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Stop the conveyor belt

I have never been sure if I was a binge eater. I’m still not sure.

I know I used to eat some wacky stuff. I’d sometimes make frosting just to lick it off of spoons. I loved crunching on frozen orange concentrate crystals. And surely everyone has eaten an entire box of Twinkies over a weekend, right? Right? Hello? Why aren’t you answering me?

Though that eating behavior was rather atrocious, I usually felt in control of it. I was eating a can of frosting because I wanted to, not because I couldn’t stop. And I’m pretty sure I always stopped when I was full. From what I’ve read, binge eaters usually eat rapidly. They’ll eat even when they’re full or not actually hungry. I typically ate this food alone, which is a binging behavior. But who would eat orange concentrate in public anyway? I get strange enough looks for admitting I like to eat Ramen noodles raw.

Yesterday Marla was saying she’d never binged like someone who ate a pint of ice cream in one sitting. My first thought was, “A pint of ice cream really isn’t a binge is it? It’s not like it was a gallon. It comes in that cute little cardboard cup because that’s the proper serving size, right?” My second thought was “The fact that I even have to ask these questions proves that I am somewhat screwed up.”

There are some occasions where I do feel like the off switch in my brain has been broken off. Normally my eating is like the conveyor belt in the checkout line of the grocery store that automatically scrolls forward until a box of oatmeal or can of olives breaks the infrared beam right before the scanning plate to stop the motion. That’s all fine until you throw on a pack of gum or a bag of shredded cheese which slips under the beam and keeps plowing your purchases into the crack between the belt and the metal scanner. Sometimes my beam doesn’t get tripped and I just want to keep eating and eating even though I know I should just stop the damn conveyor belt shoving food into my mouth.

Luckily this doesn’t happen often, but some foods are prone to trigger it. Muffins. Cake. Ice cream. I can be halfway through eating a muffin and I’ve already decided I want to eat another one. My mind can’t even focus on the pleasure in the present without wanting to draw that pleasure out even longer. I don’t want one piece of cake, I want three. Are there actually people in the world who can eat one piece of cake and not go for another slice because they actually don’t want it and not because they would be embarrassed to be seen pigging out? How can anyone eat just one piece of cake without tying themselves to the couch with a knotted up afghan? Again, the fact that I’m asking these questions makes me wonder about my pathology on this subject.

After Easter dinner, at which I literally did eat about half of an angel food cake/pineapple pudding cream concoction topped with raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, I brought home some of the stuffed feta and spinach salmon we’d had as the main course. I intended to just put it in the fridge, but I ended up dumping it on a plate and eating 2/3 of it, even though I was way past full. This was extremely odd behavior for me. I can’t recall doing anything like that in the last couple of years, if ever. I don’t know what triggered it, other than the fact that I’d declared Easter a free day so perhaps I was trying to make the most of it, though I don’t think that’s entirely it.

The next day I just went back to my regular routine. No binging. I ran. Did some Pilates. I have no plans to make frosting or buy orange concentrate. So I’m left wondering, am I really a binge eater? Was this like one drunken night of revelry anyone might have or am I like an alcoholic that went on a bender, but now has to get right back on the wagon? I dunno. I’ve heard tales of people eating entire bags of Oreos, but I never ate *that* much in one sitting and don’t really relate to those stories. Maybe I am a binge eater and I’m just too close to the behavior to see it. Maybe I can’t remember all those times I ate an entire box of Papa John’s cheese bread because I simply considered it to be normal.

Whatever it is, the types of food I tend to eat now don’t trigger the binging behavior and I usually avoid the foods that do. Maybe that’s the best I can hope for. I don’t want to ask people to stop making tasty desserts just because I’m around. I like tasty desserts. Even if I binge on them, if I only do it occasionally I don’t see anything wrong with that. But I also know that if I lived a life where I was constantly surrounded by pastry carts, I might not be so thin right now.

