When I binge, I feel like crap. Not just physically, of course – there’s an emotional aftermath as well. Shame, guilt, revulsion, regret, anger, fear. In some cases that can even lead to additional bingeing; that is, you have an emotion like shame or anger that you don’t want to deal with, so you binge in the first place, then you are left with additional shame and anger afterward that you don’t want to deal with… and so on.
These emotions were always difficult to deal with, but never more so than when I was actually dieting. Here I am trying to do my best, to learn the rules of “good” foods and “bad” foods, but… food makes me feel guilty. And ashamed. And angry. After all of these years, even “good” food makes me a nervous wreck. What if I eat a salad and then it isn’t enough for me? Guilt. What if I order the plain chicken with veggies at the restaurant and those people at the next table smirk at me because
they look at how fat I am and they know that dieting is just a waste of
time for me? Shame. What if I eat the carrots and the celery and the
apples for a snack and then a giant glass of water because that’s what
I’m supposed to snack on and it’s supposed to make me feel full only it
doesn’t and now I’m miserable and hungry and confused and that effing
diet guru is a moron? Anger.
So, dieting makes me bingey, NOT dieting makes me bingey, and hey, bingeing makes me bingey. WTF?
What it boils down to is that there is no escape. Bingeing is here, it’s what I do. I can’t work around it, I can’t diet around it, I can’t talk myself out of it. All I can do is face it, maybe even face it down.
Bingeing is a conditioned response. I taught myself how to do it, as a way to make myself feel better, even if only for a little while, when emotions were too hard to handle. Maybe the first time it happened by accident, but soon I could do it on purpose, and after a while it became automatic, almost like taking some kind of drug. It was a helpful tool for a long time. When I was a child, with no way out and no way to release my fear, anger, or depression, it was an easy escape, a way to bear what could not be borne. It wasn’t a good coping mechanism, but it was the best one I had.
Bingeing was there for me. It’s what I did.
And that’s it, really. It isn’t evil, it isn’t bad, it isn’t good. It just is. It’s a tool. A crutch. Only… eventually you’re supposed to put aside the crutches and walk on your own. But I never did.
I have learned that a binge is a sign of an unresolved issue. It’s a big flag waving in my face to say, “Hey, pay attention to this!” It’s some need that isn’t being met, some emotion that’s being stuffed away, some problem that I haven’t faced. My nutritionist tells me that binges are a gift. I found that hard to believe at first, but she’s right. Every time I have binged lately, it has taught me something new. I have learned to handle some emotions by dealing with them, for instance, by addressing a person who makes me angry and resolving the problem rather than stewing over it until I binge. But a month or so ago, I had a binge night and I found a different anger trigger that I had never worked on: unfocused anger, that is, anger with no specific target. I wasn’t mad AT anyone or ABOUT a particular thing. I had just had a crummy day, I was hot and grumpy, and I was just plain mad. I do not have a planned outlet for that; I wasn’t thinking about it, so I let it bubble inside until it took me over, and then I binged.
So, if you binge, you have a couple of ways of looking at it. You could beat yourself up, indulge in the shame and guilt and self-hate. That’s the easy path. The harder path, but eventually more rewarding one, is to evaluate the binge for what it is: a crutch, a signal….a gift. Learn from it, pick it to pieces and find out what happened. This is where having a support team is so very valuable, because often you cannot evaluate your own needs clearly. You get in your own way, maybe because
you are resistant to change, maybe you are afraid, or maybe part of you
doesn’t feel that you deserve to be helped or get better.
We all deserve to be healthy. You think you deserve this pain, but you don’t.