The Binge Eating Diaries: Letting Go of Food Spaces & Places

By Jacki Monaco
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“The Binge Eating Diaries” is a series by Green Mountain alum Jacki Monaco on her experience with binge eating disorder. Follow Jacki every other Thursday as she shares discoveries, challenges and successes on her journey to health and happiness.

The end of this month marks one year since I started my month-long stay at Green Mountain. I’m sitting on what is now my bed, as I just moved in with my boyfriend of 8 months. I tell you this because it’s something I’ve never done, shared such an intimate space with another person before. If this wonderful relationship had been handed to me on a silver platter last year, it would’ve gone to waste. I probably would have eaten it… (Oh, food joke! Ba Dum Chhh). Yes, that was tacky, but such a heavy subject needs a little comical relief now and again.

Among all of the things I had to sort through, my need to binge never would have allowed me to get rid of my “food spaces and places,” the breathing room to binge alone in my own surroundings. How would I have kept my secret hidden from a person I wanted to know me at my best?

Today, I don’t have these fears anymore. I have uncomfortable moments, negative thoughts, and imperfections, but I’ve learned how to speak with myself and how to be truthful. There are days now when I wake up in the morning and talk to myself, “Girrrrrl, you ate too much last night.” But my rebuttal is no longer “you’re disgusting, you’re fat, you’re unworthy.” Instead I ask myself questions, “Did you have fun? Was it social? What did you actually eat? How about next time we try to eliminate one of the sweet treats with some celery and cream cheese or tomatoes and salad dressing?” Those are two “treats” that make both my mind and body feel good, especially if I’m in the mood for quantity- then I try my best to make it quality.

It doesn’t always end up the way I’d hoped and while I still get a little frustrated with myself from time to time, I don’t harass myself to the ends of the earth. All-or-nothing thinkers tend to put mistakes on a pedestal and stomp on triumphs like they’re worthless. But a food mistake is just that – a little bump. If my stomach or my mind doesn’t feel good after too much or a certain kind of food fun, then I learn that the amount or the combination wasn’t right for me.

I wanted to share with you, after a year of starting this process, how much less I think of food as the only form of happiness and how it’s becoming more manageable day by day. I want you to read from a once very dedicated binge eater, that I spend my days thinking about other aspects my life now. I finally feel like I have the time to live – full of energy, full of ambition, not just full of food.

Questions or comments for Jacki? Leave them below!

 

 

8 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Jacki, thanks for continuing to share your story! I love the inquiry work you did around your eating. When I overeat, I find myself more and more asking myself, “Well, did you enjoy it? Would a normal eater have done that?” I think bringing non-judgment to our actions can be such a powerful tool.

  • Deborah says:

    Wow! It sounds like you’ve come a long way. I’ve never been in a relationship and tend to blame my weight on that. Certainly I don’t feel good about how I look and have self-worth issues. I’ve also spent years in a hermit-like life – preferring to stay home and binge to comfort myself rather than get out and about…. but your comments about letting someone into your space I find interesting.

    I don’t know how I’d cope with someone else in my space (literally!) but also in terms of my weird food stuff. What would they think of my behaviour? I wonder if that’s part of the reasons I’m still single at 44?!?!?

    I love the progress you’ve made and the way you’re sharing it – knowing it’s not all easy and it is a challenge, but it’s doable.

    Thanks and congratulations on the shacking-up thing!

    Deb

  • Jace says:

    Eating as a Path To Yoga-Thank YOU for reading! I think you’re absolutely right about bringing non-judgment. We take the power away from, in this case, food. If we decide what we eat and when we eat it, we take control back and then things like over-eating don’t become taboo actions. These days I try not to read into my food habits or dissect my actions, I try to understand them and learn from them. Thank you for reading!

    Deborah-Thank you so much for reading. I myself stayed away from relationships during my “darkest binging hours” and at my heaviest weight and I also punished the body I hated in another way- promiscuity. It was a dreadful cycle of self-hatred. I didn’t think I deserved love. My old self thought “you don’t deserve any love because you’re fat and fat is unloveable” in hindsight my new perspective tries to be gentle with my old self- “you didn’t allow anyone to love you because you didn’t love yourself.” I had an eating disorder and still do battle with food issues which led to weight gain. Weight is such a hard battle because we can’t hide it. Many other addictions, although visible to the trained eye or in due time, can be much more easily hidden behind a fake smile, makeup, and lies. I always felt like and still do, that I was wearing my “dirty little secret” not just on my sleeve, but on my entire body for the world to judge. I spent my last entire year of college on my couch in my one bedroom apartment binging, so I very well know how it feels to prefer the non-judgmental comfort of silent friends over the mind-reading I would do in public. “What does that woman think of me? That guy over there must be laughing at me. Everyone’s staring at my thighs.”

    Food is a very hard roommate to kick out, it pays rent by always giving us something to do-eat. It took so long for me to put other things on par with eating, like the affection I didn’t feel I deserved from another human, hence why I’d stuck with food for so long. I changed so much of myself intrinsically/internally before inviting another person in my life on such an intimate level. It has to start with us and self-love. If we don’t understand ourselves, it becomes nearly impossible to share ourselves.

