If You Didn’t Have Urges to Binge…

     No, this will not be about all the great things you could accomplish if you didn’t have an eating disorder, although I’m sure there are many.  This is about why you binge. In my book, I propose the idea that there is only one cause of each and every binge, and that cause is: an urge to binge.  

     To help myself stay focused and discard the idea that I binged to cope with feelings/emotions/problems, I often asked myself this question: If I didn’t have urges to binge, would I binge anyway, just to cope? The answer was: of course not!  (You can read more about this in sample Chapter 34: “Coping.”)

     This question can be used to test any reason you think you binge. Ask yourself:  If I didn’t have urges to binge, would I binge anyway, just to     (insert whatever you think causes your binge(s) here)    . 

     For example:  If you didn’t have urges to binge, would you binge anyway, just to deal with holiday stress, avoid intimacy, “stuff down” feelings, be numb?  If the answer is yes, then you most likely don’t want recovery, because the binge eating is worth it to you. If, without any desire or drive to eat abnormally large amounts of food, you’d still do it to achieve whatever perceived benefits it gives you; then those benefits are worth the cost. If the answer is no, then it’s the urges that are the true problem.
     This is not to be insensitive to your other problems.  They are no doubt very real, and possibly overwhelming.  But, it’s possible that those problems are not really causing your binge eating.

4 thoughts on “If You Didn’t Have Urges to Binge…

  1. Kathryn, this is a great question to pose to oneself. The answer, for me anyway, is an obvious NO! Bingeing, which for me is always the act of eating to the point of being overly full, feeling dehydrated, unable to sleep, and quickly filled with crippling remorse and depression, is akin to hitting myself over the head with a hammer. Why would I do that? I would I ever willing drink to the point of inebriation? Not since I was young and stupid. Would I ever blow $1,000 on a roulette wheel in Vegas? Not in a million years. Would I ever cheat on my husband? Never, ever. Would I ever put a needle in my arm and inject myself with heroin? Not in this life. What I am saying is that act of bingeing is as destructive as all of those listed here. So why would I ever do that if I did not have the proclivity or the urge to do so? I would not. It is the urge to binge that is to be addressed, not the act itself. By the time I have begun to binge, I have begun to regret it. It is that quick. But the urge to binge, well that’s the rub. The urge is both seductive and uncomfortable and finding a way to eliminate that is the single key to recovery. Your insight about how to accomplish this is revolutionary and I thank you.

    Mary in Lose Angeles

    1. Hi Mary,
      I apologize it’s taken me several days to respond to this, sometimes I lose track of a comments that are posted on an older blog entries. I’ll try to do better!

      You have great insights here, and I also like that you listed some examples of behaviors you would absolutely never perform. I believe that someone who wants to quit any addiction has to try to put that addiction on the same level as the atrocious/stupid acts they would simply never commit. In order to do this, it may be helpful to ponder the fact that, although some people simply want and chose to perform some of the destructive behaviors you mentioned; some people who commit those acts have ego-dystonic urges to do so, not so unlike the urges to binge. But does that make them any less responsible for saying no? I don’t think it does.

      Looking at this another way, let’s say one day you are in Vegas and out of blue you get a strong urge to blow $1,000 on roulette…how would you react to that urge? I’m sure you would dismiss it without ever giving it a second thought, and you would walk right past the roulette wheel, and the urge would go away. You have to get to the point where you react that same way to each and every urge to binge. Binge eating simply can’t be a possibility in your mind.

  2. Kathryn, that is a great example. Here is another. A few months ago a local small grocery store in my town closed it’s doors. A few days before closing they had a huge sale on their wine collection – 50% off everything in stock. I happened to be at the store that day picking up some other items and briefly thought, I should buy some wine! But I don’t drink wine, or pretty much anything alcoholic at all – just don’t like the feeling it produces.

    When the store announced the sale, my first thought (this was back when I was actively bingeing ALOT) was, “Wow, I wonder if they are going to have a sale on their cookies, candy and ice cream because maybe I should stock up just in case I have the urge to binge….” The detachment I felt towards the wine sale is exactly the detachment you describe having towards the urge to binge which is what ultimately diminishes the urges. I had no interest in the sale, no interest in putting money towards something I really didn’t want. Just like I’d never consider tossing $1,000 on a roulette wheel, I’d never consider spending money for wine. It’s just not an interest of mine. THAT kind of detachment is what I want to feel about bingeing.

    Mary in Los Angeles

  3. Hi Kathryn,
    First I want to thank you for everything you ever wrote! You helped me so much!
    I’ve been binge eating for about half a year now, which doesn’t seem like anything compared with others who have been having this eating disorder for several years.
    I think I am so lucky to have found you and your technique so early.
    I’ve also read your blog post about the true willingness to quit.
    Sometimes I have doubts too, about whether I really want to quit. I know now that this is normal and I just have to be strong. But the problem is, that I really love food. There are things that I actually really love, like muffins or bread or cake or other things. So sometimes I binge on those things, and of course I feel awful afterwards and am angry, but I still somehow think it was worth it, because I really enjoyed the food itself.
    So if i ask myself the question “If I didn’t have urges to binge, would I still eat those muffins and this cake?” And the truth is, I probably would have to say yes. But not because I love the feeling of binging and don’t feel guilty – because I do, but because I just love those foods. Wouldn’t that somehow come from my real “self” and not from the urge to binge?
    I don’t know what I should do about this. Maybe you can help me…


Comments are closed.