Are You Tempted To Binge When You're Alone?

The urge to overeat hits me when I'm home alone. Especially if it's nighttime and I'm watching TV.

Bingeing is something most of us have done only in secret—downstairs in the kitchen when our parents were asleep, in our rooms away from our roommates, in the middle of the night, on the couch in our apartments when no one is around. So I guess it makes sense that the temptation to emotionally eat or overdo it hits many of us hardest when we find ourselves alone.

The last time I got into trouble with food was when my husband, John, was out of town. Even as someone who’s recovered from binge eating disorder, the thought still pops into my head when he’s gone. It’s automatic! I come home from work to a quiet house and my brain thinks “FOOD!” Well, he’s out of town right now—and I’ve been pretty stressed out and busy lately. So I knew this weekend was going to be a risky situation for me.

But on Friday morning, I read this quote in a little devotional book I read sometimes in the morning:

You find in solitude only what you take to it. —Juan Ramon Jimenez

Wow. Instead of taking fear and hunger into my weekend of solitude, I asked myself, what do I want it to be about? A chance to do some therapeutic writing, to enjoy being alone, to do some holiday errands, to cook something, to work on the book, spend time with girlfriends.

And that’s exactly what I did!

This time, being alone was a very good thing. (Thanks Mr. Jimenez!) What about you, do you find alone time hard in terms of overeating or bingeing?


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10 Responses to Are You Tempted To Binge When You're Alone?

  1. Heather says:

    Oh dear. This post certainly speaks to me!!
    I got married when I was 25…divorced when I was 30 (anyone who tells you the romance of getting engaged to someone you have known for 2 weeks spends WAY too much time watching romantic comedies) The divorce was a happy one, and the person I left my husband for was great…until he started getting weird…(turns out, he wasn’t actually separated from his wife, and was a total con artist…all very after-school-special) and I didn’t see him as often as I had in the beginning. This left me alone, unsure and waiting…a lot. I started bingeing at an obnoxious rate. Like, every night…cakes-whole freakin’ cakes, macaroni and cheese, sooo much ice cream…and it was awful. I felt like crap. I gained 70 pounds in less than a year…took my size 8 body that I had worked so hard to get and maintain right back to a 14. It sucked. I was miserable. I had my wake up call when I looked around my bedroom, where I had been spending the bulk of my time (because my house was being renovated), and I started to clean. I filled a garbage bag, a FULL garbage bag with empty containers. I decided then and there that I was screwed, broke things off with him and sold my house and moved to a new town. This has been since the spring and I am down 35 of those 70 pounds. However, with that said, now that I am living alone and back into the world of dating (blaaaaaaaah) I find myself having to watch myself very carefully. Those weird moments when I am in the midst of the will he/won’t he call, or waiting for a return email, I find myself thinking about the kitchen. Fortunately for me, I moved to a tiny little tourist town full of other artists, so there is no delivery and nothing is open past 10! But I think of the kitchen and mentally scour the cupboards, fridge and drawers. I don’t keep binge food in my house anymore. I can’t be trusted with it yet. I still do binge on occasion, but make myself get out of my house, drive to a store 30 minutes away and buy the crap I am going to binge on. This gives me 30 minutes in the car to talk myself down and distract myself with something else.
    But yeah, lonely=hungry in my mind. I have, in the last week or so, decided to reorganize all of my business receipts and accounting files. This has helped. Distractions help, I find. I also bought myself a really hard puzzle. I plan on making myself put 25 pieces together every time I think that I am looking for food. If I am actually hungry, my thoughts are, that my body will still want food afterwards. If I am sad or lonely, logic suggests that the distraction will remove that from my mind!

    • Sunny says:

      I have a friend who’s going through a divorce right now and dating guys and dealing with the whole will he/won’t he call/text thing. That’s a huge trigger for her, too.

  2. Em. says:

    I have only just started to realize the connection between wanting to be alone and binging. It’s been hard to separate for me, since I usually enjoy being alone but there’s something different about the desire to be alone that comes before binging. It’s urgent and frantic. And it’s to the point that I will leave a group of friends, make excuses to go home so I can be alone. I will even start resenting the people I’m with because I can’t be alone.

    Recognizing it as warning sign is helpful. Now I just need to figure out how to cope with it.

    • Sunny says:

      Oh my goodness, Em, I totally relate to leaving friends so you can go home and binge. It’s like when the need or compulsion hits, nothing else matters but getting food into yourself. It’s even happened to me when I’ve been with a guy-just wanting him to leave so I could eat. It’s tough. Are you reading any books or getting other kind of help?

      • Em. says:

        To be honest, it was only two days ago that I admitted to myself that I had a problem, after leaving class early to go home and eat (and yet, even as I’m writing this, I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t binge). This sites was one of the first I found when I started looking for information (Thank you!!). So now I just have to figure out the next steps. Any suggestions for books/articles?

  3. […] just talked the other day about how being alone has been a binge trigger for me. Feeling “fat” is a sign I’m headed down that […]

  4. Janece says:

    Home alone times late at night are definitely hard for me, especially being newly divorced and exploring the world of dating. Often, I’m resisting going to bed because it reminds me I’m sleeping alone!! So, I’ve had trouble settling down and respecting a sensible bedtime (since the bed is sometimes way more inviting when there is already warm body in it!!) Food combined with television only keys me up even more! Thankfully, emotional eating support groups help and from those meetings, I do my best to keep in touch with bedtime “action” buddies (friends who call when they are going to bed, to wish me goodnight and lovingly remind me to head in that direction). It’s often the transition times from out with friends to home alone that’s the hardest, so decompressing with an action buddy is nice. If no one is available, sometimes I’ll write a letter to a friend and read it to her the next day. =)

  5. Marta says:

    I’m 14, and i really think I too suffer from binge eating disorder. Each time I’m home alone, the first thing I think about is “YESS I CAN EAT WHATEVER I WANT!” , of course the day after, or even hours after, I cannot help it, but feel bad about myself and feel fat and ugly. I sometimes find myself wishing my parents and sister go out, so I can eat whatever I want without no one knowing. I think your stories, Sunny, are really helping me, however, I still do the same thing. Any good tips? xoxo

    • Sunny says:

      Hi Marta,
      I’m so glad you found the web site! It feels good to know you’re not the only one—doesn’t it? The first place I got help for my binge eating was from books. I will tell you that reaching out this way is a great first step, so I definitely recommend you take a look at the Recommended Reading part of the site. I also went to therapy and used support groups. You can read all about all of those in the RESOURCES section. Also, have you told your parents or another adult you’re really close to in your life about what’s going on with you and food? I know it’s super scary, but when I finally explained to my mother that I thought I had a PROBLEM/DISORDER (not just a minor weight or overeating issue like many people commonly have), she was really able to help. Before that she had only given me diet advice, which always backfired! She got me an appointment with a counselor, which helped immensely. Let us know what you decide to do, ok? xo…Sunny

  6. […] soundly, television on for maximum distraction. The urge to binge floated into my head (as it did for so many years when I would watch TV alone at night), and I semi-consciously decided to shut off my frontal […]

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.