It's 3 AM and I am lying wide awake in my bed after several failed attempts to fall asleep. This isn't the first time something like this is happening. The night before and many more before that also had me staring at the ceiling blankly, hoping for sleep. I tire my eyes out by binge watching TV series and read history books from my graduation days to put me to sleep, but still lie on my bed, troubled and wide awake.
I walk into the kitchen to make myself a mug cake that I had seen on Pinterest.
And just like that, this becomes a daily affair for all my sleepless nights. Every night, I'd find a 5-minute recipe and create something delicious that'd keep me happy, if not help me sleep.
This is how my toxic relationship with food began.
The gratification I got after eating junk every night was unparalleled. Slowly, the habit started taking over my days too. A packet of chips that the ads promised were too delicious for anybody to have just one, and a can of cola that claimed to be the taste of happiness, became permanent residents in my handbag.
This was in fact my SOS team. What I otherwise relied on was the most fulfilling promise made by a pizza company that would deliver happiness to me in 30 minutes!
Food equaled happiness, which could easily be quantified in calories. More calories automatically meant more happiness!
This went on for a month or so. It was a stressful phase, layered with personal and professional crisis. Things started to brighten up and to my surprise, I was sleeping well too. But just because I was getting sound sleep didn't mean that my binge eating would end. By now, it had become a habit.
In my free time, I would find myself chomping on to anything and everything.
In my head, this wasn't a big enough problem, given that I had just come out of a stressful phase. Eating heavy meals and the sweetest of desserts was my way of celebrating life.
By now, people had taken me for a foodie until one day when a colleague threw a taunt at me.
"Do you ever stop eating?"
Embarrassed by her comment, I let out a meek 'Yes' even though I knew that the answer was a strong 'No'.
With just one question that rattled out of the mouth of a girl who had perfected the resting bitch face, I was left questioning my life choices.
Binge eating was more than my habit. It was my addiction.
I started noticing my eating pattern and even opened up about this problem to my friends. They told me I was stupid and that one could get addicted to alcohol and drugs, but not food.
According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter stress can cause people to overeat. "The adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn't go away — or if a person's stress response gets stuck in the "on" position — cortisol may stay elevated."
Lethargy, oversleeping, lack of stamina and weight gain were the symptoms of my addiction.
People didn't believe that my problem was real, but I decided to take control of my life again. I worked towards a healthy lifestyle and the positive effects started showing off way before I had imagined.
I traced my own path to fitness and my journey will be different from that of others. But that doesn't mean you shy away from taking the first step.
Binging on food once in a while is fine, but if it is a prevalent practice then maybe it is time to step back and introspect.