The Binge Eating Diaries: Explaining A Binge to A Non-Binger

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Describing Binge eating to a non binge eater | Binge eating diariesA series by Green Mountain alum Jacki Monaco on her journey to overcome binge eating. Follow her every other Thursday as she blogs about the challenges (and victories) of recovery.

At some point for most binge eaters, it’s a possibility someone will ask – out of concern for our health due to rapid weight gain, out of confusion due to our odd eating patterns, out of frustration thanks to our secrecy, or out of love because something isn’t right.

But trying to talk about a binge to non-binger can make you want to binge.

Although I hadn’t been binging, it was still a terrifying to change to move out to California one year ago. I was about to live in a strange place with my brother and his fiancée and the idea of not having any safe places to binge if I needed to was disconcerting.

How will I get to a grocery store?

Where’s the nearest Taco Bell?

How will I be able to sneak food into my room? I guess I could use my car?

Luckily, through the transitions my brother became aware of what I was going through, that I was (now a recovering) binge eater, and that a week prior I’d just gotten back from my stay at Green Mountain. We all didn’t have to have “the talk” because they were in-the-know.

When the time came to move in with my boyfriend, it’s not like I could just hope it would never come up because while I haven’t binged in quite a while; I think of it often and eating still isn’t easy for me. Each meal is a date with an ex-boyfriend; and I need to remember it’s only a bootycall, NOT a proposal. How do you tell the guy you love that when you move in, you’re bringing every “man” you’ve ever dated to share your home too?

Telling my never-had-a-weight-struggle-in-shape-by-default-where-are-the-doritos-boyfriend that I have food issues felt like telling him I had a rare, incurable disease.

“Hi, I’m Jacki and this is what you’re signing up for if you pick me!” I feel like I come with a disclaimer sometimes, in the moments when I dehumanize myself from real girl to walking pile of lard. WARNING: Danger. Food Issues. Body Dysmorphia. Turn Back!  This time, this man didn’t run. He just loved me harder and told me with his eyes that we’d do this together.

Phase one is being able to say it out loud, but then comes phase two: “We’re talking about this, but how much can we talk about it?” Now that the can of worms is open, it’s difficult to find a balance between sharing and over-sharing. I’m guilty of overwhelming his non-binging brain with my binging thoughts, food frustrations, and body image issues, e.g.”no one else can ever love me enough to make up for the fact that I don’t love myself.” 

So knowing this, everyday I try (keyword try) to appreciate something about myself, even if it’s extremely small. Some days I’ll attempt to say it out loud and share a positive thought instead of just the abundance of negative thoughts that I word vomit on the daily. Have you tried to love a random joint, a toe, an elbow? I’ve become fond of my thumbs.

Have you found a way to share with your loved ones? Did you find it difficult to talk “binge” with a food-friendly individual? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

14 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Erika says:

    Jacki – I just had to comment. Thank you for writing this because I am going through the exact same thing at the moment. I’m undergoing therapy for disordered eating, and the other day shared some painful, but probably typical experiences from my growing up that affected my body image and beliefs. Things I hadn’t shared with anyone.

    The therapist asked me if I had ever shared those thoughts with my husband of 10 years. I told her,

    “Of course not! How can that help?” and she helped me see how lonely shame is.

    I shared with him, and the results were much better than I ever thought. I’m very lucky to have him. He also has no body/eating issues but is starting to understand how emotions and body image beliefs can affect behavior.

    I’m still struggling with how much to share, and how often (like you) since I am in the midst of things and constantly thinking about everything, but feel so much relief.

    • Christine says:

      Interesting post there Petra, struck a nerve with me too when you mtneioned stress eating.I’m guilty of stopping off at the takeaway for a pizza if I’ve had a stressful day at work. Feels great at the time then I feel guilty afterwards.I’ve started keeping weightwatchers pizza’s in the freezer to satisfy the crave without the calories.They obviously don’t taste as good but are only about 450 calories and seem to be doing the trick so I can personally recommend as it seems to be working for me fighting my cravings.

      • Jace says:

        I try to do the same thing with Lean Cuisine pizzas, Christine :-) Trying to find a happy pizza medium!

  • Jace says:

    Erika- Thank you so much for commenting. It’s so hard but can be so rewarding to open up and share what we bury beneath food thoughts. I am so happy for you that you were able to take that step. What an incredible feat. You are an inspiration to others trying to take that first step. If you have a strong relationship with your partner, even the times when you over share, the love will make it safe. Thank you so much for sharing with me and our readers. Congratulations on your road to recovery! -Jace

  • Ryan says:

    I don’t really share with anyone because with my eating disorder comes infinite shame. I admire you for being able to do it. Personally, I have made up every excuse in the book in order to avoid admitting to my problem. When I was in a relationship, I told him I had stomach issues (which is half true, as bingeing makes you quite sick). With my family and friends, they were afraid to ask questions because of my prior anorexia. It was fairly easy for me to hide since I’ve lived alone for most of my adult life so far, although people obviously knew something wasn’t quite right because of my drastic weight gain. I would never ever talk about it though, and still with most people, I don’t. I’m not quite sure how to get over the shame or the assumption that someone would judge me. People don’t understand and I jump to the conclusion that they would think I’m just lazy or a “pig”…or ask me why I couldn’t just stop eating when I was full. Anyway, I think it’s great that you were able to share and that people were supportive. I wouldn’t worry too much about “oversharing” as I think that as time goes by, the bingeing will fade from your mind and not be such a big part of your life anymore. Especially now that you seem happier and free, for the most part. I don’t think this is going to haunt you forever, and at some point it will just be a memory of something that shaped you into who you are.

