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How to Stop One "Bad" Meal From Turning into a Binge

binge eating Oct 14, 2021
Woman eating burger and chips

After a couple of weeks of hard work in our respective businesses, my husband and I wanted to let off some steam this weekend. Since neither of us drink and since Melbourne is still in lockdown, we decided to enjoy an epic food feast.

We scoured Uber Eats and discovered an American-style diner nearby with mouth-watering food options. It wasn’t easy to choose from their extensive menu but we eventually settled on a couple of burgers, chips and gravy, and a side of mac and cheese. Oh, and some milkshakes to wash it all down.

We also grabbed snacks and sodas from our local supermarket — including chips, ice cream, and a new flavour of two-minute noodles my husband wanted to try — and enjoyed it all whole-heartedly.

Binge vs. feast

As I woke up this morning and thought back to the weekend’s feast, it dawned on me that even just a few years ago I would have called this a “binge”.

I’d have woken up in a veil of shame, filled with remorse about my food choices. My head would have been spinning with the number of insults I’d silently be hurling at myself.

“I can’t believe you ate all that”
“You’re such a fat pig”
“Why can’t you get your shit together?”

While a part of me would have been reeling with self-loathing, another part of me would have started to strategise how I could “make up” for this binge. “Skip food for a day, work out twice every day this week… a juice cleanse, maybe?”

Most of the time what would happen though is that I’d get out of bed, take one look in the mirror, then feel so disgusted with myself that I’d go right back to bed… and order more food to numb the shame. It was a vicious cycle.

My experience this weekend couldn’t have been more different, though.

I thoroughly enjoyed letting my hair down for a bit, and while my digestive system wasn’t feeling the best this morning, I felt zero guilt.

So, what was different? Why didn’t I spend the whole day in agony, obsessing over ways to undo the damage, as I would have a few years ago?

Well, it’s only a binge if you call it one.

Ending the cycle

While in the past I would have seen this entire experience as something intensely shameful, these days I no longer judge myself based on my food choices.

I got rid of the mental list of “forbidden foods” that I acquired while growing up steeped in diet culture and released the idea that I was “bad” if I didn’t adhere to a certain way of eating.

Though my younger self would have been convinced that if I willingly allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted I’d completely “let myself go”, I actually discovered the opposite is true.

When we no longer see eating as a sin to be atoned for, we can just move on from it. There’s nothing to “make up” for. There’s no shame or guilt to be numbed through food.

The cycle ends there.

Without judgment, we’re able to tune in with our bodies and notice how food makes us feel. Instead of making choices based on what we think we “should” eat, we reconnect with our body’s innate wisdom. And when we eat something that doesn’t quite make us feel at our best, we simply course-correct at the next meal. Without judgment. Without shame.

Just a few years ago, a weekend like this could have easily sent me off the rails, resulting in days — even weeks — of shame-fuelled binges. But since shifting the way I think about food, a single meal no longer affects the next.

Nourishment comes in many forms

The journey of overcoming binge eating has taught me that nourishment comes in many forms.

While my body didn’t fully appreciate being battered with fried foods and happily welcomed the bowl of fresh fruits I supplied her with this morning, my soul felt so deeply nourished by the experience.

The excitement of discovering new flavours, the joy of sharing a meal with my husband, and the delight of having someone else cook for once.

When we heal our relationship with food we learn to make space for these types of joyful moments and find balance between body, mind, and soul. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience, and one I hope everyone will get to experience someday.