Emotional eating, binge eating and friends – some definitions

Emotional eating, binge eating and friends – some definitions

Howdy comrades! I’ll be writing monthly updates here about how I’m getting on with my binge eating recovery shenanigans since I got home from Green Mountain, as well as sharing some resources that I’ve found helpful. But first I thought it might be helpful to define things a little, as the various terms can be vague and/or confusing.

Here’s a definition of Binge Eating Disorder from National Eating Disorders Association (US):

“Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.”

There is also a good definition and helpful information on the NHS website in their lovely British non-nonsense style.

While I have frequently met the clinical criteria for BED over the years, I’ve found the most helpful way of looking at eating behaviours is Green Mountain’s approach:

“Binge and emotional eating aren’t necessarily two separate and distinct processes, but rather the same process on a continuum.”

Imagine a continuum like this:

emotional eating → emotional overeating → some binge eating → Binge Eating Disorder

One can move up the continuum very easily, but is also possible to move down.

At the start of the continuum you have your bog standard emotional eating, a healthy thing which most people do. For example, bitching about your bloody awful day to a friend over a pizza and glass of wine. Or something like, joyfully scoffing a plateful of your Mum’s pavlova at Christmas after looking forward to it all year long.

Emotional overeating comes along if the food is the only coping tool you’re choosing in that moment. Like numbing out with the whole tub of Haagen-Daaz.

The next station stop along the line is binge eating, when large quantities are eaten, often quickly and accompanied by feeling out of control and unable to stop.

Then it moves up to criteria of diagnosable Binge Eating Disorder, which is all about the frequency of the binges and the impact they are having on one’s life. In 2013 BED was recognised as an eating disorder diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the American Psychiatric Association’s handbook used by health care professionals as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders.

I’ve found the idea of a continuum hugely useful. Firstly because I see how quickly one can move up it when food is the only coping mechanism happening. But it’s also helping because I appreciate that moving down the continuum is a sign of progress. It stops that all or nothing, perfectionist thinking.

I’m not hung up on labels or diagnostic criteria, but I’m finding it helpful to check in with this continuum and ask – Where am I right now? What’s going on for me to be in this position? Do I need to make some adjustments so I can move back down? 

Thanks gazillions to everyone who has got in touch during or since Green Mountain. It’s so bloody good to realise we’re not alone!

It goes without saying I’m not a health professional, and the above is from my own reading and doesn’t constitute advice. Thanks to my friend Sara for link assistance.

20 hours of a lost cat

Ziggy recently went missing for 20 agonising hours.

Background:   When we got her from the shelter in January 2016, Ziggy had always been an indoor cat. After much research we decided it was safest to continue that, since we’re not that far from a main road.

A few months later she expressed curiosity about the outside world, so we took her out into our back yard. First on a little harness, then eventually without it. Ever since she’s liked an outside jaunt most days. We’d hang out with her as she lounged around the garden and watched the birds, sniffed a flower or two, then sauntered back inside after twenty minutes or so. Occasionally a neighbourhood cat would wander into the yard, and she’d whoosh over to scare it off her turf. But she’d always stop at the border, then get right back to the important business of lazing around.

Lazy Ziggy
Like this.

These excursions continued without incident for over two years… until two Thursday afternoons ago!

Here’s how it all went down…

3.30PM – Ziggy is flopped out on the grass as per, when a little black cat appears at the edge of our garden. Ziggy springs to action and rushes at it. But instead of stopping like normal, she leaps over the fence into the neighbour’s yard then disappears in hot pursuit.

Shit. I race outside and head down the street to look for her… but she’s nowhere to be found.

4PM – I return home and try to remain calm. I post a message to the village Facebook group. It felt like the best first port of call, as it has swiftly located many missing cats in the past. (And also provided critical updates on the availability of fresh bread rolls in the village shop during the #BeastFromTheEast!)

4.30PM – Gareth arrives home from his shift to find me anxiously pacing the streets.

5PM – Someone on the Facebook group says they’d spotted Ziggy and the black cat awhile earlier, “having an altercation” but then they’d ran off in opposite directions.

Ziggy is a street fighter now!?

The Worst Evening Of Our Lives – That may sound overly dramatic but dudes… we were stricken. Between shifts of village patrol, we sat side by side on the couch in silence, trying to decide how worried to be.

On one hand, it had only been a few hours and my cat-owning friends reassured me that cats pull this shit all the time and then waltz back in. On the other hand, Ziggy had never been outside our yard before, so how the heck would she know how to get home!? It was hard not to imagine a tabby pancake in the middle of the highway.

It is ridiculous how deeply, deeply attached you become to a creature that is for the most part completely indifferent to your undying affection. 78% of our daily conversations revolve around her exploits. The house seemed cavernous without her stripey bod sashaying in and out of the room, or scratching her claws on the bottom step like she knows she’s not meant to, or making a deposit to the litter tray juuuust as we sit down to enjoy a cup of tea.

“I don’t know what I’ll do without that jerk,” Gareth finally says, “She’s my wee pal.”

He is so sad and sincere. I just want to vom from the guilt, since she’d nicked off on my watch.

“What did we ever talk about before her?”

“I can’t remember.”

“I guess we’ll have to get divorced if she doesn’t come home.”

We laugh halfheartedly.

It rains all night. Neither of us really sleep. I get up every hour or so to see if she’s outside, or to shuffle up and down our street.

(I should mention at this point that I’d injured my lower back a few weeks earlier, with any walks over ten minutes sent excruciating pain radiating across my lower back and down my legs. Your timing sucks, cat! 😉 )

Friday 5AM – G has to leave for work. I begin yet another shuffling lap of village, calling her name as I shake a little bag of dry food, and noticing the inner conflict between missing moggie angst versus feeling like a twit for making such a racket. I mean, people will be trying to sleep.

I see two tabbies that are not Ziggy, plus the black cat from the altercation. All are wearing smug I ain’t seen nufink faces.

6AM – My back is cooked. I take a nap on the couch.

7.30AM – Wake up and submit cat to every Lost Pets forum in the land. After advice from dear friends who’ve previously had AWOL moggies as well as the reading Cats Protection What to do if your cat goes missing list, decide it is time to make some flyers.

7.35 AM – Scour the Google for a Lost Cat Microsoft Word template.

7.36 AM – Download template.

7.37 AM – Move template to Trash due to its use of SHITTY WORD ART. One has standards.

7.38 AM – Start making own flyer.

Missing cat flyer
Get that Call To Action right up there.

8.15 AM – Text Gareth and ask him to please sneakily print as many copies as possible.

8.35 AM – Gareth confirms he has managed to print 20 copies but says, don’t we have a printer at home?

8.40 AM – Dig out old printer that we had shoved into a corner a year ago after it stopped working for no good reason. Commence Operation Fix That Printer.





10.00 AM – Painkillers have kicked in. Commence slow hobble around the streets avec flyers.

11.30 AM – Return home from spamming the immediate neighbourhood.

11.55 AM – Phone call from a kind gentleman who lives down the street.

He got my flyer!

He’s found Ziggy in his garage!

12:00 PM – Toddle down the street. Kind Gent opens his garage door. A pair of eyes peer out from the darkness. It is the Striped One!


12:10 PM – After much coaxing out with Dreamies, then a dozen thank yous of wild gratitude to the Kind Gent, I carry the mewling Ziggy back down the street.

12:25 PM – Having scoffed down a tin of Gourmet Gold, Ziggy leaves a fragrant present in her tray, lolls casually on the living room floor, then dozes off like nothing bloody happened.

Gareth: Expecting The Worst Since 1973
Gareth: Expecting The Worst Since 1973

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