It’s been many moons since I’ve used the word binge about my eating. With the nutritional and emotional changes I made in my life, those previously cataclysmic self attacks on my mind and body diminished dramatically to the point where they do still happen, but today they are infrequent and involve much, much less food.
I prefer the term chaotic eating, for the same reason that anxious is a far more helpful word than paranoid. There’s more elbow room for change. Anxiety and chaos can be reduced, but paranoia and bingeing are things with a mind of their own almost, events that somehow seem to ‘happen’ to you.
Like all binges, this non-binge was triggered by what I can only describe as a need to de-stress. I’d just come back from 4 hour round trip being interviewed about my work, and the house was empty. (The interview went well and the house being empty is like having all my Christmases and birthdays rolled into one, it’s so rare. These conditions are not what you’d call stressful, except they made me realise how completely exhausted I was, and how much I’d been doing lately).
You know when you look in the mirror and you’re so tired your face actually looks like it might belong to someone else? Yup, that was me.
I was starving, but when I looked in the kitchen all that looked back at me was a frozen portion of soup, a few salad leaves, some leftover GF pasta and half a tin of baked beans.
I started fantasising about a lightning quick trip to the supermarket, which would provide me with all the energy fixes a girl could ask for. You know the ones I mean. You can fill in the blanks here.
And then I realised that there was about as much chance of me doing this half hour errand as there was me abseiling down Everest, or doing an ultra marathon in the Gobi desert. I was finished for the day.
And then I did something I’d never done before. I gave up my quest for energy-fix-comfort food, and channeled that need into a different kind of binge.
A This Life binge.
If you’re over 30 and live in the UK, you’ll probably remember This Life. In the mid-nineties, it was THE water cooler TV topic of conversation. A group of twenty-something lawyers who drink and swear and have sex a lot. Sounds a bit shallow? Just watch it and judge yourself (clue: the genius is all in the acting. I’ve posted the first episode at the end of this blog post). It’s my favourite TV show of all time.
I binged on 4 episodes, until I was so tired I could watch no more. At some point I remember consuming something to eat, but it was so boring I can’t even be bothered to describe it to you. It had the plain and simple function of physical refuelling. I even stopped an episode to actually eat it. Because id decided to completely indulge in as many episodes as i wanted, I had time to stop and eat. All my need for distraction, rest and relaxation I got from what I was watching.
Now I want to make an important point. I don’t think screen binges like this will work for everyone. If you watch 4 hours of TV a day, then an evening like this just isn’t different enough to fulfil you. I don’t watch even 4 hours of TV a week (and I’m including DVDs here).
The point is this: if you want to find a way to non-binge then your replacement must be as genuinely absorbing and enjoyable as This Life is for me. It must be easily accessible, or somehow the junk food dealership round the corner will lure you away before you can say ‘bugger it’.
It might be painting. DIY. Writing. Trash novels. Knitting. What can you find to non-binge on? Can you experiment breaking up the non-binge with with a purposefully plain and functional meal – just to see how it feels?
This Life: The First Episode
Harriet Morris is an eating psychology coach