The Guilt of Bingeing

And now, I will talk about something that produces feelings of intense shame, and which I therefore don't talk about here a lot, outright.  Bingeing.

Bingeing, purging and restricting is a self-perpetuating cycle, and most eating disorders feature it in some way.  The bingeing isn't always an objective binge, the purging isn't always vomiting, and the restricting isn't always the restricting of calories, but the cycle is pretty universally applicable.  

Now that I've explained that in so many words, I could be about to tell you about a subjective binge I had involving an objectively appropriate amount of food, and a purgative episode that only entailed fasting or exercise, and a restrictive behavior that was the restriction of social interaction.

But I'm not.  I'm talking about bingeing on an objectively unnecessary amount of food.  I'm talking about purging by vomiting.  And I'm talking about restricting by limiting food variety and amount to an objectively inappropriate level.  And primarily, I'm talking about the bingeing.

Generally, the farther you get into an eating disorder that involves restricting, the more and more limited your "safe" foods get.  And if you have an eating disorder that also involves bingeing *waves*, the farther you get into that restricting, the more kinds of foods become potential binge foods.  Luna bars are a recent example of mine.  I actually binged on Luna bars.  Because that's what was around that wasn't a "safe" food.  That's what was on hand.

I keep getting tripped up over in Hell lately.  PF mentioned in a recent post that mentioning or displaying pain is verboten in polite society.  So are bingeing eating behaviors.  Anorexia is at once less and more secretive, at least its popularly known features are, than bingeing that takes place in bulimia and in binge eating disorder.  (And that also takes place in anorexia, but that doesn't count if you can't see it, right?  Right.  Anorexics are holy.  Bulimics are gross.)

Today the discussion is about* access to food, and all I can think - maybe rightly so - is what a fucking little shit I feel like that I recently binged.  On Luna bars.  Which are expensive.  Addictions are expensive:  alcohol is expensive, cigarettes are expensive, gambling is expensive. An eating disorder, binges or not, isn't an addiction - not chemically, not behaviorally.  But a bingeing eating disorder is a privileged expense; there's no denying that.  So on top of the guilt about having an eating disorder at all, add the guilt of, well, being a disordered, privileged little shit.  

There is guilt in the restricting, and of course in the purging, too.  But for me the guilt has always been primarily about the bingeing, which is why I usually pussyfoot around it here.  The guilt is about the money, even though I can afford what I'm doing.  (The guilt is that I can afford it, partly.)  

The guilt is about the waste, regardless of money.  The guilt is basically that I'm taking too much.  The purging is because there will be too much of me if I don't.  The restricting is because there is just enough of me right now.  And the bingeing is, biologically, a physiological response to there not being enough.  And the bingeing is, subconsciously, a revolt, a demand for more.  Rinse and repeat, ad nauseam.  (Ha.  "nauseam."  Get it?  Do u see wut I did thar?)

And this post is after my second week of therapy.  Mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I have a lot of work to do.

*or was supposed to be about, before everyone missed the point in a round of really peerless privilege display, which the redacted Comtesse has named "carsplaining"


  1. I don't know if this helps, or if you want comments at all (I know sometimes I just want to vent, not discuss) but I've found there are "levels" of guilt as I call them. Binging on icecream- high guilt level. Binging on organic hummus and celery (believe me, it can be done)- still guilt, but i have to remind myself that it should be that lower level of guilt. I remind myself I'll do better next time, but at least it wasn't icecream/wine/hamburgers, etc.. I do this because for me, if I can alleviate most of the guilt, the cycle comes back less strongly. It has less fuel.

    I love watching your battle because from an outside perspective, I can see you're winning. And that gives me hope.

  2. Interesting thought this gave me (other than an urge to hug you all better, which doesn't work anyway): it is and it isn't verboten to discuss binging/purging/restricting.

    One of the reasons I have trouble forming female relationships IRL is because I cannot have a discussion about weight. I'm thin, from the outside I look fine, and because I feel so bad physically, I'm not inclined to whinge about things that don't really bother me, like my thighs. Hey, they're thighs, I use them to walk, they more or less do that, have you seen Inception?

    This is has caused me to study from the outside typical self-hating US middle class or upper female body/food behavior. It is acceptable to the point of being socially necessary to whinge about one's weight- up to a point. It is acceptable to describe binging- up to a point. Restrictions? Fuck, all anyone ever talks about around here is what diet they're on now, have been on, have heard about.

    The problem is, I think, that it makes it at once easier and more painful to have an ED. After all, where is the thin line between socially encouraged thigh loathing and ED? It's hard to find. And once you've slipped over, you can't have that conversation anymore. and that’s all anybody’s ever talking about.

    Binging, again, what's the line? How many Luna bars before you've gone from socially acceptable gorging to binging? Again, it's "hilarious" to describe eating an entire quart of ice cream in one sitting, it's social death to describe eating 5 quarts in one sitting.

    As for restrictions, I'm not sure what level of restriction would be socially unnacceptable. I listen to the people around here describe their diets absolutely aghast at the vital nutrients they're missing out on and nobody bats an eyelash.

    I think what I'm trying to say is . . . huh, what I said to another comtesse recently, actually. Just because it might be objectively worse to not be able to afford Luna bars, that doesn't make your pain any less real or any less in need of relief. Nor do I want you to have that relief any less.


  4. Look who's back. Well, aren't you precious? At least you're keeping it short.

    Now, to the point at hand. Vianki, I am glad to hear that to you it seems like I'm making progress, because oh my space-time, I do not feel that way. I'll try to hang onto that thought.

    PF, I think when I say talking about bingeing is verboten, I mean it in the clinical sense of symptoms. The "line" of where societally acceptable overeating ends and bingeing begins has more to do with psychological processes than it does with the amount of composition of food eaten in a sitting. (Although clinically, an objective binge only occurs when it involves a certain, large amount of food consumed in one sitting.) So you're right, on some level it's perfectly acceptable to say, "OMG! I ate an entire pint of Hagen Daaz last night!" But would it be just as acceptable, in the course of a normal conversation about Western female body hatred, to admit - not in a joking way - that you felt completely out of control about what your spoon was doing as it traveled between the container and your mouth? Would it be acceptable rather than cringe-worthy to admit in all seriousness that when something stressful happened that day at work, your immediate knee-jerk reaction was to start planning exactly which pint of ice cream (not five, just one) you were going to buy later and then consume, solely focused on that, to the detriment of thinking about the actual stressor, or solving whatever thing is stressing you out? It's the things that aren't the food that are more verboten, I think, rather than a particular amount or type of food. As we've seen so much recently around the blag-o-web, "everyone" seems to have a different line for what is acceptable for other people to put in their faces, anyway.

    It doesn't have to be the amount or kind of food that's eaten that qualifies something as a clinically significant binge episode. And I think those side features of the behavior are what's kept hidden away.

  5. Looking at PF's comment as a springboard for talking about pain of any sort, I really think that in polite society we are schooled not to talk about distress in so many ways that it's like an implosion when you have real stress and distress and pain and someone else's version of talking about pain is that they couldn't get the right size Manolos to wear to so-and-so's party. Sometimes I think a binge (of any kind at all) is a desperate grab for some kind of self-soothing or our filling a void carved out by all the ways in which we tell ourselves it's not proper to be. It is like a vicious cycle. I'm going to disappear (implode) to fit, and I'm going to (fill in the blank) to fill the black hole I created trying to fit.


Get rude, get deleted.