Once again, the responsible blogger in me is putting out a disclaimer that this particular series of posts deals with food behaviors that may be triggering for some readers, specifically related to binge eating. If you are just joining and missed part one you can find it here.
Our quirks are what give us personality and uniqueness. They are what make us, well, quirky. They define who we are and how we live our lives. Some are inherited, things we are born with, others we adopt as we age and come into our own, as we start to define ourselves instead of letting others do it for us. Some quirks and behaviors are inherently seen as good, others bad. It can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation if we feel we function in these “bad” behaviors alone. We don’t confess these secrets to anyone else, believing they couldn’t possibly understand, which is why admission of guilt is an important step because we often find we aren’t the only freak out there: over the weekend I received an email from a high-school friend who confided that we were going through disordered eating habits at the exact same time. But because of the shame involved, we never admitted it to anyone else and had to suffer alone.
“…was I the only child in America who regarded Baker’s Chocolate as the cruelest food product ever invented? Was I the only one who — despite repeated warnings from the Mother Unit, despite the dark knowledge that the Mother Unit would not knowingly place a pound of chocolate within my reach, that this was simply too easy, despite even my own clear memory of having tried this stunt before and wound up with a mouthful of bitter goo — reached into the back of the cupboard and removed the box and greedily slipped a square from its curiously stiff, white wrapper? Was I the only one who gazed upon the thick, angled square, so much like a Chunky, really, in abject lust? And who held the piece to my nose and breathed in the deep brown scent and then, despite all the evidence to the contrary, simply unable to will my disbelief, bit down?” –Steve Almond, Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America
I suspect that all children attempt to sneak candy. How can they not with that big bowl that sits in the pantry post-Halloween, just waiting there. And even though you already had your allotted one piece for the day, what’s another piece gonna hurt? It’s not like anyone is gonna know. It’s just one silly little piece. What’s the big deal?
That type of sneaking food is not unique nor is it really a big deal. The big deal part happens when it’s not a single candy bar but an entire bag of them. When you stop sneaking and start hoarding.
Hollow books. Far corner of the closet. Back of the desk drawer. My teenage bedroom was a treasure trove of treats. After dinner each night, I’d go to my room under the guise of homework or reading a book and, instead, would watch television and eat. I learned how to slowly peel open a wrapper to muffle the sound and to choose candies and cookies that could be eaten quickly and quietly, in case mom or dad knocked on the bedroom door to check in. Anything with a caramel inside was out, lest you run the risk of it getting caught as you tried to work it soft enough to swallow. Oreos, too, had to be avoided, the black crumbs on the back molars always a tell-tale sign.
At that point in time I was limited to the vending machines at school and work, the latter of which operated on an honor system of paying and I confess that my teenage self would often take advantage of the goodwill of the Stars Hollow Public Library. An addict in need of her fix, I’d steal my drug when short on cash (which luckily wasn’t that often, thanks to my good friend Lynn, former bus monitor turned cafeteria lady, who gave me carte blanche to the lunch line).
Always having had a sweet tooth, it didn’t get out of control until high-school and the sandwich episode, and I believe the two are connected. That I felt such shame at hiding the sandwiches, I had to find some means of dealing with it, so, like so many before me, I turned to food. The embarrassment of one bad behavior weighed heavy, dug in deep and created a huge inner wound. Food, specifically sweets, were my band aid. Inhaled at an alarming rate, I naively believed they would fill the hole that seemed to want to consume me. Of course it didn’t, but instead of seeking some other means of coping, I just continued to eat and eat and eat. The hole kept getting bigger, so I kept filling it with more food. Candy bar after candy bar, cookie after cookie. A cycle, and a vicious one at that.
It became habit, a routine: My right hand stuffed the candy bar into my mouth while the left hand tucked the empty wrapper between the mattress and box spring. One after the other for hours.
I was never hungry, already having eaten my three meals for the day, but that wouldn’t stop me. Most of the time I was totally unaware of how much I was eating. I was completely disassociated from my body. My stomach never seemed to register satisfaction or, if it did, I’d ignore it. This particular symptom of binge eating disorder is known as “eating until uncomfortably full” and it’s a physical feeling I remember well. Stomach bloated with sugar, it was impossible to move without grimacing and often difficult to sleep, as the body struggled to digest the obscene amount of junk food it had taken in.
One reason binge eaters are often obese is because, unlike those that suffer from bulimia, we don’t purge. Bulimics rid themselves of the excessive calories by vomiting or taking laxatives. Binge eaters simply hold on to them. One pound consists of 3500 calories. Considering in the past I’ve managed to eat close to that during a single meal (I’m looking at you, Taco Bell), it’s easy to see how my weight ballooned between freshman and senior year of high-school.
Naturally, this also begs the question of why I felt the need to binge. I grew up in upper-middle-class suburbia. My parents are still married. I wasn’t super popular in school, but I had a strong core group of friends. Involved in multiple extra-curriculars, I also had other groups I floated through and was friendly and on good terms with pretty much everyone in my class (as several of my readers can attest to).
And yet, something always felt missing. Broken. I was always seen as the friend and didn’t date until college (didn’t have an official boyfriend until my early twenties). That’s difficult when you’re 16 years old and already feel shitty about yourself. To constantly be passed over for the vapid blonde only notched the self-esteem a bit lower and it took me years to figure out it wasn’t me, but that teenage boys are some of the most superficial creatures on the planet.
I would like to be able to tell you that all of these behaviors stopped when I was in college. That all I needed was to get away and be given an opportunity to find myself and be free. While it’s true that going to college did help, it wasn’t enough and upon graduation I returned home and fell back on old habits. Only now I had a car and a better job. Mo Money, Mo Problems.
Love from the ashes,