Thursday, February 2, 2012

Binges and Self Discipline

What is a binge? I've been thinking about this over the past several days since talking about binge vs. overeating on another post. I mean, sure, there is the dictionary definition of a binge (on anything... alcohol, TV, food, etc): "an unrestrained and often excessive indulgence" or "an act of excessive or compulsive consumption." And binge eating is characterized as uncontrolled, rapid, excessive eating followed by guilt.

But, let's set aside rigid definitions for a moment. Tell me what you think. Is a binge different for each person?

Is it dependent on mindset? Amounts? Types of food? Speed of eating? Emotion afterwards?

What if a person is happy and calm and *feels* like eating a lot? And they *choose* to do it and do not feel guilty afterwards? Is that a binge? Does it matter if you are alone or with friends or family? Does it matter if the eater is fat or not?

A woman is sad so she eats a whole bag of chips while watching TV, alone. She feels guilty about it later. She is overweight. Is that a binge? What if she was thin, then is it still a binge? How about if she only eats a bowl of chips with those same emotions?

What if you were planning to have a salad with low fat dressing for dinner but instead eat 2 tacos?
What if you eat 3 candy bars in one sitting? How about 6? What if you only eat ONE but it is not on your eating plan?

Let's talk about me. I am trying to lose weight. I have a specific meal plan, a low carb one.

If I sit down and slowly enjoy 2 pieces of fried chicken, a serving of mashed potatoes and gravy, a roll, and a piece of pie, is that a binge? How about if I skip the pie?

What if I eat it frantically, compulsively? Does it become a binge then?

Now, look at yourself. What would be a binge to you? Would 3 slices of buttered toast be a binge? How about one ice cream sundae? How about half a pizza? Two cookies? One brownie? Does it matter how you feel when you're eating it or afterwards?

I ask all these questions because it seems to me that the "binge" word gets thrown around a lot in the weight loss blogging world. I myself have used it simply to describe "going off plan." It FEELS like a binge to me if I eat 2 slices of pizza for dinner, even though that is not a binge or even overeating for any average person. Heck, I even feel like I binged sometimes when I have an extra, 15-calorie mug of coffee with sugar free creamer in it. So what's up with that?

For me, the "binge" thing has turned into something that is more about emotion than about food. For me, if I stray by a certain amount from my pre-planned eating arrangement, whatever that may be, I start feeling like a failure. And the failure feeling = BINGE to me, because that is how I failed most often in the past.

If I eat one slice of bread when I did not MEAN to and did not consciously DECIDE to (but acted on impulse instead) it makes me feel bad. I have labeled it BINGE in my head, when, in fact, it wasn't one.

Yet if I DECIDE to have two scoops of ice cream, plan it and feel emotionally good about it, even though it is not on plan it does not feel like a binge.

So I have spent time this week thinking, when does it morph?
a few M&Ms
a package of M&Ms
2 packages of M&Ms
a half pound of M&Ms (yes, I have done this in the past)

Depending on my mindset, it morphs:
Happy, accepting, deciding mindset morphs from
treat -> indulgence -> overindulgence -> binge
Sad, upset, impulsive mindset morphs from
slip up -> screw up -> OMG I really overdid it -> binge

Either way, to ME, my overeating is no longer getting to the *binge* point anymore. Oh, I overindulge sometimes. I eat off plan stuff. Usually it is either because I am stressed and it calms me down, or because I just think "hey, that would taste really good!" But the binges of the past... the rapid shoveling, the crazy out-of-control feeling, the half pound of M&Ms or whole package of Oreos... that really is in the past.

I think what I need to work on now is self-discipline. I just tend to like treating myself with junk, because I *like* junk. Oh, I do like healthy stuff too, but I never did lose my taste for processed stuff like chips and pies. I tend to say yes to my desires too often. I find it easy to justify a sugar free latte or a few chips or some sugar free candy, even if it is off plan and not conducive to weight loss.

