The Good, the Bad and the Binging.

And yesterday was all three!

Having had the kids for the weekend, which had been fine, we walked up a hill and had a picnic and such funness but then – horror!- Sunday struck. Neil took the kids to the train station and I stayed at home… They had eaten every last crumb of ‘bad’ food in the house. Every biscuit, every piece of cake, every last Celebration (leaving behind the seemingly full wrappers in the box to goad me – I had to scrunch each wrapper to check its tempting plump but empty crinkles – I felt so cheated!) like a swarm of junk locusts they had passed through leaving only crumbs. I felt the rising panic of no binge foods in the house.

So what did I do? Have a cup of tea and resign myself to a low calorie morning? Go for a walk? Otherwise distract myself and think about why I wanted to binge?


I set about baking myself a binge mountain. Nothing may stand in my binging way! Out came sugar, butter, parsnips, cheese, sultanas and flour and I cooked up a storm which I then proceeded to eat more or less all of. Half a batch of cookies and half a loaf of parsnip bread later, I came to and reviewed the devastation. Flour everywhere, the rabid look in my eye and the straining trouser button… Sigh… I had done it again and not even tried to think about what I was doing or why.

Still some good things came out of it…

The Parsnip Bread – see earlier post

Binge Cookies (you don’t have to call them that but I find it the most honest and descriptive title)

125g soft butter

75g light brown sugar

50g granulated sugar (or 125g of whatever the hell sugar you’ve got in the cupboard that you can see through the descending red binge mist, golden syrup if there isn’t sugar and treacle if you’re desperate and only minutes from ramming the raw butter/sweetness mix straight into your gob by the fistful)

1 large egg

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

165g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

(You can also add, tblspn of peanut butter, handful of sultanas, chopped nuts, chopped chocolate, smarties, rolled oats, dates, dried apricots, mashed banana, tsp of cinnamon or anything else you fancy – go mad, if you haven’t already)

Cream butter and sugar, beat eggs and add a bit at a time, mix in the chopped whatevers and then sift in the flour and bicarb and salt, spoon blobs onto a tray and cook at 180 for about ten minutes until they are golden brown. Take out of the oven and hunch over the deck, cramming the burning sugar into your mouth and cursing the heat until a) all cookies are gone b) the mist had cleared c) cookies going into mouth are met by rush of cookies exiting the mouth.

Beat self up.

Other good things included:

1) Once I added it all up, it wasn’t such a bad binge. Not even half a batch of cookies (as lovely Neil helped me eat them) and there were some left at the end, and only half the loaf of bread. The bad thing was that it was still bingeing and I still felt bad afterwards. The strange thing was that it seemed to be set off by the terror of finding nothing binge-worthy in the house. Strange indeed. What does it mean? I don’t know.

2) It got me thinking again about how much is a normal amount to eat and what is ‘ok to eat. I’ve realised that as soon as I eat anything that I consider ‘bad’, my brain decides that I’ve already screwed up and that I might as well gorge myself stupid and then ‘start again’ tomorrow, or next week or whenever that isn’t now. So that meant that as soon as I’d had one piece of parsnip bread (that had cheese in it! Evil cheese…) that I’d fallen off the wagon and might as well totally screw up. Seemingly, somewhere in my head I’ve decided that I shouldn’t eat anything that isn’t salad or tofu with recriminations of some kind and that, as I’m fat, eating anything with any fat or grease or non-natural sugars in it is automatically ‘bad’ and means I’ve screwed up. So…. well, I don’t know but.. there we are. It reminds me of an experiment I read about in The End of Food done by Herman and Mack in 1975 (I tried to find this study but it’s pretty tricky – lots of people cite it so you can find it if you look). Basically they had a bunch of people in diets and a bunch of people not on diets. Within those two groups they gave some people one milk shake, some people 2-3 and some people none and then they offered all of them some ice cream to eat. In the non-dieting group, as you would expect, people who had more milk shake ate less ice cream. However, of the dieting group the people who ate the most were the ones who’d had the 2-3 milk shakes first as they had removed the ‘cognitive boundary to their eating’ otherwise known as the ‘what the hell’ effect – in other words, they thought ‘Fuck it, I’ve screwed up and had 3 milk shakes, I might as well gorge myself stupid on ice cream’.

