Have You Ever Choosen Food Over People? [HealthyGirl.org BookClub]

Happy BookClub day! I’m so sorry for missing the last two weeks of posts (see why). But I’m here now, so let’s keep going with Food: The Good Girl’s Drug.

Chapter 2 is all about things that emotional overeaters/binge eaters tend to have in common: Eating in secret, lying about what we eat (even to the point of stealing food), eating strange food or combinations of food sometimes (especially if nothing “bad” enough is readily available). But the one common experience I want to focus on in this post is choosing food over people.

When my binge eating was really bad, I would isolate all of the time. I would cancel plans with coworkers in order to go home and binge; I would make up excuses right before I was supposed to show up somewhere because I suddenly felt too fat and scared to go out—and then would of course end up bingeing; I would end an evening out with friends or a date early so that I could go home and be alone with food. Any of that sound familiar?

I used to feel guilty about all the isolating and “missing out” I did. I used to regret that I “wasted” so much time with food when I could’ve been out connecting with people or having new experiences. But I realize now that when I was doing that, I wasn’t really choosing FOOD over people, I was choosing myself. I was trying to take care of myself, I just didn’t have the tools to do it in a healthier way.

I found that letting go of that guilt and regret—around my behavior with friends, family, and loved ones, and my behavior with food—was key in moving on.

Now, your turn: Did you or do you continue to choose food over people sometimes? Do you still have any lingering guilt or regret about the ways you may have isolated or chosen food over people or over life? If so, how can you start to forgive yourself and replace judgment with compassion? xo…Sunny

Next week’s BookClub post will be Friday, June 17, and we’ll be talking about Chapter 3—the origins of our weird relationship with food.


39 Responses to Have You Ever Choosen Food Over People? [HealthyGirl.org BookClub]

  1. I am so guilty of choosing food over people. It’s a wonder I have any friends left! Of course, the guilt and shame I felt about the isolation only made me feel worse and caused me to binge more. I still struggle with the panic of feeling too self-conscious to go out, but I’m working through it. I’m becoming more social again. As a result, the cloud of depression is lifting as well.

    • Trish says:

      I totally get the panic and self-consciousness about going out. At one point, in college, my friends basically staged an intervention. It was just as painful for them to watch me turn into this depressed, self-hating person as it was for me to become that way. I’m loads better now, but it took YEARS for me to climb out of the hole I dug for myself.

  2. Sylvia says:

    It all sounds so familiar… I remember I had friends over one evening and I was wondering when they will leave so that I can binge… And I love having friends over!
    I usually binge when I go to my parent’s house, in the town where I lived before I went to university. I have many friends there and usually I can’t wait to go back and see them all. Then, I start binging and isolating and I feel so depressed. I am scared to go back home to see my parents and friends because I know I will binge and feel terrible.

    • Christy says:

      I am the same way when I go to my parents house. I didn’t learn good eating habits from my parents and we rarely had healthy food around. It seems that when I go home to my parents I fall back in the same routine I was in years ago. I eat horribly when I am at my parents house. Even when my intentions are to eat healthier, it seems to fail.

  3. Jen says:

    Food was my friend. I left my IRL friends for my friend food. It started as a kid and stuck with me for the next 30 years.

  4. Alissa says:

    Oh my goodness, I isolated constantly when I was in the throes of binge eating. I can totally relate to leaving events early to eat or dreading seeing other people, even my closest friends, after a binge. Nowadays I can recognize how energizing it is to be around other people (even though I’m an introvert) and know that when I’m feeling inclined to isolate and eat, there’s something else going on.

  5. Lauren says:

    I’m guilty of this too. This year was especially bad because I would constantly cancel plans or bail out on my friends at the last minute all because of binge-eating. Even the nights when I didn’t cancel, I would be so mad at myself and guilty feeling that I couldn’t even enjoy myself while I was out with my friends. I can recall a few times when I would be out to dinner or out at a party and I would have to excuse myself to purge after bingeing… it was awful. I don’t know if my friends ever knew exactly what was going on but I have a feeling that they had somewhat of an idea.

    I’m really working on socializing more because I’m less likely to binge when I know I have definite plans with a friend. And when I don’t binge, I always follow through! It’s funny how bingeing takes over and everything else gets pushed aside. I feel like I’ve wasted half of my college years because of binge eating and the isolation and depression that have resulted.