One of my goals for this month is to BE more disciplined... even when things I want seem to fit into my food plan. For example, sodas. I stopped buying diet sodas months ago. I think I have 3 cans of Diet Rite left in the pantry. Sometimes I think, "oh I really want a Coke Zero!" and think about buying some, but then I remember my commitment to myself. A little voice in my head tries to reason: "It has no calories! You can have diet sodas on Medifast! It is ON PLAN!" But in reality, it is no longer part of MY plan for better health. And that's where self-discipline comes in: I say no, I skip the soda, I have water or tea instead. And it is that kind if discipline that will enable me to manage all the other habits I need for success: skipping sugary sweets, turning down extra helpings, avoiding too much fat or salt, and keeping up with the daily exercising. All of those healthy habits require discipline. And frankly, when I was 278 pounds and binge eating regularly, I had very little self discipline. It has taken many years to change from the mindset to the place I am now. But there is still work to do. I am on it!


Anonymous said...

I think the truth about what a binge is, is when you eat anything that either falls into the realm of food that you do not even like, that you are eating to excess OR when you eat foods you DO like beyond the point of being sick/stuffed. People who do not have disordered eating do not do either of these things.

I have in the past eaten things I do not even like trying to get that seritonin (sp?) rush. I have also eaten 8-10 candy bars in a row, feeling nauseous as I ate the last 3-4.

My husband doesn't do either of those things. I didn't do it either as a youngster.

Overeating despite better intentions is not a binge. It's just not following your plan.

My $0.02.

Anonymous said...

I define "binge" as when I am not in control or eating consciencely, If I allow myself a treat thats offplan I don't call it a binge unless I hit that mindset when I feel its out of control. Today I ate 2 pieces of fried chicken... off plan yes.. but no I would not call it a binge, 500 calories... its just a matter of having a light dinner and no harm done.

I find theres a definite mindset in what I call a binge. Its out of control, 2 pieces of pizza is control, you stopped and didn't then eat the whole pizza and a tub of icecream then a block of chocolate and then wildy search the pantry and fridge to see what else can be rammed it.

LHA said...

An excellent, thought provoking post. It made me examine my own definition of a binge. I can definitely say that eating small helpings of any type of food and stopping eating them when I start to feel full is NOT a binge....even if the foods are cake and cookies! Sitting down to a holiday dinner and sampling different foods and enjoying them regardless of their caloric/fat/carb content is NOT a long as I stop eating when I start to feel full.

The description you used of frantic, uncontrolled eating is more my definition. To me a binge is eating frantically, usually fueled by some negative emotion, eating foods that are grossly unhealthy, and eating and eating until I feel way too full, even feel sick. I think binge eating is a form of self abuse and an expression self hatred. Even if I never lost another pound, as long as I don't binge I will feel like a real success!

Anonymous said...

For me a binge is eating a lot of food in a short period of time. For me it's like going into a zone where I just eat and eat and my mind is a blank while I'm doing it. Yesterday I ate a whole packet of cookies...just after I'd eaten lunch.

Princess Dieter said...

I don't call overeating per se a binge. I don't call going off plan a binge. To me, a binge has that out of control, large quantities of food at one sitting type of thing. When I used to eat a whole pizza, garlic rolls, salad, fried cheese with two diet drinks, that was a binge. It was this drive to shove food in and shove food in and it didn't matter if I felt full...and it took a lot for me to FEEL full.

I think there has to be that sense of driven/out of control, whether it's a gallon of ice cream and cookies or a whole pizza or a bucket of chicken or three or six tacos and a burrito and nachos and beans or a whole pie and a quart of milk. The sense that you must eat a lot of food and can't seem to stop yourself.

Overeating is common. I don't think BINGE eating is. Just like there are folks who drink a bit too many glasses of wine some weekends and get buzzed, and there are others who binge drink themselves into oblivion (lots of drinks in small amount of time).

We can overeat cause we went to s special restaurant or banquet or it's Thanksgiving. Or we can binge at an all you can eat or at Thanksgiving (in the kitchen, maybe, shoveling in leftovers when no one is looking).

But I'll leave it to the experts to define it. Or the individual. I know I haven't binged since May of 2010, although I have had days when I've eaten off plan or overeaten....I see a difference. I never totally lose control anymore and just shove crap in my mouth in huge quantities. I have eaten crap in smaller doses....and might regret it afterwards. But I move on quickly and don't feel the huge discomfort (belly) and self-loathing like I did after a binge.

Tammy said...