I’m sure some of you will have opinions about whether I am a binge eater or not, but I don’t know if I particularly care if I can label myself one or the other. Labeling things sometimes seems more academic than useful. I know sometimes I like eating something so much that I don’t want to stop eating it. Is that much different from liking reading a book so much that I don’t want to put it down or enjoying a TV show so much that I watch an entire season on DVD in a day? The only difference seems to be that eating too much can be harmful to your health, whereas I’ve never heard of anyone being killed by a book or being swallowed by a sinkhole of butt impressions in a couch. You might be crushed by a bookcase though, which is why you should always get a ladder to fetch the book off the top shelf and never attempt climbing up the shelves. Maybe if reading more than 10 pages a day made you sick, there would a lot of ill bookworms out there.

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34 Comments

Courtney • April 13, 2007 at 8:32 am

First off, great blog!! I’m a member of Overeaters Anonymous, and what you describe sounds like what our speaker was saying at last night’s meeting. She’s lost 150 lbs., and she said that there are certain foods that make her crazy so she doesn’t eat them. In the program, we call them binge foods, red-light foods, or alcoholic foods. Everybody has them, and everybody’s different. There are people who can’t eat candy, and other people who can’t eat fruit. They are the foods for which one is too many and a million is not enough. I wouldn’t want to label you as a binge eater, but what you wrote gave me a lot to think about as I make my list of alcoholic foods. It’s scary because those are foods that I can never touch again if I want to stay sane, but it’s cool that I won’t have to deal with the feelings brought up when I do eat them like yesterday when I had your muffin experience, but it was with tacos. ugh! Best of luck to you.

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Kriss • April 13, 2007 at 8:35 am

I am a binge eater . . . and believe me, you would know it you were, too.

With a binge, it’s not about the food. It’s about trying to fill the empty void inside of you; or stuff down your emotions with four McD’s fish sandwiches and two super size fries.

It’s a comfort thing, I guess. When I’m feeling stressed, I want to feel painfully, achingly full. Most of the time, I don’t even taste what I’m gorging on. It’s sad and pathetic and wrong wrong wrong.

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Debbi • April 13, 2007 at 8:54 am

I’ve had rare binge occasions where I find myself either in a store or in my kitchen grabbing anything and everything. I’ve also eaten a can of frosting or a pint of ice cream in one sitting, and not thought of that as a binge episode at all. One behavior I have changed in the past year is that I don’t take seconds, be it the main course, a salad or dessert. Never. The good thing is I’m satisfied with one helpng! Quelle surprise! But sometimes I have to consciously tell myself that I can always have more at a later time.

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bazu • April 13, 2007 at 9:40 am

Nobody’s opinion is important on this subject except your own, but I don’t think you are a binge eater, or pathological about food. I think your success and your sanity are illustrated by the very fact that you do have days like Easter where you feast. I once read about a chef, Rick Bayless, and his weight loss. He talked about how it’s normal in human cultures to have feast and famine. Our problem in contemporary society is that we have constant feast (our medieval ancestors would have been shocked that we can have sugar, valuable sugar, every day of the year!). But constant famine is not the answer either, it’s finding a balance between the two, which I think you have done admirably.

That being said, I’ve had my “binge” moments. I wish I could eat slowly and truly savor foods, but when I’m eating something I love, I tend to go very fast and thus eat too much. Conscious eating is definitely one of my resolutions.

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Roz • April 13, 2007 at 9:41 am

Yes! Yes! This is me to a tee! I have been wondering the exact same thing, down the point of where I am considering getting myself evaluated. I have a good idea what my trigger foods are, and I tend to just leave them alone too. But life is to short to just stop eating some things, so I tend to negotiate something like only 1 slice, or a few bites of something.

My thing is also I have to eat food if I know it is there. I have food in the fridge for lunch, it would be all ready and would only need heating up and then I would go and chow it down by 10 a.m. Ah well, something else to work on.

Keep up the good work, you are doing a great job!

