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Vampire eating

Sometimes healthy living is so easy for me. I eat my snacks at the scheduled hours. I have a salad for dinner and genuinely enjoy it. I walk past boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the office kitchen without reaching my hand out to grab a bite and it’s not hard at all. Then there are nights when I’m sitting in the Marsh parking lot at 8:00 at night thinking, “There is something seriously wrong with me.” Because it is not normal to eat a box of ice cream sandwiches, two donuts, God-only-knows-how-many bowls of oatmeal, and a lot of other stuff I can’t remember two weeks later, and still want to drive to the grocery store to buy a stuffed-crust pizza.

Thankfully, it’s been so long since I bought a Tombstone stuffed-crust pizza that they seem to have stopped making them, or my Marsh just doesn’t stock them, so that was one small chip of the iceberg my personal Titanic avoided. I did wander around the freezer section for literally 15 minutes trying to decide if I wanted to buy another pizza or a Lean Pocket or a box of mozzarella sticks. Ultimately I decided that if I was going to cheat I wanted it to be with the lover I wanted and not his ugly cousin, so I only purchased some paninis and fudge pops I needed anyway.

I’ve partaken in vampire eating habits more frequently recently. My cravings play nice during the day and bare their fangs at night. Even if I get rid of all my favorite binge foods, I just plow into what I can find. I’m trying to remember if I’ve always behaved like this, and I don’t really know. When I was younger, I didn’t give a shit about what I ate. I’d eat half a gallon of ice cream and didn’t feel bad about it at all because I never dieted. I also gained 200 pounds. The difference now seems to be that I actually care about what I shovel into my pie hole, especially if it’s a whole pie. I’m actually trying to resist the urges, which I didn’t really do before.

I’ve never known what to think about the concept of “food addiction.” Even after my abnormal binge, I’m still not sure what to think. The term “addiction” implies to me that you need to give up whatever you are addicted to. How can you give up food? When I read the definition for compulsive overeating at Wikipedia, it doesn’t jive with my experiences. Even when I was driving to Marsh, I didn’t feel out of control. I knew exactly what I was doing and I didn’t care. I also didn’t eat any quicker than normal during my binge. And I’ve never felt intense depression or guilt over it. I’m telling the whole freakin’ Internet. How guilty could I actually feel? Reflecting on the event now, I’m unhappy that it happened and I’d like to prevent it from happening again, but I don’t feel a need to apologize to anyone for it or to be ashamed for what I did. I like to eat. I probably gained two pounds. Whoop-dee-doo! I only felt guilty when I parked in a spot really close to the store. I usually park way far away and walk.

A part of me wonders if there’s anything wrong with going on a crazy binge every now and then. Assuming you have good cholesterol, normal blood-pressure, and all that jazz, does it matter if you stuff a box of cookies in your mouth once a month? If you get shit-faced drunk several times a year, is it really a problem assuming that you don’t drive drunk and you don’t cause liver damage? It’s a conundrum.

The only thing I connected with in the entry about food addiction is the theory that it is a mechanism to increase serotonin levels in the brain. On the day of my binge, I felt incredibly down for no reason that I could think of. I just wanted to sit around all day and I felt unmotivated to do anything (except eat, obviously). I don’t usually feel like that, but if I did, it’s possible I might go on crazy binges more often. I don’t know. I know some people are really into figuring out all the emotional and psychological issues associated with eating. Personally, I’m not that interested in it as long as I’m doing okay. If I get obese again, I’d probably explore it. I consider eating to be a complex behavior motivated by many components including emotion, hunger, and the content of your diet. Sometimes I wonder if thinking about food so much just makes me hungry, like catching an ad for McDonalds on TV makes me want to get a Big Mac.

BTW, this happened two weeks ago and nothing insane like it has happened since, so there is no need to reassure me or hug me or whatever. I thought about not mentioning it at all, but I prefer to be honest. I also want people to know that you can go completely off the rails sometimes and get right back on track. I’ve been exercising and eating well since then and I’ve lost all the weight I gained that night.

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48 Comments

suzanne • February 29, 2008 at 10:48 am

You know i do this and at the time i can’t seem to stop. It happened last night. And i’ve been trying psycho analize it and i just don’t know why it happens other that i love to eat. I’m so close to goal and i get so mad at myself when this happens, but as you say i lose the weight i gain within a few days and life goes on. Thank you sometimes i feel i’m the only one that does this.

