New Anatomy of a Binge

My First Auction

Last week I wrote about my addiction to eating. This is the first week I’ve ever approached my eating habits as that…an addiction. Dealing with it the same way I did when I quit smoking. Facing every meal, every snack, every bit of food near my body – as part of my addiction. I’m trying to separate food from crutch. Which – surprisingly – has been quite easy. I guess, when it comes down to it, I can look at food and say, “This is a healthy meal.” And, “this is something that will just feed my addiction to emotional eating.” The trick is to not even take a BITE of ANYTHING in that latter category.

And I’ve done okay. I lost 5lbs. I’ve stayed under my calorie limit every day. For a week. Longer than I’ve ever gone. But it’s been very hard. Like when I quit smoking, without my emotional crutch of food? I’ve been a wreck. I’m depressed and anxious and stressed and tired ALL THE TIME. I’ve cried over the stupidest stuff. (As I write this? Tears on my cheeks from something that would have never made me cry before.) I’m an emotional WRECK. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m BOTH at the SAME TIME all day long. And because I’m not going to bed after eating non-stop for 2 hours, I’m not sleeping well. Evidently my brain thinks I need to be gorged to sleep. Have I mentioned I’m crying a lot? IN FRONT OF PEOPLE?

My point? Those 5lbs have come at a cost. A HUGE COST. But this is part of breaking an addiction. I know that. I’ve been through it with smoking and I’ve supported family and friends who have been through it with more severe addictions. Whether it’s alcohol, or bowls of cereal – if you depend on something to quell your anxiety or depression – giving it up MAKES YOU INSANE.

But…my point? (Evidently giving up up food as an emotional crutch also makes me very distracted and I lose my train of thought.) I survived the week. And I lost 5lbs. And then…TODAY HAPPENED.

There are several types of mistakes. And they all have a wide range of after-effect on your life. There are the mistakes that you don’t even fret about after they happen. You just chalk it up and move on. There are the ones you remember and fret about FOREVER. Then? There are a million types of mistakes in between. All ranging in longevity in haunt-time. How long will that mistake haunt me? 10 minutes? 10 days? 10 years? Well…I made mistakes from ALL THREE CATEGORIES today. And that kind of stress on top of an already fragile Kim? Was the perfect storm for a Binge Day.

It started with ONE 3 Musketeers bar. I knew I shouldn’t eat it. But I got to work and one of my early mistakes was lingering and I couldn’t quit stressing about it so I turned to the vending machine for solace. When I eat a 3 Musketeers it’s like a religious experience. I break off a chunk at a time, peel off the chocolate coating and eat that, then eat the mushy middle. Then I move on to the next chunk. I savored every bite and told myself it would be okay, it was my splurge but it wouldn’t get me off track for the day.

Then, after lunch, I still had to process some stress. So I got another 3 Musketeers bar. And then? 10 minutes later? I GOT ANOTHER ONE. Why do I bring money to work? WHY?

Let’s tally: Outside my breakfast and my lunch that were sensible and healthy, I had THREE 3-Musketeer bars by 3pm. THREE OF THEM. And were they snack size? NO. FULL SIZE. 840 calories of candy bars. IN ONE DAY. *sigh*

Now…I will say this. Before today, my typical binge would end in AT LEAST 2500 calories. AT LEAST. Most days it would be closer to 3500. Today the binge ended in a beer bringing the total to about 2000 calories. More than I would want to lose the weight I want…but less than a typical binge day. So, I’m trying my best to BE POSITIVE. Yes. I ate THREE candy bars today because I still don’t know how to process stress or sadness perfectly without food. I went straight for the candy today. And the beer tonight. BUT – I didn’t KEEP GOING FOR MORE. I stopped at the beer. Which isn’t really food, so I haven’t actually broken my rule about not eating at night.

My point? (SEE. LOSING TRAIN OF THOUGHT.) I had a binge today. I fell of the wagon. But I didn’t stay off. Which is a first. Used to be: When I screwed up the day with one step off the diet path, I threw the rest of the day away. I’d eat fast-food for dinner and milkshakes for a bedtime snack. But tonight? I had a healthy dinner and a beer before bed. THAT’S ALL.

I’m still a basket case. I’m crying at the drop of a hat…losing my patience with my kids…and letting my anxiety take me for a roller coaster ride. BUT – I’m slowly, but surely – learning how to cope emotionally without food. Slowly. One week in and I’m still functioning. I’m depressed and anxious without my edible crutches, but I’m still trying. I’m still facing this one bite at a time.

Will next week be easier? Probably not. The stress in my life will just keep escalating for the next few months. But this is the best time to do this. Baptize myself by fire. It’s the equivalent of quitting smoking cold turkey. I’m trying to quit dealing with my emotional issues with food: Cold Turkey. Am I quitting food? No. I am quitting using eating as a crutch. THAT I’m doing cold turkey.

I’m Kim, and I eat to ease my sadness/anger/anxiety. I’m been trying NOT to do this for 7 days now. And I’m only failing a little bit.