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Annie • April 13, 2007 at 10:35 am

An entire box of Twinkies?? No but an entire box of those little Debbie chocolate swiss rolls? Oh Yea but I don’t consider it a binge as it was not in one setting or even two settings. It was one at a time through out whole days over a couple of days. BTW I don’t bring those in my house for the reason I just keep going back to them. LOL

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Allison • April 13, 2007 at 10:45 am

Hee! It’s funny that you don’t consider a pint of ice cream a binge, but you couldn’t eat a bag of oreos. Because I’m the total opposite! I’m sure that I could eat a bag of oreos given the opportunity (I don’t buy them for this reason, so I haven’t had the chance on my own.), but I could never make it through a whole pint of ice cream. Everyone is different I guess.

I make sure to keep my foods out of the house. They are: cookies, chips and crackers. I can eat one slice of cake, and not want more, but put a bag of chips in front of me and I can’t seem to stop putting my hand in there!

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psychsarah • April 13, 2007 at 11:04 am

I love that you posed the question of whether you’re a binge eater or not. I too have been struggling with that question recently. I know the clinical criteria of binge-eating disorder (I’m in training to be a clinical psychologist, so I have to know those things) and I don’t think I fit them, but I’ve been to seminars where people define a binge in ways I find bizzarre-kind of like you describing the pint of ice cream (i.e. eating four slices of pizza in one sitting-who hasn’t eaten four slices of pizza?) Like you, I wondered if my idea of portion size was so skewed after years of not eating properly. Then I thought about the control issue. Most “bingers” (although I hate labels like that) explain that they feel like they can’t stop eating, and they aren’t eating because they are hungry. I have certainly eaten when I wasn’t hungry (no one is obese by only eating when they’re hungry!) and I have had times when I’ve eaten more than I intended to, which is a criteria for other addictive behaviours (i.e gambling addiction-spending more than intended; alcholism-drinking more than intended) but I still wonder if that makes me a “binger”. These aren’t easy questions, and I too struggle with the utility of the label, like you mentioned. Maybe I’m just in denial. I do have times when I eat and eat and eat and don’t really think about it, but like you, these are rare nowadays, so I figure maybe I shouldn’t worry about it? I don’t know. I guess my post here is just a long way of saying that you’re not alone in having these thoughts, because I have had them too, and I don’t have any better answers than you! As always, thanks for the honest and thought-provoking post!

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Heather • April 13, 2007 at 11:05 am

Definately a difference in saying “I binged” to say I ate too much and feel so guilty

and saying I binged as in I actually binged.

I used to be bulimic… and have had some true episodes of binge eating since then without purging…. and it is a different animal entirely than eating a pint of icecream.

real binging, I can’t really stop my self and I don’t taste much, just shove more and more down until it hurts, and then often some more. all kinds of food just in almost a fervor

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Erin • April 13, 2007 at 11:21 am

I wonder the same thing sometimes. There are just some days where I just ‘want’ and that want is either filled with excessive amounts of junk food, or shopping. I glad my at least that so far my waist band hasn’t gotten as big as my credit line.

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a friend • April 13, 2007 at 11:56 am

Kriss’s comment above is dead on.

You are not a binge eater, in my opinion.

Overeating does not make you a binger. Having “trigger” foods or “red light” foods (goodness, who doesn’t?) does not make you a binger.

My big strapping (all muscle) brother can and sometimes does sit and eat a gallon (yes, a gallon, not a pint) of ice cream. Because he loves it and it tastes good. But he works out at the gym and eats healthfully the rest of the time. He is not a binger.

Bingeing is not about food. It’s a frenzy of eating, it’s stuffing yourself waaaay past the point of comfort, it’s drowning out pain and emptiness and loneliness and hurt and fear and boredom and any other number of emotions with food, resulting in an almost drugged response. It anesthetizes you. It mutes pain. Or at least temporarily—as soon as it wears off, you need more. It’s an awful condition and I think it takes a lot of work to understand it and break the cycle. Luckily, I’m here to tell you that it can be done. But it’s really hard.

You aren’t a binger. You are a food lover! Who has now learned moderation. Congratulations :-)

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me • April 13, 2007 at 12:41 pm

It sounds to me like you may have EATEN enough in one sitting to qualify as a binge, but you did not have the panicked binge mindset, which is the “important” part.

