Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How will I know whether I'm binging?

That sounds like a funny question. But if I'm committing myself to no more binges, I need to get clearer on what constitutes a binge, for me.

My behavior falls right in line with clinical descriptions of binge eating disorder. I eat abnormal amounts of (indulgent) food, often when not hungry, in a short period of time. I usually have a few episodes a week. I have eaten to the point of physical pain--from being so overstuffed--and have feelings of shame and regret afterwards. I often sneak food or wait until I'm alone to eat excessively.

Beyond those common themes, I have three kinds of binges. One is where I eat a large amount (usually a package with multiple servings inside) of one thing. I eat an entire package of Oreos in one sitting, or an entire box of snack cakes. I eat most of a quart of ice cream. I eat an entire family size bag of Reese's Pieces. Stuff like that. I do this alone, or at the very least, I eat some in front of others and finish off the rest behind closed doors soon afterward (often lying to my husband that "I threw the rest out", which makes me feel more horrible than the binge itself, and very guilty). I often watch TV or movies when binging this way.

In the second kind of binge, I buy several different things and eat most or all of it in one go. I might buy a pint or two of ice cream, a candy bar, and an individual serving sized bag of chocolate covered pretzels. I always, always do these alone. Again, TV is often involved.

The third kind of binge involves day-long overeating and non-stop grazing on sugary, junky foods. I grab different treats as I go about my day. It's very mindless and scattered, but there's deceit involved, too. I eat at home and then go out to dinner with my husband an hour later. I eat 2 cupcakes privately and then later eat 3 cookies in front of another person. I think these kinds of binges happen when I'm busier than usual or around more people (like when I have company at home) and don't have the opportunity for a "focused" binge.

So, I suppose my answer is: I know that I'm binging if I'm behaving like any of the three scenarios outlined above.

I don't want to make hard and fast rules, such as "if I eat two desserts in a single day, that's considered a binge." Because I think days like that are going to happen, and it's more helpful to note the way I went about eating multiple things. Did I lie to or mislead anyone? Do I feel guilty, paranoid, or ashamed--or did I thoroughly enjoy it? If it was too much, do I think I simply made a poor choice from a health perspective, or did I totally surrender to my animal brain? Did I scarf the stuff down in a desperate manner or try to distract myself with TV to drown out the protests of my rational voice? (Because I think that's what's behind the TV watching while binging. Thus, I think it's a good idea to focus entirely on the treat in front of me from here on out. I WANT to hear my higher brain from now on.)

My default way of eating regular food, by the way, is pretty unstructured and graze-y. It takes effort for me to sit down to distinct meals. I just want to nosh and snack and eat all day even when I'm not binging. I'm trying to make meals more concrete by sitting down at the table and not multitasking, and that should clear up some gray areas as well.

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