The death of bingeing?

I don’t know what happened precisely, but something did.  Something went off in my head, and I was suddenly able to step outside of that uncontrolleably bingeing version of myself – like a snake shedding  its skin – back into my own body and breathe the fresh air of relative sanity.

It was good to be back.

I think what did the trick was realising that I needed to focus not on the bingeing but on the why I was bingeing.

A few days ago I was watching Queen Victoria’s Children on iplayer (it’s surprisingly interesting) and the observation was made that Bertie, King Edward to be – who had a hopelessly bad relationship with his mother, who blamed him for the death of his father – had rapacious appetites for all things physical including food, and that

“he looked for emotional satisfaction from physical appetites”.

I so recognised myself in that description.

Since last May I’ve been off work, because of my problems with my jaw joint and the trigeminal nerve.  These prevent me doing a great deal of talking and as I talk for a living (I work in the English Department of a high school, working with students with Special Educational Needs either leading interventions, taking groups or working one-to-one) it became impossible to do my job.

I’m single and aside from my very wonderful 18 year old live alone;  and wonderful though he is, and very close though we are, he does of course not spend a great deal of time with me, which is as it should be.  I have no family (aside from my children) within a hundred miles and I couldn’t be social with friends as initially I couldn’t even hold a conversation, and still now have to restrict the amount of talking I do.

What’s more, the heavy medication I was put on (and have significantly reduced on my own initiative, in collaboration with my GP) meant I was off my head for hours a day.

Just when I was suddenly so much alone and so isolated, so frightened about what my medical condition might mean, off my head half the time and in considerable discomfort, I had also to give up nicotine and caffeine.  What else was I going to do but comfort eat?

I already, of course, knew all that.

What I didn’t know, what hadn’t occurred to me, was that due to my extreme isolation (imagine being unable to talk or use sign language;  it’s made me realise how fundamental the ability to express oneself is to being a human being) I wasn’t just confort eating, I had turned to food so passionately as it was now the only thing I could  connect to.  What alerted me to this was recently watching the TED Talk,  Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong as a follow on from a recommendation made by Julie Ramage.  In it Johann Hari puts forward the theory that people develop addictions when they feel disconnected from the world around them, and their drug of choice (recreational, nicotine, caffeine, food) is the only thing they feel able to connect to.  I instantly recognised that in the behaviour of people around me whose addictions had got the better of them, and I recognised it in myself.

A few days later I noticed Russell Brand discussing the premise of his latest book, Recovery, which is pretty similar;  and while Russell Brand isn’t someone I’d choose to spend more than 5 minutes watching I do think he’s a phenomenally intelligent man who has a great capacity for analysis and self-analysis;  and I think he’s right. People form addictions when they cannot connect – for whatever reason – with the world around them;  meaning the only real connection, the only real relationship, they can have is with their drug of choice;  which makes it the most important thing in their lives, even when it’s destroying their lives.

Incidentally, I am not the only one who has been in that kind of romantic relationship either, I’m sure.

And when I understood, the spell broke.  I realised I need to find new, positive, healthy things to connect to (How interesting I said ‘things’ and not ‘people’ to connect to – but I’m not going to censor that comment because I think it’s very telling and I want to remember it) to and to strengthen existing connections.

Incidentally, one thing the last nine months of isolation have taught me is how very good I am with my own company, although even I can have a little too much of it.  That’s one good thing that has come out of this episode in my life – I cannot imagine having the level of contact with other people I used to, I don’t think I could tolerate that much interaction with other people anymore, confusing and unsettling as even the best of people can be;  I’ve learned peace in my own company,  which I guess makes me more self-sufficient than I was.

But deprived so brutally of work, routine, other people, my health and plans for the future, and my usual drugs of choice – well, there wasn’t anything left to connect to other than food, was there?

PS.  my most recent scans have revealed that I have a lipoma, a benign tumour,  in my shoulder mere inches away from my jaw joint, and it is that which has been causing my medical problems.  Hopefully it will soon be surgically removed and my jaw and nerve can heal.

On the dangers of lemon water

I lifted this directly from the BBC News website this morning –

The researchers found people who had drinks such as water with a slice of lemon or hot fruit-flavoured teas twice a day between meals were more than 11 times more likely to have moderate or severe tooth erosion.

So we try to be good people, follow the expert advice and do that lemon water trick first thing in the morning to flush out our livers – I do anyway – and we drink our fruit-flavoured teas rather than anything caffeinated or sugary because they’re so very bad for us, and now we discover our good habits are uwittingly rotting our teeth.  No fair.  And while on the face of it, tooth erosion may seem unpleasant but not serious, your dental health can impact negatively and seriously on the health of the rest of your body.

I have to laugh, that something so apparently innocuous as lemon water is now not innocuous at all.

Reminds me of one of my very first posts –

You have to be your own pet scientist

We do indeed.

