Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sadness of Missing the Binge

I sat in my living room, having just come home from the grocery store run. I had a bad day. My hormones were raging, and my ex said some things that hurt me, and I just felt so crappy that I wanted the earth to swallow up my pain and give me some peace for awhile. My soul ached and the emotional pain was just too much. It had been building: a sick kid, worry about my children, feeling alone and isolated, and wishing things were different. It was just too much to deal with. So I went on a grocery store run.

The anticipation in the store was all-encompassing. I'd get myself anything I wanted, I'd decided. I walked up and down all the inside aisles, tossing all my favorites and some new things to try into the cart: chips, dips, Coke, a slice of bakery cake, a couple donuts, a fruit pie, Oreos, discounted bags of candy. Then to "make a day of it" I grabbed dinner, too: boxes of four-meat French bread pizzas, Ranch to dip them in, some hot dogs, buns, some cheese and crackers. I knew it was too much for me to eat in one sitting but I couldn't stop myself from buying it all. I didn't want to miss anything. Had to grab dessert, too: pints of premium ice cream and some frozen cream puffs. And I came home, while the kids were still in school and the house was empty, and I surrounded myself with the cakes and donuts and candy bars.

That's where I woke up... snapped out of it... in the living room. Surrounded by wrappers and crumbs, stuffed full of sugar and fat and self hatred and regret. But not enough self hatred to stop. Half an hour to let it settle, and then have the chips and dip. Save some for the kids but not too much. Throw some away in the outside trash so no one could see what I'd bought or eaten. Have a couple pies and some candy. Wallow in the high. Because it was still such a low high that one could wallow in it.

The kids came home from school. We snacked until "dinner" and then they each got one French bread pizza, and asked for seconds, and I told them it wasn't healthy to eat more than one of those, that they were only a once in awhile type of food because of the salt and fat, and then when they went to play video games I ate a second one, a third one. Coke and cheese and crackers a half hour later. All of it the lowest high you can imagine.

The feelings of that binge ranged from soaring freedom, entitlement, and excitement to the plummeting sense of captivity, enslavement and despair. A whirlwind of emotion... a roller coaster of happiness and true, deep sadness.

How can I miss that? It has been months... many months since I had such a binge. (Yes, the scene I describe is actually pre-2007). I am physically unable now. The times I have gone off plan over the past year have been so small in comparison because if I eat 2 hot dogs I feel stuffed and queasy, and if I eat a candy bar or two I feel absolutely sick from the sugar high/crash. And now, suddenly, the foods I have wanted and craved and dreamed of don't hold the same promise they did in the past.

I still imagine that I want a Cinnabon from the mall, but in all honesty I doubt I could buy one, much less eat one. I might be able to eat 1/4 of one but it would likely make me sick. In my head I think I want a piece of Sbarro's pizza, but in reality I know even if I went and bought one I would not enjoy it that much. It would just be a poor food choice. Not some kind of exciting ecstasy that ends in self hatred.

I don't think I can do it anymore. The binge thing. I can eat off plan, sure. Even though I have a much more limited capacity to eat junk, physically, I can probably force myself to eat a piece of pizza and a donut (which I would be literally ill from). But I can't gather that old feeling... the excitement of going to shop for a ton of crap, the coming home in secret and eating it, the roller coaster of highs and lows that used to come from the guilt and pleasure of eating that way. My brain doesn't respond that way anymore.

This is what I wanted. What I dreamed of. It's like I had gastric bypass and brain surgery all in one to fix what was wrong with me. It's like I have a pouch for food and will "dump" and get the shakes if I eat sugary crap. And it's like someone fixed the weird switch in my head that made me like hating myself and enjoy hurting myself with food. I can't get the old high anymore. It's just food.

I wanted it. I got it. And it makes me so, so sad on some very strange level. I want to cry at the loss of that part of me. I am, actually, mourning the loss of the binge. I get almost jealous when I read about other people having a binge. I know it sounds crazy. But it felt like my friend, my lover, my companion who I could always turn to when things got rough or when I was bored. It was always there for me and I knew it intimately. It was a cycle I liked to be stuck in, except for the side effect of morbid obesity. I liked it. Somehow I felt like I deserved it. And being stuck in that painful cycle gave me an excuse not to accomplish a lot of things. I avoided life... the good and the bad... with the binge. And now that's gone, and life is laid out flat before me.

Such a blessing and a rebirth, but also, as I said, a loss. A loss to the 'sicker' side of me... the helpless little girl who just wanted love. A loss to the scared single mom who was afraid to be independent. A loss to the victim who needed the cycle to remain a victim.

