I'm part of the way through a massive brain re-wiring job, and my mixed eating behavior reflects that.
There have been days over the past few weeks where I've wondered if I've changed at all, because it's still normal for me to eat 2 or 3 cupcakes at a time instead of 1 (or none). I often don't want to slow down and eat mindfully; I still want to overeat; I still want to eat when I'm not hungry. I overate ice cream straight from the carton last week and felt out of control, like I "couldn't" stop.
But there HAVE been changes, and I suspect I have been taking them for granted. I opt to panic about what hasn't changed instead of appreciating what has changed.
One of the things that has changed is I no longer feel compelled to finish something just to "be done with it" or "get it out of the house." Binge eaters, past or present, know what I'm talking about. You eat all of the ice cream because knowing it's in your freezer drives you crazy. You bake a cake and polish it off the next day, just so it's over and no longer in the house. Who cares whether eating it is enjoyable--you just have this weird drive to eat it all and put it behind you. And you definitely want to be the one to have the last piece/scoop/portion.
That's definitely changed. I overate that ice cream last week, but I didn't finish it. There was a serving or so left in the bottom of the carton. It sat in the freezer for a couple of days. Then my brother-in-law came over and in the course of our snacking and visiting, I offered him the remainder of the ice cream. He finished it and I felt nothing--none of my old suffering or weirdness. I just didn't care. To recap, this was a two-part victory: not caring that uneaten ice cream was sitting in my freezer, and not caring that someone else finished it.
I recently baked cupcakes and ate spoonfuls of batter in my usual compulsive way during the preparation, which was disheartening. But I also froze many of the finished cupcakes so we could have them slowly over the coming days/weeks, and that's a very new development. True, I tend to eat them two at a time, or to smother them with whipped cream, which doesn't help with weight loss, but I don't feel tortured by the cupcakes sitting in my freezer. I don't care whether my husband eats the last few cupcakes. I can always make more.
Another change: I often want to overeat or eat multiple sweets a day, but I never feel tempted to carry out a classic binge. The fact that I don't want to buy a package of cookies and a pint of ice cream and a candy bar, and then eat it all in 45 minutes in front of the TV, in secret, is a major development! That doesn't even sound fun or pleasurable to me anymore.
But overeating? Eating in the absence of hunger? Eating dessert with lunch and then again after dinner? Still fun. Still pleasurable. I re-read "Brain Over Binge" over the last few days and did some thinking about this. And I realized that my complete recovery from disordered eating is going to look a little different than the author's, and it will take longer, and that's okay. The author was a naturally thin athlete with normal eating behavior before her bulimia took hold. Once she stopped binging and purging, she returned to the normal eating patterns of her childhood and early teenage years and her weight stabilized around 120 pounds. That's about how much she weighed before her disordered eating began. She sort of came full circle.
I cannot remember a time I was a normal eater or a normal weight. I weighed somewhere in the 135-145 range in 4th grade (and got my period when I was ten and a half, for what it's worth). I have been overeating and eating without hunger since early childhood. Full-blown binging came later, during my teenage years, but I had about 15 years of overeating wired into my brain before the binging even started.
So I've come to understand that even if I stop binging, I'm still going to want to overeat. It's a separate problem from the binging, in a way. I have to re-wire myself in that area too, and until I do, the excess eating will keep me fat. I'm facing a two-part recovery at the very least: address the binging, then address the many forms of overeating. It's going to take awhile, and so will arriving at a reasonable weight.
(Also? I'm straying off topic here, but I've got no idea what my "right" weight is. I know it's not 250 and I know it's not 120. I have felt pretty damn good at 175 before, during a period of dieting in college, and I would feel downright slim at 150. But it's all conjecture; I've got no idea what I can maintain in a healthy, relaxed fashion throughout my thirties and beyond. Anyway, I've just set my sights on 200 for now.)
There is some ambiguity in terms of when overeating crosses over into binging, even though I've previously attempted to delineate clearly what constitutes a binge for me. Some of what I used to call binging, I'm starting to view as overeating. I hope that soon, I will feel confident that the binging is truly behind me and that I can tackle the overeating piece of the puzzle without it backfiring.