Tag Archives: binge eating

Bands and Ties and Other Things Which Bind

24 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

At the end of last year, my big sister (in all the ways that count, and some that don’t) underwent a surgical procedure, and had a weight loss device – a lap band – inserted.  She now has a teeny little inner tube circling her stomach, which when inflated will squeeze tighter and more efficiently than any iron-fisted willpower she has been able to summon to date and limit the amount of food she can comfortably eat in one sitting.

Inside my 15 year-old sister (pictured here) was always a fat person, fighting her way out. Slim and pretty, but in her mind fat and clumsy. Hiding under bulky shorts, arms covering a belly she didn't have. Eating until years later, her outside matched her inside.

Two earth-shattering, conscience jarring, where-the-hell-do-you-stand-on-anything-actually parcels of life found their way to my door step at the end of last year.  Both of them, in terms of my contribution to this blog, struck me dumb.

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We are all one pay-cheque away from chubby

21 Sep

If you are “a normal weight”, you walk a very fine line between fat and skinny.

One bout of a 3 day tummy bug would be enough to have you knocking on the door of skinny, and a one week beach holiday at a hotel with a buffet is sufficient to push you into chubby land.

fighting the beast within?

We walk really close to the edge and it may be partly responsible for why and how we lash out at people on either end of the weight spectrum.

Anyone who has seen “American Beauty” knows the guy who is the meanest to gay men, is like that because he is terribly fearful of the inevitable weak moment he will try to stick his tongue down the throat of Kevin Spacey.

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Confessions of a Binge Eater

1 Jul

Written by Heather in early 2008

I know it’s going to be a bad day the moment I wake up and the first thought that drops resolutely into my mind is:  “I want food.  And I want it now”.  It’s then that I know, without question, that the day ahead is going to involve an intense inner struggle – and that the food will, inevitably win.

Reluctantly, I part with my warm duvet and slouch off to the bathroom for the mandatory ablutions.  I avoid the mirror, keeping my eyes downcast so that I won’t catch a glimpse of my repugnant reflection.  Even when I brush my teeth and hair, I don’t look myself in the eye.  I have developed a unique skill of creating optical illusions, fuzzy blurs of everything ugly that I don’t want to look at… and I don’t want to look at that sad, obese woman in her faded granny nightie from the fat-lady store.  I feel as though I’ve betrayed her.  She had so many special dreams, and I let her down.  I’m sure that if I look at her, I’ll be infected by her sadness.  So I pretend she’s not there and get on with business.

I’m on another one-size-fits-all diet.  As always, it’s bland, restrictive and it promises rapid, miracle weight loss.  I can’t seem to get my mind around the idea of gradual weight-loss or of ‘healthy lifestyle changes’.  It seems so… half-hearted.  I tell myself that I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person and I remind myself of a childhood mantra, taught to me by my super-achiever relatives:  “If you won’t do it properly then don’t do it at all!”.

For me, weight-loss done “properly” is all about restriction and rules.  Three carefully measured and weighed portions of legal food with two small snacks slotted reluctantly in-between.   It’s about forcing down grapefruit halves, tuna-in-water, celery and fish, all the foods I abhor, at special, allotted times during the day.  No food after 7pm.  Eight compulsory glasses of water.  No coffee.  No sugar.  No refined carbs.  No dessert.  Nothing fatty or fried.

Unsurprisingly, I become a different person when on diet.  Stress levels peak and every spare moment is spent obsessing over food;  ‘What does the diet say I must eat for lunch today?  Do I have enough Provitas?  Did I forget to buy tuna?  Oh God – what am I going to do?  How can I eat my proper diet lunch without tuna or Provitas?  I’m going to fail!’. I become a social hermit and turn down invitations from friends.  I avoid restaurants and coffee shops – terrified that I’ll be overcome by the lure of food and that I’ll cheat.

Impressively though, I went to bed last night having completed three perfect diet days.  I hadn’t cheated.  Not once.  Hadn’t even swallowed an extra segment of naartjie or sipped a non-diet Coke.  I went to bed last night, smug at my success… and then woke up this morning thinking only of food.

I had hoped that my scheduled diet breakfast (half a grapefruit with sweetener and a slice of low GI toast thinly spread with lite margarine) might put a dent in the ferocity of the food cravings – but I should have known better.  Grapefruit can never cure a chocolate craving.  I sip my de-caff coffee (with fat-free milk and 3 Candarel’s) and desperately try to think of something… anything… other than food.  But it doesn’t work.  I dream desperately of Wimpy cheese burgers and KFC fivers.  I imagine the taste of Spar sausage rolls, packets of Flings, slabs of mint Aero, lemon meringue pie and donut holes from Woolies.  There’s a Woolies Food Store and a Spar Supermarket just a few steps from my home.  I live that close to abundant food!  I dream of Nutella and chicken nuggets… and I berate myself sternly for dreaming.  But the thoughts of delicious food stick stubbornly in my mind like a piece of ageing biltong between the lateral incisors.

Indeed...

I turn up the radio to drown out the noise in my head and force myself to focus on my job.  I work from home as a graphic designer.  I don’t quite know how I ended up with four employees and demanding hoteliers as clients.  This was never my dream.  I was always creative – but it was never my dream to run my own graphic design business.  Why am I even here?  Why am I doing this?  It’s certainly not fulfilling.  Creativity has bowed the knee to marketing formulas that work:  boring, predictable designs that make my clients happy.  It feels as though I’ve been whisked along by the cruel tidal wave of life and dumped unceremoniously on a shore I had never intended on visiting.