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Rachel • February 29, 2008 at 10:50 am

interesting post. The thing is, binge drinking is so much more culturally acceptable than binge eating – at least it is when you’re young and you don’t do it all that often. Hell, I do it occassionally – in public, with my friends cheering me on. I guess I don’t seen much difference between that, health-wise, and going on a food binge. Neither are all that healthy to begin with (why did I feel the need to get shit-faced the other day? Can’t I have a memorable evening without all that booze, etc) but personally I don’t see anything exceedingly wrong with either activity if done in moderation.

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Jenn • February 29, 2008 at 11:06 am

Thanks for posting this. I thought I was the only one. Ditto that I don’t feel “out of control” when it happens, I just don’t care that I want to eat and eat to fulfill a particular craving. I do feel bad the next day- but it’s not the depths of despair either. I think a lot of it is emotion/hormone driven.

I am not so good at picking myself up and moving on though- I still have that “I have to start the diet all over” mentality and I find it difficult to get back on track.

Anyway- thank you for deciding to share this. I love your blog for exactly posts like this- you are very honest and I can relate.

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lurker • February 29, 2008 at 11:16 am

I have no opinion about why we do this, or if it’s something we should worry about and try to stop doing. But, if you *want* to try to stop doing it–for whatever reaason–cognitive therapy might be helpful. I have found the techniques suggested in the Beck Diet Solution book (by Judith Beck) extremely helpful for controlling urges/cravings/binges.

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sarah j • February 29, 2008 at 11:29 am

I just finished reading HUNGRY by Allen Zadoff who is a blogger that has published a book! He is a food junkie. It wasn’t comforting to read, but he did a nice job of making an easy read out of an emotional subject. I don’t see myself in the book and then at other times I do. It is a very spare book (dare I say “thin”), but packs a lot of thoughtful substance. And what I liked most as well as scared me the most, what you just wrote about… that there isn’t a “I’m cured” time we reach. That the demons and struggles continue…even after goal weight/lifestyle is reached. Of course also inspiring is that the struggles no longer win.

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Sarah • February 29, 2008 at 11:37 am

I have no idea if this has anything to do with it, but I’m always hungrier at this time of year. I always have wondered if human beings were meant to hibernate, too, as the winter months seem to bring this need to store extra fat.

Your honesty is really refreshing, as is your mature perspective on things.

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Cynthia • February 29, 2008 at 11:58 am

Honestly, I don’t know why I sometimes binge either. The only good news is that now, it happens fairly infrequently. At one point, it practically was my eating lifestyle!

I think it occurs most now when I’m either feeling down or when I’m feeling frustrated. But my deal now is that I just get back on track soonest. Next meal if possible, next morning if not.

Sometimes, I even manage to take the binge food and toss whatever is left. At any rate, the only solution for me is to move forward and not stress over it.

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joan • February 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Could it be a “time of the month” thing? I used to get that way right before my period every month. Now that I’m older, it happens when I ovulate too (menopause? Bring it on!). But worst of all, it happens when I stay up too late at night… tired is a trigger too.

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Amy • February 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it – I think probably everyone has a binge night every once in a while – it’s just that those of us who’ve lost weight or have struggled with weight tend to start to second guess ourselves – are we backsliding? Is this how we got fat to begin with?

I ate a sleeve of thin mint girl scout cookies while lying in bed playing computer solitaire last night. And felt a bit binge-y. But then decided that as I’m not fat anymore, and have no intention of eating that many cookies every night (and not just because they’re gone now), that it’s okay. It’s a once-in-a-while thing.

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sara • February 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

i really appreciate you writing this post. it’s sort of reassuring to hear that you have it mostly figured out, just not ALL figured out. i am on the other end– i have so little of it figured out in terms of my eating & exercising. i am at the point where i now know that i need to get to the root of my binge eating with the help of a professional therapist b/c i keep cycling around losing, exercising, gaining, gaining, gaining, no motivation to move, etc.

i know this past year has been particularly stressful with a move, loss of a parent, momma vs. ‘worker’ identity crisis, etc & i am wearing all that stress physically on my body. gotta learn how to NOT wear my stress (in weight) & face frustration, sadness, uncertainty, etc with something different than food.

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Marianne • February 29, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Thanks for a timely post – I had a similar experience yesterday. I didn’t feel guilty or ashamed, just a little confused at where the “OMG MUST EAT EVERYTHING nom nom nom” thoughts came from.

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victoria • February 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I think I definitely have a food addiction, even though I do not hide food, do not eat in secret, do not eat very rapidly, do not suffer food “blackouts” or inability to remember what I ate. I eat small quantities of food, never an obscene amount in one sitting, and I am not ashamed of what I eat.

Yet I definitely have a food addiction. I know this because when I am sad, angry, bored, lonely, fearful, or just overwhelmed, I want to eat certain comfort foods.

