When you binge eat, you feel like you’re helping yourself.
That this delicious, saliva-inducing food that’s calling to you and will somehow save you from what’s going on in your life right now. And you will, magically, go unharmed in the process.
They tell you that you’re less likely to binge eat if you remove the temptation– clearing your fridge and cupboards of junk food, desserts, and unhealthy snacks. But they don’t know me.
Even going out and buying the food can be exciting in itself. The fact that you’re purchasing the exact junk food you want for your party of one can be exhilarating! It’s like it’s YOUR special day where you can eat it ALL, and you don’t have to share any with ANYONE.
Finally, after weeks of dieting and eating only clean foods, you’re free to eat whatever the hell you want to. The headache, the constant tummy growling, and the daily fatigue will all go away if you just eat the whole chocolate cake, bag of salty potato chips, and bucket of creamy ice cream.
It takes a tremendous amount of self-control not to tear open the grocery bags when you get back to your car and just start shoveling handfuls into your mouth. But you hold off because there are people around who might see you. You don’t want them to know what kind of terrible food fatty you are.
When you get home, you don’t bother putting any food into the fridge for safe keeping. None of this will be saved. Anything you can’t immediately stuff inside you will sit on the kitchen table until you feel like eating again. And if there still isn’t room in your belly for the leftovers, they go reluctantly in the garbage. All evidence of a binge has to be hidden.
…and that’s where I’ll stop you.
I’m writing all of this because this was what I went through on a regular basis.
It wasn’t rare to consume a large pepperoni pizza, 12 jumbo cookies from a bakery, and a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream all in one sitting. Or 2 dozen assorted donuts. Or an entire ice cream cake with a bag of caramel popcorn. Or a bag of tortilla chips with dip and a casserole dish of fresh baked brownies.
It happened for 2 very specific reasons:
1. At the end of my 150-pound weight loss journey, I cut sugar and junk food out of my diet completely because I thought it would help me get better results.
Instead, the deprivation on a daily basis led to intense cravings for sugary foods. My thoughts told me to eat the candy bars at work in the bathroom stalls and get off the bus at the grocery store stop so that I could purchase brownies from the bakery. I felt like I had a little devil on my shoulder whispering things in my ear and the little angel (who was supposed to be the voice of reason) was nowhere to be found.
I went to Overeater’s Anonymous for help… Instead, we read from their book, recited scripture, reflected on our binges, and continued to abstain for that evil sugar enemy. Had I just stuck to having treats in my diet on a semi-regular basis, the cravings and deprivation wouldn’t have happened… and I would have continued to lose weight.
2. I didn’t know how to handle stressful life situations. I relied on habits and routines most of my life, so when something unexpected happened, I was unprepared.
Being organized and planning sometimes backfires. You can’t plan for a breakup, death, unexpected essays to write, unemployment, etc. Feelings of worry, anxiety, overwhelm, grief, rejection, and sadness lead me to seek comfort in food and alcohol. I didn’t know it was okay to feel those emotions and use them to do something productive (or creative even).
Instead, I tried my best to escape them… I wanted happy and only happy… because that’s what we’re taught is essential to life.
If you feel like I’ve just retold your story, I promise I’m not hiding in your bedroom closet watching you.
I know your story because it was my story.
At some point, you will stop searching for the magic answer in scientific literature that continues to demonize sugar… so that you can PROVE you MUST be addicted.
You’ll stop buying food addiction and sugar craving books.
You’ll stop hopping from one Paleo-esque diet to the next.
You’ll stop being the victim of diet and media marketing manipulation.
You’ll stop believing you’re a good person when you eat vegetables and a bad person when you eat a corn dog.
You’ll eventually stop being able to exercise off your weight gain from binging.
You’ll come to terms with that fact that you were SANE when you weren’t dieting and restricting your favorite foods. You didn’t think about (or crave) food 24/7. You didn’t push people away so that you could eat in secret. You didn’t feel regret and shame immediately after eating.
You’ll also eventually learn from some self-help guru that reacting from your emotions is what continues to get you into trouble. You’ll learn how to feel and process your emotions in a way that’s not self-destructive. And the first time you practice and succeed at doing it… it will feel like a whole new world has opened up to you. You had no idea this was possible or how amazing it is to use something so harmful in a way that is actually helpful. This will excite you and encourage you to be on constant lookout for favorable outcomes in all negative feelings.
Finding an opportunity to create positive change in your life becomes your new addiction.
But first, you have to give yourself PERMISSION to let go of “clean eating” and rigid control over your food (and life). It doesn’t mean you revert to being a lazy couch potato (if that was your life before). But it does mean you need wiggle room to grow and explore your life on a different level. And that can feel like a huge risk.
Every day, we are faced with risk. Even sitting in the safety of your home is a risk. Someone could murder you in your sleep. Despite all of your good intentions and preparing, you will never be 100% safe. So “risk” really means nothing.
You might lose face. Your friends might judge you if you aren’t dieting and exercising the same way they are. Your mom will think you’re nuts when you turn down the offer to get ice cream when you’ve had a rough day. But eventually, you have to stop caring so much what other people think and help yourself out of the chaos and crazy making.
You’ll quickly realize that taking your own path to healthy living and happiness is rebellious. And it feels uncomfortable at first. Even lonely. While your friends detox and run marathons, you might find yourself eating your salad with potato chips on the side and going for a peaceful hike instead of a pre-planned 3-mile beat-the-shit-out-of-you-sweatfest.
It happens… and this is where you find yourself. Out of the routine. Out of the comfort of KNOWING EXACTLY what’s going to happen.
You start appreciating things you took for granted… like the clouds and crayons.
You have real conversations with people about important topics that actually matter (non-food and exercise related).
You share more of yourself with the world because you finally have something to offer when you’re not obsessed with your food.
You discover how good you are. And that you’ve been good all along.
When the obsession to control your food and feelings (in order to be a better person) goes away, you have nothing left to be but yourself.
Then, you do the things that make you happy at your core.
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