Sometimes a pint of Ben and Jerry’s is just ice cream
I used to think that I was alone. I thought using food to gain some control or comfort was something that only existed on the fringes of normalcy. I felt pain, shame, and disgust over my behavior.
I have an eating disorder. There, I said it. I eat frightening amounts of food when I can’t or don’t want to feel an emotion. Or, at least, I did. Binging has been a part of my life since I was 9 years old. It would be easy to say it stems back to abuse; to say it stems from literal, intentional, malicious starvation. It does.
The thing is, I have found peace from those old demons. Only—I was still binging. Binging and feeling ashamed that I did. Until something changed.
I spent almost 15 years working with a therapist. We worked through the hard stuff that goes along with childhood abuse. Then, she had to move on. I decided not to get a new therapist. At least, not right now.
Instead, I took all I had learned and found out I could handle this! Binging couldn’t make it better. I didn’t need to abuse myself that way anymore.
I decided I didn’t want to binge and didn’t want to keep stuffing down that “inner child”. So, I gave myself unfettered permission. Permission to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to. I would not criticize, or judge, or punish that little part that was scared, angry, and just plain hungry.
It was a true stepping out in faith moment. Once given permission, I went whole hog. It took days, weeks, months of having wonderful, tasty food, enjoying it a morsel at a time. I was gaining weight. 20 pounds before the inner demons stopped screaming. I was testing myself. Would I cry uncle and stuff it all back down?
Ultimately, I build some inner peace. I had conversations with myself. Out loud, when I was alone.
“Do you really want this?”
“Why do you want this?”
“Will something else work?”
“You don’t need that. You can handle these feelings.”
I made deals. Cereal instead of candy. A slice of deli cheesecake instead of an entire sheet of cheese danish. You can have anything if you still want it in ten minutes.
Ah, yes. The famous ten minutes. The thing no one had ever explained about the ten minutes is that you must get engaged in something else during that time.
Back when I was binging all the time I had been a master of delay. Wait until you get home. Wait until everyone goes to sleep. Wait, wait, wait. Always followed by a gorge that left me sick and/or passed out on my bed.
See, the way I won wasn’t by battling and beating back the urges. I won by love and understanding. Patience and tolerance.
Eating had become my go-to reaction. I ate to murder an uncomfortable feeling. I ate for a distraction. I ate to feel less alone. The biggest reason I ate was a search for pleasure, especially intimate physical connection.
So, yes, sometimes I make bad food choices. Sometimes I eat too much. I don’t need to demonize that. It doesn’t mean I am a bad person or that I have done a bad thing. Because everyone needs a distraction sometimes. Everyone needs to feel less alone. And surely, even more so in these waning days of 2020, everyone is searching for whatever pleasure they can find.
Self-control and self-care do not have to be mutually exclusive. Eating junk food doesn’t define my character. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s is not a reason to run back to therapy. Sometimes, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s is just ice cream.