At my last job, I had a terrifying boss. That workplace also had a bucket of mini Snicker’s bars, Hershey’s kisses, Jolly Ranchers, & other bite-sized mini candies in a cabinet. Every time I had an encounter with Terror Boss, I hit the bucket afterward. I never stuffed my face with huge quantities of candy in secret, I always had just one or two pieces, and in public, but there was a clear stress -> comfort food sequence.

The other thing that tells me I have a food addiction is that there are certain foods that I go to for comfort. Pasta, bread, chips, sweets. My drug of choice is definitely foods with a high glycemic impact.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a metabolic explanation for my addiciton. I suspect that I have insulin resistance (I am “apple shaped” with respect to fat distribution). I suspect insulin resistance is why high glycemic-impact foods have a sedative effect on me, and why I hit them for “comfort” when life is overwhelming.

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Jacqueline • February 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for sharing this with us! Every one in awhile I will just have days where my body just seems to want to consume lots of food (and of course it is usually the unhealthy stuff) and I feel like I still have not “gotten” this healthy living thing. It is definately reassuring to know that I am not the only person that deals with it….

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Happy • February 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I can relate to this post so much, because the “compulsive overeating” description doesn’t fit me either, but I DEFINITELY have times that are exactly like what you describe.

I find it happens when I feel tired, or down, or I’m seriously over-hungry. But I also know that’s not all there is to it, because I sure don’t do it every time I’m in those states.

Who knows. I’m just grateful it doesn’t happen often, and that the rest of the time I can eat healthfully (at least lately, that is).

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radiosilents • February 29, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I, too, can totally relate to this post. Thanks for sharing your experience with this!

I also wanted to say that I just discovered your blog about a week ago and it so inspired me that I started my own weight loss blog. I have 200 pounds total to lose and reading about your journey really gave me hope. So far I’ve lost almost 20 pounds, which feels like a drop in the bucket, but I know that I am going to really do it this time.

Continued success to you!

xo Amy

PQ – Good luck with it, Amy! It can be done!

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G.G. • February 29, 2008 at 3:35 pm

I want to preface this by saying that everyone is different, and I know that what is true for me is not true for you and I do not want to imply that it is.

I would identify myself as a problematic binge eater, and would say that the compulsive element of that behavior developed over time, without me really being cognizant of it happening. I would never say that a binge is “wrong,” but I do think it is important for me to identify why I am eating something, because it’s the willful irrationality of the binge behavior (the “I don’t care” part) where I get into trouble, not in the physical act of eating itself. Some people may be able to have an occasional “binge” just because they love to eat, but I know I’m not one of them and probably never will be. Any act of extreme and willful overeating is a signal that I need to watch myself, if I want to lose weight and be healthy over the long term. I can’t treat the act of eating as simple recreation, even though I still very much enjoy food. When I willfully binge, the act of eating is only tangentially about the food, no matter how hard I try to tell myself that I just really, really like chocolate chip cookies.

And I’m one of those people that analyzes everything. It’s the only way I’ve been able to figure out how to change my behavior. I do believe, though, it’s possible to overthink things, too. That’s another kind of compulsion.

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DDWT • February 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever binged quite like that on food (alcohol is another story :sigh: ) but I do seem to have a self-sabotage button that kicks in when I get within 5 to 15 pounds of my goal.

It’s happened three times now, and I’m thoroughly sick of it.

I’m doing WW now, exercising a lot more effectively (with a trainer who is forcing me to run and lift weights, two things I’ve never done seriously before), and I just ordered The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron. She’s The Artist Way lady . . . and is big into analyzing it . . . writing before a binge to try to figure out what you’re feeling and avoid it. So . . . might not be your cup of tea. But I think Amazon recommended it to me because I had ordered your book :)

So, anyway, I think it’s fabulous that you didn’t dwell, didn’t feel guilty, and went back on track the next day. That is soooo key.

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Kirsten • February 29, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Do you think that there may have been a trigger that you don’t know about that might have set it off? I have had this happen after eating MSG or certain types of stress etc.

PQ – It’s cliche, but I think it might have been the weather. I’m so completely sick of all the snow and grey skies in Indiana right now. I’m ready for Spring.

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JEMi @ MyFavoriteDietBlog.com • February 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm

you know what,

I had episodes of binge eating last summer after my husband passed away. I was bewildered by it – I thought it was crazy because I would be fixated on getting whatever it was that would be my dose(s).. ok OVERdoses of love and I would concentrate on getting back home as FAST as I could to lock the doors and eat as fast as I could. Followed by insurmountable guilt.

