Rethinking The Binge

Binge eating. A close acquaintance of many a dieter, including followers of IE.

You may recall, a week or so ago, I reported a binge incident. It was depression-related. I had all the signs of depression, the black dog that has been my faithful companion for over 2 decades.

Apathy. Numbness. Loss of pleasure in usual activities. Low motivation. Suicidal thoughts. Desire to self-harm. Lethargy. Brain fog. Low concentration. Laboured movement. Desire but inability to cry. Hopelessness.

Check. All of the above. So, I chose my mental health over my physical health. I ate 2 mars bars and 3 donuts. But do you know what else? That’s all I ate. I didn’t want anything else. I just wanted the SUGAR.

I figured this was a binge. I’d got so used to eating healthy. I was becoming accustomed to wanting, and eating, protein & vegetables, most of the time. For my old eating habits to appear out of nowhere? How could it be anything else?! My old, destructive habits were back. There could be only one answer:

BINGE.

Fast forward to today. Something made me question my assumption. WAS it a binge?

The NHS website defines binge eating as:

“an eating disorder where a person feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis. People who binge eat consume very large quantities of food over a short period of time and they often eat even when they are not hungry. Binges are often planned and can involve the person buying ’special binge foods’. Binge eating usually takes place in private with the person feeling that they have no control over their eating. They will often have feelings of guilt and disgust after binge eating.”

From there, let me compare the depression-related “binge” of a week ago with the food I consumed today, namely:

A chocolate orange, a galaxy coffee, 2 donuts, half a mars bar, and vast quantities of coffee.

Depression-related binge & today: almost identical food choices. Increased caffiene today. Still under 1200 calories (I’m not counting, but for the purposes of this analysis, this information is useful). So far, so identical. Now, about the binge eating description above: been there, bought the t-shirt, couldn’t fit into it afterwards. I’d eat “normally” all day. Maybe add a cake at lunchtime. And one on the way home. Find something good on tv. Ritualise it. Order a 4,000 calorie Domino’s Pizza meal deal. Eat in secret. Throw away the boxes immediately. Wash up, clean the house, destroy the evidence. Feel awful. Hate my disgusting self for days. Go on diet. Rinse and repeat until 212lbs.

So, my old behaviour fits the description. I had an eating disorder. Only, you couldn’t tell - you expect someone with an eating disorder to be thin, not fat. Let’s compare both today & the other recent “binge” with the same criteria:

Consuming “very large quantities” of food? Not especially - given that I remained under the weight-loss benchmark of 1,200 calories. And I didn’t design it this way, it’s just the way it happened. Eating when not hungry? Nope. I was hungry. I didn’t starve myself to become hungry either - it was just normal, everyday hunger. Planned? No. Both times, completely spontaneous. “special binge foods”? No, just what I liked the look of. My special binge food is a large Texas BBQ Domino’s Pizza with 5 garlic & herb dips (1 per 2 slices), chicken kickers with 2 garlic & herb dips, chicken strippers with 2 BBQ dips, about 4 cans of Pepsi, and a cheesecake. In private? Nope. I casually munched on my donuts & chocolate in front of my partner & friends. I didn’t do the “hide the boxes” routine. No control? I wouldn’t say so. My cravings are strong, but so are those I usually get for steak, salmon, cucumber & peppers. I tend to eat what I crave, but I’m confident I could do otherwise. It’s only food, and I don’t care THAT much. Guilt? I can’t remember the last time I felt that, though I’m sure I’d recognise it. Disgust? None of that either. I went for a longer walk than usual today and did a tiny bit of strength & stability training. I love my body, it’s starting to feel smaller & stronger, just the way I want it. I didn’t exercise while depressed, but I didn’t feel disgusted either. I pretty much didn’t feel anything.

So there you have it. I ate nothing but crap all day, but it wasn’t a binge. What it WAS, I have no idea. Yet. Herein lies the nugget of IE advice to myself:

THERE ARE NO BINGE FOODS - ONLY BINGE BEHAVIOUR

On, then, to the next part of the analysis: the common denominator. When this “gimme nothing but sugar” thing happens again (and it will), I’ll see if the conclusion I’m about to draw still fits.

Last “gimme all the sugar” day - depression

This “gimme all the sugar” day - hypomania

Now, I’m not about to sit here and call myself bipolar without a medical diagnosis, but it’s something I’ve suspected for years, and have become very comfortable with, even fond of. Let’s compare how I’m feeling today with the hypomania symptoms list from the mind.org.uk site:

Increased energy & activity? Yes. Feeling full of ideas, with racing thoughts? Yes. Increased confidence and self-esteem? Yes. Decreased need for sleep? No. Talkativeness? A bit. Easily distracted? No, but impatient. Increased sociability? Yes. Increased sexual desire & reduced inhibitions? Yes. Increased involvement in pleasurable activities? Yes. Lack of insight? No. Increased awareness of senses? Yes. And I’ll throw feelings of grandiosity onto the bonfire for good measure.

In conclusion: I have a new hypothesis. If I’m not bingeing, then why the “gimme all the sugar” thing?

My theory is that at either end of the mood spectrum, I have increased need or desire for sugar.

Why this is, I have no idea, but I will let you know upon my return from my research expedition.

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