Z is for Zero


Food, bingeing, nutritional numbers, and suicide mentioned.

frozen barbed wire
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’re in the US, you’re probably aware that the Midwest, where I live, is currently in the deep freeze. We’ve had wind chills below zero all week and the last two days it’s been so cold schools have closed because the wind chill was thirty below (frostbite could happen within minutes of being outside.)

Now normally, I have no problem staying home. Except for today. Today I wanted to binge. I wanted chocolate, sugar, junk. Of course, anything carbohydrate (carbs)-related is supposed to be “bad” for me. I have Type II Diabetes (click here for info on Diabetes) after all. Did I care, nope. I just wanted to eat what I wanted to eat.

I did try though, not to give into that little devil on my shoulder that nattered at me to go out and get all those carby goodies. I ignored him all day. Until I couldn’t.

So I bundled up and walked to the closest store and bought a bunch of junk food. For the sake of clarity, let me tell you exactly what I ate, the nutritional facts of each item (taken from their packages), and how long it took me to eat it all…


One 12oz bottle of OJ. This is not a normal binge food for me. I drank it because I can feel a cold coming timeFlieson. Calories: 160; Fat: 0g (grams); Carbs: 37g; Protein: 2g.

One pint of Premium Ice Cream (vanilla with fudge streaks and peanut butter cups mixed in). Calories: 680; Fat: 44g; Carbs: 72g; Protein: 8g.


One 11oz bag of Nacho Chips. Calories: 1540g; Fat: 88g; Carbs: 176g; Protein: 22g.

One large Peanut Butter Cup. Calories: 200; Fat: 12g; Carbs: 22g; Protein: 5g.


Two Chocolate Cupcakes. Calories: 330; Fat: 12g; Carbs: 53g; Protein: 2g.

One large Peanut Butter Cup. Calories: 200; Fat: 12g; Carbs: 22g; Protein: 5g.

One Brownie. Calories: 500; Fat: 26g; Carbs: 66g; Protein: 5g.


One 6oz bag of Pizza-flavored filled Pretzel Snacks. Calories: 780; Fat: 30g; Carbs: 114g; Protein: 12g.

So our grand totals for this evening of bingeing are: Calories: 4390; Fat: 224g (46% of calories); Carbs: 562g (51% of calories); Protein: 61g (5% of calories). Yeah, I know that’s more than 100%. I’ve never been good at math.


And this isn’t even all I ate today, just what I’ve eaten since 6pm. And I may eat more, like the other things I bought on my below zero shopping trip: another brownie, a 4oz bag of chocolate covered pretzels, a large banana-nut muffin, a large cheese streusel muffin, three milk-chocolate truffles, and a 4oz bag of hard candies (chocolate flavored). I’m gonna try not to eat anything else, but there are no guarantees. Not with me anyway.

I’m assuming some of you are thinking, “Huh? What does all that mean?” To answer that question, let me tell you a bit about what I’ve been told I “should” eat…

Calories: The last time I saw a nutritionist who specialized in eating disorders, I was over 400 pounds. She told me to eat roughly 3000 calories since I was used to eating at least 4000 a day. I’m not quite so heavy now (I lost a bit when I became unemployed and couldn’t eat at fast food places all the time), so I did a web search. According to calorieking.com, I should eat between 1900-2100 calories if I want to lose weight and 2650-2850 calories to maintain it.nutritionfacts

So this binge took me over my daily allotted calories by 1390 to 2490 calories, depending on which advice you’re looking at. And that doesn’t even include the food I had earlier in the day (no binges, just regular meals.)

Fat: Because my cholesterol (believe it or not) is fine I’ve never paid much attention to how many fat grams I should or should not eat. Basically I’ve been told to get roughly 30% of my calories from fat. This binge pushed me 16% (at least) over that.

Carbs: This is the biggie. Because carbs digest into sugar first, they affect your blood sugar fastest. So with Diabetes this is the number everyone focuses on. There is no number recommended by the American Diabetes Association. They always say that the number is “individual.” However, the most common numbers I’ve been given is between 30-45g per meal and 0-15g per snack, or between 40-60% of your calories. Of course, those carbs should all be of the whole-grain-complex variety, not the simple-sugar-junk-food kind I just ate.

Looking at just the numbers, it looks like I did okay, right? 51% is right there in the middle. Yay me! Nope, not yay me. Because I know that when I eat a lot of food in a very short time, especially junk food, my blood sugars go very, very high. And the higher your blood sugars go (averaged out) the more damage you do to your body. At my last blood test my blood sugars ran, on average, twice to three times what they should be. Yeah, not good. What I should be doing is eating low-carb. Like 20-40% of my calories.

Protein: Once again, this is an area that is not focused on much when it comes to Diabetes treatment, other than to say to eat a little bit at each meal as it off-sets the carbs. So, if I was eating 30% fat, and 40-60% carbs, I should eat 10-30% of my calories in protein. This binge put me at a minimum of 5% under what I should be.


Confused? So am I. And for this reason, I’m going to see a Diabetes Educator. Eventually. When I talk myself into it.