I don't know if any of you will get what I am saying, but I have to think I am not alone in this. We all used the binge... the food... the cycle of self hatred for SOMETHING. I am just now realizing the depth and breadth of coverage that behavior had in my life.

Don't get me wrong. It is a miracle to me that this has happened. I am SO happy that all my hard work (physically and mentally) over the past 3 years has paid off. But I have to deal with the grief, too. I have to acknowledge the sadness that I don't get to hide behind my binges anymore, and that food doesn't behave like a drug for me anymore. I have to face it, feel it, and move forward. Otherwise, I will listen to that teeny tiny part of me, still fading in my head, that actually is so terrified of NOT having food as a coping mechanism that is wants to to try and bring it back. Yes, a small part of me wants to recreate the binge. "Try again," it says. "Buy just a FEW things. Try a FEW slices of pizza, a FEW chips, and some ice cream. After a few days you might not get sick anymore and can get the old feelings back." And you know, I bet I could.  And that's the part that scares me the most.


Kathleen said...

I totally get it! Now, you need other kinds of rituals ... I make ice tea. Go for a run. Or actually tell my family why I'm upset.

Karen said...

You really scared me. My eyes filled with tears for you and I was saying "No Lyn, no..." as I read your words and felt your feelings, feelings oh so familiar to me. When I finally got to the point that this was all pre 2007, more tears...this time tears of happiness for you, for all of us, for your success and for the hope you have given all of us. You have come a long way, Baby! And I am SO proud of you!!!

Tina said...

I get it. In fact, I've lived it. I'm still living it to a degree, but I am trying to figure out and deal with what I'm really "hungry" for. Thank you so much for your total honesty. You are so inspiring and I wish you continued success on your journey.

Winner at a Losing Game said...

I do get that we have work to do other than "self control." I am still scared it isn't for real this time and when I started reading your post, I felt a sinking feeling. See, even she can't really do it. Then you pulled out of it and I almost regained my hope. How do you know for sure that this is the last time? No matter what I do, no matter how long I maintain my weight, every day is just a struggle for me to keep it in control.

Lyn said...


Honestly, it is not a daily struggle for me anymore not to binge or eat off plan. I had 4 days last month where I wanted to eat junk. But it was not that bad. In fact struggling is part of what I miss. I know it makes no sense.

But be assured, it can happen. It has happened. I don't struggle not to binge, and am not struggling today at all. But I am, in fact, mourning the passing of the old habits.

But yeah. I am pretty sure they have actually died and won't be coming back unless I make a conscious effort to resurrect them.

bbubblyb said...

I've found in my 3 1/2 yrs on this journey that inner voice is always there. I also find that it sneaks up on me at times when I'm having a lot of stress/anxiety. It isn't anything like before and I too usually end up feeling sick if I eat crap but I still find myself in that mode at times. I do hope it's fixed for good for you, that would be a huge blessing.

Tammy said...

You bet your sweet ass I get it. Oh yes. I haven't had a binge in many months either...almost a year I think. Thought I'd try the whole "feel your feelings" route. Nothing fun about it....but there is the positive side of healing, even though it's scary 'cause it's not what we're used to. Facing life and all it's troubles w/o the comfort of food, or rather, with the ability now to look PAST the binge and know the resulting feelings, and that the problems will still be there, is hard to deal with. But it has 2 sides...you're just stuck in the sad side now...but soon enough the good side and all of it's benefits will present itself to you and you'll be able to appreciate it for all it is. It's a process...one that we all go through...and there are so many freakin' different layers and stages to healing the food addiction. Not to sound morbid...but I love to read this journal of yours...I see so much of me and my behavior/emotions in it. But what I love most about reading it, is watching you overcome, day by day. It's an amazing thing to sit back and watch. Such an education. As always Lyn, thank you for sharing your story with us. :)

ssm25350 said...

Oh my gosh I had a very very similar day only I was so sad and depressed that I couldnt binge because I knew it would make me sicker and that made me even more sad! I had to turn off my phone so I wouldnt oreder a whole pizza and Dr pepper and eat it all (like I used to do)

I totally understand the sadness of knowing you wont ever get that satifying feeling from a binge anymore... but after a while it will pass and you will be happier that you know you wont ever get that feeling again!

Teale said...

