Monday, May 16, 2011

The Unfulfilling Binge

It is so wonderful to be in a place of satisfaction with eating, and feeling good and distanced from the old habits a bit. I do think it is very important in times like these, as well as times when one is feeling like they're about to slip back, to actually *remember* what it felt like to binge, or eat off plan. It really is never fulfilling. It's amazing to me how much better every food is in my vivid memory when I am trying to stay away from it... everything is creamier, crunchier, saltier, tastier, richer, and just all around more delicious in my head. And then when I finally give in, it is a huge let down. A giant disappointment. Especially after the dramatic build-up and frenzy that proceeds a binge. I get all riled up, imagining how awesome the food would taste, tell myself no, fight it, struggle, and then feel a burst of relief when I decide to go ahead and have it. And then I eat it and it is just blah, at best.

Here is something I wrote some time ago after just such an experience:


I was doing so great with my eating yesterday that I decided it would be okay to stop at the buffet with my kids while we were out shopping. I felt strong; no temptations would affect me. I was fine. I knew how to eat at a buffet. I could do it. I ignored the nagging whisper in my head telling me I was making a mistake, and went anyway.

I felt so strong and healthy as I piled up salad fixings on my plate: greens, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower. I used a little bit of dressing... not too much... and got a small strip (about 2 ounces) of tender steak on the side. I grabbed my ice water and plunked some lemon slices into it. Delicious! Then I went back and got about 4 ounces of sliced, roasted turkey breast and a helping of cooked green beans. It was all very good, and I was just fine! Except, it kind of bugged me, walking past all the fried stuff. The fried chicken, the taco bar, the onion rings... and then I went to get my sugar free jello from the dessert bar. Oh, the desserts. How luscious they looked. But I got my jello and sat down. Just then, I saw a very large woman coming back from the buffet with her plate loaded up with fried potatoes, cheese, potato salad, and fried chicken. She was about my age and probably about 300 pounds, but suddenly I was jealous. It was not fair!! Why did she get to eat all that and I didn't? It pissed me off. (Yes I am well aware that makes no sense). And I thought, darnit, I want fried chicken and ONE piece is not going to kill me!! So yes, after I had my jello I marched right back up there for a fried chicken thigh. On the way I snagged some taco meat, cheese, and sour cream, a bit of stuffing, and some macaroni & cheese. I got back to my table and was eating every bite. But the chicken was way too salty and greasy, and so was the taco meat. It sucked! I was pissed off again, that I wasted my calories on something that tasted like crap. But the reaction in my head was to "try again" and go back for another piece of chicken and taco meat. I didn't do it, but I thought about it. And then I got myself a small, sugar free vanilla ice cream cone and dipped it in chopped peanuts. It reminded me of a Drumstick ice cream cone. I hate those. I ate it all.

Today, I was going along eating healthy but this image kept popping up in my head. It was the memory of the shiny, hot breakfast sausage links that were laying in a pan on the buffet last night. I wanted some but didn't have any. And now I was obsessed with sausages. I HAD to have SAUSAGES!! So after I ran errands with my daughter, I took her out to Denny's for lunch so I could have my sausages. I was fantasizing about them: plump shiny links just bursting with flavor! But when they brought my egg white veggie omelet with a side of sausages, they were NOT what I had envisioned. They were those nasty, shriveled-up, dry looking brown-and-serve types with no casings. I was soooooooooo disappointed. But I ate them anyway. And then all day I plotted how I would get the "right" sausages somehow. And maybe some cake or something, too. After all, I already screwed the day up.