3) Interesting, linked to above, Lesley Kinzel of Two Whole Cakes blog looks at an article in the New York Times about the use of primates in obesity research. It’s interesting anyway, however you feel about animal testing, but it’s particularly interesting as it mentions that when they were feeding up the monkeys to make them obese in order to experiment on them only 3 out of 5 of them got fat, despite the fact that they were all fed on the same diet. So maybe (as we already know, if we’re honest) some people are susceptible to weight gain and some aren’t and maybe the amount of food that is a binge for one person is just fine for another and maybe it’s bingeing or maybe it’s just that I’m hungry but maybe, if I didn’t think I’d eaten too much (which may not be too much for me, just too much in the eyes of society) I wouldn’t feel compelled to make it worse and eat more? I dunno. I’ve lost track….

4) We went for a walk which made me feel better about bingeing and Neil was so delighted that his newly dubbined boots were waterproof that I cheered up too.

Jumping in a puddl


SO so pleased 🙂

Who ate all the chocolate?

We ate all the chocolates...





















Reasons for overeating?

This week (ok, ok, last week – I’m behind, so shoot me) I was tasked with thinking about why I’m over eating. Here is what I concluded:

I like food. It tastes good. Yum.

So, apparently, this isn’t good enough.

According to the Beyond Chocolate ladies (and they should know):

You may think of overeating as a destructive habit, as self-sabotage or as a ‘bad’ and unhelpful thing to do.  And yet overeating mostly has a positive function.  We use it to manage, to cope, to take care of ourselves.  It often serves to alleviate distress of some sort, whether we are aware of it or not.  The primary function of overeating is to help us in the moment and that’s a good thing.

Overeating has another function however – it overshadows everything else.  Although it helps us feel better in the moment, we usually feel bad straight afterwards (or even before we’ve finished).  We feel bad because we tell ourselves that we are weak, out of control, fat, lazy, greedy, stupid, bad, pathetic – fill in the blank.  We are so busy beating ourselves up for overeating that we have no time or energy leftover to look at what is really causing the distress that we are eating to cope with or ignore.  It’s easier to feel bad and beat ourselves up about overeating than to face other ‘demons’.  Better the devil you know… as they say.

Beginning to see our overeating as a coping mechanism that we have developed for good reasons is the first step to stopping.  When we are willing to acknowledge – with compassion and kindness – that we overeat as a way of looking after ourselves in the best way we know, and that we are working on stopping gradually, without forcing and pushing ourselves, something quite magical happens… and we finally have a chance to find another way.

Under strict instructions to not to try to stop overeating, but just to observe when you do (which feels weird enough as it is) I have been trying to pin down some of the reasons why I’m overeating. I’m not going to lie to you here – it’s hard. It’s a struggle to identify the root of some distress you didn’t know you were suffering from. Having eaten two pieces of home made madeira cake for breakfast (for breakfast! I ask you), I’m looking at this cake thinking ‘Here it is, mmm, it’s damn good cake… why am I not walking away after slice one?’. My brain mostly says ‘Because slice two will easily be as good as slice one’. I genuinely can’t identify an underlying distress right at this very minute, apart from the uncomfortable happening of forcing myself to examine my own piggery.

However, I have noticed one or two things. As a self-employed person with a finger in many-a-pie (ha!), I sometimes spend a whole day at home. I need to plan my day, a few hours on the computer, digging the garden from 3-4pm, fix bike etc and factor in time to do all the things I need to do. If I don’t, I fritter away the whole day doing sweet Fanny Adams and I eat a whole bunch more random stuff that I didn’t really want to eat. So I’ve vaguely concluded that I eat more when I’m being ineffective – I eat more to distract myself from the fact that I’m time wasting. So why am I time wasting?

