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Different Takes on Binge Eating

  • Eating

I was talking with a client a while ago who had done a great deal of binge-eating on vacation. Although I kept asking her about the sights and people she’d seen, she would not stop talking about how awful her eating had been and how ashamed she was. Clearly, we were not experiencing her binge-eating the same way.

It seems that her having spent a great deal of time “eating herself into oblivion,” as she described it, totally overshadowed the fact that she was touring a part of the country she’d never seen with dear friends. We discussed how excited she’d been about the vacation and her plan not to let anything get in the way of enjoying it. She said that she’d eaten fairly “normally” the first few days away, then overate one night, and hadn’t reregulated her eating after that. Every day she’d awakened vowing to eat mindfully, and every evening she fell asleep stuffed and ashamed.

I asked if her friends knew about her binge-eating and she said they did because every time she overate she felt a need to confess to them and beat herself up publically. This felt similar to what she was doing in my office. Did it matter to them that she’d overdone it with food, I asked. She said she guessed not because they generally listened to her for a while, then wanted to talk about each day’s highlights. Of course, she understood their desire to move on, but felt that her failure was too big to do so herself.

Let’s face it, a binge is a huge thing to a binge-eater. It colors our view of life, of ourselves, of our future, and hopes and dreams. It speaks volumes about what we perceive as our character and its deficits. Our binges make us forget that anything else has happened to us. If, on the same day, you receive a promotion, win the Nobel Prize, and hit the lottery, but also happen to have a whopper of a binge, want to take a guess what you’d remember. We let our eating problems overshadow everything else.

The truth is that other people don’t put much emphasis or focus on your binges. Simply put, they’re just not that into them. Your binges may matter a great deal to you, but they’re not very important—or of much interest—to other people. Others think, Oh, she overate, big deal, so what. You need to remember this when you’ve been bingeing and scale down its importance. Others don’t notice your eating nearly as much as you do (if at all) and don’t give it much (pardon the pun) weight. Most people—at least your friends—probably feel great empathy for you, while you’re feeling nothing but shame. Try looking at your bingeing through their eyes for a change and you’ll feel better.