36 Comments

36 thoughts on “New Anatomy of a Binge”

  1. I’m sorry for the negative stressors/mistakes, but I’m super proud of you for hopping back on the wagon. Thank you for being brave enough to talk about your challenges publicly, you’re inspiring me to make better choices in my life. One day at a time, right? HUG!

  2. This is weird: I’ve been trying to join you with this, and coincidentally yesterday _I_ had a slip-up too. Mine was half a 10-ounce box of Russell Stover chocolates and then vodka. But, like you, I didn’t go ALL OUT: it was still less than what it would have been a week ago. And I still exercised that evening, instead of thinking, “Well, I screwed it all up, might as well take a whole evening to eat whatever I want.”

  3. Kim, you’re doing really well! The first week is always the hardest…aw hell, every week is hard until the crutch is broken. I can’t get over that you’re still going to BOOT CAMP–that makes you pretty much a hero in my eyes, because that’d be the first thing out the window for me!

    Have you followed up with looking for a therapist? i know you don’t have a lot of time during your week to go, but, you know…it might help. Annnnd, I don’t know how you feel about antidepressants, but maybe a low dose of something might also be beneficial? just to help you over the hump?

    Anyway, know that we’re all out here rooting for YOU :)

  4. Hi! I’ve been reading your site for a while and just wanted to drop by and say that I totally understand about binge eating…I do the same thing and have done so for years (used to eat entire pizzas by myself when it was finals week in college). The fact that you’ve realized what you’re doing and are making strides to stop yourself? Best first step. You just can’t let set-backs get you too down because they’ll stress you out even more and before you know it your one day oops turns into a one month oops. You’re doing great!!!!!! :)

  5. Ohhh! This is what makes breaking food addiction so damn hard–it’s not like cigarettes or cocaine or something where you can just avoid them completely, because you HAVE to eat. So in my experience, this is going to be a rollercoaster for the rest of your life.

    Your goal might be to sometimes enjoy those delicious foods and be able to move forward without going back for seconds or thirds…but if you sometimes DO, love yourself, and know that tomorrow is a new day. I used to keep a calendar and write a little “B” for binge on each day I felt that I did. Over the months, the number of Bs on each month diminished, and that was success.

    I’ve been inspired by your original post to think of my own emotional overeating in new terms (so thank YOU!)–I’m calling out my actions so that I can look at them from a distance. Every time I’m anxious or sad or bored and want to hit the cookie jar I judge myself on my past actions and say, “I believe the best way to allieviate my emotional discomfort is to binge, feel uncomfortably full, and then hate myself for it.” WTF? Of course I don’t believe this, but this is what my actions say I believe. When I put it in this perspective, it’s easier to say, No. NO.

    (Sorry for the book-length comment here!)

  6. I admire your willingness to share what you are going through. I have tried to explain this to my husband before and I how I use food also as my “de-stresser” but he just doesn’t get it. I too for the past 3 weeks have been trying to replace my night binges with at least healthier options like plain yogurt with honey or a clementine. Last night thought I grabbed 2 cookies (there were only 2 left but I am sure I would have had more if they were there) and a banana muffin. It is a struggle and it takes a lot of self-talk. The driving force for my change is my daughter. I want to lose weight and more importantly teach her how to eat well and be healthy. It’s so hard for us women and especially teaching our young ones positive self-image.

  7. One week! You should be proud of yourself, both for making it and acknowleding where you fumbled a little bit. I know you can make it to two, and three, and so on…

  8. Hang in there. You’re doing just fine, you’re on the right path. Its going to take some time (maybe a lot of it) to figure out how to deal with emotions without using food. But it is a great step for the rest of your life! Try to keep that in mind…temporary pain and frustration now, huge reward later.

  9. You’re doing great Kim, keep going. Acknowledge the failure but focus on the positive. You did a whole week! WOO HOO!! Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been wanting to roll around in Bojangles’ breakfast menu for the past two days but I’ve managed to have oatmeal instead. Easy on the pocket book and my backside. Thank you for setting a good example for me :-)

  10. I have read and heard elsewhere that it takes 2 weeks to break a habit, so give it another week at least and things should ease up somewhat. It will still be there obviously, but the withdrawl symptoms should ease.

    On the anxiety, I have a generalized anxiety disorder. I started going to counseling once and week and went on medication for about a year. According the literature for anxiety, medication and counseling together work better than either alone. The meds work to “get your mind right” so that you are able to learn the behavioral modifications in counseling. And then you can come off the medication. It worked wonders for me. I used to be awake all night long night after night. It took me hours to fall asleep. Hours. Now I can fall asleep in 30 minutes! I still have stress, yes – and 3 years after ending counseling I’m thinking about going back for a tune up, but it was literally the best thing I have ever done for myself. It changed my life.

  11. you are doing really well!! this has to be the hardest battle of our lives.

    FIVE lbs?! i know that’s secondary to the topic, but heck yes, girl! you go!!