Plenty of people eat a pint of ice cream at one. If one goes, hey, I’d like to eat a pint of ice cream! and then enjoys a pint of ice cream, it’s not a binge.

If one goes, I-shouldn’t-eat-any-ice-cream-well-maybe-i’ll-just-have-one-bite-maybe-one-more-oh-god-why-am-i-eating-this

and shovels the pint into ones mouth without really tasting or enjoying it? That’s a binge.

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summer • April 13, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Very interesting post Pea-queue. I think you probably on some level are acknowledging that your body, at one point, had a drive, that’s stronger than other peoples, to consume a lot of calories, or you wouldn’t have been that heavy. [As do I — am not pointing fingers!] That PBS show from the other day talks a lot about this “drive to eat” and how it affects obesity.

I think everyone has their own triggers, and own ideas of what is “acceptable” to eat in one sitting, or what they can see themselves being tempted by. Some people can leave a large carvel ice cream cake from their kid’s birthday in the freezer for weeks, whereas some people would find that close to impossible.

On that PBS show, one “interviewee” is a 19 year old boy named Rocky from Brooklyn who was in the 500s and got gastric surgery (lap-band). He was doing a video chronicle, and was literally weeping over the difficulty of enduring the 3 day liquid fast pre-surgery. It was a huge, huge, struggle not to eat, almost like a drug addiction, which I found difficult to understand.

Another girl, recently married in her 30s was on a weight loss / exercise program with her husband, and was like, in her video diary “I’m going eat ice cream tonite, and I don’t care.” I would say she was challenged by food a little more than, say, I might be, in that my guilt feelings would override my desire for ice cream.

So everyone falls differently on the desire-to-eat-and-how-much-to eat continuum. Some people would be nauseated by a pint of Haagen Daas without even thinking of the calories. I, personally, if they invented calorie-free haagen daas, could definitely eat and enjoy one (although the current version would give me too much guilt to be a pleasure).

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summer • April 13, 2007 at 12:49 pm

“Is that much different from liking reading a book so much that I don’t want to put it down or enjoying a TV show so much that I watch an entire season on DVD in a day?”

My instinct is that the answer is that the two things are vastly different. We’ve evolved since time immemorial to crave high calorie food. Going on “auto-pilot” and wanting to ingest the “whole thing” isn’t really a “choice” — it’s more like allowing the unconscious desire to take over the conscious mind which says “I should totally stop eating right now.” Some people have a more powerful “drive” to eat than others, just like some people are sexually compulsive and others are near-asexual.

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Deirdre • April 13, 2007 at 12:53 pm

I’m a high functioning binger.

My trigger foods only have power over me when they’re in front of me. On Easter, I had multiple helpings of angelfood cake, and babka, and rhubarb pie (not to mention quiche, scalloped potatoes, vegetable pie, fruit salad, ham, and champagne mimosas). Monday, I ate my oatmeal, went to the gym, and got back to my normal routine. I didn’t lose any weight last week, but I didn’t gain any either.

At this point in time, my system works for me. I have controlled or self limiting binges like Easter and then get back on the wagon. I’d have to figure out a new system if I had less control over my environment. I might have to give up my trigger foods entirely if I were surrounded by them on a regular basis. I’ll cross that bridge if and when I come to it.

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summer • April 13, 2007 at 12:55 pm

Not to be the PBS troll, but this is from an interview with the kid who got the surgery:

Prior to your surgery and weight loss, what did a typical day of eating look like for you?

This is the old me: I’d usually go to Dunk’n Donuts and order two bagels toasted with cream cheese and jelly, and an extra large coffee, French vanilla with six sugars. Then I would buy two butter rolls and two bags of garlic and onion chips to put in the butter rolls, M&M’s, soda, candy and a coffee cake. Then I would go to school, and by one o’clock I would probably get a pretzel with cheese or hamburger or whatever they had for lunch. After school, we’d pick up Chinese food or another sandwich. At home, I would go to sleep.

