Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Can Anyone Eat That Much?

A few people have asked/emailed me regarding the sheer amounts of food I report that I used to eat during a binge. How is it even humanly possible for a person to consume that volume of food?? Am I exaggerating? Or perhaps not remembering accurately?

Well lemme tell you. It baffles my mind too. How can a woman sit down with a large meat pizza and eat 3/4 of it all by herself? Not only that but 2 cans of Coke and half an order of cinnamon dessert breadsticks afterwards? I don't know. I look at that amount of food and imagine stuffing it into a container and imagine that amount of food IN MY STOMACH and it does not compute. But I know I have eaten that very meal more than once in my life.

How can a person eat half of a batch of homemade chocolate frosting (enough for a whole 2-layer cake) or 3/4 of a batch of brownie batter and not get sick form it? I dunno, but I used to do it. How can you fit 5 hot dogs with buns, some with cheese on them, 2 cans of Coke, and half a bag of Cheetos into one person in a 20-minute time span and still have "room" for 8 or 10 Oreos? No idea, but I know it fits. I never threw up either. I must have an extra storage unit in my upper arms where all the food is immediately redirected.

I have been a calorie counter for a lot of years (off and on, obviously more off) so I have actually counted calories during binges in the past. It is nothing... no effort whatsoever... for me to eat 5000 calories in a day. On a big binge day I know I have eaten around 8000 calories before. You would think that once I stopped eating like that, the weight would just FALL off me, but it doesn't. That's what has made this hard for me (mentally): I can eat an awful lot of food when I am not losing weight, but once I cut back, it comes off slowly. When you have gotten in the habit of eating anything you want, as much as you want, as often as you want, it is a lot of work and discipline to stick to normal amounts of healthy foods. But, as you see, it can be done.

I am not proud of the amounts I used to eat. It's embarrassing, really. But I want to be honest and lay out the facts here. People need to know that they are NOT alone (yes, I get emails and sometimes comments from other people who have eaten like that) and that you CAN break free from destructive eating.

When I write, my goal is to convey just what it was like for me over the past ten years being morbidly obese. It was a PRISON. It was like being in a cell. Self-imposed, maybe, but I didn't know how to stop. I didn't know how to escape. I was alone, in some pretty unpleasant circumstances at times, and food was my solace. When you are so broke that the only food you have is coming from a food bank, you have little control over what's in your pantry. When you have four little children to feed, and all the food bank gives you is 4 dozen donuts, a sheet cake from the bakery, some cupcakes, a bag of cookies, a box of cinnamon rolls, and 10 loaves of bread, you take it home, you are thankful to have it, and you all eat it because it is ALL YOU HAVE. Food banks get a lot of "day old" bakery goods donated, and that is about the time I learned to inhale a lot of sugary, carby foods. Thankfully our school started offering free breakfasts so my children were being nourished better than I was. This was ten years ago, people, and if you saw a chart of my weight you would see a huge gain about that time. Stress, limited food choices, being newly divorced and alone all contributed to my developing crazy binge eating habits. I would have donuts for breakfast, then go hungry all day, going to college classes and work, and then there would be a pizza party at the college and I would just flip out, taking piece after piece and sneaking to the corner to eat it so no one would notice I had 5 or 6 pieces. I was hungry, it was the only real food I saw all day, and I learned to binge.

Granted, the food bank also gave us rice, dried beans, and a limited number of canned goods. We made good use of those as well. But ten years ago I was in a very different place financially and emotionally. That is when I learned to eat 8 donuts in a sitting. Free donuts.

I hope what I write will educate at least one person about how it feels to be trapped in a fat body and how easy it can be to get there. I want my words to express how it feels... how it felt TO ME to be in a cycle that I didn't know how to get out of. I don't hate myself for getting fat. I don't look down on myself for the binges I used to have. I feel sorry for the old me whose only coping mechanism was food. I was doing the best I could, working hard at making a better life for myself and my children. It took a lot of years but now things are so much better for us. I am dealing with the remnants of a more difficult time in my life, losing the weight that piled on and dealing with the emotions I stuffed down for all those years.

And now for the update. I think the calorie budget is working for me. So far this month I have eaten 7099 calories, leaving me with 40,901 calories for November. Last night for dinner I made some really delicious BBQ baby back ribs, some cheesy broccoli rice, and green peas. I was moderate with my portions. And I think I am getting over my cold. Today I am down to 230 pounds. That is 7 pounds down from my highest (regained) weight, and 4 pounds down from November 1. I am pleased with that. Hopefully the loss will continue over time, especially during my trip to Chicago this weekend!

