Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Binge Monster

It is hard to explain the need and drive to binge to someone who has never experienced it. It's like something out of your control overtakes you... wraps around you like an invisible dark cloud, tightens its grip like a snake while you struggle to get away, and then eventually pulls you down as you scream and fight and then eventually give in to the fate you know is coming.

It feels that way, when you have a dependence/addiction/disorder or whatever you want to call it with food. I imagine it is similar to how a trying-to-recover alcoholic feels. I have known many alcoholics, my mother included, and have seen how as long as they don't fight it and just drink, they function "just fine." Yes, there are consequences... terrible ones, sometimes... to drinking daily. Yes, a person is missing out on so much of life by just going along with the addiction. But there is no struggle as long as you just go ahead and drink. You can have a pretty normal life by day and then go drinking at night or on weekends and everyone pretty much thinks you are normal because your problems don't "show"... at least not until the addiction gets way, way out of control. Binge eating is like that. If you just go along each day giving in to the desires and urges and eating whatever you want without fighting it, you can have a pretty normal life... except you miss out on most of *real* life and eventually your body begins to show the world what your problem is, and you get lots of health problems to match.

But as soon as you decide you want to fight the monster, it raises up strong, ready for battle. It is so hard to fight that drink when you are trying to abstain completely. And it feels almost impossible to fight that binge drive once it grabs you and starts wrapping around you, pulling you down.

Yesterday was hard, emotionally. I had a few rough spots in my day and at one point my brain started screaming at me to EAT to cope. It is true, when I am stressed out, food has been my comfort, my crutch to get me through. On a difficult day, escaping with a bag of chips and pan of brownies has often been the soothing to my wounds and the calming comfort to my stressed soul. When I have been frantic, upset, angry, frustrated beyond belief and feel like I just cannot cope, EATING has been the relief valve. It works. At least, on some level. The stress is relieved and after I eat I feel like I can cope again. And yesterday, oh did I need a relief valve!

I felt that snake of addiction coming up under my feet and instead of reaching down and petting it, I stepped over it and walked away.

I sat with my (very difficult) feelings. That is all I did. I could not muster up anything more. I had some tears in my eyes, I had some unpleasant thoughts, but thankfully, because I have been OFF JUNK and low carb for over 2 weeks now, I had the presence of mind to step away. I just sat and felt bad/sad/frustrated/upset for about 45 minutes. And then the feelings passed, and I used the good brain in my head to come up with possible solutions to what was stressing me out. The stress isn't *gone,* mind you, but it sort of fades into the background after awhile. And I didn't need food to make that happen. I didn't need anything magical. I just had to have the strength to take ONE SINGLE STEP out of the coils.

This is the biggest triumph I have had in four years of working at weight loss... learning how to stop the cycle. I know from your emails and comments and blog posts that this is a big issue for many of you. And I want to tell you I am not immune. But I have the ability now to COPE and win at least a good portion of the time. What changed? Why do I not succumb to the monster? My diet. That is what gives me the strength. And I don't mean Medifast specifically, although it has been a lifesaver for me. I mean any low carb, junk-free plan. South Beach, calorie and carb counting, or just avoiding grains and sugar and staying under 100 grams of carbs per day all help. I have done them all and always am amazed at the sudden loosening of the binge monster's grip when I get a good week of healthy, low carb eating under my belt. It seems that sugar, fat, salt, carbs are triggers that make it harder and harder for me to fight the addiction. Maybe this is your key, too. I don't know, but if you are struggling like I have, it is work a try.

The monster only has the power we give it. We may feel like helpless victims when we are in the grips of the monster, but remember this: it just takes one step to get away. One step decides your fate in that moment. Stand there and let it take you, or step away.


Andra said...

Lack of sleep is a trigger for me. I snack when I am tired, when I am rested my regular planned meals are enough.

Your last post stated that you were tired and had a poor night's sleep thus you had to fight the binge monster. The binge monster isn't nearly as strong as when one is rested.

Bee said...

i know exactly what you mean. i struggle with the same things even though i dont like to talk about it. thanks for the encouragement

Theresa said...

awesome post. Just WOW. :)

birdie to be said...

What a beautifully real post. Thank you for sharing. Congrats on your triumph. That is a big accomplishment to feel inside. And you should feel that and recognize your success, strength & growth.

Karin said...

Great, REAL post Lyn...I would also like to add that with the low carb and no sugar it also helps to increase fat and protein. Your brain needs fat to feel satiated and also to function. Too many folks stay away from fat thinking it is their enemy..it is not. Sugar and empty carbs are. Thanks for always keeping it real, it's very appreciated!

CJ said...

Your description of how it feels is dead-on... it squeezes my chest, and makes me feel anxious and almost panicky. Great job fighting it off. Some days it's easier than others.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post - so perfectly accurate a portrayal!

