I Am That Girl Now

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ignorance Is Bliss

There is a woman whose office is just down the hall from mine who has a giant-sized bowl of candy in her office. At least, she used to. I'm not sure about this anymore because I haven't looked into her office for more than three months now. On the one occasion when I was forced to go looking for her, I actually averted my eyes while I hollered a question from across the hallway.

Lest you think I've gone insane, let me explain. It's the candy. Even when I was being good, my first year on WeightWatchers, I always glanced into her office to see what was there. The bowl is huge, it's in a direct line of sight, and she keeps it full of the kind of single-serving miniature candy bars and M&M bags and whatnot that kids get at Halloween. It is generally understood that those who come to her office get candy.

I'm really not proud of this next part.

For about three months last year, I would sneak into her office when she wasn't there (sadly, there is very little traffic on this end of the floor) and grabbing huge handfuls of candy. Petty thievery: the mark of a binge eater in crazed mode. When my Hub didn't come to the office I'd have a chance to buy my own bags of chocolate miniatures (and inevitably eat the whole bag by the end of the day), but those days were far and few between and in the meantime, I'd resort to making raids on this woman's candy bowl in the morning before she got to work. It rapidly progressed to the point where it wasn't just mornings; I'd keep an eye out for when she went to the bathroom or left for lunch, and pounce the moment she left. Day after day after day.

I can't even begin to explain what the hell I was thinking. I tried to control myself-- every day, I came to work swearing to myself that I wouldn't do it again, not today, and every time I grabbed another handful of candy I swore that this was it for the day, I was done, seriously. And yet I kept going back. The candy sucked me in-- just knowing it was there weakened me, shrivelled my puny willpower like Kryptonite.

I stole candy. Stole it. By my calculations, I think I ate at least $30 worth of candy over those months; I wouldn't have dreamed of walking in and lifting the money from her pocketbook, but candy? Candy, for some reason, I felt entitled to. I never asked for it, because I was The Girl Who Lost Weight-- I'd gone down 60 pounds and everyone in the office knew it and assumed things about me because of it. I couldn't lose face like that. At the same time, I was consumed with fear of being found out-- I mean, oh my God, the humiliation.

I didn't tell anybody about this. This is the first time I've really admitted it; I sort of edged around the story a few weeks back when I was trying to impress upon my Hub just how out-of-control this binging thing could get, and that was as close as I could get. This was my little secret, all those months. Hell, some days it was my reason to come to work in the morning.

Three months of eating candy like that every day will cause a girl to gain some weight-- in my case, ten pounds. Granted, it wasn't just that; I was binging at home, eating rubbish at restaurants, and I had other sources for free crap at the office because every day someone would bring in one of those huge tins of flavored popcorn or candy or cake or cookies and they'd leave them in the kitchen. I was still acting like I was trying to stay on course, eating healthy in front of other people and all, but underneath it all I was losing my mind. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's; one huge crap-athon at Meg's House of Eatin'.

I finally said THAT'S IT, ENOUGH on the second day I wore a pedometer. The first day, I clocked in fewer than 3,000 steps-- since your goal is supposed to be 10,000, I almost died from shock. I started taking the long way around the office when I went to the bathroom, just to add steps; I started getting my water from across the office instead of just down the hall in the kitchen.

That's when it hit me: I could skip the kitchen entirely. I could stop walking past it, and never use it, and then I'd never know if someone had brought free food. They say that knowing is half the battle, but in my case not knowing was key. It worked brilliantly, but the added walking meant that I was going past the Office Of Candy every twenty minutes or so, and my stupid habit-driven head turned every single time to look inside. I didn't go in, but I knew that it was just a matter of time before I'd crack again.

So I took special note of a plant that's on the opposite wall from this woman's office, and every time I walked down the hall I would forcibly turn my head to look at the plant. Every time. Over and over and over again. Because you see, if I don't look in, I don't see the candy. If I don't see the candy, I can't confirm its existance. If I can't confirm its existance, it might not be there. And if it might not be there, I don't have to think about it.

I haven't looked in that office since. Not once. I think I slipped a few times and turned in that direction but remembered in time and shut my eyes before I saw anything. I mean, honestly, that was such an awful period in my life that I just can't take the chance of it happening again.

I feel a little stupid about the fact that I have to do things like this-- that I have to teach myself ridiculous habits in order to keep from losing control. But the thing is, when I'm in a manic binging stage I don't have the extra time and energy to delve into my psyche to try to actually fix the problems properly; at times like that, I'm just trying frantically to STOP. Staunch the bleeding first, then you can sew the wound up, and then it can start to heal.

In the meantime, while I do the work of rebuilding how my brain works, little habits like this are what hold my world together. Not going to the kitchen. Not looking in that office. Drinking my water. Exercising in the morning. Bringing a healthy snack to work. Eating a healthy breakfast. Packing a healthy lunch. Getting 10,000 steps on the pedometer every day. Walking across the Loop on our way to and from work. I screw up so much, so often, but I can chant a list of little victories in my head to comfort myself and keeping myself from despairing, just by rattling off those little habits. The wounds still tear open from time to time, but I think-- I hope-- I'm starting to heal.


  • I job share and thus desk share. After reading your post it has become blindingly obvious to me that I need to re-arrange the drawers so that I never have to open the one in which my desk sharer keeps a tin of biscuits. I never ate biscuits until this job!

    By Anonymous Fran, at 4:16 AM  

  • I just found your blog and have been reading the archives. I have done exactly what you described and worse. I've gone through my co-workers' desks after they have left to search for change for the vending machine. Just last week I went to the receptionist's secret stash of her personal chocolate and took a couple of handfuls, then tried to fold the bag up so it wouldn't be so obvious. I did this not once but twice. If I ever doubt that my eating can be compulsive, I just have to remember humiliating incidents like these.

    By Blogger Michelle, at 4:21 PM  

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