Lunch time arrives.  I need to fetch my daughter from school soon.  My mind turns, again, to thoughts of food.  I start dreaming of Ghost Pops and guava rolls.  I can’t eject the food thoughts from my brain – no matter what I do.  Resignation begins to set in.  I know that I’m about to binge – I just know it.  I make excuses, I argue with myself.  I tell myself not to be such a weak, pathetic excuse for a human being.  And then right there, right then, in the space of a millisecond, I give up.  I decide to visit the supermarket on my way to Morgan’s school.  I tell myself that I will start the diet again, next week, on Monday, when my mind is in a healthier place.

The urgency to eat is overwhelming. I speed to the supermarket and snatch two sausage rolls, a full-size bag of Flings, a mint aero and half a litre of non-diet Coke.  I also grab a magazine.  For some reason, when I binge, I need to simultaneously read or watch the TV.  I can’t allow myself to be completely alone with the food.  I need some distraction to take my mind off what I’m doing to myself.  If magazines, books or TV aren’t available – then I’ll read whatever I can find.  Past binges have seen me devouring the fine print on the back of shampoo bottles… whilst simultaneously shovelling salami slices down my gullet.

I’m at the check-out counter.  With hands trembling, I pay for the food.  The cashier is taking too long.  I want to eat, and I want to eat now! My impatience is beginning to show.  I notice that I’m fidgeting and tapping my foot.  I wonder what the cashier thinks of me.  I wonder if the woman in the queue behind me is inspecting my loot… and my backside… with a smug knowing look.  I’m pretty sure everybody understands that the stash is destined for me alone.  After all – I’m a fatty with food.  It’s painfully obvious that a binge is about to commence.  Is that revulsion I see in their eyes?  Or is it pity?  Oh dear God… are people laughing at me?  Are they staring?  Can they see my shame?  Is it scrawled across my forehead or, more aptly, across my arse?

An eternity later, the cashier hands me my bag of treasure and I speed walk to the car.  I lock myself in, turn on the air-con and un-wrap the food.  I quickly check that there’s nobody sitting in the cars parked next to, or in front of mine.  I would hate for any other human being to witness my gluttony.  I’m a secret binge-eater.  I never binge in front of others.

The first sausage roll is gone in a number of seconds, followed shortly by the second.  Oily crumbs spill in abundance on to my lap and in to my cleavage.  I don’t care.  I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and start in to the Flings.  I flick through the pages of my magazine between mouthfulls.  I read about Britney’s custody battles and Brangelina’s brood.  I admire the perfect bodies of the celebrities and the supermodels… the seemingly perfect people with seemingly perfect lives.  Crumbs spill on to the magazine pages.  I ignore them.  I try not to dwell too on how much I’ve let myself go… how much I’ve failed… how disgusting I am.

Half-way through the bag of Flings, I start feeling decidedly ill – but it doesn’t deter me from my mission.  I continue to stuff chip after chip into my mouth.  The yellow gunge sticks between my teeth and lodges underneath my finger nails.  Flecks of Fling crumbs float down on to my lap to join the remnants of the sausage roll pastry.  I ignore them – and finish the bag.  I swig some Coke to wash the lot down.  And then I start on the chocolate.  By this time, my stomach is uncomfortably straining against my jeans.  I un-button, un-zip and continue unabated.  I’m on a binge-mission and nothing can stop me.  The world could explode around my car and I would carry on eating. The chocolate is melting.  I lick my fingers, lick the chocolate packet and lick my lips.  I’m feeling ill.  I want to vomit.  I wish I would vomit – but I know that I won’t.  I never mastered ‘The Purge’ and, for a long time, I envied bulimics who could binge-eat… and yet remain thin, their ugly secret kept hidden from the world.  My ugly secret is marketed for all to see.   My bulk betrays my binge-eating.  It’s impossible to hide.

Twenty minutes later, and it’s over.  I’m left with empty packets, a lot of crumbs, a silly gossip magazine and a mountain of guilt.  The guilt weighs on my shoulders like an iron mantle.  I feel suffocated by it.

I fetch my daughter from school (after dusting off my clothes and pretending to be fine).  The empty food packets are disposed of, I’d be so ashamed if my husband discovered them.  Back in the office, I continue with my routine.  I phone clients, design brochures and argue with printers.  I feel like the ugliest, weakest, most useless individual on the planet.  My self-disgust is palpable.  I can taste it in my mouth – and it’s bitter.

In the evening, Nick asks how my diet went.  I lie.  I tell him “fine, thanks” – although the nonchalant way in which I dismiss the topic raises questions in his eyes.  He decides not to press the matter further.  I love him for that.

Come supper time, my scheduled diet meal of grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables is abandoned in favour of spaghetti bolognaise.  I make a mean pasta and I go back for second, and thirds, with extra cheese.  When Nick is out of the room, I open a wrapped birthday present, designated for a friend, and eat the chocolates within, promising myself to replenish the supply later.

Midnight.  I lie awake, on my back, in bed.  My body feels ill and uncomfortable.  Beads of sweat break out on my forehead on this hot, hot night.  My breathing is laboured and my own snoring wakes me up every time I begin to drift off into dreamland.  My hands hover upwards and trace lightly over the rolls of excess fat on my stomach.  My hipbones have long since disappeared under a blanket of blubber.    My poor, poor abused, hated body.  Hasn’t it suffered enough?

“I’ll start again tomorrow”, I tell myself.  “I’ll start a new diet tomorrow and this time, I’ll succeed!”.

(Shortened version of this article was published in the Marie Claire magazine)

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