I’ve been thinking about posting this for a while. Eventually it may find its way over onto a permanent page, a la “About Me” and that sort of thing. Or not. I haven’t decided. But since I’m feeling self-indulgent and self-centered and all the other negative adjectives that begin with “self-” I’m posting it now. LOL. It’s not entirely self-centered, I don’t think. But I think that often Binge Eating is one of those things that make people say, “Just stop eating!” as though it were a viable option. That always cracks me up, especially when those same people wouldn’t DREAM of telling an anorexic to “Just eat!” because they know there’s more to it than that. (I actually don’t think any of those people read this blog, but my inner demons are up and running, and THEY echo things I’ve heard other people say like that. So I’m purging. So to speak. Sorry you’re on the other end of it. LOL.)
Here’s the thing: I genuinely like food. I like the smell, I like the taste, I like the texture. I like the way ice cream is cold and slippery and the way garlic makes the whole house smell like a home when it’s cooking. I like all those things so much that I can sort of escape into them. Focusing on food is simultaneously a way back to the present moment and a way out of it. I can become so focused on the food that I don’t have to think about anything else.
And of course there’s a biochemical factor to food, too. Eating sugar really DOES lift your mood, if only temporarily. Warm milk really can make you sleepy. Giant plates of pasta act like sugar in your brain, simultaneously lifting your mood and sedating you. Alcohol? More sugar. (Are you seeing a theme here? I don’t know many folks who binge on lettuce, I have to admit.)
Several years ago, I was living in San Diego, California. It’s a beautiful city. I’d live there again if the movie industry was down there. I hated my job. I had gained 50 pounds over the last year or two, since I’d quit dancing. I was barely making ends meet financially. I didn’t like the people I worked with, and was completely broke, so I didn’t socialize particularly. My life consisted of getting up, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, watching TV and going to bed. Weekends were the same, except that I ran errands and cleaned the house instead of going to work. I went home to my parents’ house as much as possible, and cried every Sunday when I had to go back to my apartment. (The apartment was the big bright spot in my life: I’d found a townhouse in a nice area for less than studios were going for in the rest of the city. I LOVED that townhouse.)
One Saturday I’d made a major grocery shopping trip. I’d spent most of my monthly budget on that big trip, buying a lot of frozen chicken, dried pasta and that sort of thing to get me through the month. The kitchen was stocked, and I didn’t have to worry.
That night I was watching Law & Order (some things never change, LOL), and eating ice cream. (I have a habit of eating ice cream straight from the carton because as a rule, I eat a lot LESS of it that way. If I have a cup full of ice cream, I’ll eat it all, but if I have a carton, I only eat 2 or 3 spoonfuls, as a general rule.) Anyway. This ice cream had a peanut butter swirl in it (or maybe it was chocolate – I can’t remember), and I found myself trying to eat JUST the swirl out of the middle. After a while it was sort of hypnotic: I wasn’t paying attention to the TV, to how stressed I was, to how late it was. I was just curious to see if I could get all the swirl out. But of course, as I ate downward, the swirl would swirl under the ice cream, so I’d have to dig out the ice cream to get to the next part of the swirl. After a while I had so much extra ice cream in the carton, that I started eating it to get it out of the way, while I continued looking for that swirl.
I don’t remember what happened after that.
I was standing in my kitchen, and according to the clock, I’d lost 3 and a half hours. Just gone. Law & Order was long since over, and the TV was airing some paid programming infomercial. The kitchen was a wreck. There was food everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Empty bags of bread, 2 dozen eggs (a dozen bought that day) gone, a jar of peanut butter gone. I’d cooked: there was a pot that had held pasta (now empty) and 2 jars of pasta sauce (also empty). (When I later took stock, I realized I was “missing” 2 full pounds of pasta.) The sugar and flour were out on the counter, along with the rolling pin, and a lone biscuit sat on a baking sheet, where I could see the faint grease outlines of at least a dozen other biscuits, all gone. The frozen chicken I’d bought that day? Gone. The rest of that half-gallon of ice cream? DEFINITELY gone, along with another entire other half-gallon that was in the freezer. Three or four “diet” TV dinners, all microwaved, all gone. Cans of soup, jars of jam, at least 2 pounds of butter (probably more, but I couldn’t remember how many I’d had in the freezer), bags of frozen vegetables, packages of hot dogs, everything, everything, gone.
I stood in the kitchen, not fully comprehending. Finally I thought, “I must be dreaming. I can’t have eaten all that, I don’t even feel sick, and I would; I WOULD FEEL SICK IF I HAD EATEN ALL THAT, I’M DREAMING.” So I went upstairs to bed, half in shock, half terrified that I wasn’t dreaming. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and realized that I HAD been sick, and probably more than once. (It was a miracle the toilet didn’t back up with undigested food when I flushed it.) I went back downstairs and surveyed the kitchen again. Only then did I really start to think that this happened, this was REAL. I stood in the kitchen, and tried to remember baking biscuits, wondering how I’d had the presence of mind to turn the oven off afterward (thank God), tried to remember fixing eggs, pasta, soup, frozen dinners, ANYTHING.
The only thing I ever remembered, all I can remember even now, was a quick image, a flash, of standing over the sink eating a peanut butter sandwich as fast as I could. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got, even now, 7? 8? years later. Even though the evidence was clear that I’d been cooking and eating for more than 3 hours.
I stood in the kitchen, and started cleaning and crying. An hour and a half later I went to bed, the kitchen cleaned, still crying, and wondering not only where the time went and what the hell happened, but how I was going to buy groceries for the rest of the month, since I had eaten them all. I think I ended up buying a bunch of ramen noodles and living on that for a month. My mom would have given me the money, but I was too embarrassed to ask – too embarrassed to explain WHY I didn’t have the money; or rather, why I didn’t have the FOOD.
That was by FAR the worst binge I ever had: that was the only one where I lost time and never regained it. That was the only one where I cooked and couldn’t remember it. I don’t want you to think that it was always that bad, but I can’t help remembering that night when I hear people say, “Just stop eating!” I can’t help remembering that night, and thinking, “I WOULD STOP IF I KNEW HOW, YOU DIPSHIT.”