“With Food as My Partner, I Don’t Need Love”

“Mmmm. That was good. Ok, enough. Put it away.”

“Ok, just one more spoonful.”

“Let me check in with myself: do I really want another bite?…yes.”

I put the jar of raw almond butter back in the cabinet.

I took two steps, then turned back around and got the jar back out. One more bite.

After about 5 more, I had consumed over half the jar. And I still wasn’t satisfied. I just wanted it all. The more I put in my mouth, the guiltier I felt and the louder the internal dialog became: “I want more…” vs “You’ve had way too much already.”

After reading Geneen Roth‘s book, Breaking Free From Emotional Eating, I was inspired. She outlined a philosophy of eating and living with food that I hadn’t heard before: allowing yourself to have what you want, as much as you want – and stopping the minute you didn’t truly want more. It sounded completely counter-intuitive…and because it was unlike the hundreds of other methods I’d tried to get a handle on my eating habits, I thought it could work.

Does Allowing Yourself To Have What You Want Really Work?

It did – usually for a week or two. I would eat what I wanted and find I could stop at a reasonable amount. I felt satisfied, and began feeling shockingly comfortable around food. I would start feeling inspired and empowered.

Then it seemed like I would snap…much like when I used to snap and slip back into my chewing and spitting or binging/purging habits. Granted, this seemed much less damaging than chewing and spitting and binging/purging, but I was still just as unhappy with myself. It’s like I had to eat until the bag or jar was empty, or it would nag me until I did.

I would binge on relatively “healthy” foods. I had graduated from craving pizza, chocolate pudding and cookie dough. That was a huge victory. But I hadn’t graduated from the habits of binging.

With Food as My Partner, I Don’t Need Love

In the first article of Geneen’s that I read, Geneen talked about the broad spectrum of women she’d met in her workshops for binge eaters: wealthy women, broke women, fat women and women of average weight, happy women and depressed women, all of whom had realized that this one part of their lives was not healthy. There were single women who didn’t date because they were afraid it would hamper their ability to binge, and married women who put locks on their refrigerators and begged their husbands to hide the key at night to prevent them from sneaking out of bed to binge.

I could relate to these women so well. Deeper in my eating disorder history, I was grateful to be single so that I could come home every night to chew and spit foods. Food was my partner. I didn’t need love.

As I actively worked to recover from those years of nasty habits, I really was making improvements. I usually ate very healthy, with eating mostly raw vegetarian. But every 10 days or so, I’d find myself wandering around Whole Foods, staring at the fancy chocolate or raw desserts. I’d rationalize that the raw desserts were healthy, and start filling my basket with a chocolate bar, a couple bags of raw chips and raw granola. I would come home at night and start consuming the foods, delighting in them in the Geneen Roth style…but eating all the foods in one sitting.

Immediately after the last bite, I would look over the empty food packages. Filled with guilt and a lot of raw food, I’d then feel shame. Not only because of the amount of food I’d eaten, but because there are people around the world starving and I would spend a good amount of money on good food. But I’d eat it all in one sitting, even after I numbed out and wasn’t enjoying every single bite. It was more of a race to finish it so I wouldn’t have left-over food haunting me until I ate it.

While I knew this wasn’t nearly as bad as earlier versions of my eating disorder, I knew it still wasn’t a healthy relationship with food. It wasn’t necessarily emotions that triggered it (i.e. a breakup or stress with work). But it was still a habit and held power over me – I couldn’t seem to walk by the fancy foods in Whole Foods without buying them to eat all at once.

I realized that I still was stuck in disordered eating. I didn’t have a huge weight problem (I was still in the upper-level of healthy BMI for my height), but I definitely didn’t have a body I loved yet. When I wasn’t around friends, family or work, left to my own devices, I didn’t trust myself.

It really demonstrated the power of the “lizard” part of the brain, the pure-need part that overrides the logical, reasonable, “mammalian” brain. I knew I wanted to be normal around food. I read more books. I attended workshops. I journaled. But there was still something that would kick in and take over.

Did Others Do This Too?

As I began to speak about this to others, I realized that more people than I thought battle with the same issue. It’s a gray area because it’s not a “real” eating disorder. Wikipedia’s entry on binge eating disorder (or BED) begins by stating that it’s the most common eating disorder in the United States, and then the very next sentence admits that it’s not officially classified as an eating disorder. And because binge eating isn’t always visible weight-wise, it’s unlikely anyone will know about the problem unless you share.

The more I did share…the more I started to feel “normal”. Or at least like I wasn’t a permanent fuck-up when it came to eating.

I realized that overeating occasionally happens to most everyone in a first world country. The act of beating myself up was adding to the habit: the habit provided an opportunity for me to batter myself. If I started to feel overly good about myself, that didn’t match my old perceptions that I was  “bad” or “ugly” or screwed up. So by retreating to the old habit, I could prove to myself that I was still bad, ugly and screwed up. And I could stay stuck in my comfort zone.

As cliché as it sounds, the work I needed to do was on building compassion for myself. Loosening my tight grip of judgement on who I was, what I looked like and what I’d accomplished (or hadn’t) in my life. This was the deeper issue, and the longer journey. And it’s also something with no clear action steps to fix. It sounds hokey enough to even acknowledge, “I need to have more compassion and love for myself.” Much less actually figuring out what the hell that means.

If you can relate to any of this, I hope this at least helps you know that you’re not alone. There’s others of us out there that understand exactly what it’s like. And as unbelievable as it seemed at the time…you really can work through your stuff and outgrow the issue. The first step is acknowledging what the core issue really is.

Trying to figure out what your own core issues are is like trying to look at your own eyeball. Hence the reason why sharing with others really helped me. Not only did I learn I wasn’t as screwed up as I thought, I also got feedback. I asked for it. I sent out anonymous surveys to as many friends as  I could think of, to ask them what they thought I was scared of. The more I received answers saying the same things, the more I started to be able to see myself from another angle.

If you want to learn how to break through your habit of overeating or binge eating, my Binge Eating Breakthrough ebook is for you. You'll learn powerful tools and distinctions to be able to understand and overcome your urges to eat more than you want. You'll also learn step-by-step strategies for managing your cravings and feeling control with food.

Share this post:


Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailby feather


Follow Binge Eating Breakthrough:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusyoutubeby feather