  12. I think you are doing a great job. I also struggle with this and haveto talk myself out of food all the time. I’m concerned about you calorie totals though. 840+100 for a beer is 940. Are you saying you only had 1100 calories other than that? While doing boot camp? That seems like way too few to me.

  13. If it makes you feel better, I just ate an entire pie in less than 36 hours. And that was pacing myself. I could have eaten the whole thing in one sitting. I’m telling myself it’s not so bad becasue it was a raspberry pie and at least that’s a fruit, but I know that no matter what’s in it, it’s still AN ENTIRE PIE.

  14. Good for you!

    And, can I say that I think it is quite ironic that you are stopping a food addiction cold TURKEY? Hehe. Hope you can find some light in that this week.

  15. Sending you my support. I know what you are talking about with mistakes that haunt you – I can actually feel them creeping up my back and have to shake them off.

    I was a sucker for free food (office pastries, store samples, buffets at functions) but then I realized these weren’t even good (as in good tasting). I try to eat only things that taste good to me. There are a lot of mediocre foods out there and they aren’t worth it.

  16. You’re doing great, Kim, hang in there! I did a teensy bit better this week, in that I didn’t wolf down a pint of Haagen Dazs every night, but I still definitely have some room for improvement for the coming week.

  17. I just binged (two pieces of pizza, on top of a perfectly delicious salad with tons of stuff in it) and I’m STUFFED, uncomfortably so. Perfect time for me to read this, so as not to beat myself up.

  18. Congratulations. Gosh, do I know how hard it is to STOP the binge. I actually never accomplished that feat. Be proud of your accomplishments-you’re doing superfantastically.

  19. You’ve given a voice to something I’ve struggled with since I was an 11-year-old child. I’ve struggled with anorexia and bulimia as a way to deal with my food vices, and they have nearly destroyed my life. It was only this year after gaining 40 pounds that I realized I needed to address my addiction as just that: an addiction. Your bravery and stark honesty in writing about it has been a huge help for me and given me the reassurance that I’m not alone.

    Keep writing, and keep fighting.

  20. I saw your tweet about the candy bars and I thought “uh-oh,” but then it was so good to see that it stopped there. That’s an impressive step–I know how easy it is to slip up and then use that as an excuse to keep eating. I’ve eaten 9 cupcakes in the last 11 days (some of them bought after my Saturday long run-so stupid!). This stuff is hard.

  21. I know you’re not at the same level as this author, but this book (http://www.amazon.com/Hungry-Lessons-Learned-Journey-Thin/dp/0738211052) is a great read. Short and fast, but real insight into how an eating disorder like this looks from the inside. It’s interesting what you say about “one bite” because he was the same way. He set up a street light system and grouped foods. “Red” food were ones that he knew he couldn’t control himself around and those were the ones he had to cut permanently from his diet in order to control the addiction aspect of this. Anyway, thought you might find it interesting. Sounds like you’re doing great on these first very difficult steps!

  22. Kim, along the same vein as what Liz above says – I found a FREE book on Amazon for your Kindle that you might want to at least read the description for. It sounds a lot like what you’re going through. It’s called Ravenous: A Food Lover’s Journey from Obsession to Freedom. Sorry, but I forgot to get the author’s name in my rush to get to your site and tell you about it!

  23. I am SO proud of you. SO PROUD.

    I too struggle with food. I know it comes from an emotional, unstable place and while I have other family members who fight far more severe addicitions, many people don’t consider food an addiction, but I get it. Oh, I get it. In late 2008 I lost 40lbs. 2009 was fantastic for me and I thought I kicked it….which led to spending 2010 gaining 32 of it back. THIRTY TWO POUNDS IN A YEAR. I’ve been known to gain 10lbs in a six week time slot, if given the chance. I use food as my crutch, my lifeline and my sanity. When I think no one else gets it, no one else understands, no one really cares, I know food will always be there. The comfort of my life has been food and kicking that is so so so difficult, but I’m on day four. I had a doctors appt Monday and was mortified at the scale. I have another doctors appt in mid-May and told the nurses to anticipate a huge change between now and then.

    Sadly, its the addiction (not to food, or anything in particular, just the ADDICTION) that brings me close to my mother. It’s the only thing that helps me understand why she chooses alcohol and drugs over her children. She doesn’t. She fights it. But it’s her comfort. And I get that.

    Anyway, keep it up. So proud and so inspired to know I’m not alone.

  24. Kim, you are so amazing for posting this. I wish you the best in your journey. Seems like you’re heading in the right direction to me!

  25. I am so proud of you for writing about this and dealing with it. Food is SO hard and yes, we have to have it. It’s very hard to re-learn habits and to realize when we’re eating to cope vs. eating to nourish. I encourage you to stop thinking about calories..and if you get the chance, pick up Women, Food, and God. It really helped me think about food in a different way.

  26. This may be naieve, but would chewing gum help? Keep your mouth busy with fewer calories?

    Hang in there, Kim, you can do this.

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