My Battle With Binge Eating

Binge eating is a tremendous and diabolical battle for some people. I am one of them. I battle with binge eating. Delicious, depressing, horrifying, comforting, frustrating binge eating.

Louis C.K. describes it so succinctly and perfectly: “The meal isn’t over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.”

I do pretty well. I exercise, I cook my own food, I have healthy options in the fridge, I track both my calories and my nutritional information in what I eat (i.e. protein, sugar, vitamins A + C, Calcium, Iron, potassium and so forth.) There is a great app, by the way, that makes this very easy.

Doing these things helps curb binge eating. But when it happens – and for me it’s usually triggered by an emotional episode – I lose all control. I once read in a magazine something a nutritionist said about binge eating. To paraphrase: “If you got a flat tire, you wouldn’t get a gun and shoot out the remaining three tires. And that’s what you’re doing when you eat and think, oh well, it’s too late, I’ll just keep eating.” I wish that stuck with me, but now what I do is imagine myself shooting tires with every extra pizza slice.

As National Nutrition Month comes to a close, which coincidentally is the month I began exercising regularly, I’ve been reflecting on my own habits and became curious about others. TIME Magazine posted an article about nutrition, asking experts in the field their thoughts on food and what they actually eat. I chose some of them to highlight here.

David Kirchhoff, CEO of Weight Watchers International.
He eats “vegetables, fruits (lots!), seafood and whole grains.” His indulgence foods are cheese (oh man, I hear you there, buddy) and ice cream.

On healthy eating and avoiding binging he says,

“I actually think the notion of willpower can be destructive…It never works. Rather, my view is that this is one place where I get to stack the deck in my favor. By managing my environment so that I’m not tempted, I don’t have to exert nearly as much willpower.”

Fitness Trainer Michael Olajide.
He describes himself as an “omnivore. Nothing is off the menu with the exception of fast foods and hormone injected food.” His indulgence food is also ice cream, along with Coca-Cola.

He said something about eating that I found interesting:

Have unconventional eating habits. Treat food as fuel, and don’t eat out of habit.

Jess Kolko, registered Dietitian for Whole Foods Market.
She eats, “80% vegan, 10% sushi. Her indulgence food is “super dark chocolate, 80%.” Her tips on eating well are:

Focusing on foods in their whole, natural forms and making it the norm and to cook simply with seasonal ingredients is the best way to stop battling your plate. Make friends with whole, minimally processed food like fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes and the rest will take care of itself.

Tricia Williams, executive chef and founder of Food Matters NYC.
What she eats, or doesn’t: “No gluten, dairy or sugar; and low grains and high greens.” Her indulgence food is “Anything chocolate – chocolate anything.”

On healthy eating, she says,

“I go by the 80/20 rule. 80% plant-based and 20% animal protein. I’ve seen a lot of clients have success following a paleo-based diet (which focuses on foods our ancestors ate, including fresh meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts), particularly the more athletic clients who have specific goals in mind.”

These people have great advice, but seeing their faces on my laptop screen, I just want to look them in their digital eyes and say, “Oh screw you. It must be so nice being so perfect. Using your intelligence and brains and stuff and not eating an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips for dinner with half a bottle of wine and then some dark chocolate, because after that you need a little something sweet, that’s just science, and then hating yourself for the rest of the night.”

This takes time, practice and patience. I know I can get there. I want to stop using food as a drug. When I’m stressed or depressed or feel like I’m losing control, I fix that with McDonald’s. Or Del Taco. Or whatever is closest to me. I medicate myself with it. I do not intend to lessen anyone with drug addictions, and in no way am I saying that a fast food addiction is as dangerous as a cocaine or heroin addiction. How GREAT would it be if I had a legitimate drug addiction? Imagine sitting in a circle at a meeting with everyone bravely telling their stories, and maybe someone talks about how meth tore apart his family and he doesn’t get to see his kid Emily anymore because he was so high he ruined her birthday party by punching the clown, and someone else tells a story about how alcoholism ruined her marriage, but she’ll fight like hell to win David’s trust back, because David was the first person who ever believed in her yarn boutique business, and then it turns to me and I’m like, “Hi, I had Del Taco for lunch and McDonald’s for dinner.”

You know what I mean?

Because it is so, so embarrassing to admit to anyone that I binge and I use Big Macs as drugs. It doesn’t feel like a “real addiction.” But the thing is, the thing that I have to accept, that I think a lot of people have to accept, is that it is a real addiction. It is for many people.