It was one of my mother’s ex-boyfriends who introduced me to Cadbury Creme eggs. I was seven years old and I was quickly hooked. Never had my mother let me eat anything that was so…. “junky!” as she would say. Nevertheless, he persisted — he kept talking to my Mom about “how can a child possibly get through childhood without eating creme eggs in the Spring? You can’t just keep giving her carob covered rice cakes and let her think she’s having a childhood! It’s not right.. it’s just not right.” Eventually, his logic won out and I was allowed a creme egg. And I thought it was the ambrosia of the gods and goddesses. Never had I eaten anything like it (cue the rice cakes). So, as it was, annual Spring Creme Egg binges became a thing.
One summer, while I was living in Boston, one of my roommates who had a job at Store24 brought home a gigantic case of mostly stale Creme Eggs (it was July already). And I even ate those. They were so stale. Creme Eggs were like crack for the binge eating disordered soul. I know that I was not alone because every year at this time, I hear news from my clients that they are struggling with the Cadbury Crack. Because of that, I’ve decided to share an excerpt from Reclaiming Yourself about this very topic…
Diane, a 34-year-old woman, believed that once she started eating chocolate, she would not be able to stop until whatever she was eating was gone. Unfortunately, she had the problem of consistently bingeing on chocolate. During a session that we had during the spring, I asked her to bring in one of her binge foods. What she brought was a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs.
“These do it to me every time!” she told me. “Someone keeps them in the office and I can’t have just one or two; I have to eat until the bowl is gone. It’s so embarrassing. I always have to run out to Walgreens to refill the office bowl.”
She brought them in a small plastic bag. There were about a cup of them in the bag.
“How many do you think is an appropriate serving for you?” I asked her.
asked her. “Maybe about five,” she said.
“Okay, take five out of the bag and put them in your hand.” She looked at me suspiciously. This was not an easy exercise. Diane was letting me in on a very intimate moment; she was with her binge food, her lover, the thing that gave her comfort and safety and I was intruding in their space. She took five mini eggs out of the bag and put them in her hand.
“Now,” I said, “take one and smell it.” She held it up to her nose.
“What are you feeling?” I asked her
“Angry at you. You’re staring at me and judging me and you’re invading my private space. I want to eat this right now. But I feel like you’re not letting me.”
Anger is not an uncommon sensation when someone begins engaging in mindful eating. Depression is said to be anger turned inward. Many of us believe that it’s not okay to be angry. We push anger down with food and turn it in on ourselves. It becomes depression, inner turmoil, pain, and self-loathing. When we stop eating mindlessly and using food to push the anger down, it begins to surface and that is very uncomfortable.
“It’s okay for you to be angry, Diane. Do you know what you’re angry about?”
“I’m angry that you aren’t letting me eat this.”
“I had a crappy day at work today.”
“My boss yelled at me for something I didn’t do, and I just sat there and took it, accepted her rage because there is no use in defending myself. I’ll just come off looking bad.”
“So now you want to crunch down on these chocolate candies and let all the rage melt away.”
“I guess,” she told me.
“Okay, Diane, go ahead and close your eyes. I will close my eyes too so you don’t feel that I am watching you eat, and just take one bite of the egg.”
We both closed our eyes as I heard her crunch down.
“Now as you chew,” I told her, “chew slowly. Notice the feeling of the candy in your mouth. Notice the tastes on your tongue. Notice the thoughts and emotions that come up for you. Let me know after you swallow, but don’t take another bite.”
“Okay, I swallowed,” she told me.
“What did you notice?” I asked her.
“Well,” she said, “it was funny. Even though I was eating and tasting my food, I just wanted to hurry up and swallow so I could take another bite and keep eating. I was barely able to enjoy what I was eating because I just wanted to chase the taste. I just wanted more.”
“What do you think about that?” I asked her.
“It’s definitely interesting,” she said.
“Okay, go ahead and close your eyes, and finish the candy.”
We both closed our eyes and she put the rest of the candy in her mouth. She chewed slowly and swallowed.
“What came up for you?” I asked her.
“Well,” she said, “I started thinking about my Aunt Meryl. Every Easter she would have an Easter Egg hunt for us kids. Me and all my cousins would spend the day outside playing and running around and looking for eggs. The days had just started getting longer and I knew that summer was around the corner. We would play until dusk then sit around and have a gigantic Easter feast. Of course then, it took my father forever to get me into the house to eat. Back then I loved to play… now, it’s all about the food… now I’d be waiting impatiently for the food to be served. Anyway, back then I just loved being away from my dad and my stepmother’s house. My aunt was so warm and loving. I loved to play with my cousins. Then she’d send me home with a giant Easter basket, back to the lonely dysfunction of my dad’s house. I’d sit alone in my room sad that the day was over. The candy in my basket gave me comfort.”
Diane realized at that moment how much her food and her eating were connected to her feelings. I asked her to take another egg, close her eyes, and put it in her mouth. As she did, I reminded her to really taste it in her mouth, feel the texture on her tongue, the flavors on her taste buds and the sensations of chewing on her jaw and in her teeth. After she swallowed, she opened her eyes and said, “It didn’t taste that great.”
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“Well, it wasn’t really anything. I feel like I’d go ahead and keep eating to try and recreate the first bite, but when I really pay attention, I didn’t really need any more than the initial bite to receive the pleasure. Anything after that, I was just chasing the flavor.”
I asked her if she wanted any more. “No,” she said, “I’m good for now.”
To read more of Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating– order it here.