Monday, July 28, 2008

Q&A: How it began

Last week, plagued by boredom over the same old topics, I asked for help from you, my readers. I wanted your questions, and you asked them. Thanks for doing that, by the way. Just so you know- I love comments. Keep them coming, please!

One of the first people to respond asked me how my struggle with binge eating began, and if there's any advice I can offer for people stuck in binge mode.

As I'm sitting here, formulating what to say, the answer becomes longer and more detailed every time I rethink it. This post may get long.

I can't remember the first time I binged, but I couldn't have been more than 10 or 11 years old. Do you remember when you were in grade school, how you'd eat lunch at a ridiculously early hour? Like, 10:45 a.m.? I'd get home from school around 3:30, feeling like I was starving. Sometimes my mom let me have a snack, but not always. She often made me wait for dinner. By the time dinner rolled around, I was so hungry that I'd wolf down my food in a few short minutes, then have seconds. I'd wind up eating more than my parents, and still want more.

When I was old enough to be left home alone, I'd sneak cookies, ice cream, and ham sandwiches into my room after school and savor the fact that I could eat as much as I wanted, and in private. I'd eat and eat, sometimes devouring a half gallon of ice cream in a single afternoon. When my mom would ask what happened to the ice cream she just bought the day before, I'd shrug my shoulders. Mom would then blame Dad for the missing sweets. I felt guilty, but not guilty enough to confess or stop. Or, maybe I felt so guilty that I couldn't stop. It's a coin toss.

I was a pudgy kid- overweight to be sure- but I wasn't what many would call "fat." I was tall for my age and somewhat athletic. I spent a lot of time riding my bike and shooting hoops with the kid next door. I suppose it's that small bit of exercise that kept me from looking like the Michelin Man as I entered adolescence.
I was on the tennis team my first two years of high school. Then, at age 16, I quit the tennis team and started smoking cigarettes. I got a car, which was my ticket to a whole new world of caloric possibility. Taco Bell became a second home. On my way home from school, I'd often hit the drive through and get 2 bean burritos and 2 tacos. Then I'd go home and eat dinner with my parents. In an attempt to hide my visits to fast food joints, I'd avoid bringing the empty paper bags and wrappers into the house to be thrown away. Eventually the trash would pile up in my car. Under the cover of night I'd find a dumpster somewhere and throw it all out.

As the years passed, this kind of behavior would ebb and flow, depending on what was going on in my life. For example, at the beginning of a romantic relationship, the binge eating would stop because I was so euphoric. Then, as the novelty wore off, the binging would increase. Again, I was technically overweight, but still very average-looking. I was about a size 14 until my mid-20s. I'm not sure when exactly I totally lost control. From what I remember, nothing too traumatic happened to me. I quit smoking, which certainly didn't help curb my appetite. I also went through a difficult break-up, but it wasn't life shattering.

At some point, though, there was a flip of a switch, and any amount of food I consumed was never enough. The part of my brain that said "Stop, I'm full," totally stopped working. The volume of food I ate combined with my lack of exercise, was a recipe for disaster. At age 29, I found myself wearing size 26 jeans and weighing 264 lbs.

You know the rest of the story. For those of you who are starting a healthier life, I wish I could tell you that I don't binge anymore. Yeah, I lost the weight, but that girl- the one who cruises the drive-through on her way home, then eats a second dinner- is still very much a part of me. In fact, now that I'm in training for a marathon, my appetite is more voracious than ever. I still think about food all the time. Some days are great, others suck. You know how it is.

If, after reading all this, you still want advice from me... well, I'll have to assume you're a little crazy. The fact is, I need to be getting advice, not giving it. That's why I started seeing a therapist. One of the biggest pearls of wisdom she's given me is this: even when you're in the trance of a deep binge, when you think you've lost all control, you still have a choice. Every time you go back to the kitchen for just one more bite, you're making a decision.

It's advice that's as true as it is difficult to follow. I think there have been only a handful of occasions when I've been able to pull myself out of a binge before it's run its course. I know how hard it is. But, the fact that I've been able to "snap out of it" leads me to believe that I could do it again. Maybe you can too.


spunkysuzi said...

As you probably know i have a hard time with binge eating and while i was reading this post i was nodding my head!
I know how difficult it is to stop before it's finished, in fact i haven't had much success so far but i'm still trying. But at least now it only last a night, i'm back to normal the next day ;) Which for me is a definite step in the right direction! Thank you for explaining it in a way i probably never could ;)

VerseFameBeauty said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being honest about bingeing and emotional eating. I'm tired of some other weight loss bloggers who say "Oh but I never had any emotional problems so it was easy to lose weight..." Um, what?! Anyway, thanks. I'm right there with ya... only I'm still 280 pounds. I'm working on it.

Anonymous said...

here's a comment. every time i come to your site i think, "hey, there's parker posey...oh wait..." anyone else commented on the resemblance?


MaryFran said...

Yes, we want your advice and any wisdom that you have gained! Like you I've lost a good deal of weight but I know that I will always struggle with these eating issues. It's going to be a life long learning process and if you've already learned one lesson that you can pass on.....then that makes my journey so much easier! Thanks for your honesty!

askwanda said...

As a kid I ate an entire bag of Oreos that my dad had put into freezer. For what? Safe keeping? No. Such. Thing.