What’s the difference between stress-eating and a binge?

Dude, I wish!

I am more stressed and sleep-deprived right now than I have ever been in my entire life. More than when my parents divorced. More than when I was scratching my way up the ladder in New York City. More than when I was writing my book and working a full time job at the same time. What’s going on? Kids, man! Kids!

Two of them, to be exact: A precocious 3.5-year-old aspiring ballerina/fairy/ princess, and a sweet, louder-than-bombs 11-month-old my husband and I like to call Lungs McGee. As most parents of young children know, this phase of parenting is no joke—and it is the reason I finally really, truly know the difference between stress eating and having a full-on binge.

I still consider myself recovered from B.E.D., but I’ll be the first to admit it to you folks: These past couple years, I have been stress-eating with the best of ’em. Jet-lagged from two cross-country work trips within 10 days? Have some ice cream. Exhausted from 9 months of never sleeping more than four hours at a time? Oh, look, there’s a brownie! Barely able to wheedle 20 minutes to yourself to shower? Hey, at least you can drive-thru for monster burritos for dinner. Just let the cheddar and lard soothe your frayed nerves. There there, now…that’s right…everything will be okay.

I’m sorry if that sounds flip to any of you who are in the thick of B.E.D. or other food and body struggles. Please know that I’m not poking fun. I just wanted to share that this experience has truly redefined for me what “normal,” non-disordered eating can look like. Because normal people stress-eat! Normal people overdo it once in awhile! Normal people sometimes find a bit of comfort in food—and for me, today, that is totally okay.

The key differences that I’ve noticed between these moments of stress-eating and the binges I used to have are these:

• I don’t feel a lack of control.
Despite the fact that my emotions are clearly dictating my food choices at times, I mostly feel as if I am choosing to eat what I eat, and the amounts I eat. When I was in the midst of a binge, I often felt absolutely powerless to stop eating—sometimes even feeling as if I was in a trance. Dissociated from my body.

• I don’t feel guilty or disgusted by myself.
Do I want to be eating better-quality food than I have been, for the love and support of my body and mind? Yes. But a key difference between now and, say, the way I felt in my mid-twenties and had B.E.D. is that I no longer equate my eating habits with my value as a person. I am still a strong, smart, courageous woman. I just eat a little crappier than I probably should.

What about you? Where are you in your journey to get sane about food?

Photo source

4 Responses to What’s the difference between stress-eating and a binge?

  1. Katie says:

    I love reading about other people’s recovery paths. There was a time, in my late twenties, when I thought recovery was never possible. I wanted to die than live another day binge eating, but for some reason I still continued. I ignored the instant head aches I got after I wolfed down an entire batch of cookies. I ignored the numbess I felt in my left leg. I never beleived the cardiologist who told me my arteries were aged and I would need to be on medication within the next couple years if I kept my behavior up. Then one day, after weeks of sleepness nights and turning to God and asking him to show me the reality of what I am doing to myself, I read an article about how sugar affects a person’s arteries. When your blood sugar rises rapidly, your arteries actually go into spasm for about 4-5 hours after. That revelation horrified me, and helped me say good bye to binge eating for good. Binge eating consumed 13 years of my life, and there are days I still dream about it and wish I could just devour a family pack of M&M’s and a tray of cup cakes. But then I remind myself that a thought is just a thought. It doesn’t mean I’m going to act on it. It’s been a long road, but I got here. It’s hard to believe when I look back to all the sleepless nights, and all the times I spent praying and crying in the bathroom at work. Recovery. Is. Possible.

  2. Jen in SC says:

    I am so glad to see you blogged again here! I commented on your post from like 3 years ago :) Congratulations on your second child.
    I love the perspective of this post - really important distinction to make, I think.
    I first bought your book back in 2011, but then got pregnant with my second child and never finished it. A lot of life happened in between, and now 4 years later here I am. Picking up your book again. Taking my time, doing the questions, absorbing it all. Pursuing therapy. Truly working toward finding a real and sustainable recovery.
    Please blog more often if you can! I would really love to hear more of your thoughts.

    • Sunny Sea Gold says:

      Hi again! With two kids yourself, you KNOW why I haven’t been blogging much. :) I am actually just now seeing your comment, months after you wrote it. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that the book is still alive out there helping women just like me. Thank you for telling me so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.