I definately, definately get this. I'm not to the point yet where the binge isn't in my life, but I think that's because I find comfort in it. It's where I can hide and be comfortable... if I don't have it, then I have to face the shitty times and actually DEAL with them! People with addictions lack the ability to have healthy coping mechanisms, oftentimes... and while my addiction isn't drugs or alcohol, food absolutely is... and it's how I've coped for years (happy, sad, mad, etc) and losing that way to cope can be so hard & so scary. And also scary are your final thoughts... that it wouldn't take much to be able to do that again. But mentally, you've gotta know that going there doesn't work and doesn't solve the problem, it only creates more.

I'm glad that I've been able to read you over the past 3 years and follow your journey... and while my journey has not been as successful as yours, I learn from you every time I read! I'm trying to be a more active blogger again, because the support to be found here can be amazing!

Carol said...

I too miss the binge - it's nice to be able to admit this. I thought I was crazy because I have thoughts of remorse as I recall the old days when I'd isolate with my food fests. Good to hear I'm not alone!

Mom to the Fourth Power said...

It's like having an addiction and then as you overcome it, you still miss that "high" that you got from it. I can relate to that. I remember how I would get all excited to bake a whole sheet of cookies and sit in front of the tube with my milk and just relish in eating all of them. It was yummy and comforting and made me feel good for a while... until the self-loathing came back. I do kind of miss that excitement I felt as I know I won't be doing that anymore. Somehow I'll have to find new ways to get that excitement... and let go (and like you said "mourn") that old "high".

You are very gifted at writing, ya know!


Anonymous said...

I left a comment the other day about the sadness that has been coming out of me partly due to the "loss" of binging. I think what we are both talking about is losing the highs and lows from binging and feeling bad afterward. It happens to manic depressives, too--they miss the highs and lows and don't feel like themselves.

So that leaves us, once again, wondering who we are/will be without the all consuming and defining eating disorder. Who am I when I am not the woman who stuffs herself? Time to find out.

Lanie Painie said...

I get it. I miss the feeling of thinking that I could escape even for a little bit. And I miss the horrible bloated sick feeling that was my "punishment" for being so awful. I get it. I miss the satisfaction of doing something you know you're not supposed to do and getting away with it. I'm nowhere near my goal weight and yet I know those days of fake oblivion are over. I get it.

The Captain's Daughter said...

I get it. I am just beginning to want the feeling of waking up knowing I was on plan the day before MORE than I want the binge.

I'm more than willing to mourn this, "unfortunate" aspect of loss as a part of my healing from the years and years I spent tangled up in an unhealthy relationship with food.

You're right, it's "just" food!

Anonymous said...

For a second there, I was worried that you'd slipped too.

I have spent most of this year grieving over the sad girl I'm losing along with the weight I've lost. Food and bingeing are like a codependent relationship: you depend upon each other for survival, it is the shoulder you can cry on when no one else is around.

And then it's over. And like a bad friendship (something I also ended this year), it's hard to let go. You still think of the fun you had, eating in secret and indulging in your favorite foods, but then the pain of the guilt, shame, disappointment, and anger at yourself sets in and you remember why you needed to let go in the first place.

I still overindulge on occasion, but long gone are the days where I drive to Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. with a spoon from home and buy a pint of Blue Bell chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and eat it all in the dark parking lot. Gone are the days of triple cheeseburgers and fries washed down on the way hom from class, the evidence tossed in a dumpster down the road from my college dorm. No more eating a whole pizza by myself in my living room.

Sometimes I miss not caring about what I eat, just focusing on how good it tasted, forgetting momentarily how horrible I felt afterwards.

Like you, eating junk affects me on a physical level now. I ate a little extra Halloween candy this past weekend and developed a headache from all of the sugar. I feel ill when I am too full and force myself to get up and walk around. My stomach aches and cramps and gets upset when I eat greasy food (partially related to my gallbladder removal).

It all goes to show just how much I never really needed the food. How it was a bad relationship that needed to end.

And like you, it scares me how easily I could fall right back into it if I stopped trying to fight the urges.

Lucrecia said...

I think I do get it. It was a constant, a guaranteed for sure - something you knew you could turn to that would make you feel happy and well even if just for a little while. I would think it would be the same for someone who quit drinking or quit smoking.

Lucrecia said...

I just had another thought. Do you have a current goal that you would have to work to achieve? It seems like you have this eating thing down to a science and it doesn't require your full 100% nazi dedication (as opposed to where I am and it's all I think of day in and day out). I can see that once this becomes a true way of life, I'd have the "what now" feeling.

Stacy said...

