As some of you know, I struggle with binge-eating. I have taken steps over the past several months to address this problem: professional therapy, self-help books, support groups, etc. Although I felt like I was gaining insight into the problem, the bingeing continued, and may even have gotten worse.

Last night, I decided to sit down and write out my "binge history" as part of a larger effort to understand my "food history" and why I have this addiction. When I sat down and thought about it, I could trace a binge that I remembered back to the *third grade,* or the time that I was about 7 years old. I then tried to remember binge-behavior at every subsequent phase of my life, and sure enough, there were plenty of examples. Grade school, middle school, high school, college, grad school, now. Across different states. Living with my family, living with roommates, living with DBF, living alone. Across all these different life situations, my bingeing was constant. There were times it was worse, there were times it was better, but it was always there.

Seeing this in my journal shocked me. Yes, I knew I was overweight. Yes, I knew I had a problem with bingeing. But I am 27, and if I started this behavior at 7, that is the vast majority of my life. Yesterday, I faced the fact that I have been bingeing for about twenty years.

I was upset. I was angry. And I was curious -- what, at the age of 7, compelled me to eat until I felt uncomfortably full? What made me feel like that was an appropriate thing to do? I don't have the answers to these questions, but I am absolutely going to work on figuring it out.

In the meantime, I don't need those answers to improve my life. The realization that bingeing has been such a constant a part of my life is powerful on its own. For so long, I have thought that my bingeing is the result of being "bad" and "weak." I have thought that because I have problems with food and am overweight, that I wasn't as good as other people, that my needs were not as important, and that I was basically a failure in all other respects. Realizing that I was doing this at 7 has changed that conception. I know that at 7, I could not have been bad, weak, unworthy, unlovable. I was just a kid! A smart, quirky, cute kid! A kid who, for whatever reason, saw it fit to deal with life's problems with impulsive overeating. And pretty much, I am the same person I was at seven.

Because I've realized that bingeing is just a behavior, not a personality characteristic, I can finally believe that, as an adult, I am not bad, weak, unworthy, or unlovable. What I have is a destructive coping mechanism for dealing with my feelings. I am still a good person, and I have many good qualities, and I am worthy of love and respect and compassion. Doesn't seem like rocket science? Maybe to many of you it isn't. But for me, this is the first time I have ever claimed that I am a worthwhile and lovable human being, and meant it.

Instead of beating myself up for bingeing, I can now understand that I am using food to fill some unspoken need. In fact, I am really good at using food to fill that unspoken need. Why wouldn't I be? I've been practicing that behavior for twenty years. But now, I can take a step back and realize that because I am worthy of love and compassion, I should treat myself with respect and esteem. There are enough problems in the world and in my life. Why would I make them worse by using food to cope, increasing my weight, and increasing my chance for chronic disease? That's not a smart or rational action for someone who cares about herself.

It will be a difficult thing to retrain myself to engage in more healthy coping behaviors, since binge eating is all I know. But I am committed to figuring those new behaviors out, even if it takes another twenty years to do so. And because binge eating is just a behavior, not a personality characteristic, if I do slip, it won't be because I'm bad or weak or stupid, but just because I haven't had enough practice with my new behaviors. So, rather than spending my energy hating myself, I can put it into practicing those new behaviors.

Because I am worthy of being cared about, and because nobody else is going to do that nurturing for me, I need to care about myself first and foremost. This means finding more productive (rather than destructive) ways of coping with my life. It means telling people I'm tired when I'm tired, and telling people I'm sad when I'm sad. It means giving myself the love and energy that I have been putting into hating myself for so long. I may have setbacks, but the important thing is the realization that I must take the best care of myself that I possibly can, because really, I'm the only one who can.

Thanks for listening to me ramble, buddies! I wonder if this made sense to anyone but me...