Just remember that if you are in the fat prison, you can get out. Keep trying. You just have to NEVER give up. Every time you fall down, get back up. Eventually it is going to click for you. Maybe today!


~TMcGee~ said...

First of all, congrats on your calorie bank idea working so far for you. :-) Sounds like you are doing great and I can just "hear" the happiness in your voice.

Secondly, reading about the difficult financial times and binging. I think part of it might be that you were unconsciously storing up food because you didn't know what you would get (if anything) the next day.
I'm glad those days are over for you.
And I know it is humanly possible to eat what you described. Until 2 months ago, I could easily stuff a large thin crust pizza into my body and call it a night. Shameful but true.
I'm rooting for you, Lyn, keep this up and keep blogging about it!


Christine said...

Thanks for sharing this. This is something I could have written. I used to be able to probably eat an entire large pizza plus other things. At times I still have binges and afterward I sit in amazement about how much junk I had just eaten.

This post really encouraged me. said...

::raising hand::

one thing i have noticed lately is that when i get full a lot faster than i used to when i was overeating regularly. the stomach stretches, the stomach shrinks.

maybe tell them to watch those documentaries about people eating 13000, 15000, and more calories. questions like that annoy me. like, why would we lie? some kind of sick dieting machismo? sigh.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing. I admire all of your hard work and dedication.

Keep on keepin' on... because what other choice do we have?

kilax said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have wanted to share about my binges, but am afraid. I used to stop at Dunkin' Donuts on my walk to work and eat 3 or 4 donuts before I got to work, then a croissant with egg and cheese when I got to my desk. I would sometimes get up to go buy a pop tart!

My fear is that I will be that way again.

Tina said...

Thank you for your constant honesty about what it's like being obese. I'm thinking of trying the monthly calorie bank. It's a great idea.

Vickie said...

I think it is a big part of the healing process to acknowledge what happened and move on without shame. To be able to look at what one ate, to look at fat pictures, to look at things that one did and to just be able to say that was then - I did the best I could - this is now and I am moving onward/upward. I think that when the denial and cringing stop - the learning and growth begins. I love when you write posts like this. I identify with them. They remind me of me and it does help to remember.

magpie said...

Just found your blog the other day.

This is such a meaningful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

Best of luck with the rest of November. It sounds like you're off to a great start.

MizFit said...

ok I almost got lost in the fact that people actually email and ask you that?

I think/am hoping that im imagining them as...not nice when they totally are and are merely asking.

your honesty is a tremendous gift to *many *many.*


Simply Chanelle... said...

you are amazing and i understand how easy it is to get caught in a binge and go THOUSANDS of calories overboard.

I'm so proud of you for TRULY cutting back and being so honest with the world about your past struggle with food.

you are sooo brave!!

Valerie said...

Great post, and thanks for your openness and honesty. It's refreshing. I feel *exactly* like you do about the idea of keep trying, just keep at it, eventually it will click, we just have to make sure we are there ready when the click happens.

And I have more trouble understanding how people don't get how many calories we had to eat to get to obesity than I have trouble understanding how we were able to do it. When all you eat is empty, unfulfilling, sugary and refined carbs, you generally just never get full and if you do, the feeling goes away in a half hour and it's easy to start over. It's easy to take in thousands and thousands of calories. I used to do it everyday. I don't think I could have gotten to 340 lbs without eating that many calories.

Amy Jo said...

Lyn - I can see why people are baffled by the amount you've consumed, but certainly am not. One night after dropping my husband off at work, I had 4 hours to kill. I went in to meijers and bought 2 candy bars, a container of 6 creme-pastry desserts (you know the ones I'm talking about.. the flaky ones shaped like cones, with creme in the middle?) and a pint of ice cream. I also got 3 magazines. I sat in the car and ate it ALL. Then I went to Culvers, and got a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and cheesefries. Then I read my last magazine, drove to Steak N'Shake, got a large shake for me and for the hubby, and drank it as I waited for him to come out. It's crazy, but it's possible. And that's how our problems get to be so big! You have changed though; and you have the strength to not do it anymore, like you've been proving. I think your calorie bank is an awesome idea!