Dang I was so worried when I read the first part of that. I wondered how on earth you could eat like that when you've been doing so good for so long. I know exactly what you mean even though I'm not very far into my weight loss journey this time. A few weeks ago we had a cookout for a friend that's going into the military. His wife is also preg and we gave them their babyshower presents that day also. We have been TTC and I haven't been able to get preg yet so that brought those hurt feelings up all over again. I decided to bing and ate almost a whole Pepridge farm chocolate cake. I didn't get the high from it this time and that made me mad. Really stupid. The only thing I got out of it was a gallbladder attack. I hope I can do like you have. I think a switch was thrown where I don't get the pleasure and high anymore from it. I hope so.

foodmasochist said...

i get it :)


Anonymous said...

"A loss to the victim who needed the cycle to remain a victim". Truer words have never been spoken.. I was a victim a long time ago, as a child, something I couldn't stop or control. And reading those words today, I know for a fact that I'm using the cycles to remain a victim, a victim of my own choosing. THanks for the insight.. I hope it helps me a tenth as much as it has helped you!

Seren_Sighs said...

I get it too.

I was a smoker for a few years. I started about six months before my 18th birthday and smoked a pack a day for two years. My ex decided we would quit so for a year and a half I only had the occasional cigarette (which I did in secret).

When I left him I picked up smoking again and smoked like a chimney from this past April til September. I smoked a pack to a pack and a half a day.

But in September I started to feel terrible every time I smoked. Like I had horrible allergies and was exhausted. So I quit. I just dropped it halfway through a pack.

But I still miss it. I've tried a cigarette or two since then but it just seems horrible now. And not only do I miss smoking, but even more so I miss "me" when I was smoking. I was a dysfunctional mess, but I miss something about it. Something about the intensity, the self destructiveness. It was a coping mechanism and a part of who that negative and dysfuctional person was.

I think it just has something to do with letting a part of who we are go when we grow and flourish to something else.

I might pick up smoking again, even if it's only occasional, but if I do it will be my choice, just like quitting was entirely my choice this time.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever read Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"? Because that is what this post made me think of. The caterpillar eats and eats through all sorts of junk and then gets sick and then eats a nice green leaf so he finally feels better, and when he wakes up he's a beautiful butterfly. But the wings of the butterfly are all made up of the parts of the different things he's eaten. You are wholely you... with all you've been through, and grown through, and suffered through, you can't change what's past... but you are emerging so beautifully from your journey. What I see is a picture of maturity and health, and it's not about being physically smaller but being emotionally more whole. What a beautiful place to be.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. I have never been one to binge. I was 260lbs and I got that way by too large of portions (so I guess a mini type binge?) and "grazing" behaviour. But I very rarely ate in secret, I very rarely ate so much I felt sick.. I just had a very stretched out stomach so a large meal fit in there fine each time I ate.

It is interesting to read so many people have done the binging thing, and overcome it. I guess I'm lucky that I can't miss it?

Amanda said...

I, too, totally get what you are talking about. I have had a less than great week (nothing like I would have a few years ago, but still not great and not mindful eating), and am in the process of trying to pull myself back out of it and on track again, but when I get really upset there is always a part of me that will never forget the "safe" feeling of binging, and it taps me on the shoulder when I feel unsafe, alone or confused...

I think anyone who has dealt with compulsive eating can identify with your words, something many other people will just NEVER understand. You are definitely on a new leg of your journey. And you are doing a heck of a job...

Anonymous said...

I was where you are now, many years ago. I could no longer binge.

Even so, like "icannotweight" said, I still became obese again. It happened little by little, a little too much salad here, a little too much jam on my toast, a little too much chicken casserole, a little too much oatmeal, a few too many glasses of skim milk, well, you get the picture.

Really, you can become obese while never bingeing again. Just takes a couple hundred extra calories at most meals (sounds like a lot but it creeps up over the years), and an extra pick me up snack in the afternoon, say, a couple of apples, then a few whole wheat crackers after dinner...

My point is this: millions of people in affluent countries get quite fat on good wholesome nutritious food served in portions that are slowly yet consistently served in larger amounts than their bodies burn off, calorically speaking.


I know you already know this, Lyn, but maybe it will help some binge eaters realize that the massive regain can happen to them even if they never experience another binge, even if the only time they are *aware* of over eating is at Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

I completely completely completely get it.

I still struggle with binge eating disorder and secret eating but I am no where as "sick" as I used to be.

Sometimes, I do miss the ability to just stuff down those emotions until I can't feel anymore.

Anonymous said...

