Cousin Binge Revisits
It happened. I had a little food binge. It started at age 12, when I went to my parents’ bedroom, closed the door, and declared I had something very important to tell them: I was going on a diet the next day, so they shouldn’t make me eat. I expected them to meet the announcement with opposition, but they didn’t. That first diet consisted of grapes, chicken breast, and milk….every single day; along with several daily trips to the basement to jumprope. I lost a few pounds the first week, then stopped as my body went into “starvation hold on to every calorie mode,” and then I wreaked havoc on my metabolism; shocker.
That first diet started the first series of binges. I don’t think it ever amounted to what you would call official bulimia, but it was certainly disordered eating. Have way too many calories over a couple of hours because I was deprived and starving, then spend the next several days eating nothing to make up for it, and then repeat. A hamster running around like crazy in a little wheel all in the name of weight maintenance. I didn’t make myself throw up, I didn’t take laxatives, but it was definitely disordered.
A life-long battle of dieting ensued. It’s included a few Weight Watchers memberships after my pregnancies and a little time at Jenny Craig, and hours wasted reading every diet book ever published. Did I mention that I have never been fat? Oh yeah, I’ve never been fat. Not by anyone’s definition. Not when I was 12, not even when I was 9 months pregnant. But you and I know that women’s relationships with food are much more complex than that.
As I got older, I guess I grew up a little. I continued to periodically binge, but I couldn’t afford a 2000 calorie binge anymore, because I couldn’t make up for it in 3 days of starvation anymore; so they became smaller calorie binges that occurred less often, but still came on regularly; a volcano laying dormant that eventually erupts.
In the last few years, they became rare; almost disappeared. And when they ambushed me, I didn’t quite hate myself to the same degree; my thoughts didn’t spiral from you ate too much food to you are a complete fake failure in life. Well, I just assumed that I had finally grown up, turned 40 and left the ridiculousness behind me.
Then last night**, after months, cousin binge revisited. In the form of frosting and sriracha popcorn and Tostitos with melted cheese over them. Sugar, salt, fat. Later I’m taking a shower and I’m thinking why did that happen; it was so out of the blue; I thought I was over this. A ginormous DUH slaps me !!! I didn’t run today….I DIDN’T RUN TODAY !! I used to eat through my emotions, and now I run through them.
There probably hasn’t been a single day when I’ve run and then binged later. I’m not 100% sure because Ms. Obsessive over-thinker and over-analyzer never thought about it until now! The high of a run and the low of a binge are INCOMPATIBLE together on the same day.
The mental wash of a run prevents the need to suffocate your feelings or stress with food. Now that I’m saying it, I can’t believe that I didn’t put this 1 + 1 = 2 equation together sooner. I took AP calculus and had years of post-graduate training, but it took me 3 years of running to solve this simple problem.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that you the reader will NOT believe me when I say that I didn’t figure this out sooner. The only explanation I have is that it wasn’t that every time I was emotionally frustrated I said, “why don’t I go for a little run; that will distract me from the need to muffle my pacing irrational overwhelmed brain with food.” It’s that I almost always run first thing in the morning, and so that mental rumination and the post-run energy result in a day in which the need to binge on food as my drug rarely came up.
The revelation is powerful. A true cliche Oprah A-HA moment. Life-changing, really. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never binge again; that I know for sure. Because there are days when I can’t fit in a good sweat session, and I have stress, self-doubt, and unrealistic self-imposed expectations; and undoing 30 years of emotional eating forever is not that simple. This type A girl doesn’t have all her sh#t together and doesn’t have all the answers. But now I know again, how necessary this run is for me, how vital to my well-being. Would I rather binge through my emotions or run through them? I’ll take the run.
**Said binge occurred on 2/15/15, and the first draft of this post was written the next day.
This piece was originally published on 3/10/15.