Kimberly said...

Did you steal my food diary from when I was binging like that? It is almost identical. How I didn't simply explode from eating that much food is a mystery to me.

But you are right. There is no shame in it because you are working on fixing what got broken along the way to allow you to consume so much. The shame would be in never realizing that there was a problem.

E said...

Its so funny, that what would be such an evolutionary advantage in times of scarcity is now a health hazard. Even though it might sound "baffling" as you put it, in some ways it is kind of amazing the way the body has evolved to take in that amount of food and hold onto it so efficiently. Amazing but too bad in times of plenty...

It is so admirable of you to put the reality out there without sugarcoating it (ha, so to speak). And cathartic, I imagine. Many people will benefit from not feeling so alone in their struggles.

new*me said...

wow..great results Lyn. Chicago will be so good for you!

Pubsgal said...

I'm a bit surprised that people emailed you expressing disbelief, too. But oh yes, I was able to consume vast quantities myself. When I made my health changes, it took probably about a month or two for my stomach to get back to expecting a reasonable amount of food.

Ella in an Elephant Costume said...

Your honesty is so admirable. No matter what you post on your blog, you will always have someone that is critical & not so positive. Congrats on your loss, you are really "back on track". I am very envious of your Chicago trip, I would love to meet you, Roni & the other bloggers. Thank you for a wonderful post.

denise jackson said...

Thanks for being honest! Side note, I'm dismayed by the poor quality of food offered by most food banks. My diabetic grandfather regularly receives whole apple pies, mozzarella sticks, and hot dogs in his food packages.

elife said...

MizFit - lol, I thought the same thing.

Lyn, I think the only difference in what you ate vs. others of us is that you are honest. We all ate billions of calories in some form or another!

I love that your bank idea is working, I think it's brilliant.

Lyn said...

No, Miz, they are generally kinda rude. But they are few and far between, and it is SO encouraging to read all these wonderful and supportive comments. I have never felt less alone :)

Thanks all!

Vickie said...

I am not sure if I have heard you talk about Wendie - here is a link if you have never read it:

(I think interval eating/Wendie is what you are doing with your point ranges)

Tanya said...

While I never ate quite that much at a buffet it was not unusual for me to buy a bag of bagels and eat all six within a day or two... bagels should never be considered a SNACK for heavens sake. More than half of a pizza for dinner, 3-4 cans of pop a day... (now I eat 1/2 a bagel, try to avoid pizza and drink maybe one coke every couple of weeks... and the weight isn't falling off my ass either).

I'm also glad to see that you mention the crappy food the food bank has to offer. I hope that makes people reconsider what they donate to them from now on.

Tanya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lady In A Net said...

I understand what its like to binge. I too did the pizza pie thing along with the cinnamon buns. All by myself -- and that was just one meal. I applaud your blog and sharing publicly your struggle. I started writing publicly about my binge eating and food addiction. It has worked wonders.

The most important thing, as you point out is to never give, which is tough because this is ultimately why we can't over our problem with food. We must take as much time as is necessary to work through the issues that drive us to over eat and rely on food for comfort.

Thank you for sharing.

Lady In A Net

WendyB said...

Brave post. Congrats on your progress.

Deb said...

Thank you for your honesty. As a binge-eater I understand completely what it is like to eat those quantities of food. From the outside it looks like madness. But it's a coping mechanism. A self-destructive coping mechanism.

Bless you for writing this blog and for writing this post in particular.

LissaLee said...

Lyn, I read both posts (your report of the buffet and your review of the binge) and I understand how someone can push that much food inside themselves and still not feel the urge to throw up. I have done the same. Your example only goes to show how the human body can adapt and accommodate to an eating disorder. Of course, by accommodate I mean 'not explode entirely' because the body has a funny way of sending subtle signals that are easily ignored. I have binged to the point where I feel distended and cannot move. I have woken up at 4am to order pizza. I have left the house at midnight because I had to have a giant bag of chips and a bag of cookies to eat. These habits are SO HARD to get rid of. I find that reducing the quantity of food eaten is even harder than improving the quality of it. I am so happy you that are reporting losses again. Good for you :) Keep it up!

bbubblyb said...

Reading your posts makes me think of myself as a child never knowing when there would be food in the house. I'm sure that's were a lot of my food issues come from, the lack of food and stuffing feelings of fear.