  6. Nicole says:

    Yes, I’ve bailed out on friends and my husband because of wanting to binge or being so grossed out from a binge I just shut down. It’s a terrible feeling because you want to be close with people but there is this other side of you that compulsively wants to eat.
    Of course, being socially awkward at times, makes binging an easy excuse to get out of socializing.
    As I get older with this problem I’m trying to love myself more. In the middle of a binge that’s hard but afterward when I usually hate myself I’m trying to replace those feeling with love. Sometimes it works and other times I just end up beating myself up and making promises about next time.

  7. Ashanti says:

    It’s horrible ya know? I mean I’m 20 years old and I should be enjoying my time with my friends and being social but I just can’t help feeling awkward and paranoid. There are times when I did go out with friends and I felt like I should just be at home, watching TV and eating. Though I don’t binge as much, I still act on my binging behavior (hiding, picking at my food, etc) Just recently, I went to a buffet restaurant and I was freaking the freak out! Like everyone was looking at me and I sat near the corner so I could hide. I hate that I do this and hopefully I will be able to just be kinder towards myself. I often complain that I want new experiences and a life that I’ll be glad to tell my children and instead of sitting in wishing that all my problems could magically disappear, I need to make that effort myself.

  8. Trish says:

    I had a bit of a setback recently when finals/graduation/bar exam review all came together, and I found myself sneaking off to mcdonalds and driving around for 25 minutes while i ate in the car so my boyfriend and roommate wouldn’t know. i was so ashamed of myself afterward i’d just cry! so i forced myself to sit down and literally write down everything that was stressing me out in a list, so i could tackle it one by one, and stop these crazy foodrages! i NEVER want to choose food over people — people are so much better! so once i realized that’s what i was doing, it jolted me enough to face the real problems head on.

  9. Emily says:

    I think for me it was that I let my social anxiety rule me. I would feel weird about going our or asking people to come over, so then I would feel lonely and bored. Loneliness and boredom are my two biggest triggers for binges so then I would binge and feel even more terrible about myself.

  10. Heather says:

    As my anorexia developed, I opted out of more and more social events. Meals and going out became difficult because they required letting go of my tightly-controlled food plans. I’d back out at the last minute or feign illness. Eventually I just didn’t bother making so many plans in the first place.

    I think it became worse when my control slipped and I fell into BED (they say that dieting leads to bingeing and it so did for me). I was considerably more depressed by this point because not only was there my failure to keep up the regime, but then I was gaining weight at such a speedy rate I felt enormous. I put on more than I’d lost in the end, and then there was the shame of really and truly being fat because clothes didn’t fit again.

    I guess it seems more shameful, somehow, to have binged than starved, and it meant I wouldn’t go places. I lost most of my friends during this time, and it has taken me years to build a small circle of friends now.

    I still struggle sometimes with social situations. It can take a lot of effort for me to push myself to go places if I’m feeling a little wobbly. I haven’t really gone back to going out night-clubbing at all, partly because my life has changed and it naturally has less appeal but also because it is the environment in which I feel the most grotesque, fat and stared-at. I don’t own any ‘going out’ clothes any more, really. It feels sad because I was once so confident in my skin that I’d be out wearing whatever I liked all the time.

    I have also noticed that I feel tired much of the time and this makes me feel less interested in doing things, and resentful when I do make plans. I can get anxious about cancelling plans nowadays because I’m afraid I’m doing it for the wrong reasons when sometimes, I just need time to myself.

    • Lucy says:

      Relate to pretty much all you said

    • Sarah says:

      Heather! This is exactly what happened to me over the past couple of months! I agree that going from starving to bingeing feels gross and disgusting which is exactly how I’ve felt. I don’t like leaving my apartment and I haven’t been to a bar in months. BUT lately I’ve been forcing myself to do things outside my apartment and buy clothes that fit me even if I hate the size. And I’ve found it’s slowly helping me. I believe that I can get better and I’m sure you can do! Remember you are so much MORE than what you eat or what you weigh.

    • I feel the same way.

      I don’t even feel “worthy” or feel that i can say I have an ‘eating disorder’ because I don’t restrict - and am not anorexic or bulimic…I don’t have that kind of self-control anymore and am just the opposite.

      I feel so worthless and out of control.

    • Ally says:

      WOW, you just explained what i have and am going through. I lost A LOT of weight and was severely anorexic and got to the point where i hated the way i looked because i was skin and bone, literally at a bmi of 11. I then started binging to gain weight and couldn’t stop when reaching my healthy weight. I gained over and now don’t even fit in the clothes i had before my ED started. I am so embarrassed and just want to hide. I am slowly stopping the binging but am horrified by my body. I need to gain the strength to eat normally and slowly and in a healthy way get back to where i want to be.