Well, I have another theory on this. Sort of a theory – probably not fully formed enough to deserve the title ‘theory’ maybe more like a theorish. It’s something along the lines of getting frustrated when things don’t work out and so stuffing my fizog to either distract from the frustration or to really rub it the hell in but then, when things do work out, getting panicked and self-destructing by eating a whole madeira cake standing over the sink (I have never, ever done that). Sooo… I think I need to see a psychotherapist.

I eat when I’m frustrated, I eat when I’m scared something’s going well and I will have to ‘perform’, I eat to really rub in how rubbish I’m being, I eat just because it tastes nice, I eat out of habit and I so eat too much because I hate to throw things away. I also eat in case I won’t get that chance to eat that again – like the madeira cake – the kids are coming today I’M GOING TO EAT IT ALL OTHERWISE THEY’LL EAT IT ALL AND I WON’T GET ANY. They’re kids. I’m an adult (apparently) I should be able to deal with it. It’s just cake. I think I starved to death in a former life.

However, here’s an interesting example. Last night I cooked gorgeous spiced Moroccan meat balls with aubergine and tomato and after having a massive plateful and feeling full, I automatically went back to get more. But then I thought, why am I doing this? Do I really want to eat more? Yesterday I was offered a place on a Master’s course but Neil thinks we’ll break up if I do the course – he can’t handle being apart again for a year. So I’ve achieved something, but if I see it through I have to destroy something else I’ve achieved – my life up here, my relationship with Neil… Hell, it’s the whole frustration/achievement boiled into one horrible, skewed creative-destructive bonanza – I didn’t have any more but no wonder I wanted to drown my sorrows in meatballs.

In addition to rocking the bulimia boat

So, I vaguely suggested that we might, as a nation/society/culture, all be compulsive eaters and thusly compulsive eaters tend not to be ‘seen’ enough to be diagnosed as they behaviour has become the norm which is also, incidentally, part of the reason that anorexia and bulimia stand out so far as to be the ‘flagship’ eating disorders. Now, when I say ‘flagship’ I’m not meaning to be flippant or belittling to either disorder, I’m just trying to illustrate that these two disorders are the one’s that spring to mind when the phrase ‘eating disorder’ is used, to the point that ‘eating disorder’ is often used as a synonym for anorexia and bulimia when that is not correct As it says on ‘The most common types of eating disorder are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa’ whereas research shows this isn’t true, anorexia and bulimia are just the most heard/talked about (I will go into this in greater detail in another post). Another reason why we don’t hear much about compulsive or binge eating disorder may be because we seem to not know how to diagnose it – according to…

While anorexia and bulimia may be more widely recognised, it appears binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder among men and women.

This is interesting, considering binge eating disorder currently only has a suggested diagnosis in the DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), rather than a definitive classification like anorexia and bulimia.

Binge eating disorder is when an individual engages in recurrent (at least twice weekly) binge eating episodes. A binge eating episode is classified by eating unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time, and is accompanied by feelings of distress and a loss of control.

So what am I talking about?

(Incidentally, I am supposed to be planning a rehearsal for wee kiddies for a show I’m supposed to be directing but it’s hard and I don’t know how to do it and I’d rather be doing this so, Sot, I apologise, it will be done by Saturday, I promise…)

If we understand the following to be symptoms of compulsive eating… (I cut and pasted them from but they are fairly standard)

Behavioral symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating

  • Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you’re full
  • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
  • Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
  • Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes

B-eat, the eating disorder website also states that most people with compulsive eating disorder are overweight, so we might also include being overweight as a physical symptom. This is primarily because of overeating without the purging associated with bulimia nervosa.

Now, I am finding it hard to break down what I’m trying to say into a sensible argument. But I’ll try.

How do these symptoms apply to nearly everyone in society or at least every fat person, give or take the odd one?

1. Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating – this might be taken to be everyone who is heavier than they want to be. Because if you could control your eating, you’d just do it and ‘ta-daaaaa’ you’d be the size you wanted to be. So we can assume that everyone who is on a diet falls into this category. According to a 2004 survey reported in the Guardian 1 in four adults in Britain are trying to lose weight ‘most of the time’. Apparently, in 2004 that was 13 million people who were to all intents and purposes on a permanent diet. So we can include them.

2. Rapidly eating large amounts of food/Eating even when you’re full – ok, so this doesn’t apply to everyone. This is probably the clincher – are you a compulsive eater or not. However, if we twist the second point slightly to say ‘eating when you’re not hungry’ then this is everyone who has ever eaten something for an emotional reason eg. boredom, frustration, to cheer yourself up. This might include quite a few more people.

3. Stockpiling food to eat later in secret/Eating normally around friends and then gorging when alone – so who might be eating in secret? Probably people who are embarrassed about eating in public. And who might be embarrassed about eating in public? People who are judged unfavourably for eating. And that’s is likely to include if not predominantly be fat people. We are so harshly judged for eating anything except carrot sticks in the public eye – I am forever getting (or perhaps imagining, so familiar am I with being told I must be eating the wrong thing as I am the wrong shape) the ‘you don’t need that’ look if I eat a pasty in public. So I would suggest that this statement applies to most overweight people as a function of pressure from society.

4. Eating continuously throughout the day with no planned mealtimes – The 2008 Mintel report on Snacking (Snacking on the Go) suggests that a decline in formal lunchtime eating is creating strong growth in the snack market – seemingly by 2008 44% of all ‘eating occasions’ would be snacking. They reckon snacking has increased by a fifth over the two year period covered in the report and the increase is due primarily to ‘travel and lack of time to sit and eat’, although on in seven adults says it is due to work commitments. A similar proportion admit that it’s due to boredom! Intriguingly, it’s also linked to attitudes to eating on the street being relaxed but more and more consumers ‘seem more unaware of their motivation to snack on the go’ – the advertising is working! Sadly, the drop in people eating meals at home has had a knock on social effect – apparently youths are more likely to fall into substance abuse and fail exams if they don’t have a sit-down family meal more than four times a week. So, broadly speaking, this also includes a great deal of people in the UK, eating their lunch at their desks and snacking, like, ALL the time.

Compulsive overeating

  • Feeling tension that is only relieved by eating
  • Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
  • Feeling numb while bingeing—like you’re not really there or you’re on auto-pilot.
  • Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
  • Desperation to control weight and eating habits

1. Feeling tension that is only relieved by eating/never feeling satisfied – I personally believe this is at least partially down to the emotional qualities ascribed to food by society/food advertising. You are continually told that food can make you feel better/loved/comforted but, in reality, it doesn’t. You may get a temporary high from a massive sugar hit or the fat/sugar/salt hit that is known as ‘bliss point’ (doesn’t it sound great?) but the relief you are looking for is most likely emotional and, much as Nestle would like you to believe that a KitKat is a substitute for contenment/friends/achieving small goals, it’s not, so however much you learn that that is what you want, it isn’t, and however much you are told it will satisfy you emotionally, it won’t.

2. Embarrassment/Feeling guilty etc/desperation to control weight – these are all products of society telling us that we are too fat and therefore bad/ugly/useless.

