What We Get Wrong About Bingeing

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Does this scenario sound familiar? You come home from a long day of work to an empty house. You walk towards the kitchen, feeling the excitement rising in your chest. You were running around all day, and can't wait to dive head-first into your pantry. You've been really good this week, following your diet to a T. You grab a handful of trail mix, a spoonful of Nutella, beginning to zone out and feeling the stress from the day melt away. You're not exactly hungry for a proper "meal," but feel like a bottomless pit at the same time. 

At some point, a voice enters your mind: "You're ruining all your progress. You have no willpower anyways -- you might as well give up and eat the whole pantry. You can always start tomorrow." 

It's almost as if a switch flips, and you go from 0-100 real quick. You quickly open the freezer, remembering your roommate's pint of Ben & Jerry's hidden in the back. 

"I'll just have one bite," you tell yourself. 5 minutes later, the bottom of the ice cream container is staring back at you.

Suddenly, you don't feel so hot. The stress that had begun to melt away was quickly replaced with other feelings: shame, guilt and anxiety. 

"How could I let myself do this?" You think to yourself. "What's wrong with me?!" 

Alright, here's where I'm about to interrupt this little story: NOTHING IS WRONG WITH YOU. Eating large quantities of food is a completely normal response to starving the hell out of yourself all day. The issue lies in the guilt and shame that we layer on ourselves after the binge. The days of restriction and self-loathing that we impose on ourselves after the binge. I resonate with this all too well, because for 10 years of my life, this was me. 

My friend Cara told me about this idea of a metaphorical period. After you eat a meal, you are not morally good or bad, depending on what you ate. You just ate food. Boom. Metaphorical period. 

I love this, because bingeing in itself isn't bad or scary. It's our bodies telling us we need more food. We only make it messy by continuing to restrict and punish ourselves after the fact.  

Imagine a very different scenario: you come home from work to an empty house. You begin to snack here and there, not really eating for physical satiety but more to fill an emotional void and relieve stress. You feel neutral about your eating and don't experience the diet voice creeping in with negative self-talk. You suddenly feel pretty full, leave the kitchen, and lay down. The next day, you do not compensate by restricting or compulsively exercising. You move on with your goddamn life. Metaphorical period.