Of course I told my therapist in tears and her tip was to me to sit on it for 5-10 min. If I STILL had to have whatever it was, then by all means- act like I have no home training and get it.

It did help.. and I stopped doing that as my emotions began to stabalize and I wasn’t so consumed with staying hidden all the time

I really hid like all summer.. I just cant believe that..I hated stepping outside

Emotions have a lot to do with it and even if you hadn’t experience something like death, I can imagine many people having SO many personal reasons for needing food as the Saviour

oh and vampire eating – I am actively working on getting that $#!t in control. doesnt help that my sleeping habits bite..

I love that you didnt feel guilty after eating.. I want to divorce that feeling of guilt and food. what the hell is that- u know?

MAN I love your blog.

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Dinah Soar • February 29, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Thanks for sharing your total experience and not leaving out the parts that might be deemed a failing…I think we all do the same as you, and it helps us to see that a successful person has her moments too…

As for food and addiction…I do think the behavior of eating does as you say involve our emotions, etc…no way to avoid that…and it does figure into our hunger and our choices….

One thing though I’ve noticed about myself over the years…if I’m very busy doing something I really enjoy I lose touch with time and never get hungry…but if I’m very busy doing something that must be done, that I might not enjoy it’s hunger as usual.

PQ – I totally agree. If my mind is actively involved in something I enjoy, hunger goes away.

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NyrtlePop • February 29, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Hello, my name is NyrtlePop and I am a food addict. Now you say “Hello NyrtlePop” :)…

A binge for me typically starts out with the plan of one meal or one day and quickly unravels into days, weeks and sometimes months. I’m learning that the occasional splurge (in my case) must be well planned out and I must account for everything that passed my lips by writing it down otherwise I am in danger of losing some serious control.

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Heather • February 29, 2008 at 7:34 pm

I’ve lost over 160 pounds (LA Weight loss diet and exercise) and love reading your blog. I feel a bond with you since you’ve also lost a lot of weight. Anyway, I do binges every few weeks to a month too. I don’t believe I did this when I was 300 pounds so not sure why I would do it when I have many weeks my body should have the junk out of it’s system I believe. I eat whole medium pizzas, tons of cookies, chips…just whatever I can while ending in a huge bowl of cereal. So, just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I’ve read recently in an article that most binge eaters are actually normal weight which I found unusual but it was also with people who are “dieting”. I do believe you are right on. As long as we just don’t give up and get back to our old habits we’re a lot better off just binging every once in awhile.

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kalmia • February 29, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I used to binge like this all the time, too, completely undoing days/weeks of hard work.

I’m now on the Serotonin Power Diet (http://tinyurl.com/27dmz9) and am well on my way to losing the 30+ pounds I need to. I’ve tried everything, including SBD, and nothing has worked. I simply can’t stay on those diets. I either start craving carbohydrates or I’m simply too hungry. This way of eating has completely eliminated any urge I have to binge on sugar or starches, or to drink wine (my other downfall). I have no problem staying on it. I could do this forever. The food choices are really simple, too. Nothing time-consuming or complicated to make.

It would not be difficult to make it compatible with the SBD. It’s all about timing your snacks so that the tryptophan (from the protein you eat) can cross the blood/brain barrier and make serotonin. You can also use healthy whole-grain carbs, if you prefer. It turns out that serotonin does a lot more than control mood; it also controls appetite. When you understand how the biochemistry works and make a few easy changes to what you eat and when you eat it, it works like magic.

I’ve spent years beating myself up for being weak-willed, undisciplined, and a hopeless, gluttonous sugar addict. It turns out, I was none of these things. I had a serotonin problem. This can be caused by many factors, including stress, menopause, your innate biochemistry, and being on antidepressants. (For reasons nobody understands, they interfere with serotonin’s appetite-regulating system.) The program is extremely flexible and based on solid, long-term research. I can’t see why it couldn’t be adaptable to Weight Watchers, SBD, or any other reasonable diet. (It is not recommended for anyone who has diabetes, though.)

If any of you do look into this, don’t be put off because it allows plenty of carbs. I was so brain-washed by the low-carb approach that I was afraid to even try it at first, believing that I’d go completely out of control with them the way I always do. But, for the first time in my entire adult life (and I am 58), this didn’t happen. Just the opposite, in fact.

Naturally, I can’t claim that everyone will have the same incredible results with this approach as I am enjoying–I’m just one data point, after all. And I don’t mean to proselytize. But if you have a similar biochemistry to mine–i.e., you’re more of an apple than a pear, and you’re someone who craves carbohydrates–it is well worth a try.

