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Binge-Proof Your Life

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We think we can be on the run endlessly and be fine.

Wrong.

The rhythm of exertion needs to be followed by rest. There is a time to run around and a time to plunge into oblivion. If we don't build the latter into our lives, we suffer. Either we become utterly exhausted or we sneak a plunge on the sly, sometimes while sitting in a car at a gas station. We grab time for ourselves by bingeing, and because we don't feel we're allowed the luxury of downtime, we end up hurting ourselves.

Downtime is not a luxury; it's a necessity. The food-free version could include reading, knitting, even watching soap operas. But if you are so tired that you can't imagine doing one more thing, what you should do is simple: nothing. Even for five minutes a day. If it's too outlandish to consider resting and either doing nothing or doing what you love, then it's time to take a second look at how you've constructed a life that includes everyone but you.

I also have some advice on what you can do when you find yourself knee-deep in the Binge Trance. Try to become aware of the part of you that is separate from the activity, the part that is witnessing what you are doing and saying, "Wow, I am sitting in my car at a gas station by myself surrounded by $50 worth of pizza and donuts — I wonder what's going on?" Pay attention to that voice at least as much as you are paying attention to the next bite. Be curious about what you are doing.

And at the very least, taste the food you are eating. My experience in bingeing — whether it's on two cookies or an entire cake — is that I am so caught up in getting the food in my mouth, I forget to taste it, to enjoy it. And as long as you are eating, you might as well enjoy it. If bingeing is the only time you give yourself permission to eat your favorite foods, why let the moment pass you by without noticing the crunch of those foods? Since binges are a way to give yourself something, let yourself receive it. The positive by-product of this awareness is that compulsion and mindfulness cannot coexist. Once you become aware of what you are doing, it's harder to continue with the same momentum.

What if you finish every last bite or drop? What do you say to yourself, how do you treat yourself? I have a three-word directive for coming off a binge: Be unspeakably kind. In the empty fullness left after bingeing, the "I can't believe you did this again, what's the matter with you, you are a failure now and forevermore" voices sense a place to step in. And when they do, they roar.

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