  • Jace says:

    Ryan- You are not alone with feeling of shame. Just two days ago when I was visiting my home, my significant other accidentally stumbled upon my college graduation picture. I should feel happy looking at a picture that speaks volumes to my success, right? Wrong. I was at my heaviest, in a gown my mother had to open and re-stitch to fit my body. I contemplated not walking and just having my diploma mailed to me because of my shame, but I was convinced I would regret that decision.

    When I realize he saw that picture of me, I started heaving, sobbing, uncontrollably, and I couldnt look him in the eyes out of shame for the next hour. I was humiliated. I have still not gotten over the shame, but I know that if I want others in my life I have to share my pain, my struggles and my triumphs.

    Other people become uncomfortable when they don’t know how to react. I was average size and “food normal” then too thin and never eating enough and then I was obese. No one ever knows what to say for fear any food comment are off limits.

    Thank you so much for your positive, optimistic comments. The people that you share with who actually do judge do not deserve you in their lives. Binging is hard to define and comprehend and some people still don’t believe it’s a “real” disorder. We are proof that it is and sometimes sharing with others helps make them aware, so we’re doing not only ourselves a good service but educating others so when they see perhaps an overweight individual they don’t think “fat, pig, lazy” they reconsider and they ask themselves questions before they spit out judgement. No one is perfect. Unfortunately for a lot of binge eaters, we wear our imperfection on the outside and it takes away from our confidence, can define first impressions by others…it’s more obvious than a mental disorder or even other addictions.

    Thank you so much for commenting Ryan. Be good to yourself, not forgetting to love yourself in small moments each day regardless of the binging. It is a part of us, it does not define us. <3

  • Marsha says:

    Thank you so much for continuing to share your wisdom, Jacki. And likewise to Erika and Ryan. As a former binge eater/bulimic who has been in recovery for over 30 years now, I have to say the shame still rears its ugly head at times. There are some people I just can’t talk to about it — think family — although I know if I did just do it, my family would be very accepting. Certainly, most of them know now as I publicly speak about my experiences. I just can’t seem to talk to some of them directly about it. Oh, well. As Ryan said, the eating disordered part of me has faded over time and while it will always be part of me, it no longer takes up my time and attention, except in my efforts to help others get past similar problems. And for me, that’s the really good news.

  • Jace says:

    You are an inspiration Marsha. I hope one day I let the shame fade to into the distance and hold on to the light and cherish the wisdom I’ve gained.

    My new slogan: “One day, one meal, one bite at a time.”

  • Deborah says:

    Nowadays I often make throwaway comments about bingeing and confess to the occasional binge but I’m not sure I’ve had to have a proper conversation with someone (who I was worried may judge me) about it. Definitely not about the specifics.

    Deb

  • Jace says:

    Deborah- It so different for everyone! Has it just not come up? Have you purposefully not shared the specifics? Does it feel unsafe, uncomfortable? I’m very curious how binging is discussed, or not, for others. Only if you’d like to share of course!

    I guess it’s the differentiating of “the judgement.” I assumed and have a problem still assuming that everyone, even those who love me, will judge my food choices then and now….because I judged and still do judge them myself.

    I’m not sure I’d have had as many proper conversations as I have if I didn’t have this blog. I knew for me, this was going to be a great outlet for making myself communicate and become as comfortable as possible with what I’ve gone through, my history, my story. I wanted it stand for something other than sadness for me, so if my words ever even touch once person through this blog, then I know there’s a reason that all of this (binging, this writing, my struggle, etc) part of my life, as hard as it is to see that some days.

    Thank you for commenting Deborah!

  • Cody Code says:

    Sharing your binge problem is the best you can do. I have had many clients share their problems. Most often, sharing them gets it off their shoulders. Once they share, they know someone is watching them and now they are obligated and self-aware that someone knows and are more conscience when eating.

    Cody

  • Jace says:

    It makes it so we are no longer struggling alone, in silence but inviting others in to hear our stories, help us tackle our demons, and move forward with our lives. <3

    Thank you for commenting Cody :-)

  • Elizabeth says:

    I knew I eat when I upset and I hide it the BF called me out on it last night and got frustrated when I reacted by crying and being angry. i recently lost a fair bit of weight but every time anyone mentions the fact or what i looked like before i want to hide. I am moving in with him soon and he is supportive but he made a comment that its easy to control just go to the gym when I am upset and if he could fight his own addictions mine was small in comparison. He did not like hearing he triggered a lot of the bag of chips in the car or Chinese food after he left for work moments when we fought.
    Any advice? I guess I really am an emotional eater or binge eater

    • Elizabeth,

      It sounds like you are an emotional eater, and you’re not alone in this. Binge eating is determined by the level of intensity, frequency and the emotional pain that is brought on by it. Regardless of labels, your experience is real. I would suggest that you make yourself a priority by creating safe spaces for you to explore your eating pattern and what drives it. A therapist who specializes in eating behavior would be a good place to start, see bedaonline.com or edreferral.com for some resources in your area.

      Hope that helps,
      Kari Anderson, DBH, LPC, Binge eating specialist at Green Mountain

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