    I apologize for the length! But your words sparked a flame under my fingertips! Anything is doable. What I’ve done is very difficult and it is a pain in the butt every day for fleeting moments but it is doable and the rewards of feeling better (mind and body) are almost sweeter than chocolate cake. ;-) Thank you so much for reading Deborah.

  • Hillary says:

    Hi Jacki,

    I have been roaming the internet looking for solutions and help for binge eating after a binge several hours ago. I feel hopeless after these episodes and the worst part is I know before and during my binge episodes that I will feel terrible later, but I tell myself I don’t care, all the matters in that moment is the food and consuming as much as possible. I feel like I have no control, I sat for about 15 minutes tonight after the urge to binge struck me and tried to decide what triggered these feelings and what I was feeling in that moment and yet, ultimately I binged. Do you have any suggestions or tips? I feel like I have been told many times to journal, take a walk, distract myself, but in these moments I feel like I have already made up my mind and nothing can change it.

  • Jace says:

    Hillary- I am SO sorry I did not get back to you sooner. Did you find any clues as to why you binged when you sat with yourself afterwards? How are you doing TODAY?

    The feeling of no control has haunted me time and time again. It’s almost as if the food is stronger, smarter, more reliable than myself- my best friend, my worst enemy. I get angry at others who can eat what they want, with no fear of the consequences, mentally and physically…who do not rely on food for more than fun and survival.

    Sometimes, when the moment has come and the urge is stronger than we are, there isn’t much that can be done. Trying those distractions or coping mechanisms at the very first, slightest idea that a desire to binge might be coming, can help but often times they hit with no warning don’t they? A binge doesn’t politely ask “Hey, um, so is this a good time?” She just walks in the door and says “I’m here and I’m hungry.”

    What gives you comfort in a non-bingeing moment? Do you like to write but the idea of journaling instead of eating just seems tedious like a chore? What about for a first step- trying to become conscious enough DURING a binge to write about what’s happening in your mind as you eat. Sometimes after the binge, it’s already too late to comprehend exactly what we were feeling and we talk ourselves into thinking something else. I know that I used to sink into a black hole, an emotional food coma of sorts, so when I “Snapped” out of it I had no idea how I got there, what my trigger was, etc.

    Letting yourself feel the emotions instead of just “eating them down” is important so that we can identify why we’re doing what we’re doing. I found some clarifying moments when I’d let myself cry while I binged. At least I was feeling instead of just numbing. Small steps are key. If I could have woken up one day and said “Ok, well that was that, no more bingeing” I wouldn’t be here, with this blog, writing to you.

    I hope this helped, even the slightest bit, knowing that someone else can understand what you’re going through. You are not alone Hillary.

    Please, please feel free to write again! Once more, I apologize for my delayed response!

  • Hillary says:

    Thank you for your response! Do you have any suggestions about what I should do about my binge eating? I have been speaking to a therapist because I was anorexic last year and clearly have major issues with food. Now I fear I am going back to bingeing and gaining weight. I don’t want the cycle to keep repeating itself.

  • Jace says:

    Hillary-
    You have taken two HUGE steps already.
    1) Admitting that we binge is the first step and it is HARD. For so long I decided ” I just really like food. Skinny people can eat a lot, why can’t I? I’m not eating THAT much.” And I would made excuse after excuse not to say out loud “I. Have. Food. Issues.”
    2) Seeking out and speaking to a therapist is a MAJOR step HIllary. So many people find excuses or reasons not to share, not to try and help themselves because truth be told, comfort in sadness can be easier than the road toward happiness. You are INCREDIBLE for tackling those two steps!

    I completely feel your pain with an array of food issues, while I havent experienced anorexia, before I became a binge eater, I had a stint of heavily under-eating, over exercising, occasional purging, and as always-body dysmorphia.

    My first suggestion is to sit with yourself and really consider the root of your desire to not eat at all or binge. I’m sure you’ve spoken about this with your therapist, but I know personally sometimes I “fluff” my answers even when I’m trying my hardest to be honest with myself when someone else is around. So take a few moments, write it out, cry it out, scream it out. GET IT OUT of your body for even a moment and take a good look at the why…not HOW we cope but WHY we cope and especially WHY with food. I know this isn’t a magical fix or anything new but when you’re ready to make your feelings truly tangible, you can start to heal. I personally had to admit that the death of my college roommate followed by a horrible breakup just one month later were the combo triggers that begged me to find a coping mechanism and well, I chose food.

    When we learn to forgive ourselves for how we chose to cope, we can start to ween ourselves off our food dependency. I find self-love the hardest love of all, but it is the most important in order to feel like we are worth our own time and energy.

    I hope this helped, even just a little. Please feel free to keep replying! If youd rather discuss this further, ask more personal questions, but not in this open forum, I welcome you to email me personally (Jackimonaco@gmail.com) or feel free to keep it going on here.

    Sending positive energy & strength your way,

    Jace

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