Bingeing or Binging …

It’s only recently that doctors and scientists have classified and publicly acknowledged binge eating an actual eating disorder, putting it on par with the more commonly recognized eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia.

And though not every woman who binge eats has a chronic, compulsive disorder, many still struggle with it in private, whether it be once a month or once a week.

It’s hard to say what exactly “bingeing” is; everyone seems to have a different definition (and spelling!)

Webster’s says a binge is “1 a: a drunken revel : spree b: an unrestrained and often excessive indulgence c: an act of excessive or compulsive consumption (as of food).” All of the above could apply.

The colloquial definition I’ve heard on my WW message boards seems to be an uncontrolled (yet conscious) food spree where the individual has stuffed themselves senseless and can’t stop the spiral into oblivion. Guilt usually follows, but not always. Sometimes there is deep satisfaction in doing something “so bad, so wrong.”

For others who tend to be rather disciplined in their eating, a binge could be simply overeating at a meal. Tight pants and an aching belly usually follow.

And for other people, it’s as innocuous as mindless munching in front of the TV where all of a sudden, the bag of pretzels is empty. A sheepish “Did I eat all that?” usually follows. (While mindless munching isn’t the same as bingeing to me, for others it is just as dangerous).

Regardless of your personal definition, one thing seems to be the common thread: the out-of-control component of binge eating. Either we’re out of control and don’t care and continue to eat anyway, or honestly can’t control ourselves–it’s almost an out-of-body-experience.

I define a binge as a conscious decision to not stop myself when I’m either overeating, or eating something I know I don’t need–i.e., eating beyond satisfaction.

It doesn’t matter where I’m doing it—seated at the kitchen table, or standing at the fridge. In my car, or behind my desk. My worst benders have usually been in private, where I know it’s wrong and always feel guilty afterwards.

Often emotions (happy, sad, angry, anxious to name a few) have driven me to binge. But sometimes it’s not even an emotion I can pinpoint (particularly during “midnight incidents” when I’ve been on autopilot); it just “happens.”

During my binges, I’ve never eaten a gallon of ice cream, a loaf of bread, a bag of chips, or a jar of peanut butter in one sitting. My binges tend to be nibbles of “a little of this” and “a little of that.” Sweet, salty, sweet.

My worst binge: over the course of one day, I most certainly downed an entire box of cinnamon Puffins (in 8 measured 1-cup servings, no less), which I’ve now deemed “crack.”

Cold cereals, for some reason, seem to be a trigger for me–even when measured. Put it to you this way, I’ve never met a Kashi cereal I didn’t like. And FiberOne Caramel Delights … need I say more? Hi, the name says it all! Sure, these are healthy choices, but if these cereals are not eaten moderately, all their do-good merits go out the window.

So how do I deal? I don’t buy cereals that are triggers; after throwing out boxes and boxes over the past couple of years of cereals, I finally admitted I couldn’t “handle” having at home. I learned it’s best just not to buy them. This is something Dr. Beck would equate to a “No Choice.” (“I won’t buy trigger cereals and bring them into my home”).

That said, from time to time, I still test myself and bring it home, hoping to make progress. And sometimes it even works. For example, I’ve triumphed over Kashi GoLean Crunch, which now sits prominently atop our fridge. And Kashi Vive (a probiotic, delicious cereal) has also maintained its prime position next to my husband’s (boring!) Corn Flakes.

We have a lovely courtship now, me and Kashi, and we flirt often. In fact, a couple times a week, I pour a nice cup with 8th Continent RF Vanilla Soymilk, add some fresh strawberries, and I’m in breakfast heaven!

I say that’s something worth giving myself credit for, wouldn’t you?

How about you? How do you define a binge, and what steps do you take to avoid one?

8 thoughts on “Bingeing or Binging …

  1. I do it, I hate to admit. and once I do it I wish I could erase it from my record and pretend to myself and the world around that it never happend.

    I’ve tried and tried again to stop it from happening. to FEEL the feeling instead of feed it. to shake myself out of the trance. it’s just hard. It’s been going on for so long.

    Everyone does it, from what I can tell. We just have different definitions and different ways of experiencing it. It’s nice to know it’s a human trait and nobody’s perfect.

    that being said, however, I still want to nip it in the butt.

  2. That’s something I think Beck talks about, too, Cathy–“feeling it” versus feeding it–if we’re feeling anything at all when we do it, that is!

    It’s good advice and something I need to focus on, too. At least you do keep a record–many women don’t, or are afraid to. I like to “see” the damage, being such a visual person and all. So for me, even if I was 20 pts over that day, I want to KNOW.

  3. Oh, this was SO me this weekend. (warning, long comment ahead! Guess I needed to process some things…)

    Had eaten more than usual, but still in normal, healthy amounts, on Friday evening at a friend’s house. Remember commenting “well, this is my ‘night off'” and thinking, its OK, I have extra FPs for this.

    Then Saturday, woke up late and didn’t exercise (first mistake!), and had a decently-sized brunch…but one that left me hungry and out of sorts while shopping. I tried to get a healthy “snack” by picking up a small soft pretzel (2 points) but of course the white bread only gave me energy for another 45 minutes and then I gave in to Hubby’s suggestion and had a child-size portion of ice cream.

    Not horrible, right? Only, a few hours later (when I was again getting hungry) we started talking about dinner, and I gave in to my cravings and suggested pizza – something I haven’t even wanted to eat in months! Well, here comes the binging part, I ate “my” entire 1/2 of the pizza, drank 3 beers, and sat there with a stomach ache for the rest of the evening!

    Sunday, the next morning, we did go on a run, but I guess I was still in “binge” mode because when we sat down for afternoon tea, I stuffed those little chocolate covered cookies into my mouth like I hadn’t eaten in days! Granted, I had a healthy breakfast and then just snacked on some fruit for dinner, so the days calories in total weren’t horrible.

    But the horrible feeling of binging – like you mentioned – feeling out of control – was definitely there. Especially the chocolate on Sunday, was an almost out of body experience where I thought “what am I doing?” and continued to do it! And I did not like it at all.

    Have decided that I need to start eating a bit more during the week to make sure that this “starve and binge” pattern doesn’t get too extreme…

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Yas! It sounds like eating more during the week will definitely help stave off the urge to “binge” and good for you for recognizing it! That out of control/out of body experience is a poignant one isn’t it? Way to go for running Sunday–and don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re doing amazing!

  5. interesting. is binging a by product of “starving” yourself? when we diet is there a very careful line between eating JUST enough to lose and eating too little?

  6. I believe there absolutely is–and that is why people who crash diet end up gaining it back quickly.

    That’s why I was so interested in learning my resting metabolic rate/basal metabolic rate; it should be your gauge. Well, satisfaction really should be–but if you need a barometer of sorts, your BMR is really what your body needs to function. Subtract 500 from it a day (through food/exercise) and you should, in theory, lose. But if you over-exercise and under-eat, you might not. Or if you over-eat and don’t exercise.

    It’s all about that delicate balance…the Holy Grail!

  7. Great post and really hits home (as usual). In fact, in my therapy session yesterday she said maybe I should just stop tracking so strictly (I weigh all food on scale and log in Fitday) and just eat and try to follow my body’s hunger cues. I have been tracking and counting strictly for the last three months (after a 5 month period of gain from binge eating) and have only lost 2 lbs. It is very scary to me that I am eating less than I ever have when dieting and still not losing. I have tried eating more, calorie cycling, carb cycling etc. It is very scary because in the past I have always lost when cutting back, even moderately. I won’t chalk it up to turning 40 as I have been told by a few folks.

    So maybe the “let it be” mantra really is the key.

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