True Life: I Binge(d) On Nut Butter

by Sarah on July 25, 2013 · 20 comments

I know in writing this I’m going to offend someone, if not a lot of people, because it feels like being honest in this crazy blog world often opens you up to criticism. I’m not an expert on binging, or overcoming the full-blown DSM disorder, but I needed y’all to hear what I had to say. I wrote this for ME, and for the sake of full disclosure, hoping that maybe some of you can relate. 

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At the end of June, I went up to D.C. to reconnect with Calee, and have dinner with her and Ashley at Founding Farmers. The talk turned, as it always does with bloggers, to food and quirks and our current health or diet quandaries.

And I confessed something to them that I am going to confess to y’all now:

I binge(d) on nut butter.

Even when I was at my most intense level of calorie counting obsession, I would get to 10:00, maybe 10:30, at night, and I would stick my spoon into a jar (or two..or three…)and just go to town.

spoon in a food processor. same idea.

No matter that I had been counting calories all day long, and that I was probably consuming twice as many in 10-15 minutes as I had consumed all day.

Sometimes I would whip up a batch of nut butter late at night just so I could have an excuse to taste it and lick the bowl.

I want to say I had an addiction, but an addict, I believe, would eat it at any time of the day, constantly craving. No, I was a butter binger, meeting--in many ways–the characteristics of binge eating episodes as defined by the DSM.

Usually I would legitimately begin hungry–most likely because I hadn’t been eating enough during the day–but then I would eat that nut butter like it wouldn’t be there tomorrow, until I couldn’t even really taste it any more, and often alone in my kitchen, with guilt plaguing me the next morning.

For years, it seems, I’ve joked about  finding my spoon hitting the bottom of a nut butter jar without me knowing how it happened, but that kind of ‘accident’ happened a lot more often than I would like to admit.

I guess owning your own Nutty Butter business is a bit like someone with no self-control around alcohol working in a bar.

(Although, truthfully, when I was spending entire days whipping up product, I could go the whole time without ever wanting or eating  any at all.)

i also can hold on to the single-serve packets for months (years?) without ever needing to taste them

Do I believe I had full-blown Binge Eating Disorder?

No, I do not.

Although I have had a few instances where I consumed a rather excessive amount of granola at once, I can put away watermelon like you wouldn’t believe, and sugar sometimes makes me do crazy things* around cookies and cake, or eat a whole lot of undercooked cinnamon rolls (in what I now refer to as “The Cinnamon Roll Incident”)–

*Calee wrote a nice post about this.

–I think those had more to do with not eating enough during the day and just lacking some self-control on occasion.

But the ‘butter’ was different.

Ashley wrote a great post–the day we met, actually–about quitting the food that plagues you, just not buying it any more.

So I took her advice and I quit. Cold turkey.*

*OK. After I finished what I had left.

even when i would hide it out of sight, that wouldn't stop me.

I went almost a month with no scoops from the jar, no homemade creations in my food processor, not even a dollop on my oatmeal.

And then I brought it back.

First, I made a Zesty Peanut Dressing, and I licked the spoon, put it in the sink, closed up the jar, and was satisfied with the flavor of the dressing. (I’m not saying I didn’t then eat a whole lot of kale salad covered in it, but it was in the middle of the kitchen at dinner, with my family, and I was hungry.)

Then, the night before my wisdom teeth surgery, I drizzled some creamy nuttiness over the top of my just-before-midnight snack, and that was enough.

And I’ve been eating Almond “Fluff” (from homemade almond milk) with no problem, no desire to keep shoveling it down like a squirrel socking away nuts for the winter.

I made homemade nut butter for the first time in what felt like forever and a day…without binging on it. [And when I made a SECOND batch, I let Mama Smart lick the bowl instead.]

And there have been a few nights when all I wanted was some peanut butter before I went to bed. So I had some. And instead of just zoning out, diving head spoon first into the jar until I’d consumed WAY more than I really wanted, I’m  actually listening to the voice in my head saying, “Are you still enjoying this? That was good, now put it back.”

Will I have a relapse? Will I one day eat too much peanut butter and feel guilty?

Probably.

But, I’m learning to put that spoon down and just….walk away.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

caleeg July 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Yay — first to comment (as long as it doesn’t take me too long to write it, which it might).

1) I think your binging was a side effect of calorie counting. I think many of us that have binge eaten before can attest that it may or may not have started when calorie counting, or when feeling guilty for NOT calorie counting, or when feeling awesome for doing such a great job at it … and then it got out of hand.

2) I think if you don’t think about it (out of sight, out of mind), like you’ve been doing (kind of), you’ll be able to work through this.