The truth of the matter is, I don’t pay as much attention to my diet as I should, even when I’m not bingeing. I may, or may not, eat the right percentages of fat, carbs, and protein. Often I eat based on what’s cheap and filling (thanks poverty!)

Now a few months ago, a friend of mine made me promise to pay more attention to my physical health. She bought me a blood glucose meter so I can test my blood sugars at home and gave me some cash so I could pay for my Diabetes meds. And I have tried. A bit. A lot of the time I “forget” to test my blood. But I have tried. I now eat more salad (my blood sugar likes those). And I do pay more attention. When I can.

However, I can’t always handle it. Like today. It was cold, I’d been stuck inside for days because of the wind chill, and I just wanted to feel something other than suicidal. And food pulls me out of that mood fastest by raising my blood sugar and putting me on a sugar-high. For those hours when my blood sugar is dangerously high, I feel—not happy, but close. I feel…well, normal.

That voice in the back of my head that tells me I’m a horrible person, that I’m the scum-of-the-earth, that I shouldn’t be alive, gets quiet. It’s easier to laugh, smile, feel anything other a crushing sense of hopelessness. On a sugar-high I feel like I might just be able to be a productive member of society. I can achieve my dreams. Maybe even be attractive.

Of course, I pay for it afterward in both long and short term ways. In the short term I get headaches, stomach-aches, and digestive problems. In the long-term, my Diabetes could cause me to lose limbs, go blind, have a heart-attack, or a stroke.

But frankly, if I’m fighting death daily, what does it matter if I die now from suicide or latter from a Diabetes-related complication. Either way, I’ve killed myself.

I am zero.

It’s just my choice to see how long before it happens.

Take care.


B is for Bingeing

blue_alphabet_letter_bWarning: This post may be triggering for those with Eating Disorders.

What do I mean by triggering? Triggering is a term used in the Eating Disorder (ED) treatment community to indicate something that causes a person to think of or engage in an ED behavior. For me, commercials can be incredibly triggering. If I see one for say pizza, I’m more likely than not to think of pizza until I can eat some. I’m told this is common for those without ED but for me it’s more than just the desire to eat one piece, it’s the desire to eat two entire pizzas.

One of the things they (they meaning the ED treatment community) recommend that someone with an ED do is to tell people about their particular ED behaviors. The theory being that by making them less of a secret they will lessen. Another theory behind this is that if you can pinpoint why a behavior works for you, or where it started, it’ll be easier to eliminate said behavior. Since my ED is Binge Eating Disorder (BED), my behaviors are pretty simple. I eat a lot in a short period of time. I don’t make myself throw up, exercise excessively, or starve to compensate. Hence my circus-lady physique. So I thought I’d devote this post to a listing/discussion of my particular binge foods. Here goes, in no particular order:

White bread/flour tortillas: I can eat 12 flour tortillas or one whole loaf of bread in one sitting. Especially if the bread is fresh baked, not the kind you find in the sandwich bread aisle. There is something about the way the bread/tortilla feels in the mouth; it’s sweet without being sugary. The texture is light and it feels almost like a hug. And, like most of my binge food, white bread is “forbidden” (I’m a Type 2 Diabetic). Tortillas are a new thing for me. I started using them when the whole “low-carb” craze started up. I bought regular tortillas thinking them a low-carb substitute for bread and realized that they did the same thing for me as white bread. I know that white bread in particular is a binge food for me because when I was growing up white bread was a food that I was “allowed” to have. You see, my mother had Type 1 Diabetes and was told not to eat white bread. So, anytime we had white bread in the house I could eat as much of it as I wanted. If we had wheat, I had to ask permission to eat it. Then, sometime in my teens, one of our food pantry boxes included a (white) bread mix and I discovered that I liked to bake, and eat, freshly baked bread. I guess it almost feels as if I’m hugging myself with this “illicit” food.

Ice-cream: Especially the fully-fat kind with fun names two guys from Vermont make. The creamy, fatty, sweet, goodness freezes all my emotions. I’m often told that I seem mellow after binging on ice-cream. Depending on the flavor and additions to the ice-cream I can eat up to a gallon at a time. Or, if it’s an ice-cream based item (like ice-cream sandwiches or pops), a package of 10-12. Ice-cream was a treat in my childhood, generally eaten at my grandparent’s house; they lived two blocks away from a walk up ice-cream place and we would often walk there after a meal in the summer. In many ways, I think ice-cream for me is a way for me to comfort the child within who just wants to scream for someone to love her. Why? Because when I was a child at this particular grandparent’s house, that’s how I felt. I just wanted someone to love me, but these particular grandparents were not the demonstrative type and I didn’t realize that they loved me until I was almost an adult.

Chocolate: I probably don’t need to say much about this type of food. It falls under the “forbidden” food category but tastes so good. I can eat entire packages of those individually wrapped kinds that people buy for Halloween (not the “jumbo” packages that cost $8-10, but the medium sized ones that cost $4-6). When I was a kid, one of the things that we often got in our food pantry boxes was chocolate chips. We would keep them in the fridge and I would often grab handfuls of them at a time when I got home from school. We never had enough food at any one time to allow for a typical after school snack, so this was my version. If I don’t have chocolate available at all times I get very anxious. Even if I don’t eat any that day, just the availability of it makes me feel better. I suppose this is due to my growing up on welfare and with food scarcity, but I’m pretty sure there’s more to this than I’m aware of.

