fact that there was food sitting in my backpack.  It would be there, taunting me, consuming my thoughts, until I gave in and ate it to silence the voices.

One time I ate 36 cookies in one sitting.  (Not that you’re aware enough to count when you’re bingeing.  But I checked later, and that’s how much the recipe made.  I ate all of it.)

I was disgusted with myself.

I never, ever thought I would be able to escape that cycle.  I didn’t think I was strong enough.  I used to pray every day that I could have a normal, healthy relationship with food. I prayed that I could overcome this demon that haunted me; prayed that some day food wouldn’t rule my life anymore.  And yet it happened, again and again and again.

My prayers were answered, but it took a long time.  I had hoped I could overcome it in a month.  It didn’t take a month.  It didn’t even take a year.  It has taken several years of trying and failing and trying again, of changing my thought patterns and reimagining my relationship with food and with my body.  There were so many times that I felt like I would never break free.  It didn’t seem like I was making any progress.  It was only when I looked back and compared myself to where I was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, that I began to see the changes.

I rarely binge now, and I don’t restrict.  I can honestly say that I am not controlled by or afraid of food anymore.  It is possible.  It won’t be quick, and it won’t be easy, but it is possible. 

——

Since I occasionally get concerned emails when I talk about depression or disordered eating, I want you all to know that almost all of this stuff is in the past for me.  Writing helps me to process things though, and if you are struggling with something like this right now, I want you to know you are not alone and that you are not trapped–there is hope.  I found a few really honest blogs when I was struggling and it helped me so much to realize that I wasn’t the only one, and that I wasn’t weak or lazy.

If this post was upsetting or triggering for any of you, I am so, so sorry.  That was not my intention at all.  Please let me know in the comments.  I can preface all of my ED-related posts with a warning if that would be helpful, so you can skip the ones that wouldn’t support your recovery at this time.  I will not be offended; I have had to stop reading and watching things in the past because they were triggering for me.  Taking care of yourself comes first, and it’s hugely important that you be honest with yourself regarding what is and is not okay for you.

Love.

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11 thoughts on “Confessions of a [Recovering] Binge Eater

  1. I know we’ve talked about this before, but you expressed binge eating so well here. It really is a numbing experience. It’s like while I’m chewing I don’t have to think about anything, and I don’t know why or how that works. And the rubber band analogy? So, so right. Sometimes I really feel like I’m that rubber band (when it comes to food and just plain life), stretching and stretching until I finally snap and do something bizarre and/or potentially dangerous.

    Anyway, I’ve been trying this intuitive eating thing (even though everybody uses a different definition so it’s hard to tell what it is), and my body has been feeling so much better. I still eat whatever (like last night when I had chips+hummus and then ice cream for dinner), but I have to wait until I’m hungry to eat, and I eat slowly so I can tell when I’m full before I’ve finished an entire container of hummus. And you know what? I am not hungry that often. It’s weird; I never realized how often I ate because I was bored, or upset, or trying not to think about something.

    I love this post, and not just because it’s so relatable.

    *okay, pause. “Relatable” is not a real word. Like, it’s not in the dictionary and there’s a whole New York Times article about it. Okay, end aside.*

    I love it because you’re honest about how long and how much work breaking this cycle takes. So many blogs and books and authors try to offer you a quick fix, promising results in a month, half a year, two weeks, etc. I love it because you don’t lie and you don’t try to cover up or make it look nicer than it actually is.

    • Intuitive eating can have so many different rules, depending on who you ask–you’re exactly right about that. Some of them I don’t follow because certain types of rules turn into a way for me to restrict while pretending I’m being healthy. If that makes sense. (I’ll probably go into that in another post sometime soon.)

      I had/have the exact same experience–it was kind of a shock to realize that probably 90% of the time, I wasn’t eating out of hunger. I was eating out of boredom or loneliness or procrastination or depression or whatevs. And it sucks sometimes because I want to eat more often! Haha. A couple of days ago I had this giant cookie, like the ones you get from a bakery, and I’d already had dinner but I was eating it because I was still a little hungry. Then I hit my full point about 2/3 of the way through, and walked away. I was all, “Look at me, intuitive eating champion!”

