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A Sour Month Part Two

(post, Trista Cornelius)

I feel disgusting.  I ate a piece of thickly frosted cake from Dovetail Bakery the size of an unabridged dictionary after a three-entrée dinner shared with my husband.  It’s not yet March, so the cake is not verboten, but that’s not the issue.  The issue is that I feel horrible—like a day’s worth of food is sitting in the top half of my stomach so over-packed it can’t be processed.  I imagine this is what it feels like to have that surgery where your stomach is banded to the size of a walnut and you forget and go and eat an entire vegan club sandwich.  It hurts. Plus, the sugar effect has me sweetly tired and I want to go to bed, but if I can’t lie down.  I need gravity to help me keep this all inside. 

This is not the kind of mindful life I want.  This is mindless.  I literally turn off my mind and delight in an animalistic gorging of sugar and fat.  When my husband suggests that I eat only half of the cake and save the rest, I freak out for two reasons.  Most of the pleasure derives from the fact that I’m letting myself eat as much as I want for as long as I want, so half the cake ruins the eating experience.  Then, I worry about having the cake sitting around for more days of indulgence.  

For example, when I was a junior or senior in college, someone gave me a giant heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day.  I didn’t really eat candy then.  Ice cream, yes, but not candy.  It was like handing me drugs.  I ate a piece of chocolate, so rich and sugary it stung my throat.  Then, for the rest of the day, I skipped down the hallway from my room where I was studying to the dining room where the box sat on the table, picked up a piece, and munched it as I skipped back to my room.  When more than half the box was gone, I rationalized that it was better to eat it all in one sitting and get it over with.  Go back to normal life tomorrow.  I figured there was no way my body could hang on to all that sugar and fat, so it would leave my system; whereas a few pieces a day for a few days would make me fat.  

Now, as I sit on the sofa and moan lamentations about my excessive indulgence, my husband says that maybe I restrict my diet too much and lead myself to this binging.  He says maybe I should eat a little bit like this more often.  I think of the Valentine’s chocolates and decide he’s wrong.  However, I go to my calendar to see what my pattern has been.  Just over a month ago, I started noting days when I ate a significant amount of chocolate.  I’m fine with a square or two, but for some reason, since the end of December, I seem unable to eat less than half a large bar.  

When I looked at the calendar, I found that for two days I’d eaten a modest amount of chocolate (2-3 squares), but the next two days I’d eat half a bar, and the day after that I’d eat some chocolate and a decadent piece of vegan cake!  I did this three times in six weeks.

I know sugar is addictive.  I know that some people will need more of it more often to achieve the effect they desire.  I guess that’s what I need to figure out—what effect does this binging achieve for me?  A mindless, sweet, emptiness.  I just sit and zone out for a while after and feel good.  

Okay, but that doesn’t explain the overpowering desire to binge in the first place.  It’s not like I’m thinking, “Oh, I’m stressed, I’ll eat a bunch of cake and feel better.”  In fact, often, these binges occur in the evening after a relaxing day.    

Some of you know my story of quitting coffee (and all caffeine…except for what’s in these dark chocolate bars I’m munching.)  I know coffee must stay out of my life just like a recovering alcoholic must keep liquor out of her life.  I know one cup will send me back to a daily habit of guzzling gallons of the stuff.  However, I don’t want to have to be so rigid with sweets.  Like I wrote during last March’s sour month (read “this” and “this”), I want to be able to find a balance and not be overwhelmed by such intense cravings.  

As much pain as this cake caused, and as much as I want to say I’ll never do over-eat this way again, I know it’s not that easy.  

What causes intense cravings?  How do you indulge modestly?  How do you deny a craving?