Tonight, I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted to. I drove to the store, excited, knowing I'd finally get my sausages PLUS anything else I had wanted, like potato chips and a cupcake. I even imagined and planned coming out to the car and eating the cupcake in the parking lot before driving home. It was part of the ritual, somehow. The sneaking, the hiding, the brazenly eating in a public place where I might get "caught" by a stranger. I went into the store, and the letdown began. The sausages in the meat case didn't look that great, but I grabbed some anyway. The chips? Well maybe I didn't really want them after all, I dunno. Maybe a pizza? But none of them looked good either. I finally started tossing random stuff that I *thought* I might like into the cart: a couple of those teeny tiny sized ice cream cups, some sweet potato chips with sea salt, a frozen Amy's organic mac n cheese, a veggie protein smoothie, a thin crust chicken pizza, some freshly ground coffee beans, and a Coke Zero. And the piece of cake. The cake, because I'd wanted a cupcake to eat in the car, but none of them looked good to me yet somehow I really had to have some kind of cake to eat in the parking lot. I grabbed a single slice of lemon cake in a plastic clamshell. And when I got out to the car, I broke out the cake and started to eat it. Yes, I did, I ate it with my fingers in the car in the parking lot. I felt ridiculous, it didn't even taste good after the second bite, it was just gross, and the whole experience was so unfulfilling and disappointing that I stopped and threw the rest of the cake away.

Got home, tried a sweet potato chip, it was uninspiring. Gave them to my teens to eat. Sipped on the Coke Zero, thought about all the stuff I now had that I had planned to "binge" on, and realized I didn't give a crap about any of it. And that if I got out any one of those things and started eating them, it would never be as good as I had thought it would be. This whole night has been a far different experience for me than I am used to. I meant to binge... really I did. But I didn't even want to once I had the stuff. And seriously... a protein smoothie?? A Coke Zero?? A single serving of organic mac n cheese? How is this even binge food? The only thing remotely resembling the binges of the past is the cake. A few bites of cake. Not 10 packages of Tastycakes. Not a bag of Cheetos and six hot dogs. Not 4 candy bars and 3 donuts. Not a pack of Oreos. Just the difference in *what* I bought to binge on is astounding to me... nevermind that I didn't even actually eat any of it when I got home.

There's one more thing. When I was in the ice cream aisle, I saw the Drumsticks. You know, the ones I don't like. The ones that I was reminded of by my sugar free ice cream cone dipped in peanuts last night. Those. I have never liked them, even as a child. Bland, uninspiring ice cream with a fakey flavorless shell and peanuts... yuck. And I have always, all my life, hated those pointy crunchy ice cream cones... sugar cones, I think they're called. Awful! Yet when I saw them in the freezer aisle, I lingered. I noticed they had individually wrapped Drumsticks for sale, hanging between the ice cream cartons. I opened the door. I grabbed one. I held it in my hand and thought, "what??? I hate these!" and put it back. I walked a few feet and at the very end of the aisle, there they were again. Another row of hanging Drumsticks. I couldn't stand it. I opened the door and grabbed one and headed to the checkout. Why??? Why, I don't even understand it myself. This compulsion to buy ( and sometimes eat) things I do not like. I dunno, it is weird, but I didn't eat it. I don't want it. It just sits there, making me wonder about myself.

Every binge ends in sadness. Even the ones with food that tastes good. Even the ones where you successfully mute the voice of reason so you can get high on a bucket of cookies or a half gallon of ice cream. It's always sadness in the end. Sadness and disappointment. In the food, in yourself, in your life.


It's true, what I wrote back then. And I never want this lesson I've learned to fade. If only I can summon up the essence of those emotions *before* succumbing to a binge, I think I will have the key to prevention.


timothy said...

omg been there done that so many times, those damn little debbie oatmeal cakes are my nemisis. i hate them but sometimes they torment me when my roomie gets them for the kids. thanks for this darlin well said! xoxoxoxoxo

HopefulandFree said...

Yes, your instincts about remembering the awful feelings that went with a binge are right on, they will help you avoid another if you can summon up the clear memory of how unsatisfying the whole experience feels. Very smart.

Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

That's the rub in all of this...the we're trying to meet and fill a need in ourselves that can't be fed with food.

That's why it feels like a bottomless pit/bingeing doesn't fix it.