It's funny that you posted this. When I very first started blogging 3 yrs ago, I would read posts where people were beating themselves up over a binge, then list what they ate, then describe their shame and guilt. I remember thinking, "Dear God, I eat like that all the time! And I never felt guilty! Was I supposed to? That's my normal food intake!" I'd say I used to eat between 4-5000 cals a day. I ate several full meals a day, lots of it fast food, and just put an hour or two space between the meals. Thought nothing of it other than boy, it sucks to be fat. If I had ever heard the word binge before I started blogging, I couldn't remember it...and I certainly had no idea what it meant.

Now though, I would say I associate any binge of mine with negative emotions sparking it for the MOST part. And I always associate the word frantic with it. However, I've been happy and binged before too, at parties. I just love junky party foods...finger food type stuff that you don't make or eat on normal days....and I still associate the word frantic with it because the thought process in that situation is, "OMG I have to eat as much of this yummy stuff as I can fit in because it might be 6 months before I'm at another party!!!"

Craziness....but I'm glad you brought it up. :)

Anonymous said...

To me a binge is when you intentionally rush out and buy a ton of food and can't wait to get home and eat all of it. Way past the point of being hungry. Eating until your stomach actually hurts. Mostly done in secret cause you are too embarassed for anybody to see you do it.

I am not a binge eater in my mind. I got fat by eating portions that are too big and snacking and not exercising. I never have seconds. Proof that you can get just as fat slowly. Ten pounds a year for ten years and BAM, you are morbidly obese.


Diandra said...

I would have said a binge was a certain mindset - like going out with the intention to buy unhealthy food, taking it home and eating it all (and possibly hiding the wrappers). It is not the same as "grazing" (eating something just because it is there, little by little, until everything is gone - perfect party disaster) or "indulging" (deciding you are going to ahve something although it is not 100% on plan).

I think I may have binged a few times, usually when under high emotional stress - although my "binges" may have been small, in comparison (a bag of crisps, a 300g chocolate bar and some spiced nuts, maybe). Haven't done this in ages - I mostly change my mindset about food: No feeling guilty about it, no worrying, no obsessing. If I really want to eat something, that is okay. If I have eaten somethign that was "off plan", no beating myself up. I can simply do better with the next meal.

Vanessa Joy said...

A binge to me is when you have an emptiness in your soul and you feed and feed and feed and the hunger never fades. It doesn't have to be food necessarily. I'm binging on books now. I bring them home from the library and they sit unread. I'm very greedy.

I think there is a personality connection with overeating but I have not yet figured it out.

Really good questions!

NAN said...

Interesting! I am not a binge eater; in fact, I can't think of anytime I have actually binged which to me means to eat and eat without giving much thought to what you are eating. My portions are too large but I don't consider that binging. I'd never eat a big bag of chips of several candy bars or even a pint of ice cream. Brownie batter- no. Raw cookie dough- no. For some reason, I stop myself. My weight like PaulaM(one of your commenters) came on gradually- 5-10 pounds a year for several years equals an overweight person. It is slow coming off too. I wonder if there is a correlation.

MizFit said...

fantastic post and comments.
for me the words mindless, panicked, furtive, rushed, unfeeling all spring to mind.


birchgirl said...

I was never really a binge eater, more of a chronic overeater. I would never go out to purposely buy large amounts of food because my laziness exceeds even my desire to eat. I do have a "gorge" reaction to certain foods, usually salty ... such as chips and dips, even pita and hummus. When I start shoveling stuff like that in my mouth without regard to feeling stuffed, that has the feel of a binge. It was always pretty rare for me, rarer still now, but it is an awful out of control feeling. Feels bingey.

Barbara said...

Wow! This was really thought provoking and made me sit back and really think about what a binge is for me.

I definitely don't think it's just eating off-plan. I think it's when eating one thing off-plan spirals into eating anything and everything. I think it's about a (perceived) lack of control about the spiraling.

I'm still rolling it around in my mind, though.

Thanks for a great post!

Jenn said...

That was a great post and gave me a lot to think of it. For me, a binge usually started with a crazed thought in my head that would pop up when I was doing something completely unrelated to food. I would then be on a mission to get the food, wait til I was alone and eat it quickly until I was so stuffed I would feel sick. I could literally feel my brain click over to that 'out of control place.' I would start to sweat sometimes - my head would spin with every justification possible for what I was eating. I did not stop forcing food into my mouth until I reached my goal of getting into a 'carb coma.' I would go to sleep and resolve that that was the last time.

