Binge-Proof Your Life
By Geneen Roth
What to do before, during, and after you're knee-deep in fast-food wrappers
and empty pizza boxes.
Last week, when I was at a gas station filling the tank, washing my
windshield, checking the oil, and adding little whooshes of air to my tires, I
noticed a woman in the car next to me eating a piece of pizza. And then
another. And then the entire pizza. After that, she ate a box of donuts and a
carton of ice cream. I wanted to walk over to her and say, "Oh, honey, tell
me what's going on...." Then I remembered that when I was bingeing, I would
have run down anything that stood between me and food. So I decided to preserve
my life and not interrupt the Binge Trance. Still, I couldn't get her out of my
mind for the rest of the day.
Bingeing used to thrill me. From the moment I decided to binge, to the
hunting and gathering of the food that would be its centerpiece, through the
eating (um, inhaling) of those foods, I would be heart-pounding, eyes-gleaming
A binge had the power to stop time. To stop everything that was disturbing
me: the worries, the nitty-gritty tasks I was avoiding, the arguments I was
having with a friend or family member. Bingeing was a way to sidestep my life
and enter a world in which nothing existed but me and food. It was, as I've
called it in my books, "a plunge into oblivion."
The hardest part of bingeing was, natch, when I reached the end. The last
bite would be taken, and I'd be surrounded by the evidence of my romp (which
was really more like a rampage) through the grocery store: empty cans, crumpled
cellophane packages, torn cardboard boxes. I'd end a binge feeling unbearably
full — and incredibly empty. Only now I had added another layer of pain to my
list of pre-binge worries: my seemingly out-of-control relationship to food and
my ever-increasing body size. The truth was that rather than take any of my
pain away, I'd just doubled it by bingeing, and the resulting desperation was
Having paid close attention to my many binges, and having been asked
countless binge questions over the years, I think I've gleaned some wisdom
that's worth sharing.
First, we all need to have built-in plunges into oblivion. We need to give
ourselves permission to check out from the frantic, overwhelming pace of our
lives. If you watch small children, you'll see that they race around madly and
then collapse. They put out huge amounts of energy, and then they need to rest.
We're like that, too, but we've forgotten about the downtime part.