Learning to Binge

Have you ever looked back and tried to pinpoint where it all went wrong? Where you crossed the line from chubby to morbidly obese? Sure, there’s lots of contributing factors as to why one ends up so lardy, but I can zoom in on the precise moment that sparked my Michellin-man future.

The day it all went to shit was about my second week of university. I remember the day with startling clarity. A girl I knew from high school needed a place to live for a few weeks and I had a spare room. So in she came with the most enourmous pile of groceries I’d ever seen. At that point I was around 100 kilos, quite overweight indeed, but I’d been having healthy stir-fries for dinner and had already lost a few kilos.

"We must celebrate tonight!" my new roomie declared. "Let’s watch Felicity and have a pig-out!"

"Right on," said I. So off we went to the supermarket.

My definition of a pigout at that time was buying a small packet of chips or maybe a Mars Bar. This is why I had managed to stay "managably fat". As we wandered up and down the aisles, I wondered if I’d go for the chips or chocolate tonight. Meanwhile, the roomie was deciding between two different packets of chocolate biscuits.

Oh right, I thought, biscuits it is. I headed for the checkout.

But then she went down the frozen aisles to examine the ice cream. "Would you look at this?" she plucked out a tub of Conisseur Cookie Cream Commotion. "Ice cream, cookies, it’s an oral commotion!"

I frowned as she added it to the basket. "Is that for tonight too?"

"Of course! Now we gotta balance that with something savoury."

She selected a giant bag of corn chips, then purposefully strode to the dairy section and got a tub of French Onion Dip. A family block of Cadbury’s chocolate was the finishing touch.

I was so stunned I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe she was buying all these things all at once, with the intention of opening all those packages and tucking in that very night. It had never occurred to me that this could be done. I had only just moved out of home, and where such treats were purchased singularly then strictly rationed. I wanted to ask her, can we really do this? You mean it’s possible to eat five different kinds of junk at once? Won’t we get in trouble?

We got home and parked ourselves in front of the telly. I felt strangely excited as we ripped open the chips and biscuits and shoved two spoons into the icecream. I loved the sound of foil and paper as I snapped the chocolate bar in half.

I had never eaten icecream from the tub before. Finally there was noone here to tell me to slow down with the dip or to have one biscuit only or to allocate me one row of chocolate then put the bar back in the pantry. I relished the explosion and texture of cramming a handful of chips, then followed it up with the creamy grittiness of the icecream, the salty sweet of a Tim Tam biscuit. Forget taking drugs or graffiting my name across the school playground, this was rebellion, baby! We ate and ate until the flavours blurred and we couldn’t move. I felt high.

Soon the roomie got a place on campus and she moved out and moved on. But I didn’t. That night was a turning point and from then on I began my descent (ascent?!) into obesity.

I was obsessed with eating. Initially it started with the occassional binge like I’d had with the roomie, then my days became one continual pigout. When I arrived at university I was shy and full of loathing for my already lardy body, so I guess I created this little world for myself where it was just me and the food, and I got some kind of happiness out of it. Eating became an activity, I would ponder what I would eat next and how I’d get it. As soon as my roomie left for the weekend to see her folks, I drive the three blocks to the supermarket and stock up. Something savoury – usual chips and dip, or a loaf of white bread and a jar of the Kraft cream cheese spread I’d loved as a child but Mum only allowed us to have as a treat at my grandmother’s house. Well screw you, Mum, I was going to toast that loaf and plow my way through the whole jar.

That had to be counterbalanced by sweetness. I had a penchant for Cadbury’s Black Forest, (family size, of course)  Nestle Milky Bar and choc-coated honeycomb. I’d buy a jar of Nutella and finish it in one sitting. Then there was the ice cream. I really went to town with that Cookie Cream Commotion, so many times I’d eat the whole litre at once then wonder why I felt so ill afterwards.

Sometimes I’d do the fast food binge. There was a McDonalds, KFC and Red Rooster on the same block. I’d have a craving for a Red Rooster Hawaiian pack – 1/4 of a BBQ chicken, chips, a pineapple and a banana fritter. I’d go through the drive thru for that, ignoring the way my belly was closing in on the steering wheel. Next I’d think, I’d love some coleslaw with that, so I’d go to KFC coz the coleslaw was better there.  And maybe get some more chips too coz the KFC chips were the best. I’d throw a newspaper over the Red Rooster so the pimply kid on drive-thru wouldn’t think I was a pig. Then I’d often make a last stop at McDonalds for a chocolate shake or a sundae. Or both. You gotta have dessert.

I would go home then eat it all, quickly and urgently, barely tasting a thing. It was more about the texture of the food, the stringiness of the chicken, the warmth I’d feel as this horrible greasy shit filled up my insides, the crunch of the chips, the salt on my fingers, the way the ice cream seemed to slide down my throat then make everything feel all cool inside my rib cage. It sounds bizarre but the whole shopping and eating thing made me feel purposeful, it was an event. I didn’t have much of a life to speak of.

I didn’t stop this behaviour for five years. From 1996 – 2001, I gained over 50 kilos – 110 pounds.

I don’t even know why I am writing about this. Maybe just to remind myself of how things used to be, when I get angry at myself for still being the tubbiest git in my gym, or for eating one Tunnock’s Tea Cake. Sometimes you need a little perspective.

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16 thoughts on “Learning to Binge

  1. I’m embarrassed to identify so closely with everything you’ve written. Thank you for being so candid. (LOL–I automatically wrote “candied.” Was that Freudian?)

