Monday, January 7, 2013

Manly Man Binging

I don't want to make people think from my previous post that it's all been a hunky-dory ride, food-wise, towards my streamlined self. As I did mention there, I am a binge eater. Not just an overeater, but a binger. At least, I certainly fit the profile at the Mayo Clinic's website:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you're full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you're uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Experiencing depression and anxiety
  • Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
  • Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting

Although I think it's said in a more succinct way at the Debunking Dietitian website:

  • Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances and 
  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that you cannot stop eating or control what or how much you are eating). 

I can think back to Retro Ska Librarian times and realize I used food both as a reward and a salve. Whether I was upset ("What a rough day, I'm gonna treat myself to tapioca pudding and chocolate cake!") or happy ("What a great day! I'm gonna treat myself to tapioca pudding and chocolate cake!"), it usually involved non-stop eating. Obviously there are many psychological issues involved here, and I will say a lot were about self-worth, confidence, etc. But it also became a habit. A total ritual of when I wanted to confront both happiness and sadness. And I usually did it alone. It's eerily like drug addiction. 

Nowadays, I do try to stay away from "trigger" foods and assess "trigger" events as they happen, so if I do desperately want a  cookie or a tapioca, I will buy a small individual serving. Because if I bring a bag of cookies or a tub of pudding home, I will eat it. In one sitting. Not even registering that I am eating. And then I usually don't stop after whatever I have in my hands is finished.

But having this one item and then having no access to more often lets me realize just how unsatisfying it was. That's not to say that once in a while a great baked good doesn't appear which is worth it, but 99.9% of the time it's not. And I use that as a lesson learned. Although it's doesn't always stick.

"Is it worth it to be eating this right now?"

Even in this new lifestyle, my binge eating happens. What's even odder is that I have started binging on things I never touched or craved before. I have found myself buying tubs of frosting and just finishing them off in my living room, followed by something salty and then perhaps a second tub of frosting. A lot of websites talk about letting your body have what it craves, but you also have to stop and ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? Do I REALLY want this?" 

Do I feel good or satiated after this? No. And the irony that a good cook like myself seems to crave a 1600 calorie tub of vegetable shortening with HFCS and colorings is not lost on me.  I still don't know why these tubs call me. They never did before.

However, I also know that a binge doesn't mean I have lost permanent control. I accept that I slipped and I try to doubly ensure that I am aware of my eating and cravings the next time. Stopping an upward climb is what maintenance is about. Not letting it get so out of control you can't ever stop is the issue. 

"Isn't there something else I should be doing?"

These binges don't happen as often, but they still do. I'm definitely becoming more aware of intuitive eating combined with my awareness of calorie intake, and that helps.

And again, turning to support groups, online forums and the like, one finds the people there are almost always women. Indeed, much of the research published on binge eating relates only to women. Which is why I was very interested when this NY Times article addressed men and binge eating. And it touches upon not only how men see this as a "women's disease," but that men who do seek help have difficulty finding it in a female-oriented program. 

And studies (including the one they cite in the article), show that an equal amount of men as women suffer from this, although it seems the reporting percentage of women is higher (and again, that's usually self-selected). It also states that "more women than men with binge eating reported feeling
stressed and anxious, likely again reflecting higher base rates of these concerns in women compared with men." In other words, it's not seen among men as a problem if we scarf down food, but women, who are force fed dieting from an early age, will admit that this is an issue. 

So where does this leave us men bingers? I admit that I do not like reading self-help books or any "feel good inside, hug yourself!" type of affirmations. Not that I can't learn from others who are not the same as I am, but never seeing yourself in others actions and deeds can make it hard to forge a path.

I want to see more "manly schlubs" like myself write about this stuff. So maybe this post can help one other binger dude like me.

Put down the frosting and walk away!


“Binge Eating Among Men Steps Out of the Shadows.” NYT. Well. Accessed January 7, 2013.

Striegel, Ruth H, Richard Bedrosian, Chun Wang, and Steven Schwartz. “Why Men Should Be Included in Research on Binge Eating: Results from a Comparison of Psychosocial Impairment in Men and Women.” The International Journal of Eating Disorders 45, no. 2 (March 2012): 233–240. doi:10.1002/eat.20962.

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