Then when I’d wake up at 6:00, and eat another big meal. Then I would do homework until like 10:00. Then I would order Chinese food or, or have something else to eat. It was just unbelievable. I ate enough food for three people, or probably even six. The amount of money and time I spent around food was ridiculous.

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G.G. • April 13, 2007 at 1:33 pm

I would have to agree with the people who say that if you have to ask the question, you’re not a binge eater. I also don’t think what the PBS kid is describing is binging either–just extreme habitual overeating. Binging isn’t really about food itself. I think there’s an emotional, obsessive quality to it that sets it apart from simple overconsumption.

Binging is frantic and futile, shamed and furtive. Remembrance of pleasure derived from food drives you too it, but the binge itself is ultimately a pleasureless act. The food may taste good, but it never tastes as good as you remember it tasting. Many times, I hardly taste it at all–I may as well be eating sawdust. This is an overgeneralization, but largely true for me when I am in full-blown binge mode.

I didn’t use to be a binge eater, but would describe myself as one now. I think it’s something that developed in me as a result of chronic dieting on a rollercoaster of serial successes and failures–I lost my sensors, guideposts, alarm bells that once told me where and when to stop. It has absolutely nothing to do with physical hunger and everything to do with filling an emotional/psychological void. It’s a pathetic attempt for me to exert some bizarro kind of control over my life & environment. I just got a big repair bill for my car that I can’t possibly pay? I’ve got a significant cash shortage? I may not have $1000 to pay that bill, but I can scratch together $25 dollars to buy as much junk food as I can possibly consume. Who says there’s no abundance of anything in my life? As long as I can eat as much as I want, I’m not really deprived . . . (and so the nutjob inside my impulse control center drones on).

When I was a smoker, I also engaged in binge chain-smoking behavior on occasion. There was a definite difference between getting a nicotine fix (sating a type of physical hunger)and chain smoking my way through periods of extreme stress.

It’s funny, though. I would also describe myself as a binge reader, something I’ve just picked up on recently. I read an awful lot normally, but there are times (usually during periods of extreme stress), where I binge on books, reading one after the other with some kind of fever (sometimes up to 500-1000 pages a day), experiencing almost physical pain when I realize I’ve read the 4 or 5 books I bought three days ago and my source of stimulation is about to run out . . . .

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Leora • April 13, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Really, really great post. I think it’s dangerous to constantly pathologize and put labels on ourselves especially as we grow and evolve past certain demons. I am a therapist who specializes in binge eating disorder as well as a former hardcore binge eater, and the one thing that I’ve seen as a constant with most binge eaters is the intense guilt and shame that comes with it. It’s an incredibly vicious cycle. You are sad/angry/lonely/bored, you binge. You begin to hate yourself for the binge rather than giving yourself the compassion for whatever feeling you were trying to take care of, or nurture when you binged. You then go into a self-flagellation mode where you are beating yourself up for the binge. This leads to, guess what, more bingeing. It’s really such painful and difficult cycle. More self-love! Kudos to you, PQ. Keep on keeping on. You’re an inspiration.

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G.G. • April 13, 2007 at 1:51 pm

I meant to say, too, that I think habitual overeating and binge eating are just different stops on the same line–one is a tendency and the other is a compulsion. I don’t know how someone keeps the tendency from becoming a compulsion or how someone unrings the bell.

Anyway, great post PQ. Thought-provoking as always.

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jen • April 13, 2007 at 2:20 pm

My guess (because I’ve struggled with this question myself) is that many people have had at least one time where they’ve binged (in the sense of eating automatically and quickly, stuffing things in, not tasting them, feeling sick but eating more), just like a lot of people have had times when they’ve gotten drunk. That doesn’t make everyone a food addict or an alcoholic. I still don’t know for sure where I fall, but I can definitely say that the Easter candy has been a temptation for me and one that seems to trigger other overeating on non-candy things. So for my sanity’s sake, I wouldn’t ever want this much candy around again.

