Stressed in China: 4 Ways I Avoid the Binge Monster


Before and After: Control and Balance
Before and After: Control and Balance

It’s no secret that I used to be fat. In China, I’m still considered fat though, and on the inside I still feel like a fat kid because I really hadn’t learned what it is to have a healthy mentality until recently. I don’t think that fat kid inside of me will ever die because she’s been alive for twenty-three years, and I kind of enjoy having her around to make fun of sometimes.

It’s good to laugh, especially in times of stress, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these last two weeks gave me a few grey hairs. 

When I was out of control, I handled stress with food whether it was starving myself or binging. Doing those things, helped me feel in control which calmed me down in those specific moments, but then left me lower than I had been before.

So now that I’m “healthy” how do I handle stress when the fat kid inside of me is screaming for chocolate, ice cream, and anything but what I really need?

Here’s how I’ve been handling it the last few weeks.

1.  Controlled “baby binges”.

I know. I’m writing an article about how not to fall prey to a binge, but my very first way to not have a “big binge” is to have a “baby binge”!!? What is this craziness.

I have controlled baby binges because I’m still learning how to stop being the fat  kid that I’ve been my whole life. Like I said, I’m not sure that fat kid is ever going to get out of my system, but that’s okay because now I have control over my “baby binges”.

Here’s an example to illustrate the vital difference between my “baby binges” now, versus my “big binges” in the past.

Tonight, after a certain series of events left me drained, tired, and in desperate need of a relief, I made the conscious decision to eat more sugar than I knew I needed. I bought half of a sandwich, three quarter-sized pastries from a local bakery, and an individual ice cream from the store downstairs, and I ate all of them. In one sitting. Not healthy, not good for me, but I decided to do it because I wanted to.

Trying to Be Mentally and Physically Strong
Trying to Be Mentally and Physically Strong

About a year and a half ago, when I was dealing with something that was out of my control, I got off work and I stopped at a Wendys, ordered a frosty, chicken nuggets, and fries, fully planning on waiting until I got home to eat all of it. Then, about two minutes later, I decided I also wanted to stop at Steak and Shake because what I had gotten from Wendy’s wasn’t going to be enough. I bought cheese fries, onion rings, and a large chocolate shake. And more cheese for the fries. And some mac-n-cheese because why not?  I was still planning on saving all these epic goodies for an epic binge in front of the TV, but I couldn’t wait with all those delicious smells in the car so I started eating all the shit on the way home. By the time I got to Thortons, which was about twenty minutes away from my work and five minutes away from my home, I had already eaten everything, but I was afraid of all the evidence sitting in my car.  I stopped at the gas station, threw away all the wrappers from Wendys and Steak and Shake, and then when I got back in my car, I started to panic about not having anything to eat in front of the television.

So I bought a pint of Ben and Jerrys.

Need I continue? The difference between my controlled “baby binges” and “big binges” is probably evident without me needing to disgust you further.  Honestly, I’m not sure if that was the fattest thing I’ve ever done, but I remember that particular moment because when I got home and started to eat the Ben and Jerry’s, I stopped halfway because I couldn’t stop crying for once. I never cried during that time, and as soon as I started crying, I was afraid of not being able to stop, so I started eating again, and my tears dried up.

 I was terrified of the lack of control I had, but I was even more terrified to…

2.   Ask for help. 

Sometimes, I try too hard to be perfect. Been a perfectionist since I was a kid, and that, amongst other things, has landed me in front of a mental health expert more than once. Now, I reach out for help long before I ever need to make a panicked call to a shrink at some odd hour of the evening.

I’m sure my mom, my lifelong friends Ace, Lyla, and a few others can attest to the validity of the above statement because on my worst night last week, they received a few emotional WeChat messages where I was pretty close to losing myself inside the emotions that haze our minds when we’re running on no sleep and our bodies are worn out from the adrenaline that has been pulsing for too long.


3.  Talking calms me down.

Working out my problems with the people I trust, calms me down. I am so appreciative that I have a huge group of loved ones that will listen to me when I am at my worst, because they keep strong when I want to be weak. Talking also keeps me from binging, because it reminds me that I am in control as long as I choose to be in control.

I remember when I studied abroad in Spain, there was one evening where I had been drinking with my friends, and on the walk home I had prepared an epic feast for binging. It was a ritual. Getting smashed with my new friends, going home early so I could stop by a store or vending machine to buy as many Kinder bars and random stale baked goods as I could carry, and then eating all the shit in front of the computer as I zoned out and thought about how lonely I was even though I had just been surrounded by crowds of happy people. This particular night, I went home with my bag of salvation, and this time, instead of eating, I decided to make a call via Skype to my best friend Ace.

I can’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember that that night, I decided I didn’t need to eat my feelings because I had already handled them with someone who loved and understood me. I probably had a hangover the next day, but I didn’t have a food hangover. Baby steps.

Which brings me to another point…

4. I don’t drink anymore.  

I really hated who I became when I drank in college, and that caused me to binge sometimes because it was like I was punishing myself for the person I had been all night long. I couldn’t deal with how sloppy and out of control I felt, so instead of thinking about it, I’d quiet my thoughts with numbing food, so much food that I’d feel sick enough to fall into a coma where I’d wake up the next day feeling hungover not only from the ridiculous amount of Fullers London Porter and Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown I’d drank, but also from the medium sized Papa Johns pizza I ate at 2am.

Drinking makes it hard to be the person I want to be, and it was a way of handling my sadness when I didn’t know how to be happy. When I was in college, I drank microbrews and craft beer almost as much as I drank coffee. When I started losing weight, I learned how to moderate my drinking and how to stay in control while drinking, but then, when I got to China, I realized I don’t enjoy drinking anymore. It worries me because I have better things to do than being hungover, and I have more fun when I don’t feel out of control. Because of those things, I’ve decided to drinking just isn’t for me right now.

I have no doubt that when I go back to the US I’ll enjoy a nice cold Hopgasm or Midnight Sex Stout from Rhodells on Waterstreet, but I know that those drinks don’t define those moments when I get back. It’s the people that make the moments special. I won’t remember what drink I had, but I’ll remember the conversations, the love, and the smiles on the faces of my friends and family.







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