A common Saturday night scene in my early twenties would go a little something like this:
Me and my (very fun) roommate would hit a bar or hip hop club to dance, we would drink too much, stumble home on the subway, and upon arrival home I would immediately call the local diner and order a cheeseburger and fries for delivery. Then, half asleep, and definitely NOT hungry, I would devour the entire container of cold fries and the whole, huge, unimpressive hamburger.
Even when I wasn’t actively binge-eating anymore, if I would have one glass of wine too many, it could trigger an overeating session. Alcohol reduces our inhibitions, and also stimulates appetite, so it’s no wonder that so many people who have overeating issues find it to be a prelude to a binge. Like Sandra*, a HealthyGirl.org reader who sent me an email recently looking for some help and hope:
“I have struggled with my weight my whole life, first as a chubby kid, then as a chubby teenager and I dabbled in different eating disorders along the way, including bulimia and anorexia. I am now heavier than I have been in about 4 years. My weight and body image is a constant source of disappointment, frustration, and deeply and wrenchingly affects how I value myself. I love so much about myself and my life, but it is the one thing that I can never be okay with.”
“Reading your website helps me a lot with being kinder to myself, and it has also helped me realize that I have developed binge eating disorder. I have passed it off as ‘drunk eating’ for many years, but I now realize it for what it is, and can’t excuse it under the guise of alcohol. As a single, 25 year old law student, I do go out on weekends, and I do get drunk regularly (which I know isn’t the greatest habit in the world, but I’m working on it!), and I regularly come home and just engage in massive binge eating. It’s embarrassing because I have two roommates, who have boyfriends that regularly spend the weekends here, and are witness to the binge eating, or the after effects in the kitchen.”
“I am humiliated every weekend, to the point that it has deterred me from going out and enjoying my social life. I eat anything and everything, regardless if it is mine or not, or if I like it, in strange combinations and huge quantities. I want to stop so badly, but I just can’t seem to. No one understands why I do this, I can barely understand it, I never do it sober, but even one or two drinks will trigger my need to eat everything in sight. I need help!”
Well, Sandra, it sounds as if you know that you have struggled with eating disorders for a while now. Are you regularly doing anything to help yourself get more sane about food and your body, like reading books, seeing a therapist, or going to a support group? Anyone who’s read my story knows how key those three things were to me getting better.
Once I was already well on my way to recovery, a mentor in one of my support groups helped me realize that alcohol was still a binge trigger for me—and he (yep, he! Men struggle big-time with this, too) suggested that I put a firm limit on the amount of booze I drank in one evening. I realized from experience that the third drink was the one that really put me over the edge, so I placed a two-drink limit on myself and stuck to it most of the time. It helped immensely. I also have some friends who gave up alcohol altogether for a while (or even for good) in order to help them get a handle on their bingeing.
All that said, if I hadn’t already been doing other things to help myself stay sane about food, I don’t think just limiting alcohol would’ve helped a whole lot. I’m sure the bingeing would’ve popped up at other times, instead. I have another question for you: You said that your weight and your body image is a big issue for you right now and that you feel bad about yourself. Are you restricting or dieting at all during the day? If so, it may be that your mind and body are just waiting for ANY excuse (like a little boozy buzz) to let it all out and eat all the things you haven’t been allowing yourself to eat on a regular basis.
Now, to the rest of the HealthyGirl.org community: Have you ever felt like booze was a binge trigger for you? What did you do/are you doing about it?