  11. Christina says:

    I don’t recall ever avoiding friends or social situations in favor of eating, rather I would purposely seek out certain friends who would make poor eating choices with me. I have one friend that will always say yes to going out for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, or having coffee and cupcakes. I would find myself making sure we had plans every week to hang out, so I could go to those places and not feel bad about what I was doing… Trying to change this part of my life has been the hardest, because I’ve found that it’s difficult to go from binge eating with a friend, to having a regular lunch and splitting dessert when your friend doesn’t realize she has a problem too… My friend is in denial, which has made it more challenging for me to spend time with her, because I feel that I’m prone to making bad decisions when I’m around her.

    • Christy says:

      I can related to this comment. I have friends who fit the same category. I didn’t realize it until you pointed it out. For me, it seems “okay” to overeat with these friends.

  12. Amelia says:

    The more I binge, the more weight I gain, and the more I want to avoid people. This in turn leads me to binge more and perpetuates the cycle. Lately I have been EXTREMELY antisocial because I have gained about 50 pounds over the last 2 years. I never thought about this as “choosing food over people,” but it actually is. I am choosing to be alone with my eating disorder rather than to work on it and be “out there.” I want to change… Sunny, your site is inspiring me to give it another try. I’ve started over so many times in my life, but I can’t go on like this anymore. It’s not just people.. it’s life. I’m choosing food over life. It’s ridiculous.

  13. Sarah says:

    @ Amelia: I am exactly the same way! Weight gain is so embarrassing!

    And yes I choose food over friends all the time. When I was anorexic, I would going out to dinner with friends because I couldn’t eat the fatty restaurant food. I’d go out for drinks only to drink water and leave early so I could wake up and work out.

    Now that I’m struggling with binges, I feel gross and embarrassed about my weight gain so I don’t want to go out in public. Instead of finding comfort in my friends and family, I’ve been finding my comfort in food.

    PS I’m loving the book Sunny!!

    • Amelia says:

      Yes, a big part of the embarassment for me is having this very private, internal problem take such a public, external form. Anyone who sees that I’ve suddenly gained 50 pounds in 5 months is going to suspect that I am not able to control what I’m eating. When I do run into someone I haven’t seen since I was thinner, I try to be brave and just act all happy and normal, but inside I’m like, “ahh!” I imagine that they are thinking, “wow, she got really fat.” I try to get them to think I’m really happy and to concentrate on something else about me so that they won’t focus all their attention on my size. I just want to be a healthy weight and not spend my life obsessing about food. I’m so strong in so many ways, but I feel like people look at me and just see a weak person because my struggle is so obvious.

  14. Julie says:

    yes, i have opted to not go meet friends for drinks or dinner many many times. even as a 37 year old woman. i didn’t want to go because often i’m restricting my food and i’m afraid that i won’t be able to control myself in front of my friends since they will be eating foods i probably can’t have and that then triggers the food envy that i have developed through restrictive dieting.
    i have lingering guilt yes from choosing food over people. especially with my husband, as i recently binged on 4 500 calorie cookies after having eaten a large lunch, and since then have felt so awful about myself that i have been withdrawn with him and depressed. this i know hurts both he and i and our relationship and i want to get better for the two of us, especially because we’re talking about having a family soon. i’m so disappointed though with my weight not being where i want it to be that i associate my life not being the way i want it to be because of my weight. i need to forgive myself and i think the only way i can do this if recognize what my binges are all about-comforting myself and thus trying to help myself. but i have to find a way to comfort myself without overeating. i know that i have to keep the perspective of where i am realistic versus so negative and bottomless.

    • Amy says:

      Julie, I can completely relate to this. My ED has like the 3rd wheel in my relationships. When I feel rejected or stressed I isolate and withdraw and either restrict, binge or overexercise. I have been in ED therapy for almost 5 years now and although I no longer purge, I still rely on food for emotional support and to fill in the lonliness. There are many times where my boyfriend of two years is reaching out to me when he knows I am sad or stressed and I avoid his calls and texts to isolate myself and use food to cope. I feel constantly dissapointed in myself, yet on paper I have accomplished so much and now my boyfriend is talking about looking at rings. BED feels like an infection that won’t go away. Even after all this time, my body still seems to be like the thing I cannot control. How I feel about my body completely controls my level of confidence in life and relationships and all matters of initimacy.