My two biggest memories of binging were eating an entire can of Pringles (red can) even though I didn’t want the last half of it — wanted to “get rid” of it. Threw up right afterward. Have never eaten that flavor of Pringles since, it makes me sick to think about them. Same for a day where I made a huge pan of pasta rings with lots of butter, probably 3 or 4 cups. Ate it all and got sick — still can feel what those rings felt like and wouldn’t ever eat them again.

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Lily • April 13, 2007 at 4:05 pm

Labeling is weird. In order to fix a problem, many times you have to label it. But when you label it, you end up labeling yourself, causing your problem to become a part of your identity, which makes changing yourself to fix the original problem a bit more difficult.

I think binging is a bit more extreme than you described. But I also think you can binge on TV and reading as well as food. I’ve noticed that I binge to decrease anxiety, depression, or shame and I have used all three methods (eating, TV, and reading). I also believe that all are “unhealthy” for you if not for the body then for the psyche.

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C • April 13, 2007 at 6:20 pm

I’m just like you when I read the pint thing – I thought, that’s not a binge – that’s a night at home watching crappy reality tv.

Sweets are my trigger for sure and I’m slowly (verrrrry slowly) learning to try to avoid them.

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jake silver • April 13, 2007 at 6:40 pm

I have slowly but surely overcome my binge eating. I can eat massive amounts of food in one sitting. One time I ate three whole pizzas back to back. I CAN eat bags and bags of chips or cookies and gallons of ice cream.

But I have slowly gotten control and I am now within about 15 pounds of my “dream” weight.

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K • April 13, 2007 at 7:36 pm

You know, I think I am probably addicted to reading! It’s never actually damaged me physically, but it’s certainly made me late a few times and prevented me from doing the things I was supposed to be doing. (Actually, you know how I read when I’m walking? One of these days my luck may run out and I’ll step out in front of a bus…)

As for the definition of binging, I think it is probably true that if you can identify your triggers and successfully arrange not to be triggered most of the time, you don’t have a real problem with it.

I’m getting better at not buying my bad foods, though chiefly because my OH comes food shopping with me…

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summer • April 13, 2007 at 9:07 pm

I’m definitely addicted to the internet.

My trainer was telling me she once worked with someone who would microwave pints of haagen dazs and drink them on a binge.

The way I look at binge eating/food addiction, is that I find it strange that we easily accept the concept of a drug addict or an alcoholic, but food addiction isn’t truly accepted as a compulsion/problem. Yet, our whole BEING is designed around getting and consuming food. The pathways in our bodies/brains have been there for millions of years! So the idea people would have an addiction to overeating isn’t that shocking. But I think it’s harder to detect, because EVERYONE eats and EVERYONE loves eating.

One interesting show I once watched on food addiction was a documentary about the super-mordibly obese called “I eat 33,000 calories a day.” It followed four extremely heavy people (each close to, or already bed-bound) and documented everything they ate in a day, and then went out, duplicated everything they ate, and placed it all on a table in each of their kitchen to film their reactions. So it was just an enormous amount of food -like a huge bowl of m&m’s, several sandwiches, etc. etc. for one woman, tons of weird bacon sandwiches, etc. for the english guy they had on there, etc.

Anyway, one guy lived in Harlem, and was lucky enough to have a loving family around him, who fed him (he was bed bound). The show asked the family why they fed him so much and they said “Well, he’d order it if we didn’t cook all this stuff for him, he’d order in. It’s like any addiction, he’d find a way to get his fix. He’d lower money in a bucket for the chinese delivery guy.”

So, with this guy, they did the whole “lay all the food he eats in one day on the kitchen table” thing to get his reaction. Now, for the three others on the show, they kind of hung head in shame and were like “I know. it’s out of control.” But this guy managed to PULL himself into the kitchen, even though he was bed-bound, which shocked his family and the camera crew. Then, as he was discussing it, he started eating from the table. It was like he was totally out of control.

I don’t know if binging is related to that kind of problem, but I think it’s like a compulsion that is hard to stop.