      And then I came back a few minutes later and finished the cookie. And then felt sick.

      So. Still a work in progress. 😉

      Yeah, when I was doing worse than I am now and really desperate to change, I did NOT want to hear that it would take years. It’s hard when you want to see results. I wish it was easier.

  2. the whole concept of intuitive eating really is phenomenal, huh? i’m not saying it’s easy, or even fool-proof, but allowing your body food when it is hungry, and stopping when it feels full, really helps counterbalance some of those binge-y feelings. what you described…it all just felt so out of control for me – it must have been for you, too. and that is really scary. i’m sorry you had to go through that.

    • Thank you. It’s such a simple concept, but you are absolutely right–it’s neither easy nor foolproof. I think some of us have to re-learn how to take care of ourselves, and how to trust our bodies. As scary and out-of-control as I felt sometimes, I think deciding to listen to and trust my body (as far as eating, etc) was maybe even scarier. I didn’t know what would happen, whether I would gain weight….I still have those thoughts and feelings sometimes, and have to keep reminding myself that everything is okay, and that even overeating sometimes is perfectly normal and is not a big deal.

  3. Over the past couple years I’ve developed an issue with bingeing but didn’t know if it would be considered a disorder because of the frequency – I’d go for months on end being healthy (calorie counting, obsessing over food and weight, exercising a lot) and then suddenly go on a secret binge frenzy for weeks. Then health for a few months, then binge for several weeks straight. Reading this post was really helpful even just to know that there are ways to overcome it. I just started attempting intuitive eating in hopes that it will help me find a balance and better relationship with food.

    • That must have been so frustrating, to binge after doing so well for so long. Good luck with IE!! Finding that balance can be tricky but it is so freeing to feel like you’re not a slave to that up-and-down cycle anymore.

  4. I can’t believe I’ve only seen this post now – it’s me, to a T. How did you know? And just *how* do other people carry on and watch the movie with the Doritos right there?! I too have improved a lot, albeit at a snail’s pace, over the years, and the only time the demon rears its head is when I’ve had too much to drink, so I need to be careful of that.

    Thanks for sharing this personal, amazingly honest account. I hope you’re doing okay, minus hubby, and that pregnancy is treating you well x

    • Funnily enough, when I started drinking it kind of replaced my nighttime food-shoveling. So now that I can’t have that glass (or glasses…) of wine in the evening, I’ve definitely had some trouble with eating. And Silas leaving has caused me to relapse in a bigger way, as loneliness is one of my triggers. :/ But it’s a slow road, I guess.

      So glad to hear you are doing better, and I was stoked to see you hit the 100 days on SCD mark! You are rocking it. I don’t know if you’ll keep blogging, but I’d love to see how transitioning to Paleo goes for you.

      SCD is still on my mind. I’ve been suffering the consequences of eating crap all the time, and I want to give it another go.

      • It’s such a difficult thing to fight… I think the legacy lasts a lifetime. My mom suffered from very disordered eating as a teenager and YA, and although she ‘came right’ and grew into a very healthy eater, I don’t think the effects ever really left her. For example, she’s always been fairly obsessed with weight, and even now at 64 talks about it often (she struggles with the fact that, having weighed 50kg – or less – her whole adult life, she now weighs 56kg as a result of menopause!). So what I see from her is that it’s a battle you’ll fight your whole life… which sounds exhausting, so taking it a day at a time is probably the answer.

        You’ve been through a ton of changes over these past few months – the move, the pregnancy, Silas leaving – so it’s absolutely no wonder that your old food demons would start to rear their heads. Two steps forward, one step back – but it’s progress nonetheless. Plus you’re probably fighting pregnancy cravings too.

        I don’t know if SCD itself has helped me to get my unhealthy habits under better control, but certainly bingeing on butternut is not as appealing as bingeing on chocolate! The scary thing is that sometimes I’ll still eat things that I know have a bad effect on me (like nuts), just because my desire to eat is greater than my desire to feel good. That’s the most frightening thing for me, and it’s what I’m trying my hardest to fight.

        I think I will keep blogging – I love the interaction and I love being part of this little community 🙂

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