Binges are Sirens, Ignore Them at Your Peril

22 Mar


Binges are like sirens, useful for drawing our attention to specific areas of our lives that may need to be  worked on. Looking back over the past five years, I can pinpoint specific binging incidents  and identify how they helped me cope with difficult situations in my life.


I remember one particular incidentwhen I was travelling to abroad to visit my dad.

During the long haul flight, I opened a box of chocolates, that were intended as a gift for him, and I ate the whole lot. My relationship with my dad is a complicated one, and going to visit him stirred up a cocktail of difficult feelings in my gut. Positive feelings of excitement and love were accompanied by negative ones, such as anxiety and nervousness, and I can recognise now that I used the sweet tasting chocolate to dampen these emotions.

While returning from the same trip, I sat in the airport’s departure lounge eating big portions of luxury ice-cream and numerous giant cookies as I waited for my flight home. This binge took the edge off of the pain and sadness of leaving my dad, knowing that it would probably be another year until I saw him again.

My earliest memory of emotional eating was as a pre-teen, when I was sitting in my living room alone. The television was doing little to quell my boredom, so I gathered my loose change and strolled to the local shop to buy a couple of chocolate bars. I wasn’t hungry, but needed to occupy myself with something. This “binge” paled in comparison to my binges of today, but nevertheless, it was a example of when I used food to satisfied my emotions, rather than any real physical hunger.

In recent months, as my binges have become more frequent, I have learned that I can use them to get in touch with my emotions. After a binge, I can ask myself: “What difficult feelings am I trying manage by eating this food?” And instead of being merely ashamed about the episodes of over-eating, I have also begun to see them as little emotionally charged warning signs.

The words “cloud” and “silver lining” suddenly spring to mind.


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