Day 2 Defatting, More Fuel to the Calorie Debate & Sundry Scans

So I’ve done 2 days of the diet I devised for myself – Defatting: The Principles (and why your body will always win in the end) – and this morning I weighed myself.

I’ve lost 7lbs.

Now I know there’s a fair amount of water weight etc in there, but all the same.  I did a calorie-careful vegetable-based day (lost 3lbs), and followed it with a calorie-uncounted high protein-high fat day (lost 4lbs).

Yesterday was a big fat fest, and although I actually really can cook, what I felt like was an utterly self-indulgent day and after trying to adhere to the almost-vegetarian Alkaline Diet, that could only mean lots of bacon and eggs.  I can’t be bothered working out my calorie count from yesterday, but this is what I ate:

– 3 eggs fried in 1 tbsp butter + 4 rashers grilled bacon

– 1 salmon fillet + 2 boiled eggs made into egg mayonnaise with 2 tbsps mayonnaise

– 250g chestnut mushrooms fried in 2 tbsps fat + 5 grilled rashers bacon

I only know that it’s way more calories than should result in a weight loss.

Hmmmm.  This is something I’ve seen before – that the calories in/calories out equation isn’t the whole picture.

Of course, whatever, the weight loss will slow very soon but I’ll keep you updated.

Today is a starch-based day, although I freely admit it may go a little awry as I’m going in for an MRI Craniofacial Scan today and they may want to inject dye into me so *ugh*  I’m a little nervous going in and know I will come out with a shocking headache, so I’ll do the best I can in terms of diet but make no concrete promises.

However the scan should shed light on what’s going on with my TMJ/TGN so that’s a good thing. Strangely, yesterday I finally got called for the ultrasound on my shoulder which will happen on Thursday 15th February.  As is so often the way in life, it’s all happening at once.


Declaration of Hostilities

So last night descended into another binge (sorry, Julie Ramage but I didn’t see your very helpful advice until after the event, so didn’t document it).  It was pretty nasty.

Nonetheless, I got on the scales this morning and discovered I am now 3lbs heavier than when I began trying to lose weight.


The weird thing is, I wasn’t angry with myself.  I felt sorry for myself, like a friend stood next to myself wanting to give comfort.


I think that’s really positive.

It was though a real lightbulb moment. It made me really take seriously how much trouble I’m in.

I think I have two problems – sugar addiction and binge eating disorder.  I think they’ve happened through a complex blend of physical and psychological factors – physically, I think my gut is over-run with sugar-loving microbes (see my post Guts, Ice Cream & Love) and the only possible response to that is


I’m gonna torch the little b*stards.  We’re talking a scorched earth policy here.  I refuse to feed them their candy anymore and if they start complaining, the bear gets busy until every last little one is a charred cinder.  One day, when all this is long behind me and it’s safe, I’ll let 85% dark chocolate and fruit back into my life.  But that’s it.  No more sugar, ever.

As to the psychological, writing my post yesterday Poisons & Plan B really brought home to me, in a real face-palm moment, that the seeds of my binge eating were sown in my childhood.  Sometimes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and categorically refusing to let a child have the edible jewels that other children routinely enjoy makes them glitter all the more brilliantly.


As Middle Aged Warrior pointed out to me, society really skews our relationship with food, endowing it with qualities of celebration, love and approval.  From childhood, we are rewarded with food.


As to the binge eating, I replied to a comment by Julie Ramage yesterday and it really made me think – she asked how I felt when I was bingeing.  I replied that, amongst other things, it was great to be feeding unfettered whatever it was inside me that was so hungry.


And that’s a question I really need to answer.  What is it inside me that is so hungry?

I think also that once again, I was taken in by the flirtatious winking of a celebrity diet.  Every modern woman is surrounded and serenaded by the host of celebrity diets that prop up this billion dollar industry, and which flaunt their charms to us to seduce us;  like sirens luring us close with their soft song, secretly smiling when we break ourselves on their rocks, because that means their billion dollar industry still stands safe, because we’ll need it to fix us even more badly now.


I had given alot of thought to my dietary life, behaviours and experiences, and put together a plan that covered as wide a range of foods as possible – because I knew I had a propensity to binge, which had lain dormant for a decade but which I sensed was reawakening.  I reckoned that if I fed myself a very wide range of foods the sense of deprivation wouldn’t be sufficient to properly awaken the Bingemonster, and he might decide to just roll over and go back to sleep.   However, I found myself distracted by the shiny promise of surefire weight loss (see my post Elle Macpherson made me do it, Miss) rather than trusting in my own wisdom about my own body.  I sleepwalked into the worst thing for a binger – a diet that discourages a whole family of foods (pretty much all animal products).  Exactly what I had been intending to avoid.  So I’m abandoning my Alkaline Experiment, and going back to the diet I’d worked out for myself:  Defatting: The Principles (and why your body will always win in the end).