3) but if you start banishing it for good, it becomes more appealing and likely you’ll binge on it more. So start little and make some plain-jane-no-sugar peanut butter (or get tahini — that I could never eat out of the jar).

4) Thanks for mentioning that sugar post!

5) A great way to get past your nut butter binging days is to develop an allergy to nuts… NOT. :)

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caleeg July 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

PS if you don’t read, read fit and free with emily and check out her “life of a binge eater” page. And Tina Reale’s story about binge eating. If you offend anybody with confessing that you have a mild form of BED, I might have to smack a bitch.

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Kaila @healthyhelperblog! July 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Good for you for being able to take a break when needed and then introduce it healthily back into your diet. I think we all go through phases where we get obsessed and seemingly ‘addicted’ to certain foods. There is such comfort in food sometimes and it gets hard to resist and just put down. But I think since you are fueling yourself properly now and have stopped with the obsessive calorie counting, your body has reached a level of homeostasis and equilibrium that suits it and doesn’t make you have those our of control feelings. Proud of you Sarah!

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Aly@ReturnToYourRoot July 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I cannot tell you how much I can relate to this post and I just want to thank you for your honesty because I know how hard it can be to admit that these “binges” occur(red). Although I occasionally polished off a jar of PB, my weakness is those raw cookies you can make with dates + nuts. I would make those late at night, convincing myself that I was making them as “gifts” for other people but then end up eating the entire batch. I realized how much of a problem it was and then I, too, ditched PB and those bars for quite some time (at that time I was still obsessing over calorie counting as well).
But then I began learning to enjoy food, ALL food (meat, dairy, and all) in moderation because I learned that there was no point in living my life within such strict perimeters. If I want dressing on my salad, I’ll have dressing on my salad. Ice cream- sure from time to time. Even a good burger deserves to be enjoyed every once in awhile. And then I welcomed PB back into my life, bit by bit, and I can now say it enjoys (or rather, cashew butter now) a comfy space on my shelf.
Up until recently, I thought I was the only one who went through such things and I felt guilty that despite preaching healthy eating I was binging in secret. It brings me a lot of comfort reading this post and knowing that we are all strong and will get through such things together :) Thank you. (P.S. I apologize for writing a novel :P )

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Nicole @ Curly Mommy July 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I certainly hope that no one criticizes you for your honesty. Everyone has issues they deal with, and I’m sure lots of people will feel comfort in knowing they are not alone with this kind of issue. You, ma’am, are super awesome :)

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table July 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I feel you on breaking up with foods. I can’t keep junk food in the house. And I’m now only allowed in a Waffle House the day after a competion or big, big race. Waffle House. I’m that trashy and not ashamed. ;)

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Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut July 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm

No one should be offended by this post!! You’re just sharing your life! :)

It definitely seems like (and it looks like you figured it out) is that you were just SO HUNGRY at the end of the day that you ate the one thing that your body craved…fat and carbs. This is such a common problem…you are definitely not alone!

I’m glad you can eat it now and be okay! It would really stink if you had to banish it forever!!

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diana @ veggienextdoor July 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Nut Butter is a problem food for me too. Just last night, I ate three heaping spoonfuls of Dark Chocolate Dreams, calculated that they had nearly as many calories as my dinner had, and vowed not to buy it anymore after finishing the jar.

I think part of what makes PB such a bingey food is its density. For other foods, 3 to 4 spoonfulls is nothing. For Peanut Butter that can be a significant portion of daily intake.

You are not alone!

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Lindsey @ The Next Course July 25, 2013 at 8:42 pm

So proud of you for (1) Realizing there was a problem (2) Facing it head on (3) Writing this post! Sending you a big hug, my friend :-)

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Liz @ I Heart Vegetables July 25, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Love this post, Sarah! And I’ve BEEN there, the embarrassing moment where the spoon hits the bottom of the jar, and it was half full when you started… It sucks! It sucks feeling like you can’t control it! But I’m glad you were able to get things under control. I miss you!

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Tosha Michelle July 25, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I must say I’m seriously craving any flavor of nutty butter after reading that! During my first years in college I would find myself venturing to the kitchen everynight around 10pm to get a spoonful of peanut butter and a LARGE glass of milk. What started out as a spoonful turned into trying to strategically get half the jar of peanut butter onto ONE spoon – and what started as a semi-skinny freshman turned into a 40 pound heavier sophmore! I too am plagued with this *obsession* good luck to you!!

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Maria July 26, 2013 at 12:42 am

I haven’t had a chance to catch up with you in a while, but from what I see on Instagram (omg, lemon cake) and what I get to read here, I feel like (and assume) you are in a really good place now and for that, I’m so thankful.

