I am standing in the chocolate aisle of the supermarket. I’ve been craving a little bit of chocolate since lunchtime. Probably before lunch even. My favorite chocolate used to come in a small portion. These days I can only find it in a family size package.
It’s on special.
I am standing and debating with myself. Family size is a very dangerous concept. The risk of me consuming it all by myself in one go is real. I should choose a small size packet — so what if it’s not my favorite? So what if it costs almost as much as the family size? Maybe I should try something new altogether?
I go with family size. After all, it is my favorite.
It’s in my handbag. I know it is there. I somehow managed to leave it there, untouched, since I purchased it yesterday afternoon. But now it’s almost lunchtime again and the only thing I can think of is that chocolate in my handbag.
I go to the lunchroom. I’m so happy that I brought an extra-large portion of my all-time-best-loved salad. It’s one of those super-healthy things that I am proud to say I find awesomely appetizing. I was literally salivating this morning just preparing it: quinoa, butter beans, olives, avocados, carrots, lettuce, cucumber, tomato.
I am struggling to finish the entire container. It’s massive and I am full. I am hoping that if I am full, I won’t be interested in that family size in my handbag. I am wrong.
I am heading out of the office for a walk. Handbag under my arm.
I am too full and I still think of what’s in my handbag.
My strategy of buying a healthy snack whenever I want chocolate ain’t gonna work this time. I can’t possibly imagine eating anything — I’m positively really completely too full. Except for when it comes to that chocolate in my handbag.
It’s OK to have some chocolate. I’ll just have a little bit.
I take the packet out of my handbag.
“Know your portions,” it says. “1 bar = 1 portion.”
I eat two.
Two portions is a very reasonable amount, isn’t it?
After two portions the taste in my mouth is actually getting too sweet. Almost disgusting.
But I still want more.
OK, just one more. One last one and that’s it.
Family size pack goes back into my handbag, chocolate cravings mostly satisfied. I am so proud I didn’t eat the whole damn thing.
We just finished dinner. I’m tidying the kitchen.
I take the family size packet out of the handbag and place it in the sweets box, high and closed in the cupboard. Out of sight.
I’m doing the dishes and a thought creeps in.
Just one more portion is OK, isn’t it?
Sneakily, without my 5-year-old noticing, I take that packet out of the sweet box. She’s not allowed sweets after dinner.
I eat just one more portion while doing the dishes. Then another one.
It’s time for brushing our teeth. I find an excuse not to just yet.
Finding my way to the kitchen sink, grabbing another portion from its hiding place behind the drinking bottle. Now I start feeling defeated.
I better just finish the packet immediately. No point in leaving the last bar in there now, is there? I can’t even feel the taste anymore but it doesn’t really matter.
I am so disgusted. My stomach hurts.
But it’s OK to binge every now and then. It’s totally OK to binge.
Whatever emotional issues I am currently hiding from myself by overeating to the verge of puking — it’s OK. I give myself permission to not necessarily figure it out. I allow myself to suppress or repress. To lull myself with comfort food. To eat the family size chocolate pack.
I still love myself no matter what.
I know I am not your typical binge-eating-disorder study case.
I don’t do it often enough and the severity is not catastrophic enough to be considered as a disorder.
Still, when it happens, it feels like I have zero power to offset it. I find it almost unbelievable how uncontrollable it feels when I do binge-eat.
My head can scream a million times a second “No! Don’t do it! This is so bad for you!” yet my hand doesn’t seem to care as it reaches for food and stuffs it into my mouth. It’s obvious there is no enjoyment, no advantage, and no self-care. A complete miscommunication between my thoughts and the hand which is executing a subconscious order that I am not aware of.
What I realized many years ago was that the best strategy toward binge-eating is acceptance. I acknowledge it is happening. I admit to myself and to other people who might be somehow interested. I binge-eat.
And I forgive myself, even while it is happening. I allow my self to overeat and I’m OK with being disgusted with myself.
For some reason, this attitude reduces the frequency and the quantity of my binge eating.
I love myself through my binge-eating.
Not every binge eater is fat. And not every fat person is secretly a binge-eater.
I am pretty sure I started binge-eating in my teens, somewhere in my dark ages of having to deal with emotions that I had no understanding of, and no capacity to deal with. At the time I did gain weight and indeed became fat until sometime in my early 20’s when the fat gradually dropped off.
The fat phase of my life slowly disintegrated, but the binge eating stayed.
Although my body appearance fluctuates from slimmer to bigger and vice versa, in the past 20 years or so it does so within a reasonable range. The same clothes are sometimes very tight, sometimes a bit daggy. Hardly noticeable to the naked eye, though very noticeable standing naked in front of the mirror.
I am sure there’s a correlation between binge eating and periods of my life when I’m fatter, but I am not certain at all that there’s a straightforward cause and effect scenario at play.
Even with my fluctuating weight, and the fact that I almost never feel comfortable in a swimming costume of any shape or form, I’m utterly uninterested in any weight loss diet.
I also stopped believing any one-size-fits-all health-focused diets. Especially if they demonize some sort of macronutrient.
At the same time, I do believe that my natural preference of simple, home-cooked, natural food with no added chemicals is a major contributor to the fact that I am not obese.
Perhaps it’s also the reason why it’s easier for me to forgive myself whenever I do binge on a family-size chocolate packet.
I am finishing this article at the cafe.
My laptop needed power after writing most of it outside in the park.
I am drinking a hot chocolate that probably has the same amount of chocolate in it as that family-size package from a few days ago.
But today I am not binge-eating.
Today I am indulging.
Drinking slowly and patiently and enjoying every sip.
I didn’t even touch the marshmallow.