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Dreamer • February 29, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Hi PQ — long-time reader, first-time poster here.

There’s a theory that our bodies play “catch-up” after periods of relatively light eating. If we’ve been “good” for awhile, eventually our bodies will crave the nutrients we lack — including sugars and fats, I’m sure — and we’ll get this primal, unstoppable urge to binge. (Perhaps this is also related to the “set-point” theory of weight that was mentioned in that PBS program on obesity that you linked to some time ago.) Often we might not even be aware that we’ve been depriving our bodies, until the urge to binge suddenly hits.

I think the best thing to do is accept that bingeing will happen occasionally (which it sounds to me is pretty much how you approach things, PQ — I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new here). If we’re eating healthily most of the time, we won’t panic. The key thing is to avoid the mentality of, “Well, I’ve blown the diet now, so I might as well keep on eating as much as I can.” Don’t turn it into a “last supper” foodfest, i.e., “I’ll start my ‘diet’ again tomorrow, so what I eat tonight doesn’t count.” At best, you’ll overeat on that one occasion; at worst, you’ll keep repeating the last supper night after night, and tomorrow will never come. By being able to avoid the on-diet/off-diet mentality, we are giving ourselves a tremendous gift.

You’re on the right track if you can just eat what your body craves, and then move on. Unfortunately, a lot of people become unstuck at this stage and switch back from weight-loss mode — or weight-maintenance mode — to weight-gain mode, because sometimes the very thought of going “back on the diet” is emotionally exhausting, so they flip the switch back in the other direction. [And just as an aside, isn't it funny how often we don't think being in the maintenance mode is good enough? We want to lose, lose, lose, or else we give up altogether -- which usually means we gain. It seems like an irrational choice, yet so many of us make it.]

I find it helps to remind myself that I actually can eat any of my favorite foods at any time — if I *really* crave them. But I have to be honest with myself about what “really crave them” means, or else I’ll eat these foods habitually, mindlessly.

A book I have found extremely useful in ending the diet/binge cycle is “Intuitive Eating,” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s all about making peace with food so that the urge to binge becomes less powerful — “a piece of chocolate becomes emotionally equivalent to a peach,” to use one of the authors’ phrases. [I know that sounds impossible -- and even annoying -- but I have actually found that it can happen eventually, once you really get in touch with what you feel like eating at any given time.] Another one of their mottos is, If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. And if you love it, savor it!

[By the way, I have no financial interests in this book -- I'm just a big fan of it and feel that others could benefit from it.]

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Katy • February 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Thank you very much for this post. Such a dose of common sense on a subject that I genuinely struggle with.

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samiam0002 • February 29, 2008 at 11:01 pm

compulsive overeating doesn’t have anything to do with how fast you eat or even what you eat. It goes to the motivation that is causing you to eat. A lot of people who compulsivly overeat do so as a result of strong emotion that they don’t feel equipped to handle. Instead of experiencing the emotion they numb themselves with food. It’s basically a form of self medication. I also believe that there is a very strong connection with serotonin. I’ve read informtion how alcoholics and individuals with eating disorders share a genetic componet. Men more commonly express this by becoming alcohlics, women by developing eating disorders. If you look at the populations this holds up as the majority of alcoholics are men and the majority of individuals with eating disorders are women. Both group typically have issues with low levels of serotonin and have difficulty handling strong emotions when they address their problem and they try to maintain teir sobrity or helthy eating habits. Thats why many people turn to support groups that help them through so they can stay on target and hopefully not backslide into their old destructive ways.

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Kristin • February 29, 2008 at 11:04 pm

I can’t believe you would have time to read all these comments, but in case you do…

I can totally relate to your vampire eating. I have never been a binge eater in the clinical sense, but I have on many occasions eaten way more food in one sitting than I should have, either due to stress, anxiety, boredom, or because it just tastes so good! I’m pretty sure I have an addictive personality and I’m just lucky that food and shopping are the only things I’ve been addicted to. I’ve pretty much dealt with the food and I’m working on the shopping. I do find that there are times, however, when I am just compelled to keep eating even when I should be full. Two triggers for me are (1) days when I’ve had way too little sleep the night before–that really seems to bring on the munchies and though I might not binge, I just keep nibbling and nibbling and can’t seem to stop; and (2) days when I go too long without eating a meal or a snack, and when I finally do eat, it just doesn’t satisfy me and I continue to want more. Both of those problems are helped immeasurably by getting enough sleep and eating! The other thing that happens is when something tastes so yummy that I just want more and more (mostly with cake and cookies, but sometimes also with non-sweets like tortilla chips). If I find myself wanting more and more even after I’ve had my cookie (or two or three), it usually works just to tell myself “I’m done.” Somehow, that puts a rational stop to my irrational craving.