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livingrainbowcolor • April 14, 2007 at 2:14 am

Compulsive eating, often called binge eating, is not what you do. There is a broad spectrum of eating, and labels like binging can be misused. As you say, you can eat a large portion of food. So can most people. I know two very skinny people who each have at least one irresistable food, in their cases it’s chocolate covered peanuts and pistachios. When presented with those, they will binge. It’s relatively easy to stay away from one or two irresistable foods, so they stay thin.

Other people have many foods that they binge on. This sounds like you. It’s relatively hard to avoid irresistable foods when you have so many you can eat a lot of.

Yet other people compulsively have to binge, and find foods that meet their needs, including their irresistable foods. It’s very hard to stay away from compulsively binging when food is in the house.

There’s a big difference between “simply” binging and compulsively binging. If you’re just eating too much sometimes because it’s there, and you eat it, and don’t stop, that’s simple binging. If you can’t ignore food until you’ve binged, that’s compulsive.

It’s the difference between “having to eat it because it’s there” and “having to eat because you NEED to eat”

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lorrie • April 14, 2007 at 8:15 am

i really enoyed reading this post and have wondered the same questions many times. I read the symptoms of binge eating and i think “oh, thats not me”, but then i wonder why one slice of cake, pizza etc. is never enough. The interesting thing for me is my that my boyfriend happens to be at a healthy weight and has the same issue with food…IE: if its there, eat it all. He cannot have foods that he loves around or he will eat it all in one sitting. He once said “how could i not?” his solution is to not be around those foods or to have them in the house. So, can a thin person have the binge eating issue as well?

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Mymsie • April 14, 2007 at 11:05 am

SO interesting that you’re writing about this now because it’s something I’ve been struggling with (all my life but especially lately) AND at times I’ve wondered how you turned off “that switch” seemingly so easily. My pattern is to binge in celebration and during stressful times. It’s a constant struggle, which is why I’m trying to deal with what’s underneath it all.

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BrightAngel • April 14, 2007 at 11:21 am

I found today an interesting topic. I’ve always considered myself as a “Binger”, as my behavior seems to fit the label. Due to my gastric bypass over 14 years ago, which greatly reduced my ability to overeat, for a long time my “binges” could only be a few hundred calories. Even now they top out at 2500 – 3500 calories in a day; and can be balanced out with a week of 1200 calorie eating…which is why I now can maintain my current weight of between 107-115 lbs, which is down from my previous 271 lb high.

I’ve consumed large amounts of food at a time…almost always the sugar/starch/fat/nuts type of food. If I was in that mind-set (felt like eating and eating sweet & starchy foods) & there were no “sweets” etc in the house or readily available, then I’d eat a loaf of toasted bread with butter & jelly.

Over my lifetime, I’ve had lots of days of eating 10,000+ calories of that type of food in one day. It was common for me to eat to the point of feeling nasuated and sleepy, but I didn’t purge, went to sleep instead.

I am an obsessive-compulsive type of person, which is reflected in all my behavior areas, and I’m sure my drive to overeat is compulsive, but overeating has never been a pleasureless act for me. My food tasted good. I enjoyed it and liked eating it, even when I was very full and felt I couldn’t stop.

I don’t remember ever feeling personally “guilty” or “ashamed” of eating too much, but knew that I was “supposed” to feel that way. I chose to overeat privately, not because I was embarrased, but in order to avoid receiving negative feedback from others. I didn’t want to be fat; knew this eating was making me fat; but wanted to overeat more than I wanted NOT to be fat. I was embarassed because I was fat, but not because of the act of eating whole boxes of crackers, sacks of potato chips, boxes of cookies etc.

When I see a fat person eating ice cream or cake etc. in public, inside I go: “Good for you”. I feel like a Fat person Deserves delicious foods far more than a thin person….because they’ve paid a FAR HIGHER PRICE for it…(in terms of health & vanity).

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j • April 14, 2007 at 8:24 pm

“I was eating that can of frosting cause I wanted to, not cause I couldn’t stop.”

