A few months ago my friends were married in one of Manhattan’s secret gardens. Surrounded by beautiful buildings, bustling New York City sounds, and a small, supportive group of loved ones – they said, “WE DO.” It was a magical day from start to finish. One that I will never forget.
And my memories don’t stop at their cutie dog smiling in his tux, the original vows that had me oscillating between tears and laughter, or the fantastic crowd and unrivaled food served up in a quaint Queens eatery.
No, something else quite memorable happened at this wedding; I WAS RECOGNIZED AS A “CELEBRITY!”
The reception included a delicious, Italian dinner that was served up family-style. It was there, at a table full of friends and strangers that I connected with the couple sitting beside me. She was his “plus one” and he was a friend and former roommate of one of the brides (my dear friend of 15 years). Between bites of brussel sprouts and gnocchi, we began to make connections and explore the possibility of having met before. Maybe at a 30th birthday party several years ago for a mutual friend and fellow wedding guest? Yes, yes! We were both there.
“Hmmm. I don’t think I remember you,” he said. “But, I do remember this mysterious meatball girl. She was the highlight of my night. Did you see her? I’m still not even sure if she’s real because I never saw her again. But, I can’t seem to shake the memory of turning the corner from the bar into the event room and seeing a grown-ass woman downing meatballs by the fistful. She was grabbing them straight out of the tray and inhaling. WHOEVER SHE IS, SHE’S MY HERO.”
Cue the moment of my “star” confession.
“Oh I remember her,” I replied. “That girl was me.”
What followed can best be described as “awe (him) and awkward (me).” I blame the strong cocktails and cosmic coincidence for the “NO WAYs” and nervous laughter that went on for minutes. At one point, he shook my hand. I think he even bowed in reverence.
Can you believe it?
That night, while my beautiful friends celebrated the first day of their married lives together I was being celebrated for standing alone at a table in a dark, Lower Eastside bar over five years prior, throwing back an entire tray of meatballs sans utensils.
Basically, I was being honored for binge eating.
You see, months before the party, I completed a popular fitness program and diet that left me artificially thin, period-less and batshit crazy around food. I experienced guilt for eating “unapproved” foods or consuming “too many” calories and was constantly hungry. Despite the hunger, I was restricting in an effort to maintain the physique and weight loss I had worked so hard (cough – *starved*) for. At the time, I lived for cheat meals (or weekends) and didn’t possess any of the scientific, psychological and experiential knowledge that I do now regarding the detriments of dieting and the destructive outcomes of restriction. So, of course, prior to the party in NYC I had doubled down on deprivation and increased my exercise. When I arrived at the birthday bash I was already full on burritos and margs from my favorite Hell’s Kitchen restaurant and yet, I COULD NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT FOOD AND SNEAKING AWAY TO EAT IT. Hence, the handfuls of meatballs in marinara sauce.
After the hero worship ended, I turned to my husband and best friends. They’d gathered as much of the conversation as they could, being tucked in the corner of the noisy, triumphant restaurant.
“Another blast from my bingeing past,” I said with smile and a shrug.
And then, ironic as it was, I returned to the wedding meal in front of me and finished off a meatball (with my fork).
I’ve been binge free for years now. But, I remember the “MEATBALL GIRL” season of life like it was yesterday. I remember feeling as if I’d never end the rabid refrigerator raids or mindless, trance-like compulsive eating experiences. I recall feeling broken, guilty and ashamed. And I can almost taste the familiar fear that freedom wasn’t in my future.
But, it was.
My healing and recovery came from working with a coach that I trusted, understanding the psychology + physiology of disordered eating behaviors, disengaging from diet culture and creating a life that supported me (so food didn’t have to.) Now, I’m developing a course to provide you with each of those invaluable components all in one place. It’s called THE BINGE EATING BREAK UP PLAN and it’ll be available this Fall!
BUT, in the meantime I thought I’d leave you with FOUR TIPS FOR BANISHING BINGES:
1. Abandon your food rules. Yep. Quit the diet and stop moralizing food. Restriction is the #1 cause of binges.
2. Allow all the things. Chocolate, Chinese Food, Chard, Cherries AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN.
3. Accept your body. Easier said than done, I know. That’s why it’s helpful to find someone you can trust to support and guide you in working towards a better body image. Body acceptance changes everything.
4. Ask the difficult questions. Get curious about your motivations for controlling food and fitness and determine alternative methods for feeling the way you want to feel and living the life you want to be living that don’t require obsessive workouts and counting the calories in a stick of gum (or any calories for that matter!)