  2. We ran out of bread today. I made bread and have eaten half a loaf with about 1/4 lb of butter because if my husband comes home and sees half a cube of butter he’ll wonder where the rest is. I’ll probably top it off with WeightWatchers cookies. I totally understand this entry.

  3. I feel such a sense of urgency during a binge. I’m not thinking about what is going in my mouth,but rather what I am going to put in my mouth next. It borders on anxiety.

    And you are looking great – there is no way you are the “tubbiest git” in your gym.

  4. Wow! I thought my binges were a deep, dark secret that only I experienced. Your entry couldn’t have come at a better time (I needed a reality check – again). Thanks, Diet Girl!

  5. I can definitely relate to college being the start of the binging. I never even thought about such things in high school, not that my mum would have allowed it. Yes, I had too many helpings of dinner, but I didn’t cram my face full of every tasty thing I could think of. It wasn’t until college, when the room mates introduced me to the joys of Pop Tarts and homemade chocky-caramel bars, and entire bags of chips…that’s when the beast was truly unleashed.

  6. whoa…everything you said really hit home. I’ve felt JUST like that, and I’ve done exactly those things – which is why I’m the size I am now. I remember moving out of my parents house and my first trip to the grocery store was a WHOLE new ball game. I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and as much as I wanted. Little did I know then, that bad habits are terribly hard to break…and here I am 60 pounds heavier.
    I love the fact that you gave us all perspective – I definately needed it after trying to be so “Good” all the time.

  7. Wow, I am really blown away by your candor! It made me stop and think about when my weight gain really started for me, and I am kind of surprised to admit that I can’t remember exactly when it happened. I’d like to think that I “gave up” after I put on about 20 pounds during a single summer in high school when I had to go on the pill to fix wildly erratic periods, but I don’t think that was it. I think it was closer to the last year in high school, when I made the transition from slowly gaining weight due to giving up sports and sporty activity entirely, and actively eating food with no regard to portion control or sugar content. But exactly when and why is hazy.

    It’s a good question, though.

  8. I went through the same thing in college and continued for a few years after school. I just had no idea how to eat – high school sports and a mom that didn’t allow junk food at home had kept me thin until college. When I realized that no one was monitoring what I ate, I went nuts with all the junk food that had been forbidden as a child. I had to figure out how to eat as an adult – reasonable portions, fitting treats into my week, finding stuff that tasted good and was healthy.

  9. I cant recall a moment when I started to eat but I think it started earlier. I was lonely as a kid and alone at home but I had food to keep me company but as you I was big but not fat until univ or really after univ or around there. I stoped excersise that was my turning down.

    Then I lost alot of weight and then met my ex bf and gained it all back and more. He had and have terrible eating habits. Now I have lost some.

    I have lost 27 kg or so, started at about 132 kg. What I wonder about is that now when you have lost so much how is the skin on your body? Im worried about how my skin is going to be after I lost all my kilos. Am I going to need a suregery? I hate doctors so Im afraid of that but dunno if I want lots of extra skin just hanging there. Im thinking alot about this and trying to look at my body but I think its hard to see how it will be. But you have lost more then me that is why Im wondering.

  10. oohh I forgot to tell you abut my binge. I used to do as you to fast food places but I always ordered for 2 so they shouldnt think that i would eat alone as if they would care? Ordered one big and one small menu just cause of that.

    And I felt so ashamed before, during and after and promised to never do it again.

  11. thanks for your thoughts guys – nice to know we’re not alone, eh?

    hanna, all i can do is give you two words – weight training. i’ve been doing weights since i weighed about 120 kilos and I think i’d be in a lot worse shape if I hadn’t have done that. Exercise in general helps a lot. start as soon as you can!

    i am never going to have a perfect body, you’ll always be able to tell i’ve done a lot of damage, but it’s not completely horrendous. things are toning up pretty well.

  12. I still binge sometimes! It’s horrible how you feel afterward and you think that it’ll all be better if you just run that extra mile or do extra reps, and in esence, you may be able to burn all those calories, but what’s the worst part is that you can’t forgive yourself for it.

  13. Fabulous entry. Made me start thinking back to what flipped my obese switch. I also remember having a period where my binges were as much about the urgency to fulfil the craving as they were about the craving itself. Amazing.

    I’m also seeing from the other comments, that there seems to be an epiphany when we all discover that WE have control. Not the parents, not the husband, but us. Kind of like a spring that’s been compressed tightly and then suddenly released.

    Hard to get that sucker back under control.

  14. Dg- Your entry brought tears to my eyes. I could identify with it so much…been there, done that. Thank God I don’t have that behavior anymore, but I sure do remember it. I can also remember my initial point of departure: freshman year in high school. I was really really thin. This other friend of mine and I would rush out from school and head downtown and eat and eat and eat. I ballooned up fast. What a waste of time. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much of my life just eating and feeling sad…

  15. Wow! I could have written this entry! Reading your words brought tears to my eyes! The only thing missing from your tale that is different in mine…is that my best friend was bulimic…and I didn’t know it until we were well over 30. WHAT THE HELL?! How did I miss it? All through high school, we would go on these crazy eat-a-thons…..and like a fool, I’d go home and get fat. She would go home and puke her guts out for hours….and remain a size 8.

    We still are dealing with her bulimia…at very painfully close to 40. AND we are still dealing with my compulsive overeatting and weight issues. We are each other’s best support!

    Thank you for putting your words out here for all of us to see. It is comforting to know that I’m not alone!

  16. thank you so much! I just stopped by your site for the first time today and was so moved by your entry. such wonderful, open and honest writing!