I totally see what you’re saying, but I wonder if that’s a little like an alcoholic saying, “I drank that quart of vodka cause I wanted to, not cause I couldn’t stop.” You know what i mean? Like non-alcoholics hardly ever drink quarts of vodka at one sitting. And non-disordered eaters very, very rarely ingest cans of frosting.

Maybe you think or thought you could have stopped (and obviously, at this point you’ve broken for now the hold of any food addiction you may have had or may not have had), but it’s tough to say, or at least, for me it’s tough to say when one are in the process of “eating the odd thing you either want to eat or can’t resist eating” whether it’s like “I could stop like I can stop watching this tv show that’s on” or whether it’s “I could stop, but let’s face it, it would be really, really hard to put this can down. And I don’t wanna.”

I totally don’t mean that as any kind of attack on your reasoning, but I don’t know if one can easily chalk that up to … sort of an cluelessness about caloric value and bad eating habits. If it was more like, “I eat McDonalds cause I like it,” I think that’s a little differnt. But the frosting is a special, special little minx. :) It’s a little like the guy who microwaved the pints of ice cream and drank them. It was doing a “hit” of an intense amount of sugar and fat straight into your blood stream and into your brain to fire your pleasure censors. It was like doing a whole bag of coke, or … something like that.

In fact, i think lots of fat people have weird issues about frosting, me included. You know whatI mean — like, that can of chocolate or vanilla Duncan Hines frosting sitting in someone’s pantry. This may be a gross generalization, but people with weight problems just don’t have that can just existing in there, getting old as the months pass without baking. Cause the can can’t just be there. It has to be either eaten, or not in the house. If there was a can of frosting in my cupboards right now, I would be so aware of it, and attempting to resist it. Whereas my lanky boyfriend wouldn’t even notice it. And it would never even dawn on him to eat a can of frosting.

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PastaQueen • April 14, 2007 at 9:47 pm

j – I get what you’re saying. It’s like a smoker who says “I can quit whenever I want to!” but keeps puffing away. What I was trying to say was I wasn’t just eating food for the sake of eating, like some people are talking about where they keep stuffing themselves to numb feelings. I specifically went out and got some frosting because I specifically wanted to taste that. But yeah, maybe it’s like going out to meet your dealer to get your favorite drug.

As far as I can recall, I don’t think I ever ate an entire can of frosting at a time because there comes a point where your tongue feels like it’s on fire from all that sugar and you’re bound to get canker sores anyway, no matter how much milk you drink.

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Clam-bake • April 19, 2007 at 2:27 am

For me the differences between bingeing and “regular overeating” are that bingeing is always preceeded by some kind of distressing experience, and bingeing is – for me anyway – a violent act. I haven’t binged in over a year now. But when I did it, it was eating until it really hurt. If I had “trigger foods” in the house, I would binge on those, or might go out and buy them, but if I couldn’t get out, then I would eat anything that would fulfill the same purpose. My garden variety overeating is more specific to certain foods, although I still can stop eating them eventually, even if there’s more left in the house.

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mal • April 20, 2007 at 3:19 pm

I was thinking about this post (and am concocting one of my own) when I remembered a post on my blog — Anatomy of a Binge — showing what a fairly MINOR binge in my world looks like. The visual is sort of interesting. But you have to note that I put away the equivalent of FOUR fast food meals, plus desserts, and still didn’t feel full. The focus was not so much on what the food tasted like as HOW MUCH I could get. Price was a factor here, and I picked cheap fast food since I knew I would need BULK. QUANTITY. Note, too, that I had already eaten the equivalent of one meal when I pulled into another restaurant to order more. There is a disconnect in bingeing — at least there is for me — and it has less to do with my body than my brain. It’s about quantity, not quality. It is a focused “project” almost — a prowl. I dunno — just some thoughts.

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Short Cake • July 25, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Hmm… I think your simply an eater that is prone to the occasional binge… like most people. :) I think labeling is tricky…. it is a way of restricitng ideas and people to boxes… no one really fits into the boxes…

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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