For me, the real things I need are from other people, and I can't control other people. But I CAN control I do...but I'm trying hard to break this connection.

Take care

Diandra said...

I think that's the problem with all the things we secretly long for... the reality is never as good (think about first kisses, relationships, new jobs, ... )as the fantasy, and so we keep recreating the situation over and over again, hoping to "get it right" somehow.

Forty Pound Sack said...

When I'm in a funk I cannot go anywhere near a bag of Cheetos or anything chocolate. And I know exactly how you feel about the Drumstick, only for me, it's Red Velvet Cake. I've had it, I don't care for it, but when I see it in the deli, it takes all of me not to buy it. I have no idea why.....yet it happens, every. single. time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. I appreciate your candor and openness about binging. Your words express so much that is in my mind.

Ron from NJ said...

I cannot believe it. I just found your blog a day or two ago and you post something like this. This is a topic that I have thought about and thought about because I can't understand why this happens these days. I KNOW that binges used to be so much more fun and fulfilling in the past. Recently though, whenever I binge, it is just as you describe. Thank God it isn't only me.

Theresa said...

how do we do this? I'm not there yet........ not even close. I look forward to your notes about heading off a binge. The beginning, middle and end of it all.
Thanks so much Lyn. Great post

Anonymous said...

Today I noticed the converse feeling, that I was dreading (not exactly, but somewhat) eating the mixed salad with light fish I'd made a day ago. And then I ate it, and it was like "wow, that was REALLY good". It didn't have that over-heavy roughage feeling, or that full to the gills feeing; the mix of vegetables and protein was perfect. And ironically, I think because the salad dressing had sat on the vegetables for a day, the salad had softened up to the point of being less, rabbit food. We've been so brainwashed by media to think that junk food tastes good and healthy food tastes bad, I've forgotten what I really love.

journeytobehealthy said...

As usual, you have such a way with words. Perfect description of binge behavior. This part particularly:

"Especially after the dramatic build-up and frenzy that proceeds a binge. I get all riled up, imagining how awesome the food would taste, tell myself no, fight it, struggle, and then feel a burst of relief when I decide to go ahead and have it."

It always helps me to know that I'm not alone in this battle. Thanks!

Susan said...

Lots of emotion in eating aren't there? Great job on the post and the buffet and all. I like to snack on ingredients while I cook, so I have the dogs there looking after me. When I am about to put that chunk of cheese in my mouth that just wont grate, I see the dogs and split it and give it to them.

Karen said...

Thanks for posting about this. It helps me understand me better.

Calorie Rebel said...

Really excellent post. Everyone needs to find their own way to combat their bingey behavior. I wonder what you'd think of my rather unconventional method. Can I mention it here? It's YouTube: "Smash The Binge." I admire you so much, I would love to hear your thoughts on my work combating my own binges.

Anonymous said...

"Every binge ends in sadness." That is something that really made me think.


sandy said...

I hesitate before writing this comment because I would never ever want to appear judgmental of someone who is trying to lose weight (as I am trying myself and that is why I read your blog); but my goodness your grocery budget is huge! I think the only reason I don't weigh 300 pounds is because my budget is so small. I could never afford to buy all of those items for a binge. Again, this is just a comment, not meant to judge your budget.

Lyn said...


actually, binge food is cheap. Two bucks for a pound of sausages that also get used for kids' breakfast. Little ice cream cups, 79 cents each. A drumstick for a buck. A slice of bakery cake for 99 cents, a frozen pizza for $1.50, coffee beans for a buck. The only "expensive" things were the chips for $2 and the mac n cheese for $2. Of course, I couldn't afford to go out and buy that stuff every day plus regular foods for the family. But that's the thing about a binge. It's random... a couple times a month... and spending $10 or so on a binge always felt like a real indulgence. But no, my grocery budget is not high, never was, and the best expensive habit I ever dropped was spending $4+ on a latte from Starbucks here and there.