Let me tell you about Sunday.
Sunday was a sad day in our family. I won’t share the details, because this isn’t the place for it, but we suffered a loss that we will not recover from any time soon, if ever.
It was a numb time, a stressful time. A tight-bands-around-the-chest-for-days time, when you have to go through motions to meet your responsibilities, but it’s just very mechanical, and what you really want to do is bury your head and scream. You know that’s what you should do, but frankly, you don’t have the luxury. Right? Right. So what did I do?
I did. Though I’ve been very much in control for weeks since the holidays, with no carb cravings whatsoever, after attending to my family and fulfilling my duties, I swear I ate every carbohydrate I could lay my hands on. White floured, techno-oiled, poly-hydrogenized, corn syruped crap. Sugar products, corn products, potato products. You name it. If it combined any three of these — sugar, fat, starch, salt – I ate it.
It wasn’t a binge on the order of those of my youth, I calculated a total of around 2000 calories for the day, but it’s no use splitting hairs. It was a classic binge. Alternating sweet and salty to really pack it in.
And you know, I provided that kind of non-food to my family too. How’s that for odd behavior? Went out to the grocery store and bought them ice cream and Pringles to “make them feel better.” I basically poisoned them. I’m basically the mommy with the bent coat hanger.
Don’t you think I’d know better?
Of course I know better.
But what my cogent mind thinks and my primal mind urges do not always agree. I think these minds agree to disagree, and quite often.
My cogent mind, lately, has won. Through a lot of work, a lot of writing, careful planning, and scenario-imagining, I am able to think through most stressful situations and plan around the urge to feel better through food.
But this one caught me way off my guard. In the middle of an already stressful time, it just knocked me down at my weakest point – my children’s hearts and well-being. And my primal mind took over. Rather fiercely.
Why do we eat when we grieve? Why do we eat under stress? Why feed the grieving? Why do we think food can erase pain? It’s not just fat people who think this way. Everybody does. My skinny kids wanted the ice cream. Of course they did.
The thing is, the food response is pretty natural. Some think it’s a way of holding on to life. Some think it’s a way of expressing an anger that we can’t socially express (all that gnashing of teeth, you know), some think it’s a way of massaging the lump in the throat and that itchy achey feeling all down the center of your chest.
The thing is, none of this works. The only thing food does is distract you from crying for a short time. BUT, crying, wailing, running, hiding, are all things we really ought to do to release stress of a loss, or really any stress at all. A little giving in to the flight and fright is really the healthiest way to go.
Maybe I’ll allow that next time. Meantime, today, I’m back on my eating program. I didn’t step on the scale today, and won’t for a few days. That binge is already a part of my past, and I’m not going to chastise myself any further for it. Nor punish myself by looking at the water weight I surely put on through all that salt and sugar consumption. Today I’m drinking a lot of ice water for the throat lump and my burning heart. And running. And tomorrow I’ll swim, because you can cry all you want in the pool, and no one will notice.
Okay. Binges don’t work. They just don’t work. They hurt you more than you already are hurt. They lead to self-loathing right when you need love most of all. They try to shuffle the fright-flight stress response under the rug where bad health breeds.
A friend at iVillage recommended this to me today: Spend some time with your journal when you’re not hurting or in an emotionally vulnerable state, and write about what the binge experience means to you. Write about what you were thinking, feeling, doing before, during, and after the binge, to the best of your memory. What tends to trigger binges for you? Think about why you did it, what you did. And then, write down a strategy for what to do instead of binging the next time your binge-trigger comes along.
That was good advice. Think I’ll take it. One of these days.
Peace to you,