I've been on Medifast for 21 weeks now and have lost 45lbs. I have had 2 food binges. And like you, I could not do the damage I had intended to do mainly because I felt sick and full so much faster than I would when I was binging multiple times a week.

Everyday I think about my binge eating and how to 'fix it.' Yesterday, I chewed an entire pack of gum in an hour. Some would say, who cares, it's gum. But all those bingey feelings were there. I was stuffing pieces of gum in my mouth fast, spitting it out when it lost flavor and replacing it with two more pieces at one time. It was a total gum binge.

Which kind of scared me. No, it wasn't chips or cake or ice cream. It was gum. But the feelings were still there. They have quieted and it is easier to keep it in check now that I have had success with some weight loss. But I realized I still have a lot of work to do on the binge monster.

Sorry to make this comment 'all about me' but your posts, though about YOU, always make me think about ME - so for that, thank you!!

tz said...

Great is something to think about, I know I have a ton of emotions about binging...But, never thought of binging as an emotional issue...maybe that's the problem, that feeling out of control and not associated it as an emotional thing in itself, but rather have emotions about a physical thing...will have to put more thought into this.

Kyra said...

I think a binge isn't even about eating to eat, but about engaging in an activity that goes deliberately against your own personal well being. I say that as someone who does have issues with that occasionally. Is having a slice of pizza off plan a binge? Nope, unless you're doing it to sort of punish yourself, or attack something that has nothing to do with food. It's about giving over control to some sort of almost... mindless process in your head. Deliberately choosing the pizza, well, that's a choice. Even eating the whole pizza is a choice, but if you do it in a sort of... vacant state, or over-the-top state... something else is up. That's what I see a binge as.

Also, though, I can see binge eating as a longer term process too. Being off the rails for days, weeks, months, consistently eating too much, not feeling good physically and mentally, feeling as though there's no control, I think counts as a sort of long-term binge.

In the end, it's about you and your coping, and if you feel it's a binge, it is. If you feel it's a choice, for good or ill, then it's a choice. Of course, it's a choice anyway, but it's easy to turn your nose up and say something like that if you haven't been through it. It's a bit like looking at a car accident and saying "Well, *I* would have missed that tree that she hit." It's individual.

Anonymous said...

I love that you dove into this subject today. I have been struggling as a normal-weight woman who overeats pretty regularly. I struggle with whether I am "allowed" to describe my eating as a binge, when I have never been more than a few pounds overweight at any time of my life. I know women who have truly struggled with eating disorders of all kinds, and am embarrassed to try and equate my struggles with theirs.

Technically, I don't think I meet the criteria of binge disorder because I never feel that I can't stop. From what I have read from journals, articles and blogs, feeling out of control and unable to control the eating seems to be the hallmark of a true binge.

So what does that mean if I choose consciously to overeat, even plan what days and times are best for overeating, but am not a true binge eater? I hide food from my husband for two reasons: I don't want to share (because I've envisioned the satisfaction of eating the whole package), and I don't want him to know how much junk I eat.

Anonymous said...

For me, a binge involves eating mindlessly, past the point of being hungry and beyond my planned number of calories, as well as consuming mostly empty calories. It has to be ALL those components, otherwise it is something else, such as overeating or eating for entertainment, or making poor choices.

If I plan on 1650 calories and I am really hungry before bed and end up eating a few slices of turkey breast and FF cheese because I know otherwise I will be unable to sleep, I do not consider it either binging or overeating, but poor planning re. my choices during the day (probably not enough protein and fat).

If I eat 6 bags of fat free popcorn because I feel like munching for hours and the amount falls within my calorie allotment, I may think that nutritionally it was a really bad day, but I don't consider it a binge or even overeating.

If I've eaten my calories for the day and I grab a few M&Ms on my way up to bed I think "hmmm that's really stupid, I did not need that" but I don't get crazy. However, if I eat the entire 1# bag and I don't even FEEL THE TASTE after the first handful or so, I consider that a binge. That eating is about cramming...something in my mouth, more associated with emotions that need to be stuffed than a physical need. Funny, whenever I think back to the thousands of time I've done that, I've usually had that knot in my throat that represents controlled tears.
No nutrition, no hunger, way past my calorie allotment and mindless eating (i.e. not really tasting the food). Yep, that's my binge.