You did what you had to do and now that it is behind you - that memory will certainly have an influence if this should happen again. I've experienced the binging over and the mourning of 'losing" what my back problems and surgery fixing did to "ME". Didn't figure it out at the time, but you just hleped me realize that is what happened! Thank you so much for sharing the details of your journey!!!

Michele @ Healthy Cultivations said...

This post was intense. I think there are a lot of people who can identify with this post. Funny how pride over doing the right thing can sometimes be accompanied by sadness over the loss of the old acts too. But doing the right thing is so much better.

Rosie's Weight Loss Blog said...

Scary post! I think we've all been there. I'm working on switching my coping mechanism from eating to writing. Writing my feelings has become a new outlet for me, and I'm really grateful to have discovered it. I'm really grateful that this binge you described was three years ago, but even if it wasn't, I know you would have jumped back on track.

Anonymous said...

I used to binge and purge. It's been probably 15 years but for some reason I was thinking about it last night as I drove home. Remembering what I used to buy, how my friend was out with her boyfriend so I had the house to myself (with my nice disordered eating to keep me company). I had so little money back then and to think that I used to just waste all that food. I wonder if I was missing the relief that used to come from it.

Damjana said...

You were in a much worse condition than me ever and now you're doing much better than me ever.

So it's doable :)

Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

It's hard to let go of the old reliable way of self-comforting with binging. For me, part of the empty feeling comes from not knowing other good ways to find comfort. Going it alone without food can be very scary...

Hopefully with time, and perhaps a few binge "attempts", you may find that food no longer holds the magic it once did...

Fat Grump said...

I am really pleased that food doesn't seem to have that hold over you any more Lyn.

My thinking is that eating is a pleasurable thing to do - therefore the goodies (which are really 'baddies' in terms of weight loss) like fresh cream chocolate eclairs, have an appeal, and always will.

To a certain extent I have told myself I cannot have them any more. The longer you go without something, the less you need it or depend on it. I dont buy some foods any more, and don't miss them. I do allow myself the occasional food treat however and wonder if, in weak moments, whether a box of chocolate eclairs would win out over a fruit salad if they sat side by side on the table?

I'd like to think that my taste buds would change, my appetite would be smaller etc when I finally conquer my weight problem BUT I am not sure that it would be forever? I have already educated myself regarding the value of nutritious foods over junk foods, but the more I try to lose weight, the more I appreciate what a MENTAL problem eating well can be.

While we feel good and look good I think we can be mentally strong. Life takes on new meaning. However, when we lose weight, do we condition ourselves FOREVER to turn to a raw carrot or chicken breast in times of stress, (or go for a run or drink water etc) rather than turn to a cake or a bar of chocolate?

Old habits die hard and we can replace them with new ones, but I think we have to be mentally 'right' forever and a day to believe that certain foods will never have any kind of hold over us again.

Perhaps that old saying regarding thinness feeling better than any food high applies here? I dunno.

Steelers6 said...

I'm wondering how/what you felt while describing and recalling that 2007 memory. How did it affect you mentally to write that?

It is weird for me to be a real careful eater for a long time, and then maybe allow some ___ whatever, [something that I really liked], and it doesn't seem to 'hit the spot' like it did in the past, or maybe actually doesn't even appeal to me anymore at all! (yay!) When that happens, I try to make a mental note that ___ is now icky to me. Soo not worth the calories. [I am debating citing a recent example food item, but I don't want to do that here, bc sometimes even just reading a comment about a food can be harmful/difficult to us readers. Make us want to go get said item.] And yes, sometimes eating a special or splurge type item makes me feel ill. That is another thing I try hard to remember & point out to myself!

I am finding that this does not neccessarily apply across the board. I still find some poor food choices to be quite delightful. So, yeah, it's way better for me, but I still have way off plan temptations. I can dream that maybe one day my palate will totally change and so will the temptations. It could happen! haha

Keep it going, gf. Chrissy

Lyn said...


Recounting it is actually part of the healing, I think. A good thing, for me. I try to remember how I felt so I don't go back there again. I feel so much better without that chaos.

screwdestiny said...

Incredible post. You are so great at describing your feelings toward food and your addiction. And you know, I understand, in a way. I've never been addicted at all to food, but I do have an addiction, and I have not worked at all to break it because I don't WANT that high to go away, I don't want to not be able to go to that when my life is crappy and I can just escape for an hour or so and then be on a high for a day afterward. And this post really helped me to realize that. I'm still not sure if that's a bad thing.

But in your case, it is a great thing that you have not let food give you that high anymore. Like you said, the consequences are very bad, and you seem so much happier now. I'm very happy for you, too.