Sunday, January 22, 2012

Binging versus Overeating

I experienced the difference yesterday.

A (skinny, hyper, athletic) friend came over and it was his wish to have a movie & junk food night with me. Since 2005, making muddy buddies (also known as "puppy chow") about once a year has been a tradition of ours. He got a bucket of KFC for dinner and brought the Chex cereal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, etc. for the puppy chow. We had a nice long visit in the living room first, then the rest of the night was all about the food and entertainment.

By the end of the night, I had overeaten both fried chicken and puppy chow, and had eaten while watching TV/movies, which is something I want to stop doing. I am absolutely not blaming my friend for my own voluntary actions, but I will say that I found it hard to remain mindful in the midst of visiting with him and handling his chaotic energy. (I am much more subdued and mellow--an introvert--and can find it jolting to be around boisterous people. I sort of "lose myself" and then require time to recuperate. I'd been doing well with mindful eating recently because my husband has been away for 2 weeks on business and I've had a quiet home, time to myself, and space to explore a new pattern of eating.) Anyway, not only did I find it hard to focus on how fast and how much I was eating, but I was uncomfortable telling my friend I didn't want to eat during the movie, because that's EXACTLY what he wanted to do...and it's what I've willingly done with him for seven years now.

The bottom line is that I am going to have to figure out how to navigate these scenarios better in the future so that I don't overeat in them. Isolating myself and turning down social invitations is not the answer; learning to regulate myself somehow in less-than-perfect/peaceful situations has to be the way forward.

At one point towards the end of the visit, I found myself standing at my kitchen counter and eating the puppy chow rather fast out of a little bowl. I felt sort of out of control, like it would be almost impossible for me to stop eating right then and there, walk away, and leave the rest of the contents of the bowl untouched. I finished the bowl as these thoughts and anxieties ran their course. I didn't pour any more out for myself, and I sent all leftover chicken, puppy chow, and ingredients (again: chocolate chips and peanut butter) home with my friend shortly afterward.

Once the house was quiet, I started wondering if I had binged. I had eaten too much, too quickly, in a short period of time. And at one point, I had felt out of control--helpless to stop. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had simply overeaten. I had not binged. Re-reading my recent post, How will I know whether I'm binging?, clarified the matter further for me. I had not carried out one my three "classic" binge patterns. And that moment of feeling out of control that worried me? I ate two more small mouthfuls to finish off that bowl and I DID walk away from the remaining cups and cups of puppy chow sitting in a bag next to my bowl on the counter. And it was no big deal. If I had truly been out of control or lost in a binge, I would have reached into that bag for another handful, or poured myself another small bowl and kept eating.

What's more, I did not take part of the leftovers to binge on after my friend's departure, despite his repeated offers for me to keep some of the food. I did not have feelings of anxiety or longing or desperation or anger as I put all the leftovers in a shopping bag for my friend to take home. I had no desire to run to the grocery store and get more treats to eat in private once I had the house to myself again. I felt no need to binge the next day (meaning today, a Sunday) and then "start over" on Monday. This is so, so different from my usual patterns of desire and behavior.

What's even wilder is that I am finding it effortless to eat lighter today as a natural compensation for all the indulgent food I had yesterday. My husband used to plead with me: honey, if you indulge, just go easy the next day. That's what I do, and then everything balances out. Please do this! I was never able to explain to him why I COULDN'T do that. I understood the principle, and I didn't disagree with him about the usefulness of it, but I just. could. not. do. it. because my urges to binge the next day were too much for me.

I hope it's not too early to say that something wonderful is happening to me.
I'm saying it with trepidation, like it might all go to crap again in the blink of an eye...but all this sure feels wonderful.

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