Hmm. First post, ever. I figured I would use it to talk a little bit about my binge eating habits. Most people think binge eating is the same as overeating, but it’s not. I do have a habit of overeating during my meals. I usually will eat more than would be necessary to satiate me, but I usually do this because I enjoy the taste of the food and do not wish to stop. Binge eating, however, is more of a compulsion for me. When I binge eat, I select foods that I normally do enjoy, but I feel compelled to keep consuming them, in large quantities, until I am so full that I am uncomfortable. I often think of this as trying to “fill a void” within. Sometimes I will catch myself in the act and force myself to put the food away and go watch TV instead or maybe just go to sleep. I find that if I try to switch to a different, non-food related activity, I will still think obsessively about the food I was consuming. Recently, I thought about eating more dessert after I had already eaten some after dinner one night. Not wanting to give in, I finally laid down and fell asleep, only to wake up throughout the night. Waking up every hour or two is normal for me (I have problems sleeping), but what I noticed was different about that night is each time I woke up I would be thinking about the dessert I forced myself to stop eating. It’s incredibly frustrating. There is such a strong psychological component associated with this and I honestly have no idea where to begin to work through it.
I have memories of binge eating as early as five or six years old. I really don’t know what triggered those episodes then. When I think about my childhood and what I might have been experiencing at the time, I suspect it might be linked to stress at school from bullying and perhaps low self-esteem. Regardless, I have memories of eating a huge plate at dinner, and then snacking ALL NIGHT long. My parents would notice me snacking and warn me to slow down or pick one snack and stick with it. Instead, I would eat some candy, and then switch to potato chips, and then scarf down some corn nuts, then perhaps some M&Ms, cheese snacks, popcorn, bubble gum, etc. In the end I usually wound up with an upset stomach or worse – I would vomit it all up by the end of the night. I recall as I ate and ate I never felt truly SATISFIED. Which is disturbing to me, because I was so young at the time.
I slowly (somehow, I don’t know how) worked my way out of this, only to fall back into it as a pre-teen. My sister picked up on it then and started talking to me about it. I remember she never made me feel ashamed about it, she just explained that it wasn’t healthy for me and that there were things I could do to cope.. like drink extra water, or if I really must have another snack, snack on fruit and vegetables.. not junk food. She also taught me the importance of listening to your body and being able to recognize when it’s hungry or full. Again, with time and struggle, I was able to regain control.
After that time in my life I didn’t really binge eat as much, at least not enough to warrant a binge-eating diagnosis. I still overate at meals sometimes, but was pretty good about eating right and not overconsuming food. Sometimes throughout my college years I would eat in response to stress or depression, ESPECIALLY when I would study for exams. I also discovered I have a massive sweet tooth and often found it difficult to cut back on the sugar!
During the summer of either 2007 or 2008 (I just can’t remember for some reason) I made the decision to give up eating meat. I did this slowly, first only consuming fish and eggs, and eventually letting those go as well. It was something I had thought about since I was about 12 and something I a) wasn’t entirely sure about and b) knew I would never be allowed to do until I was 18 either. I was scared of living without meat (I mean.. honestly, what would I eat? Lettuce?!), but was even MORE disgusted (for both taste/textural reasons and ethical reasons) at the thought of continuing to eat it. So I gave it up.
Over time I slowly transitioned into a vegan diet without even realizing it, because of my progressive inability to digest lactose. Me and dairy are not best friends. I am not severely lactose intolerant. I can still eat cheese and some (small amounts) of ice cream, but things like yogurt and milk will make me sick for days. I would say by about 2010 I was fully vegan and did not find it difficult at all to maintain. By that point in my life I was doing pretty good. I was finishing my degree, had plans for the future, and felt I had finally grown into myself and understood what I wanted out of life.
Then in 2011 my father died, rather unexpectedly. On paper, he died from heart failure. But the heart failure arose from complications brought on by stage three small-cell lung cancer. He died October 20th and had been diagnosed in late July. I didn’t know about it until August that year. I was in grad school at the time. The stress of school, teaching, and watching him die was enough to drive my anxiety beyond my breaking point. I began to use food to compensate for the stress and I ate ALL THE TIME. This point in my life marks the worse period of overeating and binge eating that I have ever experienced… and I am still in the middle of it.
Throughout my early twenties I gained about 30 extra lbs. I suspect part of this is from all the muscle I put on from hiking and field work. Since my father’s death though, I have put on an additional 60-70lbs of weight and am still struggling to get it off.
And so here I am.. present day. It’s now 2015 and I still don’t have much of an idea of how to stop my habits. I suspect that most of my struggle is psychological.. and so I have to start there. But the reality is I am not getting younger and the more I continue to abuse my body with food, the closer I bring myself to obesity-related diseases, such as heart diesease and.. diabetes.. which is extremely common on my Dad’s side of the family – ironically, the same side of the family I take after the most.