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RG • March 1, 2008 at 1:20 am

I vote yes, to all the explanations:

1. weather, grey skies, being trapped indoors

(serotonin)

2. time of month

3. eating lightly for a while

4. just because it’s time to loosen the reigns

5. nutrient imbalance (multivitamin and lots of protein)

The point is that for me, reversing every one of these has made me do the “11 oz bag of doritos” every few months instead of once a week.

It’s also counterintuitive, but surprisingly effective to eat something not carby. Tomato soup. A large bulky salad. Pickles. Fruit. usually if I think about it for awhile, I can figure out what the essential thing my body is craving and have that. I had that kind of “feed me a big bag of chips” craving the other night and since that would have involved dragging myself to the store, I forced myself to come up with an alternative. I had romaine lettuce with goat cheese crumbles and salt. I got the crunch, the fat, the salt, the splurge, but also some fiber and nutrients. The biggest benefit I thought was that I got full much faster, with far fewer calories. I may have eaten 11 ounces, but 11 ounces of lettuce and 2 ounces of cheese is a very reasonable snack. 11 ounces of chips is not.

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Simone • March 1, 2008 at 2:51 am

Man, listen: Girl, u can eat all the Tombstone pizza u want (as long as it’s not everyday. ok,occasionally but u get my drift) cause you freakin’ deserve it. You already know the risks of unhealthy eating and you’ve conquered your initial behavior of just eating whatever you felt like without thinking about consequences. So to heck with the food addiction wiki crap. I am glad you can look at it and go “not a chance buddy”. Your the truth, pastaqueen.

-Simone.

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Kate • March 1, 2008 at 7:25 am

Compulsive Overeating was one of those phrases I knew at about the age of 6, mainly because both my mother and father suffered (suffer) from it. I’m still not entirely sure if I do. I know as a kid/teen I used to wake up in the middle of the night and eat things (mainly evidenced by a vague memory and the crumbs in my bed) but it’s been a good 15 years since that’s happened. I do know that as an addiction, it can come in different forms. I mean, take alcoholics. Some drink day to night, and are clear examples that they shouldn’t ever drink. Some people might only drink once a month, but it’s clear that when they drink, they become powerless over alcohol. Some alcoholics are quite high functioning, holding down jobs and families as the addition slowly eats away at them.

The hard bit about it is that it doesn’t really matter if you (or I) are compulsive over eaters, because frankly, we still have to eat. We don’t have the luxury of saying, okay, I can’t handle food, I won’t eat it. However we also know that eating one cookie does not falling off the wagon make.

I wonder about the chemical side of it too, is it linked to our genetic makeup. Does the fact that both of my parents were at one time obese and that they had issues with it make me more suseptable?

I dunno…I just want to be healthy, lose my last 50 lbs (I’m half way, lost 50 already) and live my life.

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Marla • March 1, 2008 at 10:24 am

I think nearly everyone eats like that once in a while. I’ve seen normal-weight friends and relatives do it, and very likely it’s from a combination of all the things you mentioned. And definitely if you’ve been eating at a deficit for a while, and being as active as you are, it might have just caught up with you.

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Jenny • March 1, 2008 at 11:25 am

Blame hormones or the full moon we had two weeks ago.

Or both.

Sometimes it’s just that simple.

:-)

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Chris • March 1, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Oy. I so hear you on this one. I am mostly good, but every once in awhile I have these craving moments–well, evenings.

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Rose • March 1, 2008 at 3:18 pm

I have nothing substantive to add. I just want to thank you for posting this, because I’ve found the post and many of the comments to be very thought-provoking. I have more than 200 pounds to lose, and every night I go to bed thinking that I’ll start again tomorrow. But my two gym memberships are languishing unused, and I probably eat fast food at least 7 times a week. For me, the vampire eating episodes happen on the way home from work, when I stop for either a fast food dinner or somewhere where I can buy candy, where I load up on all the things I want, because after all, this is going to be tha last time– I’m starting tomorrow. But I deserve a reward, because I got all the way through the work day. I know it’s an addictive behavior when I start varying the places I go to so that I won’t become “known” there.

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Mary • March 1, 2008 at 11:33 pm

I don’t know if this would be helpful, but I noticed that the Fit Shack blog is going to be running . Apparently he’s going to try to heal himself from this tendency.

