Binge Eating, Wheat, and Days of Depletion

Admittedly, it had been a shit day. One of those days that dragged on and on, and little went right, and most of what didn’t go right went very wrong. The stress reaching past the thresh-hold and hammering at the door behind it, requiring that the defenses raise up, that I hold onto the cold fury of protective anger, the need to march on until the situation was resolved. Depleted, calling on whatever resources I could muster from my reserves, hoping that this wouldn’t set me too far back or incapacitate me for too long.

I drink some gin and juice hoping to calm down more effectively. I try to sleep it off. I wake up feeling just as burnt, just as depleted. I go back to bad for another hour, another three, and then opt out of all contributions for the hours that followed. “Enjoy your cocoon,” my wife tells me, understanding as well as I could ever hope someone would. But the cocoon doesn’t help either.

So I decide to go to the store twenty minutes before work and find something that I think might make me feel better. Normally, in this state of mind, I would opt for something absurd from the bakery. An entire container of brookies. Or, on another day, fudge brownies. Or an entire package of cookies. Or a lava cake. Or — and it brings me no pride to say it — half a dozen donuts that will all be eaten in a sitting.

I do not do this because I am crazy. I do this because it helps. Legitimately helps. It soothes the anxiety, re-invigorates me, gives me a sense that everything — no matter how sharp-edged it is in the moment — will be smoothed out in time. It replenishes emotional resources, gives me a safe space to huddle in. And yes, it triggers shame. And yes, it makes me feel sick. And yes, it has led to much — okay, most — of my weight gain.

It was those months of amphetamine withdrawal when this refuge always seemed necessary that caused me to gain 80 pounds. The depression was so crushing that it felt like I was buried, scrabbling upward, trying to reach a surface despite not knowing how far away it was. (It was four months away, I learned in time.) Then, it was pizza and Dominos lava crunch cakes and delivery sandwiches. I curled up onto a beanbag chair, watched TV or played video games, trying not to feel the pain that ached through my body. Everything was a way to hide, a desperate search for something that would give me the strength to keep crawling forward.

Food has been my friend, a destructive comfort. But when I make a choice, I tend to stick to it. I am not fickle or inconsistent, especially over short distances. So despite the pressing urge to binge on my usual foods, my wheat-free experiment took the top priority slot.

What I bought instead was an absurd amount of chocolate. About 1200 calories total, mostly in dark chocolate, which I eat about 1000 calories of. Which is about 400 more calories than I can have without feeling sick. And, yeah … I do feel a little better. A little more human. A little less scorched.

As is often the case, I try my best to steer back onto course as quickly as possible. My next meal is a banana (100 calories), a thing of oatmeal (150 calories), a cup of orange juice (100 calories), and four glasses of water (mostly to try to ease the sick feeling in my stomach), which is less than I would usually have, hopefully giving my digestive system some space to continue working on my meal of chocolates.

Not that I believe in calories, of course. They are the least wieldy way to connect to food. But if I have just eaten a thousand calories of chocolate, it is not as though a real connection to my body’s appetites remains an option. So I must resort to a flawed system as I try to discern how to best take care of myself. The problem after (and this is not a rarity) is not that I consumed far too much food. In theory (and again, it’s a flawed theory), my body burns about 2500 to 3500 calories a day (depending on my level of activity), so between 800 and 1200 calories on average makes sense on a per-meal basis. I’m hitting the right average. The problem is that the food I did consume nourished me so little.

There are a few questions to ask in reflection. On the topic of my current experiment, was it any better without wheat as an option? For my body, for my mood? For my mood, it seemed to do less, but not having crazy wheat-heavy options did seem to mitigate some of the negatives and get me more in touch with my body’s response to the food. Something less dense than chocolate would probably be ideal, though.

But more importantly, what could I have done besides food? I tried to sleep. I had a drink. I tried to write, though it was ineffective. I watched videos. I plugged song lyrics into Google Translate and put them through 20 languages in sequence, then translated them back into English for amusing results. I felt like I was trying all the things I knew how to do and I wasn’t being replenished.

Maybe eating something healthier was an option and could have had some of the same effects. Maybe, if I was to go for chocolate, I could have portioned it out more carefully, eating 200 calories of it in segments, pausing between, checking in with my emotions, checking in with how sick the food was making me feel. Hell, maybe I should have had another drink.

Or maybe I could have mustered the strength to get some cardio in. It’s hard to motivate myself to do this when I’m feeling scorched, but it may have helped. Maybe I could have put on some of my favorite songs and turned the music way up loud. That’s worked for anxiety, which is another issue I’ve often used food to medicate. So maybe it would work here too.

Maybe I could have free-written about it, rather than trying to write in a project. Maybe that would have uncorked things, massaged life back into the areas that felt drained. Maybe I could have gotten up the willpower to meditate, and maybe it would have been effective. (There have been times where, in this state, it has been. And other times when it just felt painful.)

Maybe there were a lot of other solutions that I’m not thinking of now.

But there are other questions. Like, did it help? And the answer is … yeah, a little. Not as much as my carb binges do, but it seemed to do something positive for my mood, for feeling energized. It’s hard to say for sure — maybe it was something else I did or the mere passage of time — but it seems to be part of the equation. So, in response to that, I think a little self-compassion is in order. It was a hard day. You felt like you needed help. You chose something that has a self-destructive element. Remaining where you were would have also had a self-destructive element. So the challenge is not about condemning yourself but in finding better tools for the future, and accepting that you made the choices you did, responded in the way you did, and weren’t crazy for doing so.

And the other question: In the immediate future, what can I do to get myself back on track? Get enough sleep tonight. Write this free-write-ish entry. Maybe have a rice bowl and some veggies when I get home to help give my body some nutrients. Be sure to give myself lots of good, healthy food tomorrow, both to replenish myself on that level and to avoid falling into a binge-eating cycle. And avoid stress, if I can, until my resources recharge.

Okay. That’s enough for today’s reflection. I feel … a bit calmer. So, thanks!