I think of my bulimia like many people think of alcoholism. While I've been in recovery for more than 20 years, my eating disorder will be with me for my entire life.
I actively and regularly binged from age 16 to age 21. It was only after I finished college and was living on my own that I figured out the magic of purging. I stopped purging at age 25, at the same time I stopped living by myself. I knew I couldn't keep my behaviors a secret, and because my shame about my behaviors was so great, I knew I couldn't bear being confronted about them. So I quit. Cold turkey.
Twenty-one years later, I can read my emotional triggers when I start to crave my favorite binge foods. These were:
- Anything from McDonalds or Burger King: I used to drive home from my part-time job in college, motoring through every drive-thru window along the way, eating a complete meal. In the 20 minutes it took to get to my house, I'd easily have consumed at least 2,000 calories. One of the few memories of my dad involves him bringing home McDonald's for family dinner. I've since come to realize that the McDonald's binge is about daddy.
- Cookies: When I was a little girl, I thought people who ate store-bought cookies were rich. (We always had homemade cookies.) Nevertheless, my mom would occasionally have a secret stash of Oreos or other store-bought treats. As soon as I figured out where they were, I'd have my way with them. And at Christmas time, my mom always made more Christmas cookies than one family needed. She'd store them in weathered holiday tins in our front vestibule, which was so drafty that it functioned as sort of an icebox for us. I used to sneak into tiny "room," sit down, and eat. As an adult, I love to bake but I also know I need to get the food out of the house as quickly as it has cooled to remove any temptation to binge. I've since come to realize that the Oreos binge is about my longing for my mom and the feelings associated with material goods being out of reach.
- Ben and Jerry's: In college, I could toddle down to the on-campus convenience store, purchase a pint of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, and eat it all within 10 minutes. All of it. Several times a week. Luckily, I'm now lactose intolerant. Unluckily, Ben & Jerry's dairy-free ice cream is as good as the real stuff. When I want ice cream now, I know this means something is up on the feelings front.
- Ground turkey mixed with mushroom soup and white rice: This was an easy and quick family dinner we called "glop." In my early twenties, I would make and eat an entire pan of it in one sitting - pound of ground turkey, two cans of soup, heaps of rice. I've since come to realize this binge is about longing for family. And I still make this recipe. But, when I crave it, I'll restrict myself to 1/4 pound of turkey from the butcher, a dairy-free soup, and I'll add green beans instead of rice, making a comforting mash-up of "glop" and green bean casserole.
Bulimia will always be with me; I definitely still feel the urge to binge today. On the rare occasion, I give myself permission to this, I try to control the caloric intake by eating things like popcorn, salted, steamed vegetables (e.g., broccoli, carrots), or raw cucumbers.
This week in the 52 Lists Project, BMG and I are blogging about our favorite foods and treats. What are your favorite foods and treats? Let me know in the comments section below.