I think I beat the Binge Monster.
Even if just one time, that’s saying something.
Yesterday I went grocery shopping. I was in a rush. It was almost dinner time. I had three kids with me. They were hungry. I was not thinking clearly or straight because I was REALLY hungry, because I had missed lunch, because I had been eyebrows deep in numbers for six hours, because work, because “the SBA loan refi needs to be done two weeks ago.” I was wrung out.
I put milk, eggs, cheese, meat, meat, vegetables, meat, vegetables, fruit, and more vegetables in the cart. Then I looked at my list.
On my grocery list was “black licorice.” (Gross.) It was not for me, it was for The Mister. Mostly mindless, I pushed my kid-loaded-full-of-vegetables cart down the candy and cookie aisle.
You see where this is going, I bet.
Hungry + Tired + Stressed + Candy-Cookie-Aisle = TROUBLE.
Even for someone that is not bulimic, that’s a recipe for bad choices.
Very first thing, two feet into the aisle, I found the licorice. I grabbed a box and put it in the cart. Right next to the licorice was a box of Boston Baked Beans. The kids wanted to try them and haven’t had them, so I said “Sure, we can try them.” I put them in the cart. Then I did a dumb thing, and I pushed the cart slowly down the rest of the aisle. And I LOOKED.
I shouldn’t have gone down that aisle. I was tired and hungry and stressed and rushed. YOU know what it’s like when you go to the grocery store feeling like that. Being in that emotional/mental state AND walking down that aisle full of junk food is like tap dancing through a mine field. I was just ASKING FOR IT.
I walked forward down the aisle, and right there, fifteen steps in on the right, hanging just at eye level, was a bag of Australian Style Soft Eating Strawberry Flavored Licorice.
Oh. My. Sweet. Moses.
My number one, most favorite, top choice binge food is chewy fruit candy, and of those candies Australian Licorice is in the top three.
I reached out and put my hand on the bag. Without lifting it off the hook I felt the candy through the package. It was solid and smooth, and slipped around inside the pouch. In my head I could see the color, and smell the strawberry flavor, and feel the sticky, firm, squishy chew between my teeth. I got excited. I got REALLY excited, and for a split second I imagined eating every last piece of candy in that bag.
“Just one bag, and you don’t even have to share.”
And I wouldn’t share. I would buy it, and hide it, and eat it all by myself later when the kids weren’t around. I would eat every last piece, probably paired with a whole bag of chips and a huge glass of milk. I would eat and eat and eat until the stressed-tired-work-clean-eating-pressure-just-be-responsible ache was gone, and the uuuuuuuuugh-so-full-i-die-from-bliss ache replaced it.
As I stood there with that still-on-the-hook bag of candy in my hand, thinking about how good it would feel and how bad I wanted to eat that junk, something else happened in my head.
I thought, “Then what?”
AAAAAAAAAAALL this work you’ve been doing, what happens to THAT? What about the effort? and the check-in this week? What about the vegetables in your cart? What about the way you look in the mirror right now, and how you feel in your skin? You have a ways to go, but you feel GOOD. Do you want to feel like crap?
More importantly, it’s been so long since you’ve binged. Do you really want to invite that habit back into your life?
I took a deep breath, felt a grain of resolve, let go of the bag, backed away, and started walking.
1. There is a tipping point between “thought” and “action,” an actual point where hypothetical thought tips over into decisive movement.
That tipping point is called CHOICE.
It is called DECISION, and WILL. Before we even move to take action, before we even DO anything, in our head the thought “I want to eat all the candy” becomes “I am GOING TO eat all the candy” because we decide we’re going to do that.
If you can follow your own train of thought closely enough, if you can pay close enough attention to what goes on inside your head and guts and WHY, if you can think-not-just-feel your way through your compulsion enough to be cognizant of your mental presence, you can find that tipping point.
Even more importantly, you can MOVE that tipping point.
Seeing the bag of candy did not mean I was going to eat it.
Touching that bag of candy did not mean I was going to eat it.
Picking it up off the hook and putting it in the cart ABSOLUTELY FOR SURE meant I was going to eat it, and eat it all, and engage in a full on binge.
The tipping point between thought and action, for me, is “put it in the cart.” If I can keep the food out of the cart and leave it on the shelf, I’m good. I can think all I want, but there is no binge action if the junk food is left at the store.
2. There are as many excuses and reasons to DO something as there are to NOT. Whether you find the reasons to NOT depends on how willing you are to look.
And to be honest, when my whole body and guts and brain and lust and passion and compulsion are SCREAMING at me to “EAT THE FUCKING CANDY RIGHT NOW EAT IT ALL YOU WANT THIS SO BAD WE WANT THIS NOW NOW NOW,” I am not willing to look for a reason to not do it.
Looking for a reason to NOT is just not fun.
When the compulsion bites you in the ass and whispers in your ear, slowing down and not engaging in addictive behavior is cold. And sobering, and kind of like being cut off five seconds before orgasm. It’s slamming face-first into a solid, hard, glassy, perfectly clear, slicky wet, giant wall of ice, then being held there while you sort things out. Cold against your cheek, cold against your guts, freezing to the core.
When The Binge Monster is growling and ripping me to pieces on the inside, I don’t WANT to think about why I shouldn’t feed him. I just want to feed him.
Except this last time, I did stop. And I thought.
I thought about all the reasons why I didn’t want to do this thing. It was hard, and it WAS cold. But just on the other side of that cold, icy wall, there was something really, really warm.
There was ME, and I was winning.
I could see myself healthy and happy, fitting into the one pair of pants in my drawer I still don’t fit into. I could see myself naked and happy with the image in the mirror. I saw me floating the river with my kids on a raft in a bikini, and shopping for a new bra and not being angry when the changing room lights illuminated all the wrinkles and folds of my body. (Seriously, THE WORST LIGHTING in changing rooms. So dumb. You think they’d make the light flattering, I bet they’d sell more stuff.)
I could see, through the sobering, cold wall of “THINK THIS THROUGH,” through the wall of ice that I had avoided touching every other time I felt compelled to binge, that the vision on the other side was actually worth looking at.
I AM WORTH LOOKING AT.
I am worth considering.
I am worth saving, and I am worth the effort it takes to NOT PUT THE EFFING CANDY IN THE CART.
And so I didn’t.
Even just this one time, even just for yesterday, I won. I wrestled the Binge Monster to the mat, sat on it’s neck, and put it to sleep.
NEVER has this happened before.
For any of you that struggle with disordered eating and The Binge Monster, I pray for you. I hug you, and maybe someday we’ll literally be able to sit and have coffee and talk about things.
I would tell you then what I tell you now… we are not powerless to ourselves. We need not be victim to our compulsions. We are brilliant, amazing creatures with brains in our heads that are capable of boundless things, and no matter how big The Binge Monster is we can outsmart it.
Because we are smarter than that dumb Monster.
We are smarter than our compulsions, and we are worth saving.
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