How prescient of me that bracketed subtitle was.

I’m going to arm myself with as many psychological weapons as I can while I’m unravelling the strands of my sugar addiction & disordered eating.  The first new addition to my arsenal will be watching the TED talk Julie Ramage very helpfully recommended to me, Judson Brewer’s  A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit  because that might just be the Kalashnikov I’ve needed.

Lock ‘n’ load, Ladies, lock ‘n’ load.



The Hell of Binge Eating

There have been times in my life when I seem to have conquered the demon of Binge Eating.  I’ve eaten normally and moderately for years at a time.  I think I’ve licked it and those dark days are behind me.  And then, quietly at first but with increasing vigour, it reawakes, like the Kraken – and that’s an apt metaphor, because it is a monster.  A raging, furious, insatiable, driven monster.

I’m an intelligent, self-disciplined woman.  I gave up alcohol over a decade ago, and haven’t touched a drop since.  I gave up smoking three years ago and moved to an e-cigarette, which I gave up six months ago.  At the same time I gave up caffeine.  And trust me, no one at the time would have recognised me without a mug  of steaming, darkest black coffee in my hand – and now I don’t even drink decaffeinated tea because of the trace of caffeine in it.  I can exert tremendous willpower when I have to.

I’m aware at the moment that the monster is back and so I’ve put in place various tools and strategies for when he starts his pursuit again, to deflect and then defeat him.  I am prepared.


Only the tools and strategies I’m supposed to turn to when the monster wakes don’t so much as not work as fail to exist.  Something happens in my brain and there is simply nothing else but the rage to eat – afterwards I remember my tools and strategies and kick myself for not having turned to them.  But the truth is, the monster has so overwhelmed my brain that I don’t even remember I had any tools or strategies.

And so I go out in the rain and dark to my local Spar, and I come home with a big bag of Milky Buttons and 3 big bags of Maltesers.  The cinema-sized ones.  And I sit and I eat one after the other without pausing.

I don’t feel sick.  I don’t feel full.  What I do feel like is eating more.  I then raid the kitchen and eat anything that will satisfy my urge and I eat it – bread, frozen cherries, cereal, nuts, biscuits.  Then I raid my slightly-concerned 18 year old’s stash for anything resembling sugar or wheat.  Only when everything that fits the bill has been eaten do I stop.  My monster believes in a scorched earth policy.

I don’t sleep well that night because of all the sugar, and the next day I wake and I remember and I groan.  I’ve done it again.  My belly is distended and unhappy.  My whole body feels wretched, toxified, ill.  I’ll have to drag myself around all day, with a stinking food hangover, just waiting for that night when I can get back to bed and sleep it off and feel a bit human again the next day.  That’s all bad – but what’s worse is the self-loathing.  The shame.  That I’ve let myself down – and everyone around me – again.  I am worthless. I am greedy.  I am undisciplined.  I have no self-control.  I wear my shame visibly in the wobble of my thighs.  I know I can’t currently fit into 90% of my wardrobe and I hope I don’t bump into anyone I know outside of immediate family because I don’t want to see their surprised eyebrows when they clock me.  When they see that perenially-slim A has got fat.

That thing in your stomach that says “I’m full now, stop eating’ – I don’t have that.  I have no idea how I can ingest so much in one sitting.  Thousands of calories.  And when I get into that place I can do it every night for a week, a month, three months.

All I can do is try to understand this monster, the better to know how to finally defeat it, once and for all.

Day 2 – The 12 Hour Window and a Surprise Result

So I heard that really nice GP who has a book out at the moment and so talks alot on the radio talking on the radio yesterday;  and he said there is evidence that when you eat is important.  Apparently it’s been shown that if you keep your eating within a 12 Hour Window – say 8am to 8pm – it gives your body a rest and aids weight loss.

So I’m thinking I could add this to my alkaline diet and see if it makes any difference.

I have this thing I really don’t want to wake up hungry during the night, so I’m not one for having my last meal at 7pm;  more like 9 or 10pm.  The idea of not being able to eat after 8pm if I’m getting peckish panics me because I know I won’t be able to sleep.

So I decided to try missing breakfast and creating a ‘window’ from noon-to-9pm in which to eat.  I know that’s only 9 hours, but I feel I can cope with that.  Although I have to emphasise


so I really wasn’t sure how this would go.  But I’m a game girl and committed to getting my body back, so I started doing it yesterday.  And you know what?  It was really okay.

I found the morning tolerable so long as I kept well hydrated;  and after noon it felt rather as if I was feasting, because I was eating the same amount in a shorter space of time.  So my meals were more indulgent, and for a binger like me that is very nice indeed.

So I woke up this morning, and eager to see how my experiment was going I weighed myself.

I’d lost 3lbs in a day.

*startled face*