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Sarah • March 2, 2008 at 1:41 am

PQ -

thanks for the post. i think it is really helpful for us all to see that we aren’t the only ones who go through these things.

i totally support the weather theory. i live in the south, but grew up in IL. i swear that i am so much happier, well adjusted, and in such better shape now than i was then. and, after years of living in central IL it was always my theory that February wa the wosrt month of the year. by then you just want the winter to be over.

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beauty • March 2, 2008 at 9:02 am

I found your blog this morning. First I want to say Congratulations on losing so much weight, something to be very proud of.

It is just in the past year I have begun to wonder if I have an eating disorder, the most I had weighed was 220lbs, I started to lose this weight in 2005. I got down to 125lbs and now I am struggling with my desire to eat unhealthy again and my lack of motivation to exercise, I gained back 15lbs in just a few months. It’s frightened me.

Vampire eating is a good title for those night time feeds. I go through these bouts as well. My mother was an emotional eater, my sisters have been up and down the scale charts for years, my battle has only been in the last 8 years. I don’t want to go back to where I was, I was unhealthy, unhappy and miserable.

I am so glad I found your blog. Aside from the eating disorders of anorexia & bulimia, I honestly never knew there was others. I thought my parents had taught me poor eating habits, which I am sure that has something to do with it, but I look back on my mother and realize she too had major trouble with food, alas, she is not here for me to talk to about this. (Her loss was one reason I turned to food as well)

Thank you again, you are very inspirational.

beauty

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TrailMix718 • March 2, 2008 at 9:42 am

Spaghetti -

Maybe part of the problem was that you binged on other things before you allowed yourself to admit (or identify) that what you really wanted was the tombstone pizza… a kind of binging denial that lead you to eat things you didn’t want or wouldn’t have otherwise consumed if you just had the pizza?

This is not really advice (not that you need it), but rather a bit of conjecture. No hugs here, don’t worry. :)

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cm • March 2, 2008 at 1:30 pm

hey there,

i’m a big admirer of all you’ve done and have been doing–so much strength and humor and other good stuff in your daily keep on keepin’ on. i’ve learned a lot about rome not being built in a day from you, and though what i have to work on in my life is pretty different, i just burst with admiration for your accomplishments and draw strength and reassurance from them in trying to tackle my own unholy messes.

i’ve noticed that like a lot of people who reform their eating habits and become exercise freaks you’re starting to hit up against a pretty common problem. (i think. pls ignore if i’m being a buttinsky!) you’re gonna need more calories, more calorie-rich foods, and some sugars, and when your body thinks that it remembers pizza, candy etc etc.

did you know that a competitive long-distance female runner weighing 125 lbs needs to eat 2,000 calories a day *in carbohydrates?* oh, and then some protein and fat. i don’t know how much you’re running–probably more like 35 miles or so a week than 70-100, but you should expect you’ll need to eat more and sleep a lot more too. (professional runners, get up, eat, work out, sleep 3 hours, work out again, eat, then sleep 8-10 hours or more.)

it’s super common for people who once had avg american eating habits to think after a long run that the huge plate of everything at denny’s is what they need, because their bodies start screaming for denser foods and those are the ones they remember. you might be able to hold out all day but at some point, something gives. it’s true, lighter eating is not gonna do it for you anymore, with this ramped-up exercise habit of yours. you need (gasp–though that’s not me gasping) more carbs, just good dense, whole-grain ones. more brown rice, more beans, peanut butter, more dried fruit. probably not *that much* more, but make sure you get a little more at meals, and/or your snacks have a little more substantial carbs in them and i’ll bet the nighttime urges won’t hit so much.

when i’m training for a long-distance event, like a marathon or half-iron, i almost can’t get enough calories. 2 breakfasts and 2 lunchs are par for the course for me for those events, and that doesn’t mean weight gain, it just means more oatmeal, more potatoes, more bananas, more beans than usual.

you might just need to eat some ice cream or a piece of chocolate. don’t skimp on the veggies, though. just get in a serving more of (1 or 2 of these) hummus, whole grains, legumes, peanut butter, honey, and then you’ll only want 1-2 servings of ice cream and not the whole container. if you get that hungry at night, you might not be feeding yourself enough during the day to support your training.

so i say, try not to think about this as a dieter’s problem with old habits coming back becuase of some fundamental urge you have. having come through all you have, it’s probably hard not to read it through such a lens, but i don’t think it’s some kind of weakness or psychological issue. i think you need more calories!

there are some great books and sites out there for nutrition and running. i’ve liked a lot of the stuff i’ve seen under nutrition on the runner’s world site and in the magazine. i’m a big fan of dan bernadot, ‘nutrition for serious athletes’. ok, so you’re not an olympian, but i don’t think you’d deny you are serious! get it on interlibrary loan–the principles are the same. also, maybe with all you’ve done, treat yourself to a couple sessions with an exercise nutritionist. you are a serious athlete after all!

sorry again if this is overkill, or annoying. it is just my $.02 after all. i have so much respect and admiration for you and wish you all the best. feel free to write me if you want to talk more about this.

looking forward to reading more tales of your daily kick-assness!

