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 how she’d enjoyed her trip, she would not stop talking about her awful eating and how ashamed she was of ruining her vacation. Clearly, we were not experiencing her binge-eating in the same way.
The problem was that repeatedly “eating herself into oblivion,” as she described it, had totally overshadowed the fact that she’d been touring a part of the country she’d never seen with her close friends, a trip she’d long anticipated. We discussed how excited she’d been about the vacation and her plan not to let anything get in the way of enjoying it. In fact, she reported having eaten fairly “normally” the first few days away, then overeating one night which continued nonstop. Every day she’d awakened vowing to eat mindfully, and every evening she’d fallen asleep stuffed and furious at herself.
I asked if her friends knew about her binge-eating and she said they most certainly did because every time she overate she felt a need to confess to them and publically beat herself up. This felt similar to what she was doing with me. I asked if it mattered to friends that she’d overdone it with food and she said she guessed not because they listened to her for a while, then went on to talk about the day’s events. She recognized their desire to move on, but felt that her food failures were too big for her to let go of.
Let’s face it, a binge can be a huge thing to a binge-eater. It can color your view of your life, your future, your hopes and dreams, speaking volumes about what you perceive as your lack of skills and defective character. Your binges make you forget that anything else has happened to you. If, on the same day as a binge, you were to win the Nobel Prize and hit the lottery, but also happened to have a doozy of a binge, want to take a guess what you’d focus on. You’d let your eating problems overshadow everything else.
The truth is that most folks don’t care much about your binges. They’re just not that into your relationship with food. Your binges may matter a great deal to you, but they’re not important—or relevant—to the majority of people. Others think, Oh, she overate, big deal, so what. You need to remember this when you’ve been bingeing in order to scale down its importance. Others don’t notice your eating nearly as much as you do (if at all) nor give it much (pardon the pun) weight. Most people—at least your friends—likely feel great empathy for you, while you’re feeling nothing but shame and regret. Try looking at your binges through their eyes for a change and you’ll feel a lot better.