Sunday, March 25, 2012

I've been binging the last three days

And it's awful. It's not fun or pleasurable. It's highly distressing.

In terms of amounts, my binges are way smaller. The first two days, it was Easter candy and today it was angel food cake and whipped cream. But smaller amounts are little consolation. And frankly, I'm GLAD my standards are changing. I want them to. I'm glad I now find eating 6 servings of malted milk balls in a day to be alarming and depressing instead of no big deal. (The package contained a total of 7 servings, and it was hard for me to not finish the box just for the sake of finishing it.)

One of the frustrating things about blogging is that I say something one day, and truly mean it--such as when I declared the other day that "I no longer feel compelled to finish things just for the sake of finishing things"--and then days like today, I have to turn around and announce that I was wrong. Something will occur that shows me I haven't moved entirely past this issue or that behavioral tendency, and then I feel embarrassed about my earlier statements. I try to be conservative in my proclamations to avoid this very thing, but it still happens.

How did I fall into binging again? Well first, I felt urges to binge for three straight days. On the evening of the third day, I developed a killer headache. That was my breaking point. I was beyond frustrated that the urges did not abate for three days despite my efforts to ignore them, neutralize them, distract myself, calm myself through meditation...none of my regular techniques worked. I was already raw from that, and add a bad headache and a really monstrous period and I just didn't care anymore. I wanted relief from the urges to binge NOW and there was one surefire way to accomplish that: binge.

So, I now know what my current breaking point is. It used to be I couldn't withstand the urges for mere hours. Now I can tolerate up to three days of irritating urges before giving in, but I can't tolerate four days or five days. And I guess can't tolerate the urges coupled with severe physical pain. When I say "can't", I mean that my firsthand experience indicates I cannot YET do it; that my skills and strength aren't sufficient for that level of challenge.

The next time I face a real challenging stretch of days, I may do much better. Maybe I'll be better at disassociating from the urges, better at calming myself, or better at interrupting my behavioral patterns by then.

One might wonder why I felt urges to binge for three straight days in the first place. I think many of the things that have historically triggered my urges to binge simply happened simultaneously: hormones and a very atypical period, problems in two of my closest relationships, health worries, exhaustion from special errands I was doing for someone this week, rumination over career concerns, and more. It was an uncharacteristically bad week. Yet these triggers didn't make a binge inevitable. All these triggers would have amounted to nothing had I dealt with the urges they sparked in a more skillful way.

All this has reminded me of what Hansen says in Brain Over Binge--

1. Life is messy and it's impossible to control or avoid triggers, especially when you have lots of potential triggers. So the answer lies in dealing effectively with the urges you experience, not in directly managing/tackling triggers.

2. I binged to get rid of my urges to binge. The urge to binge IS the disorder itself.

3. By binging, I reinforced my brain's problematic wiring. Each day of binging was more extreme than the day before, and I felt increasingly out of touch with my Highest Human Brain/Highest Self as the binging went on.

I must become calm and non-reactive in the face of my urges. I'm trying to figure out how to do that consistently. It's led me to try meditation, work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy exercises, and more. I marvel at how Hansen was able to just...stop. So quickly. She understood how her brain was tripping her up, decided to look at the urges she experienced through a different lens, and made rapid progress from there. If I play the comparison game too much, I start to get scared that I'm "doing it wrong" or that "this approach won't REALLY work for me." But rationally I know that just because something is difficult doesn't mean my approach is faulty. (Quite the opposite, usually!)

I admit I miss the honeymoon period I enjoyed when I first finished reading the book: things seemed very clear and easy to me for a few weeks. I still consider Brain Over Binge a fantastic resource and a trusty map forward! But more and more, I feel like the real work is just beginning for me.


  1. Depending on the situation (how long it has been since I just let myself eat whatever I wanted), I will "binge" (really, they are now 'mini binges') if I want to. I think this is a stress release valve not only for the mind, but also the body. There's a lot of pent up need from lots of deprivation and saying, "no" to your body and mind all of the the time. In those cases, I just say, "I want to eat a lot and I'm going to do it."

    For me, the mini binge itself or the desire to do it does not matter. I think this is normal animal (including human) behavior. It's a psychological snapping back of the rubber band. Resisting for days and days doesn't make it go away for me. Giving in often resets my ability to return to normal patterns because it confirms that I have choices and control. Sometimes, I choose to eat a lot. Sometimes, I choose to eat a little. It's not control if I feel emotionally railroaded into one "right" choice.

    I think part of mastering your relationship with food is not lying to yourself about what is going on and it's a lie if you say you choose to eat less when you desperately want to eat more. Choices include options. Sometimes, I opt to eat a lot and sometimes I opt to eat a lot of nutritionally suspect food. This confirms for me that there are true choices, and not just some illusion that diet culture likes to spoon feed people.

    Does this slowdown weight loss? Probably. Do I care? No. I care about my behaviors and my overall psychological relationship with food because the weight will eventually follow.

    I can't speak for you, but I think that smaller binges are a very positive direction to be moving in. Never bingeing again is probably off the table for all humans (and animals, which I know from experience will eat themselves sick on occasion). The question isn't if, but how often and how much. I act in accord with my nature, and so far, it's going pretty well for me, but you have to do what works for you.

    1. Thanks for sharing your unique perspective on this, SFG. Lots to think about here, and this part especially grabbed me:

      "It's not control if I feel emotionally railroaded into one "right" choice."

      What you're saying makes sense to me.

      When I was trying to make sense of everything immediately post-binge, I was most upset about the amount of food I had eaten. Now that it's been a day or so, what disturbs me looking back was the WAY I ate the malted milk balls (for example). Instead of sitting down with a big bowl and enjoying myself, I went through this ridiculous routine of: take a handful, eat them not that attentively and kind of furtively, put them away, then go back and get them out of the cupboard 45 minutes later, repeat cycle. All while worrying I was out of control again. It was my old pattern and I didn't like it. Had I given myself permission to simply indulge without guilt, I'm guessing I'd have felt differently about it.

      This other thing you said: "I care about my behaviors and my overall psychological relationship with food because the weight will eventually follow." I 100% want to hold this conviction and take this approach, yet I suspect that at some level, preoccupation with my weight is complicating matters for me. And I think reporting my losses, or lack thereof, on my blog is a component of the weirdness that's developing on that front. ANOTHER thing to think about.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  2. I second the notion of psyological food relating to be primary and how the body responds to be secondary.

    1. Good to know others think this...

    2. I'm thinking about you today; hope you are doing well.