Fried Foods: Especially fried chicken and onion rings. I can eat a 10 piece bucket of fried chicken or a 12 piece box of chicken strips. Fried chicken/onion rings were something that I only got to eat when out with my grandparents. As you may have figured out, growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and they had much more money than my parents. My grandmother, who was a working mother long before it was considered normal, was often too tired to cook after work so we’d go out to eat. Fried food feels luxurious. As if I’m telling myself that I’m not poor because I can afford to eat it.

Fast Food: There was a time when I lived exclusively on fast food. After work or after a social activity, I’d swing through a drive through and order 4-6 sandwiches and a large fry. Growing up, fast food was like fried chicken, only something I got when people who weren’t on welfare were buying. My parents never took me to a fast food place, but my grandparents, or the parents of friends, would. Then, when I had a good paying job, I’d take myself. Almost like I was trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t my parents, I could afford to pay someone else to cook. And becoming my parents is for me, like for a lot of people, something I’m trying to prevent.

Pasta: I can eat an entire box of mac and cheese or half a box of pasta with canned spaghetti sauce. As a kid, pasta based dishes weren’t something I ate often. And if I did, it was at someone else’s house, a friend’s or my grandparents. But it wasn’t often enough to make it something special. So why is it a binge food? Because it’s one of the first foods I binged on when cooking for myself. Pasta is my go to “cooking for myself” meal. It’s relatively cheap and easy to make. I hate to cook so easy is the only way to go. At this point, I don’t cook pasta unless I have to (I have it in the house for when I’ve run out of money to purchase other foods), mostly because it makes me feel poor. You see, the minute I got a job that paid enough to allow me to eat out most of the time, I did. This caused me to associate cooking as being an “I’m out of money” activity. And being out of money reminded me of being on welfare as a kid.

Pizza/Italian Food: I mean the kind that someone makes for you, not the frozen kind you throw in the oven or that you make yourself. Because I hate to cook and because my parents are terrible cooks, I didn’t really grow up eating a lot of Italian food or pizza. I’d get an occasional frozen pizza when I was over at my grandparents, but this type of food wasn’t a big thing for me until I became a teenager. Then pizza was a go to food for hanging out with my friends. Now pizza and Italian foods, because of their high carb contents, are considered “forbidden.” I don’t binge on them a lot, but when I do I’ll eat 1-1 ½ large pizzas or enough lasagna, whatever parmigiana, or something linguine to serve two people. The thick, warm, textures of these foods feel as if I’ve spent a day laughing.

Chips/crackers/cookies: Anything with a dry, crispy, texture tends to be a rare binge item. I prefer my binges to be with softer foods. This might be because my father was fond of popcorn and would make some nearly every night so it didn’t seem as special as chocolate or ice-cream. Or it might be because I don’t have many anger issues (there is a theory that people who prefer to binge on crunchy things have anger issues). Whatever the case may be, I can still binge on these things. I’ll usually eat a whole package/bag of them (the kind meant for 4 people to eat, not 1 person). Crunchy foods take more effort to eat, so I usually only gravitate toward them if I’m running low on money and they are on sale. Or if I’m craving salt (which I think is a hormonal thing for me).

You’ll notice that none of my binge foods are fruits or vegetables. Not surprising, since the point of a binge is to feed my head/feelings and not my body. And, growing up, fruits and veggies were held aside for my mother. My brother and I were constantly told that my mother had to have this or that food because of her diabetes and we could have some after she did. Often there wasn’t enough left over to make much of a difference. I was even yelled at once for eating a banana. It wasn’t the last one in the house, but I had eaten it without asking first. My father’s point being that I may have taken a food that my mother had planned on eating. And we may not have had the funds to replace it.

Does this mean that all of my binge issues are related to growing up on welfare and with a Type 1 Diabetic? I don’t think so. I think it has more to do with how love was expressed in my family. My grandmother, the family member I had the most contact with outside of my parents and brother, expressed her love with food. She constantly was giving us food and telling us to “clean up” whatever leftovers were around so she wouldn’t have to package it up. Because my parents had so little money, and food was so important in the management of Type 1 Diabetes, food a central thing in our lives. How we got it, how much of it was there, how it was distributed, was more important than just about anything else. My parents still hugged me, told me they loved me, and so forth. They didn’t yell at me about anything other than food. And they were never abusive. But somehow food, everything about food, got caught up in our relationships.

Then, when I became an adult, food became a central part of how I related to myself. The question now is do I have the courage to take care of myself in a healthy way? In a way that nourishes my body without starving my feelings? Because ultimately my binges are about preventing feelings. I don’t want to feel them so I push them away with the food.

What my ED tries to tell me is that a binge will make the feelings go away. And it’s right, temporarily. But they always come back, often worse then before. And no food, no matter how it makes me feel, is ever going to permanently prevent a feeling. No matter how much I try.

But I just can’t stop trying.