I felt so sad for you reading all that knowing you had 4 small children to take care of and worrying about how to feed them and yourself. I'm so glad things are better now.

It's good to talk about the past it really does help a person become able to move on. Way to go with how far you have come.

Makes me sad to think too that people can sometimes be so insensitive.

I hope you have a wonderful time in Chicago.


Dinah Soar said...

I was thinking, too, Lyn that after having been in the place in your life where you had no food, and it was a must be all the more harder now to limit your food intake. You learned to eat what was available when it was available, being totally dependent upon others with no personal security for provision.

Then, when your circumstances changed, you had the issue of changing you relationship to food...which is all the more harder than it seems on the surface.

So, I think you are doing wonderfully well recognizing your issues and working so hard--staying the course even when it's rocky. You deserve tons of credit and I applaud you.

Lynne said...

Sounds like you are in a good place. ENJOY your weekend!! You of all people need to pamper yourself and have time to think only about your needs... Like Oatmeal!

Glad that your weight is finally moving down. That has to be motivating!!! Keep going!!

Jenny said...

I so identify with your post. I have not started to let this eating behavior go yet. I have been planning and telling myself tomorrow, but it never comes.

Yesterday was a really bad eating day and I added the calories up. The were 6,526. I may only do this type of eating day 3 or so days a week, but it leads to serious gaining of weight. I am trying to get motivated to lose this miserable weight.

Thank you for your honest look into the realities of this battle.

Jayme said...

Wow Lyn well said....I sure have been there more then i would like to remember...

Often times DURING a binge like you mentioned,, i wondered how my poor heart could handle what i was feeding myself or how i would feel if i had a heart attack and had to tell someone what i just ate!!

Mind you at the time, it wasnt enough to stop but i am learning from all the mistakes i have made in my lifelong struggle with overeating that caused my obesity.

Thank you for your posts here on this blog,, i look forward to reading your updates.


MB said...

It seems impossible to people who have never been there that a body is able to consume that amount of food and still not be satisfied. I know I could eat until I literally felt sick but would continue eating.

You are an inspiration and you should be proud of all that you have accomplished. I'm still doing time in the fat prison but I'm going to get parole and get out SOON! Today!

Amy said...

Thank you so much for sharing! I just found your blog in the last week and am very encouraged. Your post was very timely as the kids (2 and 4 yo) were driving me batty today, and as I was eating dinner I was fighting a very strong urge to run out to the store for a bag of chips. I really wnted to do nothing more than get the kids in bed, read a book and eat a whole bag of chips before falling asleep.

I fought the urge, barely winning, got the kiddos in bed and read your post. Still want to munch, but I think I'll win for now. Really would hate to cancel out the exercise I did today.

I'll be checking out your archives and looking for some tips on avoiding emotional eating. One thing that drives me nuts is thinking about how much my grocery budget is inflated because of the extra calories I eat. Strsses me out and makes me want to self-medicate with food! ARGH!

Yoga for Stomach said...

Yoga postures can be effective in trimming down the excess fat

Juice said...

Wow. What an inspiring post. Thank you for your honesty. I too struggle with binging - cans of frosting and pints of ice cream are the worst offenders for me. Thank you for sharing. It is clear that you are on the path to wellness. Great job!

Erin said...

Thank you, thank you, and thank you for being so honest. You brought back many memories of when I was a child growing up poor and always hungry. I ate whatever I could get my hands on. I stole from my friend's cupboards. Your line about dealing with the remnants of that harder time explains exactly what it is like to get over the coping mechanism of over eating.

Karyn said...

So happy to see the numbers on their way down again! Keep it up, Sister!

This was a touching, insightful post. Thank you.

emma said...

I can totally believe you once ate 500 a day - I have.
I am also trying to get to healthy eating. There's nothing like one's impending 40th birthday for motivation.
I have a question though, I am new to your site and don't know what you mean by a calorie budget. Can you point me to the post that talks about it? Thanks.
Keep up the good work!

Losing Waist! said...

It is wonderful to hear the truth. Plain and simple.

It was embarrassing to record and then confess what exactly I consumed- It set me free though. I think it made it less of a secret because I used to do it in private and no one but me knew exactly what was going on.

I like to feel that I am not alone in what I did to get to the weight I ended up at (365lbs/69 inches tall) and that there are others out there that went through the same thing.

Thank you for your honesty.

Lyn said...


Here you go :)