Binging on food used to be a part of my daily routine. I used food to cope (poorly) with stress. I used food to suppress my emotions. I used food as a (poor) substitute for love. The more stress I encountered in any given day -- whether it was related to boredom, loneliness, anger, frustration, overwhelm or otherwise -- the more likely I was to bury myself in food when I got home at the end of a day. During a binge, I could check out so completely that it was almost as if I was outside my body. There were times when I would look around my kitchen after it happened and feel like I was looking in on someone else.
During this time, there was no quantity of food too large. A single cookie would not do. A bag of of cookies felt necessary. A box of crackers would go down easily. Slice after slice of cheese, an entire loaf of bread: nothing was off limits. It was only through stuffing my face that I began to feel like I had some small amount of control over my day -- though of course this was the part of me that was most out of control.
My kitchen was a dangerous place and my car was even worse: I could drive to a fast food restaurant, order a burrito, and be done before I'd even finished pulling out of the drive-through. I would go to the store with the express purpose of finding the perfect item to overeat. Would it be ice cream? Cookie dough? Ravioli? Pizza? Whatever I chose, I would eat the entire thing. I would leave no bite behind.
It was like I was screaming into my food. TODAY WAS VERY STRESSFUL! I'd yell to a piece of cake. THAT WAS A LOT TO DEAL WITH! I'd scream to a bottle of wine. LIFE IS LONELY! I'd yell into a box of cookies. Of course, the food did not listen. The food covered my screams, pushed them down, hid them. And then I'd clean up the mess in the kitchen and walk out of the room as if nothing had ever happened.
I don't binge like that anymore, but I don't know if it's ever something one fully gets over. You know how alcoholics and drug addicts refer to themselves as "recovering" instead of "recovered," no matter how many years it's been since that last drink? I understand this. I understand because after years of therapy, hard work, and sweeping lifestyle changes, I still have days when I want to stuff my feelings into a large cheese pizza.
Today was one of those days. You know the type of day -- the one where you feel like you'll just never quite catch up on the to-do list, no matter how many hours you spend working on it. The type of day when you feel unprepared to eat a healthy meal because you didn't take the time to go grocery shopping and do some meal prep, even though you know those are crucial elements of your new healthy lifestyle. (They say that failing to plan is planning to fail and it's true, true, true.) The type of day when your mind tries to convince you that an apple doesn't sound that great but an apple melted in butter dipped in chocolate covered in ice cream dunked in cookie crumbs splattered with cheese sounds divine.
I didn't do the things an older version of me would have done. I didn't eat a box of cookies or a loaf of bread or bowl after bowl of cereal. I didn't make a special trip to find ice cream and I didn't say Screw it and make a meal out of jalapeño poppers and fries. I didn't do any of those things, but I did eat more than I normally do. Nothing unhealthy, nothing crazy, but more than what I normally eat -- and more than what I needed to eat to feel full. I ate past the point of feeling full and felt that old, familiar strain of my stomach stretching uncomfortably. My skin felt hot. My stomach felt doughy. I didn't sit myself down for a proper snack. I ate standing in the kitchen, handfuls going straight to my mouth before making it onto a plate or bowl. A series of factors converged to make the scenario worse: I didn't drink enough water today. I wasn't able to work out until later in the day. I had to spend a lot of time sitting and working. There weren't fresh groceries in the fridge. All of these things added up in a way that made a binge nearly inevitable.
So I binged. Nothing crazy. Nothing like the old me. But a handful here, a handful there, a handful standing in the middle of the kitchen, a handful without thinking, a handful to try and deal with my emotions and feelings through food.
After all this time, you'd think I'd know: There is no such thing as dealing with your emotions and feelings through food. Food works neither as a punishment nor a reward, neither as solace nor comfort nor loving arms. Food is sustenance. Food is fuel. Food is calories in. Food is not a replacement for sitting down, taking a deep breath, and saying, "I can do this. It seems like a lot right now, but I just need to take it one step at a time." Food is not something that can be shoved into your mouth as you wonder how you'll get it all done. Food doesn't satisfy you simply because you want and need to be satisfied in the midst of worrying about your finances and errands and responsibilities. Food is food.
What's to be done after a day like this? I can move on. I can acknowledge what happened and know that it's okay. I can fix myself healthy, filling meals tomorrow. I can take the time to prepare my meals ahead of time so I'm not caught off guard. I can make a list of the actions I'll take to conquer this never-ending to-do list. I can accept the fact that it may be just that: never-ending, and figure out a way to be okay with that. I can do the best I can. I can make sure I get my workout in tomorrow. I can realize that not only do I not need to be perfect, I don't even need to be great or good. I just need to be kind to myself. I just need to be patient. I just need to say "Okay" and treat myself well tomorrow. Tomorrow's a day for delicious foods and sitting down for all meals and not being so casual with the things I allow into my body. Tomorrow's a day for doing what I can do, feeling the feelings I need to feel, and letting go of everything that needs to be released.
Today was not terrible, but it could have been better. Tomorrow's a new day and I know it will be fantastic.
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