Redefining the Role of the Binge

So what is Binge?

Here is the Merriam Webster definition:

An act of excessive or compulsive consumption especially of food or alcoholic beverages.


Interestingly enough, there is no mention of amount in any of the definitions I read, just the excessive out-of-control nature of eating itself.

Which lives with my experience over the years. We all seem to have different definitions of what amounts constitute a binge. For some it’s just a few cookies over what is planned for the day, for others its the whole pan of lasagna or a pint of ice cream and a container of cookies.

What we can all agree on, I think, is the uncontrolled nature of this eating phenomenon.

It is that feeling of being out of control, that invisible hand which reaches out and strangles our reason and smothers our willpower. For most it is an emotional trigger. For some it’s just a wild uncontrolled whatever moment.

What it comes down to though, is the feeling of a lack of control. And then of course we feel like crap afterwards and either get totally derailed or manage to get back on the horse, but still regret what happened.

Well, I posit that we should not regret what happened. We should redefine the “binge” and consider it as part of our food makeup intake, so to speak. I am not suggesting that we downplay or minimize the seriousness of what a binge can be. That would be irresponsible of me. Binges are what got most of us into being overweight in the first place, and they are also part of what makes losing weight so hard. What I am saying though, is that if we can allow ourselves to step back a bit, to see the big picture, we can actually view the binge in a holistic sense. Neither good or bad, negative or positive, it just is. The binge/high eating day/high eating week (whatever you call it), is the yin to the yang.


The Yin Yang of the Binge State

Put in its proper place, the binge may be neither good nor bad. It just is. In Transcendental Meditation (not Chinese, I know, just hear me out, I get to the Yin Yang part in a bit, lol), when I was taught to meditate, sometimes my mind would wander and I would forget about the mantra. The instruction from my teacher was to just gently return to the mantra. When asked whether or not it was a bad thing to have just zoned out and lost the mantra and be thinking other thoughts, the answer was always, “gently return to the mantra when you realize you have lost it”. That was it. No chastising. No emphasis whatsoever on the proper way to do it. Simple. No judging. Not even acknowledging that there was even a possibility of it being either right or wrong. Once you even entertain the notions that something could possibly be categorized in that mannor, the battle is a little lost.

The same should hold true for binges. When you have been doing well with diet (focused and repeating the mantra) and then find yourself out of control (wandering away from and forgetting the mantra), once you become of aware of this, just gently return to your diet. No judging. Not bad. Not good. It just is. Like the Yin and Yang of eastern philosophy:

There is a perception (especially in the West) that yin and yang correspond to evil and good. However, Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions and other dichotomous moral judgments, in preference to the idea of balance. (Wikipedia).


The Myth of Zero Tolerance

I posit that the ultimate goal of defeating the binge is not to reach Zero Tolerance. The ultimate goal to defeat the binge is to be able to manage it within reasonable limits. Such that we are able to not even call them binges any more because they just technically won’t qualify under the posted definition.

Radical? Maybe. But that is where I am at right now in my food journey.

I feel like I have had a paradigm shift within the past year in how I view food: all food, all the different ways in how I consume the food. Because that is all it is really, just different ways in how we consume the food. The food is all the same. Nothing has changed. When I have an unplanned for “out of control” eating event now, I don’t view it as being bad any more. I do not strive for Zero Tolerance. I strive for Balance and Management.


Managing our Food Intake

How can accepting a “binge” be called Management?
Management to me means being in control the majority of the time (you can also say having mostly forward days).

Once we acknowledge that a binge is neither good nor bad, and it just is, it tends to lose its meaning. When it tends to lose its meaning, its grip on us loosens. They won’t go away (my theory of not reaching Zero Tolerance), but they don’t have the ultimate control anymore: we do. We feel like now we are more in control of our choices. Including our choice to binge. Is it possible that some people just naturally get this and truly never binge any more? Yes, I guess so. But I think those people are few and far between. In her book Naturally Thin, Bethany Frankel asserts that she never binges any more. Do I believe her? Well, I only have to go on what she says, but I would venture to say that maybe she came to the same realizations about food and binging that I have reached now and she just does not categorize her “oops” moments as binges any more. They have lost their power and their hold. They don’t feel so out of control. And if it doesn’t feel so out of control, can we really call it a binge any more?


The Power of Choice

Contained somewhere within the complex meat of this word lies the crux of the matter: Choice. Every day we are faced with a myriad of food choices. We wake up: What to eat? Do we eat? How much? What ratios? It can be overwhelming. And it never ends. We have to make choices. Every. Single. Day. And make no mistake, when we binge (and do it because we feel out of control), even though it may feel like we have no choice in the matter, we do. And that is why we usually feel so bad afterwards. We must be “a failure of a human being” if we can’t control ourselves enough to make the “right” choices! And then we get derailed, fall into depression, etc. We know that we have a choice.


Bottom line

Perhaps this is a notion that can only come about with experience of having gone through it. I don’t know that either. I know that when you are going through it there is a ton of uncertainty (and fear). Maybe I am in a position now where it is easy for me to be glib about it all and write down these things. Maybe I’ve forgotten a little bit just how hard it was. Maybe I’m just full of it. I don’t think so though. It was hard as hell at times, but I just kept soldiering on. You will too. Just don’t give up. Being thin is there in your future. Can you taste it? Can you feel it? And even if you can’t (maybe you’ve never been thin before, you have a hard time visualizing it), zen out, put your faith in the process, just keep going.

by Elisa Neal from Deprice.co