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Live to Eat

              Nancy had not had a food binge for over 2 years when she flew from Miami to Chicago to attend the wedding of her friend's daughter. Single, independent, and devoted to her work,  Nancy had just sold her first screenplay . She was pleased but she was also experiencing the 'postpartum' letdown that always occurred when she finished a major project.

                Despite knowing , from 2 years in Overeaters Anonymous (OA), that she need to keep a safe distance from food , especially in emotionally hard times, Nancy spent the entire day of the wedding rehearsal  party in the company of food. She stood in her friend's kitchen for hours-cutting, chopping, sorting, arranging, and, eventually, picking at the food.

                When night and the guests came, the flurry of activity made it easy for Nancy to disappear-physically and emotionally-into a binge. She started with a plate of what would have been an "abstinent" meal  (an OA concept for whatever is included on one's meal plan): pasta salad, green salad, cold cuts, and a roll. Although the  portions were generous, Nancy wanted more. She spent the next  5 hours eating , at first trying to graze among the guests, but then when shame set in , retreating to dark corners of the room to take frantic, stolen bites.

                Nancy stuffed herself with crackers, cheeses, break  , chicken, turkey, pasta, and salads, but all that was a prelude to what she really wanted-sugar. She'd been waiting for the guests to leave the dinning room, where the desserts were. When they finally did, she cut herself two pieces of cake ,  then two more , then ate directly from the serving tray, shoving the food into her mouth. She reached for cookies , more cake and  cookies again. Heart racing, terrified of being discovered, Nancy finally tore herself away and slipped out onto the terrace.

                By now , in what she thought of as a "food trace," Nancy piled her plate with bread, onto which she smeared some unidentifiable spread. Though the food tasted like mud, Nancy kept eating. Soon, other guests came out to the terrace, leaving Nancy feeling she had to move again, which she did, stepping into the kitchen-and the light. When  Nancy glanced down at her plate , she was horrified : ants were crawling all over it. Instead of reflexivity spitting out the food, Nancy overcome by shame, could only swallow. Then her eyes began to search the debris  on her plate for uncontaminated morsels. Witnessing her own madness, Nancy began to cry . She flung the plate into the trash and ran to her room.

                That event marked the beginning of a 6-month  relapse into binge eating-Nancy's experience with binging since the problem began 15 years earlier. During the relapse, she binged on foods and refined carbohydrates, returned to cigarette smoking to control the binging, and once again was driven to "get rid " of the calories by incessant exercise after each binge, walking 4 or 5 hours at a time, dragging her bicycle up and down six flights of stairs, and biking miles after dark in a dangerous city park.

                Throughout the relapse , Nancy went to therapy and to OA. But the binging worsened, as did the accompanying isolation and depression, which kept her awake, often crying uncontrollably, until the early morning hours. Finally, her therapist, a social worker, referred her to a psychiatrist, who put her on an antidepressant that has been used to control binge eating and on a structured food plan that  excluded refined sugars, breads, crackers, and similar carbohydrates. Within a few weeks, Nancy was able to stop bingeing , come out of the depression , and resume her life. After 2 years on the medication, on binges, and the gradual reintroduction of breads and related carbohydrates into her diet, Nancy was able to stop taking the antidepressant0, without depression  or return to binge eating. She continues to be active in OA.