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Anoushé July 26, 2013 at 7:53 am

Your post…I feel you! I just finished a jar of nut butter last night ..it took me three days to polish it off (all during late night snacking..). You are right, when you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it! But it’s hard not to keep nut butter in the house..it’s just such a great addition to oatmeal and an easy snack in between meals. It’s funny..when I eat it for breakfast or after dinner I have 0 control..but during the day I can restrict myself..weird. Good luck with your nut butter journey :)

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Melissa @ Treats With a Twist July 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

I think it definitely had to do with restricting calories until you were starving at night…and it became a crutch food because it was “not allowed”.
NOW, I’m SO happy you wrote about this.
After our conversation (when was that??), I did the same thing. I decided no nuts or nut butter for a week. I wasn’t binging like you said you were, but I was constantly thinking “I need a snack, something easy…nuts!” or “oh this tastes great, lets add nut butter to it” until I couldn’t taste any food without feeling like it needed nuts. It was upsetting me that I felt like I had no control anymore. So I gave it all up. And after the first two hard days, it got easier. Since then, I’ve eaten like 3 almonds (they were in a snack bowl while I was having wine at the Peabody with my fiance), and 1/2 tsp. of Nuttzo on a Quest bar. That’s it…in like a week! When I want some, I use a small amount (again, I used to only use 1/2 tsp at a time and that was plenty for me) and only use one kind (no mixing 3 kinds together so I can have them ALL).
Thank you. Love you.

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Brittany @ Delights and Delectables July 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Love this. I have the same problem sometimes. I have found that by allowing myself to have treats of whatever food throughout the day keeps me from binging on it at night. (night time is my problem) However, I agree with you that cutting out the food for a while helps to reset your system and mind!

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Gina @Health, Love, and Chocolate July 29, 2013 at 1:25 am

As always, I love your honesty and how it is always accompanied with optimism. I have been eating way less nut butter lately, not so much because I am keeping myself away form it, but honestly I think I just was eating so darn much of it that my body was like “hey I need a break”. So I suppose it had a similar outcome to taking a break from nut butter, but I am slowly feeling the love again and like you, able to enjoy it in small quantities without need to stick my face in the jar.

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Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli July 31, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I can relate to this so much that I could have written it myself word for word…

What’s crazy is that besides holidays and family get togethers that involved buffets, I never really had a problem with overeating/bingeing until I started calorie counting. I know you know what I’m talking about…I would have what I called a “good day” where I was below my calorie intake and I would feel SO proud of myself but then, late at night before bed I would get hungry. One little bite is all it would take sometimes to set me off. All of a sudden it was a race to eat it all before…before what?! I never really knew. But like you said, most of the time, after those first couple of bites, I would just zone out completely…never even tasting anything after that. And then the guilt would set in. I would vow to be “better” tomorrow…I would hide foods from myself…I would throw foods away…but it never solved anything. Honestly, I think denying myself what I saw to be binge-triggering foods only elevated it’s presence in my mind.

Over the last month or so I’ve seen a HUGE improvement in myself and I’ve had a lot less bingeing episodes. What’s crazy is that most of my healing hasn’t been in the realm of food at all, but in working on self confidence, acceptance, and love. Binges do still happen from time to time, but they’re not as bad as they used to be. In the past, I would see what I was doing, but I still couldn’t stop so I would just eat MORE…basically punishing myself for not having “willpower” slash not being able to regain control. If it happens now, I know it’s usually because I’m upset and trying to find comfort in food or I’m lacking something…usually sleep. It happened today after failing miserably at trying to get a good amount of sleep before work tonight. But the difference is that I can see the why and while my stomach is still upset hours later, I know that that is enough…no need to beat myself up and punish myself more. Each meal is a chance to start new. I will learn from this, move on, and not let it bring me down.

I commend you for having the courage to publish a post like this. I know how hard it can be to admit these things to yourself but I also know how much it helps to “get it out there” and own up to it. Please don’t forget that I am here for you whenever you need me! I miss you girlie! xoxo

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Megan@eatmybeets August 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm

This definitely hits home for me. When I was really into calorie counting, I would also have food binges. Like you, not full diagnosis criteria, but definitely binges. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad that you’ve been able to reintroduce peanut butter. Ending the calorie counting is definitely a step towards ending binging (at least it was for me).

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Laura May 29, 2014 at 1:38 am

I could not have identified myself more with this post. THANK YOU for writing it :)

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Sarah May 29, 2014 at 11:20 am

I’m so glad you found it, and that it is still impacting people in a positive way!

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