3. Feeling numb – this is most likely the result of self-preservation from 2.

One particular characteristic of compulsive eating is emotional eating, or eating for emotional reasons rather than any physical sensation of hunger. Signs of this kind of eating include:

Using food to:

  • fill a void in your life
  • feel better or cheer yourself up
  • calm down or soothe your nerves
  • escape from problems
  • cope with stress and worries
  • reward yourself

We need only look at advertising and the work and research done by advertising companies to know that we are encouraged to use food for emotional reasons by current advertising. It makes perfect business sense. A person only needs so much food. Capitalism and corporate food companies rely on selling greater and greater amounts of products to make a profit. If the amount of food a person physically requires doesn’t increase sufficiently then the companies must find another ‘need’ or, if needs be, create one. And a person’s emotional or mental need for food can be extended almost indefinitely. Moreover, the emotional needs that the food industry creates tends to be comfort, reward, cheering yourself up, dealing with stress and as a bizarre stand in for sexual contact (we’ve all heard the one about chocolate being better than sex – I mean, really?). If you don’t have a partner, this could be seen as ‘filling a void’ (avoiding the obvious connotation there – what you do with your Flake is totally your choice, naturally). (It’s no coincidence that the majority of these foods tend to be high in fat and sugar as nobody wants to treat themselves with a carrot stick – it doesn’t have the right connotation or indulgence. Perhaps we should advertise bowls of lentils with semi-orgasmic women? Oh no, wait, food giants don’t make so much profit from unprocessed foods that are low in fat…)

For example, Flake adverts ‘succumb to the crumb’ (sexual), Baxters Cup-a-Soup ‘a hug in a mug’ (comfort), KitKat ‘have a break, have a KitKat’ (calm down? Escape?), Lindor ‘caress all your senses’ (sexual? Because Lindor sound amazing?), Bounty ‘the taste of paradise’ (escape), Pringles ‘once you pop you can’t stop’ (does what it says on the tin!), M and Ms ‘To make that tough job easier – you deserve M&M candy (reward)’, Fresh Cream Cakes ‘naughty but nice’ (morals, sex), Pillsbury Foods ‘Nothing says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven’ (here we are confusing love with baked goods).

Ultimately, food advertising is, I feel, encouraging an emotional and therefore inappropriate relationship with food and so long as this continues, especially if we continue to tell fat people that they don’t deserve real, physical love, we will continue to be fat as we learn to turn to food for boredom, reward, escape and so help us God love. If we cannot learn to love ourselves without a Bounty, we’ll always be stuck hoarding chocolate bars.

Here is a nice picture to cheer you up and rest your brain for a moment..

Snowy pines... aahhh

So what I’m saying, overall is

A. Compulsive eating behaviour is becoming innate to our society, the norm. Not because it’s normal, but because it’s what we do and this is stopping us from diagnosing and treating it as such.

B. Many of the symptoms of compulsive eating are caused by making fat people feel bad about themselves and advertising telling us we should eat for emotional reasons.


The causes of eating disorders include: (this is a temporary ‘what Amy can remember while she tries to find the document she’s referencing’)

Mothers who diet a lot

A society obsessed with thinness

Dieting behaviour

Friends who diet

Low self-esteem

Teasing at school (particularly fat-teasing)

Comments about your weight from your father (if you’re a girl)

It seems to me that any fat child experiences most, if not all, of these events. So what I’m suggesting is that

C. Being fat pretty much guarantees you a messed up relationship or even a full-blown eating disorder (assuming that we count binge eating and compulsive eating as an eating disorder) by the time you’re a grown up.

To recap:

A. Compulsive eating behaviour is becoming innate to our society, the norm. Not because it’s normal, but because it’s what we do and this is stoppin gus from diagnosing and treating it as such.

B. Many of the symptoms of compulsive eating are caused by making fat people feel bad about themselves and advertising telling us we should eat for emotional reasons.

C. Being fat pretty much guarantees you a messed up relationship with food or even a full-blown eating disorder (assuming that we count binge eating and compulsive eating as an eating disorder) by the time you’re a grown up.


What should we do about that? I dunno.

Get the NHS to scrap dieting (doesn’t work, is a predictor for eating disorders, people tend to put on more when they give up) and treat all fatness as if it were an eating disorder?

Stop the food companies advertising food as emotional cure alls so we don’t confuse cake with love?

Stop fat-bashing so fat people don’t guilt binge?

Research compulsive eating in the UK and get some stats and a proper diagnosis sorted?

I dunno. What do you think?