  15. Jen says:

    Stumbled upon your book at the library today, and read half of it right there. The scariest part of having a problem with binge eating is that even though you know, see, and feel that you are doing it, you still don’t often want to admit the reality to yourself. I was pretending that I didn’t do all of these things but I can’t run away from them now. I have missed friends’ weddings over this. While I haven’t worked through the “toolkit” yet, I think one of my huge triggers is anxiety.
    This might just save my life. In the last 24 hours I have stuffed down a large burger with a hefty order of fried cheese curds, root beer, an egg McMuffin with cheese, hot dog and fries, more root beer, and I feel physically awful right now but can’t stop thinking about more food…it’s good that I don’t have brownies available right now. Six years ago, I was a healthy 5’2″ and 130 lbs…today I weighed in at 184 which is obese for my height. I weigh 10 pounds more than I did this time last year and 15 pounds more than I ever did while fully pregnant. I cannot find clothes to fit me and am wearing the same “maxi dress” for the third day in a row. Plus size is not an option because I am so petite and it’s evident that I have a tiny body frame, just a ton of extra weight…by the time something fits my belly, it’s at least 4 sizes too big everywhere else. My shoulders, chest, hips, and butt fit about a size 10 but I can’t fit a size 16 around my waist. I stopped going out places because I am tired of the constant rude comments and gossip about me being pregnant when I’m not.

    I avoid people. I have racked up hundreds of dollars in credit card debt eating at drive thrus at least twice a day. I feed my kids incredibly healthy food but am not hungry for any of it myself. I eat in secret, both at home and in the car, unloading my mounds of trash at the trash cans at gas stations so my husband won’t find them at home. I can’t do my favorite activities anymore. I have no energy and find myself getting grouchy with my precious family.
    I plan on getting to know this site and just ordered my own copy of the book. So thankful for Sunny and everyone here.

    • Mari says:

      I have struggled with the same situations with socializing… I want so badly to be around my friends and family, but I don’t want them to see me. I think about food nonstop, whether eating it, restricting, purging it, or trying to figure out how to burn it off. It is so exhausting living my life like this! Some of my eating struggles have gotten better but it has never fully faded? I am scared that it never will?

    • Riley says:

      Hi Jen,

      You are not alone. I’ve always been a closet overeater. There are many great books out there, particularly Sunny’s book! This blog introduced me to Geneen Roth’s books as well. I started with “When Food Is Love” and just kept going through all of her books. Through my recovery I found that i just needed to keep reading about the issue because it pushed me to continue thinking and examining what i was doing, so i went through a lot of these! It gets better, it really does. My recovery has been 2 steps forward, 1 step back over and over again, but that’s still progress!

      What do you really enjoy doing that does not involve food? I had to make a list of all the non-food related things that make me happy and I keep it with me. When i find myself looking for food and i know i am NOT hungry, i look to that list. I try and consider what emotion i’m feeling and how i could approach it better. If i’m lonely, calling a friend. If I’m tired, taking a nap. Etc. I can’t tell you how helpful it can be to just take a walk. Taking time to breathe deep, smell the air and allow yourself to enjoy that moment of peace and quiet can really calm your nerves. It can be that 10 minutes you need to get your mind out of the fridge.

      Most importantly, be kind to yourself through the process. Taking the first step by picking up Sunny’s book deserves a big hug!

    • Amelia says:

      Wow, can I ever understand the whole thing about wearing the same maxi dress three days in a row. BEEN THERE! I’ll be wishing you the best, as I’m right in the trenches with you!

  16. Lorraine says:

    I am socially awkward and shy in big groups of people so I tend to isolate and then I’m lonely so I binge. I have to find friends other than food. Lately I have been making myself go to gatherings, like a church picnic, and I found that it wasn’t so hard talking to people. I’ve been going to this church for a couple years now and I’m getting to know them better and feeling more comfortable. Reading what you all have said about having trouble in social situations makes me feel better that I’m not alone. Thanks!

  17. I am reading your book now Sunny - and really love how relatable and easily readable it is. There are so many parts I am underlining because they LITERALLY describe me…

    The thing I struggle with is that I STILL binge though…still :(

    My N.D told me that I simply don’t have the “tools” to change yet. But I KNOW the tools - I KNOW what to do - to read, write, go for a walk, take a bath, phone a friend, go to a movie, etc. - it doesn’t matter. I give in.

    I’m literally scared - scared of getting to the next day. I eat healthy, but then just before dinner I binge and then continue the rest of the night. I go to bed with my stomach so full, it’s disgusting. And my heart - my heart racing from the strain…

    It’s a vicious cycle. Full of self-hate. I’m actually afraid to go to the grocery store now…i have to go tomorrow again to restock and just know what’s going to happen. i won’t care and will buy my binge foods…thinking it’s the weekend. But i binge every night.

