It’s in your kitchen. It’s speaking loudly to you. It arrived yesterday along with your child’s well-meaning Grandmother. Encased in tupperware, its delicious morsels are of the chocolate kind, and are drenched in a sweet icing glaze. Even worse, there are 20 of them.
(Cue Jaws music*)
You go to the kitchen. “I’m going to have some yogurt and fruit,” you say nonchalantly to yourself. You go to the fridge, and eye the tupperware. “I’ll just have a bite,” you think. “It’s so much easier than cutting the pineapple up.” You take one out.
And then you binge, or emotionally eat. They’re all gone in a matter of minutes.
Bingeing, or emotional eating, is one of the most shame-driven behaviors, in my humble opinion. Not that many people talk about it, or when they do, grimace and look to the side as if to apologize for themself. I think it may be harder for SAHM’s or for individuals who have little structure during the day. What else are going to do during the day? What other escape do you have while your 2 year old is taking a too-short half hour nap? So you binge.
Well, I’m here to talk about it and to deflate the secret: I’ve done it. It’s gotten a LOT better than it used to be, but it still happens from time to time. What has changed is the POWER food doesn’t have over me as often. When we are stricken by an ED or emotionally eat, food has legitimate power over us. So the goal of this post is to make brownies your bitch, not vice versa. Or donuts, or frosting straight from the can.
Now this may sound like I want you to get to the point where you say, “Mwa ha ha! I will never eat brownies again! They are evil!” This is not what I’m after. I’m after you eating brownies when you want, and then having the power to put them down when your body tells you you’re full. Here are some tips that have worked for me.
- Call someone. Shameful behaviors thrive in isolation. It may be the last thing that you want to do, but calling a trusted someone and divulging that you’re about to binge will probably take the power away from the donuts you stashed away in the cupboard. And hell, you may even get a chuckle from hearing your friend’s last dating escapade. I guarantee you, if you can connect with someone, you will probably not want to binge at the end of it.
- Freeze any binge food. I once heard about this trick from someone I was in treatment with. If you couldn’t resist the urge to buy binge food, stick it in the freezer once you get home. That way, if you really want to binge, it’s gonna take a lot of effort to do it. And knowing that the average urge to binge or drink lasts 30 minutes from start to finish, you may have beaten your urge by the time you defrost it.
- Go for a walk. It may seem counterintuitive, but healthy exercise can fight a binge or purge feeling. If you’re addicted to exercise, I don’t recommend using this. But if you are able to curtail the amount of walking you do, it may help. Endorphins rush out when we exercise, making us happier and usually less likely to utilize harmful behaviors.
- Take up knitting. Or embroidery. Or checkers. Or anything that makes your hands work! I’m not exactly sure of the science behind this, but when we use our hands to produce or make something, a different part of the brain is activated and it takes us out of that “swirly-racing-thoughts-head-space” and into the present. And when we are in the present, we are calmer, less anxious and less depressed.
- Keep a journal. Document the times you are most likely to binge. Do you see a pattern? Is it before your therapy session? Is it only at night? Finding out the trigger for your binges may help you to fight them better. For example, if it is at night, perhaps you can find an out-of-the-house activity that takes place in the evenings.
I hope some of these help. For me, using some of the simple activities gave me the space to examine what my core emotional issues were behind the food. And once I discovered those, I realized that food was just a symptom of the problem, and the power was driven out of it. Food didn’t serve the purpose it once did.
And then (at least 80% of the time), brownies were MY bitch.
*Don’t take this cue as me saying that food or sweets are evil; this post is about bingeing, and what I mean to say that bingeing can be harmful.