A binge is a terrible way to start the day.
I am back in London now after a weekend away in Suffolk, where my mother comes from. I had heard about her home town and the nearby city all my life and, at long last, I made the trip to see them. I had to go alone, because there is no family there any more, and all of my immediate family is in Australia. But that was OK.
I set out on the train on Sunday morning, feeling excited. The countryside we passed was lovely and green. I arrived and checked into my guest house, and then spent the afternoon walking around the city, Ipswich. It was quaint and beautiful, full of medieval houses and buildings. I visited a gorgeous Tudor mansion that my mum recommended, and its surrounding parkland. I haven’t uploaded any pics yet but when I do, I might put some up. It was so pretty. And my blog could do with some pimping.
The day was lovely, if bittersweet. I took photos of the locations I had been told about — the church where Mum was christened; the house her family used to live in, in which my uncle was born; the school my grandmother attended. I had a pint of cider at a pub, to privately toast my family. I got chatting to one of the mansion’s security guards, who was there after work with friends. But I was still on my own, and I was lonely.
I had designs on a Sunday roast dinner, and settled in for a feed at a pub called the Cricketers. Was I hungry? Not really. But it was a box I wanted to tick, and I figured I was allowed to eat dinner. The meal itself was average. Enjoyable, but lukewarm and a bit dry. My mother does a better roast.
After dinner, still feeling lonely, I wandered around town in search of pudding. Sticky date pudding, ideally. I couldn’t find any so I headed for home, pulling my cardigan tight to ward off the chilly breeze. And on the way I found myself walking into McDonalds. I ordered a McFlurry, which was bland and disappointing. (They always are.) By this stage I was over-full and sad. To my knowledge, McFlurrys are not recommended for those wanting to lose weight.
The morning brought an included breakfast — and breakfast I did. A bowl of cereal; two pieces of toast with peanut butter, jam and cheese; two (dry, microwaved) croissants. No health food in sight, and nothing I would usually buy for myself. I indulged in the processed carb-fest, telling myself that at least if I ate up, I wouldn’t need lunch.
Then I boarded the bus to Hadleigh, my mum’s village.
It was so cute. Almost Seussian, in some ways, with medieval cottages — mostly shingled but one thatched, and some sagging with age. I saw my mum’s old brick house, and the peaceful, green churchyard across the street where she used to play. I bought cheap paperbacks and vintage postcards at the thrift shops. I walked through the glorious old church, and wrote postcards to my family on the grass. I heroically avoided a “just because” visit to a tea shop for cakes and tea that I wasn’t hungry for. Until, when I was rushing for the bus home, I bought a fruit scone to take away. Which I proceeded to inhale at the bus stop.
And then it was on.
Back in Ipswich I made for the train home. At the station, I bought a large ham-and-mozzarella baguette and a chocolate brownie. Was I hungry? No. Did I eat it all? Yes. On the train, I bought a Twix and a packet of crisps at the snack bar. All of this eating was faithfully logged, as the Overcoming Binge Eating program dictates. I paused for thought on the train ride, refusing to allow myself to buy more food from the snack bar. Would the logging be enough to stop the binging?
I arrived in London and had to rush to get to choir practice. On the way I passed a KFC. I was tempted. I was going to go and sing, but all I wanted to do was eat.
The singing did not distract me. I enjoyed it, but found myself antsy and impatient. “After practice you can go to KFC,” I told myself. I pictured the chicken burger I would eat — savoury, satisfying and self-destructive.
After practice, some people headed to the pub for a drink. I wasn’t going to go, but some girls convinced me. And I ended up having a lovely time, and met lots of friendly, funny singers. I had three half-pints of cider. All the time, the promise of KFC was in the back of my mind. I pulled out my notebook at the table when I realised, with a fearful jolt, that I hadn’t been logging the cider. “Will the program still work if I don’t have the times exact?” I wondered. I jotted down the ciders and, of course, everyone wanted to know what I was doing. Was it work? Was I writing about them? Jokes ensued and, somehow, it was decided that my notebook would provide the paper for an impromptu origami session. One girl made a tulip; one guy made a boat; another made a paper plane. It was great.
At 11:30pm we said our goodbyes and I passed the KFC again. The lights were off. Gutted.
On the train home, I had a choice. Get off at the right station (where no food would be available), finish the binge, and take my weary body home to bed? Or get off at the next stop and try to find a chicken shop on the high street? I succumbed, and chose the latter. I bought a chocolate from the station vending machine. I saw with regret that most of the shops were closed, but an off-licence was still open. I bought a packet of Fig Roll biscuits and stuffed them into my face on the way home. Pausing to log at the bus stop on the way. Feeling fat and sad.
This morning I started the day with the intention of not eating until I was really hungry, but I found myself a little peckish on the way to work. I bought a packet of scones. I have now eaten three, and am suffering the consequent tiredness and sugar crash. Sigh.
I suppose OBE is teaching me more about my disorder. I know I eat when I am lonely. I eat to make myself “feel good”… and bad. I have not yet found a replacement with which to lift my mood in a constructive way. Food is my mother; my boyfriend; my tormentor. When I am committed to a binge, I do not want to stop. I want to give in. Resistance makes me angry. It’s a silent, passive anger, but it is anger just the same. When I contemplate stopping a binge, I feel afraid.
And in the background there is the reality of my enlarging thighs. My thickening waist. The elastic of my knickers that has started digging into my legs. The clothes that no longer fit. The knowledge that I am hurting myself. The wish for a committee to help me manage my eating.
I’m in the ocean. My old, slim figure is the land. I am a long way away from the shore. In frustration and helplessness, I turn away from the shore. I panic and start swimming in the wrong direction.
I just don’t know. I’ll keep logging. I am committed to the program, and I hope it works for me.
The fact is, I know exactly why I binge eat. It’s because I am unhappy. The disorder is merely a symptom; to heal, I must address the cause. It is a monumental and terrifying task, but I will try.