    I feel disgusting. The hardest part is the embarrasment - I can’t even or don’t want to go out with friends with doing this - it’s like I’m full of sugar and crap and it’s damaging my insides. That’s seriously how i feel. Like I’m “ruined” and am going to be bloated for life. Ugh. So frustrating and so hard when i compare to others who have it ‘together’.

  18. Amy says:

    I can totally relate! When I lived by myself, I used to plan every Friday night as a pizza, ice cream, and junk food night. I would say no to invitations to go out, I wouldn’t make any plans, I would go to the store and purchase my vices, rent a couple chick flicks, go home and curl up in front of the TV in my sweatpants and eat and eat and eat. Friday night was my favorite night of the week….me and junk food hanging out. After about a year of doing that I realized I had no friends, no social life, and wasn’t leading a healthy lifestyle…something had to change! It was hard at first, but I forced myself to go out and start developing relationships instead of food-ships.

  19. Gabriela says:

    Yes, I remember when my BED was at its worst, I actually planned a whole weekend of food, I remember I had my phone with me and I completely turned it off so I would not be disturbed, and there was one time on saturday night, that I decided to turn off all the lights in my house, just so if any of my friends would come looking for me, they’d see I wasn’t there, but secretly I was on the floor eating. (wow, I don’t think I had ever said this “out loud”) I’d like to say that was the only weekend, but there were more like that, there were weeks like that.. followed by the dreadfull food hangover that just made things worse. What you say in your book is true sunny, I was choosing to be by myself because I was not ok at the moment, I just didn’t have the tools to know how to handle it better. :) I do now!

  20. BE Girl says:

    I definitely choose food and my binge eating over going out. When I had gained so much weight that I was so embarrassed by my appearance I stopped going to social functions. I had lived alone for so many years so planning binges was very easy and living in NYC made it easier as there was always access to food all the time. Just reading your book and hearing other women talk about similar situations makes me feel less isolated in this matter. Thank you.

  21. EmmaLee says:

    I too have done this multiple times. I have since lost all of my friends and gained one, who has the same issue I do, She and I have found ourselves binging together multiple times. Through her I met a few girls who were into healthy living and my friend and I have made a decision to keep ourselves around them a lot more and sort of mimic their eating habits. So far it has helped but sometimes we find ourselves back in the hole. We continue to keep our heads high and move forward.

  22. Alex says:

    Hi, I am new to your blog. I am trying to get healthy. I have strange issues surrounding food. I think this will help me deal with and take an honest look at whatever it is inside of me that makes me the way I am about eating, or dieting, or the way I look.
    Thank you for this blog.

  23. Annette says:

    I’m 55 years old and I’m still playing the food game. I’m so happy to know about this. I read your book and loved it. Thank you guy’s for being there. I’m knew at all of this and I’m going to make it my life style. My knew montra is no more beating myself up self love for now on.

  24. pearl says:

    I have done that so many times. And up until now I thought something was wrong with me for not wanting to be around people and stuffing my face instead. But now I realise that I have a real problem and its so hard to deal with because I really don’t knw how to deal with it.

  25. Anonymous B says:

    I just got done reading this book. I don’t have binge-eating disorder. I’m bullemic but I found it to be very helpful when it comes the the binging part of my ED. I really feel like all different kinds of women with different disorders can still connect! I can remember every time I’ve stood up friends just because I wanted to do me (binge and purge). I’m really starting to try and get the help I need and your book was good help! Thanks!

  26. Jackie says:

    I am 46 and have been silently suffering since high school. I found your book the other day. I recently started yet another diet after going a year diet free. I read all of Geneen Roth’s books and while helpful, I felt as though not dieting was almost another diet. I’ve been in therapy for years and have never brought up my eating issues, but I think I might be brave enough to do it now. When I think of all the years wasted to worrying about my weight, it makes me sad. But, I don’t really think I will ever be able to break the cycle. Hopefully, speaking up in therapy will help. Thank you for the book. I do want to get better and have a life outside of my head.

  27. Katelynn says:

    I didn’t always have BED, but it started out as anorexia and after a rough year and lack of treatment, it turned into what it is today. I would not eat a decent breakfast or lunch, run at track practice, then come home and binge until I weighed a certain weight. After a binge, I’d freak out over if I ate too much and try to cleanse myself of the extra calories before people come home or before going to sleep by running more, staying up late, or not sitting the rest of the night. I’ve definitely been trying to leave earlier so I won’t be eating so late, but I never make up enough food in time for the calories I burned at practice. Then come the weekend, I binge to restore the weight I lost during the week.. It’s such a vicious cycle that I can’t get out of! I think I need to read this book to really help with my situation and to get things back to normal again.

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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.