Confessions of a Binge-Eater

I’ve been drafting this post for a while now and decided it was time to finish it after feeling the desire to submerge my entire head in a serving bowl of homemade mashed potatoes Sunday morning. [Side note: This was quite an occurrence – I made them! We eat mashed potatoes maybe once a year and I never cook.]

Some of my previous posts have touched on my food issues. You can read An Unashamed Therapy Dropout for some background, but here are the important points:

1) Binge eating did not make me fat.
I’m fat for a variety of reasons, all of which I own up to (overeating mixed with lackluster exercise made me fat; genetics and medications helped me take that to the obese level). I really shouldn’t have to explain that I understand why I’m fat, but since society likes to thinks anyone with a few extra pounds is stupid and in extreme denial, I’ll just get it out of the way anyway. I did not develop this particular food issue until I was already overweight – already obese, actually. Obviously, binge eating does contribute to maintaining my overweight status.

2) Binge eating disorder is not bulimia.
I want to point this out not to argue that binge eating is “better” to experience than bulimia, but because it is really easy to overlook binge eating as an eating disorder since it lacks that purging element. Not throwing up = just a fatty-fat-fat overeating again. And that brings me to my next point. . .

3) Binge eating is different than overeating.
Everyone over-indulges sometimes. Some of us over-indulge too often. That is not binge eating; that is being a normal human being.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a 2-hour period
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

The lack of control and emotional response are key here. For me, eating when I’m full/not hungry is a big part of it too. If I’m binging, I can eat while my brain screams at my arms to put it down. It’s like I’m on autopilot and there is a complete disconnect in my body.

A couple of sub-points:
a. Skinny people can struggle with binge-eating just as easily as overweight people.
b. You can ::gasp:: binge on healthy foods too!

I can binge on anything in a bad moment, but prefer items containing cheese and individual sweets. What do I mean by individual sweets? If you put a cake in front of me, I’ll likely just eat my piece and move on. If you put petit fours in front of me, I might eat 100. Parties with hor d’oeuvres are my own personal hell. Mix-in my introvert tendency to hover near the food table for easy conversation and I’m in a very bad place.

Some things I’ve binged on that you might find unusual: lima beans, cold pasta noodles, olives

So, what am I doing to tackle my binge eating? For starters, I don’t bring any individually-wrapped or cute-sized foods (especially sweets!) into my home. If something does make it in for some reason, I try to keep it out of sight until I can take it somewhere to share. Putting items into plastic containers in my refrigerator works too. But this is not a fail-safe solution! One late night after everyone is asleep and I could lose control.

During my short time in therapy, I learned to spot the feelings that tend to lead to my binge eating episodes. Recognizing what is happening means I can take steps to stop it or – at the very least – let my husband know that I feel like binging. Support really helps. I’m far less likely to binge if I’ve acknowledged it.

It is an ongoing process, for sure.

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