January 2, 2017
By Ronni Robinson
I walked into the house party with my husband. I gave the proper hello, hug-and-kiss greetings, then wandered around the house until I came to the room with the desserts.
The homemade brownies looked amazing. They had chocolate chunks in them. I grabbed one, took a bite, then closed my eyes to focus on the pure delight of the chocolate in my mouth. I tried to eat it slowly, but it was just too good, so I scarfed it down as usual. I finished that one then ate another.
There were a variety of mini-danish on a tray. Is that a little cinnamon roll? Yes! It was gooey, doughy and cinnamon-y in all the right ways. While eating it, I noticed another danish with chocolate in it, so I ate that next.
There were other people who wandered in for dessert and I didn't want them to see me eating so much. Reluctantly, I left to find my husband.
I found him, cozied up to him, and spoke with the person he was hanging with. About five minutes later, I excused myself to go back to the desserts. There was a plate of oversized cookies. Oh my god, the chocolate chip one was delicious. I saw there were oatmeal cookies as well, so I had one of those. I grabbed any cookie pieces that had broken off on the plate. I was growing full at this point.
I saw people whose plates held half-eaten cookies, slices of cake and pretzels. How is the food an afterthought to the conversation they are having? And for that matter, how do people not finish the dessert they are eating?
Some other guests had strolled in while I was eating another oatmeal cookie. They must think I’m a pig. I didn't want them to judge my eating, so I sought out my husband again. I took part in his conversation with a friend, but soon my share of the chatter wavered because my mind was thinking about food. From where I was standing, I saw some people come into the house with chocolate covered pretzels and knew I had to have some.
Back I went to the delectables. There were milk and dark chocolate covered pretzels, as well as ones with mini M&M's, mini nonpareils, crushed Heath bars, and crushed Reese's on them. I love dark chocolate so I chose a plain dark chocolate one first. It was so good. Next, I dug into a mini M&M on milk chocolate covered pretzel. Delish! I also scavenged the tray for all the mini or crushed pieces that had fallen off the pretzels. My stomach was full and the waistband of my jeans was now digging into my stomach, so I reached down under my sweater to unbutton the top button. Relief!
Some friends came in and we talked while standing over the tray of soft pretzel nuggets. After popping some in my mouth as we talked, I laughed and told my friends that I was PMSing and needed some salt. I easily ate over a dozen.
My stomach was really full at this point and I was physically uncomfortable. I left the desserts and went to find other friends with whom to talk. The conversation lasted 15 minutes at most before I zoned out. My thoughts meandered back to the feast in the other room.
I chose another brownie because they really were the best items in the room. At this point, it wasn’t as satisfying as when I ate it earlier, but it was still good. I fantasized about eating a chocolate covered pretzel with bits of crushed Heath bars on it. Somehow, I tore myself away.
Thankfully, my husband was ready to leave not long after. I wasn't interested in talking to anyone, my body felt lousy, so it was a relief to leave.
I was overly stuffed. I felt like my skin was on too tight.
In the short car ride home, I was completely disgusted with myself for all I had eaten. But the desire to eat feels out of my control. It's like a switch that flips into the "on" position and gets stuck there. When I'm in the middle of a feeding frenzy, there is nothing I can do to stop it. I'm laser-focused on eating. It's as though this is the last food I will ever have in my life and I need to eat as much as possible in the shortest amount of time.
I thought I never saw anyone eating as much as me. What was wrong with me? It's embarrassing and shameful. I would be mortified if my friends knew I had more interest in eating than in talking to them.
I look in the mirror as I'm getting ready for bed and try to give myself a pep talk. I tell myself that tomorrow will be different; I will be in control.
This is what a few hours in the life of a compulsive overeater are like. It wasn't a constant binge, but a stretched out lifelong binge. I cannot recount how many days I experienced this over three decades of my life. I had a primitive, uncontrollable desire to stuff food in my mouth. Hunger and satiety cues had no place in the wiring of my brain. My thoughts about food were completely disordered.
Learning that there was a name for my food obsession was my first step in recovery.
I learned that my sickness came from issues with my parents that happened early in my childhood. Wrapping my head around what occurred, and processing it, helped me to stop using food as a coping mechanism.
Though I will never be a "normal" eater, I am free from the compulsion about 95% of the time. I am so grateful for being almost 10 years out of the throes of this mental illness.
About the author
Ronni is a member of the Sandwich Generation; she's the tired lunch meat layered between two teenage children and aging parents. She finds hours of cardio activity and competing in triathlons to be less exhausting than her combined caretaking efforts. Find her on Facebook @RonniRobinsonwrites.
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