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Dyan • March 3, 2008 at 10:57 am

Don’t rule out hormones! And make sure you are actually eating enough during the day. I have been waking up in the middle of the night, having to snack because I haven’t eaten enough during the day.

Have you increased your calorie intake because of your training? Or maybe not an increase in calories, but different foods? Our bodies tell us what they want, and they don’t care how they get it. Body want calcium? Cheese pizza! Vegetables? Pizza with veggies.

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Zentient • March 3, 2008 at 3:04 pm

The closest I’ve come to relating to eating as an addiction is Pema Chodron’s take on it: Addiction is seeking strength from that which weakens you.

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organes • March 3, 2008 at 3:12 pm

No, it’s good you posted that, it makes me feel more normal. I have a normal weight but when I binge I feel so physically awful, and I have to be careful not to make myself feel psychologically awful. Binge happens. Except I eat ten oranges and a jar of almond butter instead of cookies and ice cream, that’s probably the only reason I weigh 115 (I’m also smaaaall and very physically active, btw, no crazy metabolism here)

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MizFit • March 5, 2008 at 7:39 am

I know.

it so want the desserts ordered out at the fancy restaurant which made me gain weight.

it was the late night ben and jerry’s in my dorm room with a trashy novel that packed it on.

M.

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Maura • March 5, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Your honesty is very refreshing. For me I’m compulsive in all arenas (food, shopping, alcohol) but alcohol is what did me in and I had to stop completely. Hence, after eliminating alcohol from my life in came marching food and shopping. Now neither of these are out of control or do I regularly binge on them but I have to keep them in check. Do I think they have to do with emotions??? Yes I personally do. They bring me comfort and I think most of the time we are not conscious of what we are seeking comfort/esecape from exactly.

You wrote: “Even when I was driving to Marsh, I didn’t feel out of control. I knew exactly what I was doing and I didn’t care. I also didn’t eat any quicker than normal during my binge. And I’ve never felt intense depression or guilt over it.”

When I binge drank I felt exactly the same feelings/experience that you wrote above. What I’m trying to say is I have an addiction to alcohol and I knew this long before I quit, but when I went out to buy alchol I knew exactly what I was doing and I didn’t care. I never had intense depression or guilt over it either”. Until the very end when it all caught up with me.

I’m not trying to say alcohol addiction and food addiction are one in the same they are absolutely not. But I do feel that when you overindulge/binge on anything repeatedly food, shopping, alcohol, sex there is something you are seeking comfort or escape from.

Just my thoughts….great post, great honesty.

Maura

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KC • March 5, 2008 at 5:40 pm

This post totally resonated with me. I’ve been known to eat an entire box of oreos in one sitting (though not in recent memory). Do I feel out of control? No, I just don’t care.

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Patrick • March 8, 2008 at 1:12 pm

I’ve got to explore this question of serotonin. My wife eats small bites of chocolate, both dark and milk chocolate, all day long. She allocates a quantity in the morning and starts with her first few bites right after a breakfast of eggs and fruit. (Believe it or not, she buys really good chocolate from a wholesaler in 10 POUND bars!)

This always stuns her friends because she has been fit and trim now for 20 years after being overweight. She NEVER binges! Never.

I wonder if the constant chocolate and other snacks during the day regulate her serotonin and diminish the cravings. She loves good food but eats “0 to 5″ almost always.

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Karen • May 24, 2008 at 11:28 am

I remember bingeing like this when I was really thin and single but now that I’m married with children I don’t do it because someone always wants to share food or is watching me or wants to go to the store with me. The funny thing is that I’m bordering on overweight now so I was better off with my bingeing habit. I’d eat steak and french fries, spaghetti with garlic butter and parmesan, pizzas, fast food, etc.

Now I had a little binge last night but it was a handful of chips and 1/2 slice birthday cake. I know my kids would notice if I took more chips and dh would notice the cake. I’m supposed to be on a diet.

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Alyneee • April 10, 2011 at 10:04 am

Another thing to think about is that it IS the guilt that makes it a binge, like she said. if you eat a box of oreos, and feel bad, it’s a binge. If a guy in college eats a box of oreos while playing video games, it’s a late night snack. No guilt = No binge :D

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