Here's to stepping over that snake, one day at a time. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn, I've been reading your blog now for several months and this is the first time I've commented. First, I wanted to thank you for all of your wonderful words and inspiration. As so many others have commented, you always seem to know what I am thinking and going through. I have a 140 pound loss goal and so far am down 50 since last December. I have also found that the sugar/salt/fat processed food trio is what spurs me on to binge. I've also wrestled with the emotional side, but found it is "less" difficult due to being off the sugar and limiting myself to 100 grams of healthy carbs. I still have the struggles and have had to go inside of my brain instead of my stomach to cope. I don't know if you've mentioned it in your blog before or not, but Geneen Roth writes about these issues and reading her books has helped me tremendously in this regard. I would highly recommend them - Women, Food and God is my favorite. All the best to you! You have helped and positively impacted so many of us!!

Barb said...

I couldn't agree more about your comments on sugar/carbs and cravings. I've been doing the low carb/low sugar diet for about 10 months now and the cravings are nominal, so different from dieting and just counting calories or trying the low fat option. I have had bouts with emotions and trying to get thru them without using food as my comfort tool. It was awful to sit with the emotions, but so empowering not to use food to once again stuff them down. Thank you for your continued honesty in posting

Princess Dieter said...

That was the key for me, and I tell people: "It's not for everyone, but if you're a binge eater or a chronic overeater and have appetite/hunger and binge issues, then just stop eating grains/starches and keep carbs to 120 or less, and see how you feel?"

It might be the change that works. It worked for me. Appetite is manageable, I can say NO much more easily when temptations do arise.

And i suspect your binge desires may have surfaced from that fitful night...stress..sleeplessness...yep...that makes ME wanna eat....

Melanie said...

What an awesome post and a wonderful description of the binge monster. So glad that you overcame the monster's presence!!!! You go, girl! :)

Anne H said...

When I made the decision to stay with LoCarb - it was for exactly the reasons you talk about here. I live too close to the edge to step too far over - so it's best for me to get the heck out of CarbTown... just for today.

We all come to this point eventually, maybe more or less for others....and good for them - they they can eat carbs and junk with moderation! And be ok.
But not for me - so now it's two steps forward, with the occasional step back!

Lynna said...

Reading your post, it reminds me of "white-knuckling" alcoholics. You are so right in saying that fighting it isn't the answer. I believe the answer is found in the first three steps of a good 12-step program, and finding a sponsor/program to work the remaining 9 steps. That's where lasting sobriety can be found, and where the serpent can be defanged. Sending love, Lynna

Sarah Mann Willcox said...

Just wanted to say that I'm a new follower and I love your blog! You are right on the money on the binge moster. That ugly little guy is sneay.

Swistle said...

For me, this is like saying it is so much easier fighting the dragon with the sword---and then putting the sword where it can't be reached.

Anonymous said...

Oh the irony of you posting something with the title "Binge Monster" literally 10 minutes after I just finished eating 2 Reese chocolate bars, half a bag of popcorn, a cupcake and chocolate fudge for dinner. Stupid binge monster got me. But, I went for a 5K run afterward, so I move on and try not to dwell. Sometimes we slip... I'm human.

- Ella

Anonymous said...

Wow! VERY impressive! It's hard to remember we have alternatives when we're in the grip of the Binge Monster, but you were able to do it. Well done you!

❦ fitcetera said...

As a fellow binger (hopefully former) I know exactly how huge this NSV was for you.

Good on ya, Lyn!

I agree wholeheartedly with what Princess and Anne H. had to say.

Getting off all the carbs has been key for me.
Not perfect, mind you but definitely a very big leap in the right direction.

My word verification was Jingly and that made me smile.
Maybe the angels had something to say about this too. :D

Life as a Caterpillar said...


this is unbelievable- this is exactly what i wanted to talk about today on my blog. Do you mind if i link to your post?

So many of the comments resounds so strongly with me too. Oh my goodness, what an important post for me to read today

much love

Lyn said...


sure, link away! I am glad you relate. I will pop by and see what you're writing about later :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you.
I needed the reminder about the monster, and the feelings. I hate the monster, I hate my feelings, and I turn that hate against myself so often that it comes as a surprise only when I don't. I lost 100 pounds about ten years ago, while a member of various twelve-step communities, but found it again. Or, it found me. But, what I hate most of all is having to do all this hard work, with a partner's unthinking (or unconscious) acts of sabotage making it harder still. It's past time to get back to work, but it's just so much easier to isolate, to hide from life, that even commenting on a blog is an act of rebellion... that I'm going to post before the urge to delete becomes overwhelming. Thank you for your blog, and your words. Blessings.

Lyn said...


you are brave to post, and I thank you for it. We can slay this monster together.