In December last year I came to a stark realisation about my life. I am a Binger.
I was listening to the audio-book of The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store narrated by the author, Cate Flanders. A few chapters into the book, something clicked. I am a self-confessed Binge Consumer.
I have had a binge mindset about nearly everything in my life that I love, at one point or another.
When I was a kid I used to binge-eat so much junkfood all the time – explaining those extra few pounds of chubby.
I would binge-read books and stay up until 2/3/4/5 even 6 am on a school day – and still manage to go to class and even write exams.
When I got a computer for the first time, I became a binge-gamer and I would play Harry Potter and Sims for my entire summer vacation – a stark contrast to the year before when my sister and I would bike and swim and stay out until the sun set every day.
The same thing happened when I discovered fanfiction and I became glued to my Blackberry, reading about the HP characters – long after the books stopped coming. This was while I had a job and I would read even during my lunch breaks or when I had nothing else to do.
When I got my first boyfriend I was utterly consumed by him. I would spend the time I wasn’t with him, talking to him on BBM Messenger – no wonder he got sick of me so quickly!
When I got to university and had uncapped wifi, my bingeing turned to series and YouTube. I would be glued to the screen 24/7. Even while studying or doing homework a show would play in the background.
The beginning of uni was a bit difficult for me and I also dabbled in some old habits of eating my feelings and gaming. Every now and then I would go out with friends and drink a little too much and have a puff of someone’s cigarette.
I am very very lucky that my addictive personality didn’t get me into trouble when it comes to alcohol or drugs. I was overly cautious and I wouldn’t cross that line. TV shows and cake lasted a lot longer anyways so I was sorted.
I realised I’m also a binge shopper. When I set foot in a store I will just buy everything I want in the moment. As soon as everything gets home it is packed away and I don’t use at least half of everything I purchase.
Just a few weeks prior I impulsively bought a whole bunch of stationery online and I didn’t tell my best friend about it, because I felt ashamed about my lack of self control.
All of these scenarios played themselves out in my head, one after the other, and pretty soon I felt like I was suffocating. I have consumed and consumed everything from food to games to TV-shows, all in an attempt to fill some sort of void that I was feeling.
Each time it was probably a little bit different, but there has always been the constant obsessive behaviour. I needed to do something about the addictions that were creeping back in again, and quickly!
These were all unhealthy habits in one form or another and the only way I saw to change them was to stop doing them altogether.
In Grade 9 or 10 I stopped eating all junk food other than ice cream and chocolate. I eventually stopped craving sweet and salty food and I was happy eating healthier meals and snacks. (I fell off the wagon in university, but at least I know it’s possible to beat the addiction to junk)
I thought the only way to not game all the time was to stop gaming altogether. So in my second year of uni I deleted all the games off my computer and I haven’t looked back.
I thought it was all or nothing with everything. And some of the things I binge on, I really do love. I didn’t want to give them all up, or I wouldn’t have any more coping mechanisms left.
One of the greatest lessons I learned during these years is that whenever you’re thinking of binging, it’s usually because some part of you or your life feels like it’s lacking—and nothing you drink, eat, or buy can fix it. I know, because I’ve tried it all and none of it worked. Instead, you have to simplify, strip things away, and figure out what’s really going on. Falling into the cycle of wanting more, consuming more, and needing even more won’t help. More was never the answer. The answer, it turned out, was always less.Cait Flanders
A week or so after reading The Year of Less, I stumbled across The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I know I’m probably a few years late, but it was just in time so I could watch her Netflix series when it came out in January.
I immediately Konmari’d my room in South Africa and did the same in Dubai. I wasn’t entirely successful at only keeping things that sparked joy because most of my winter clothes hadn’t been worn in so long, they felt like they belonged to strangers. I didn’t think it was fair to donate them all until I made the move to Australia. I needed to live through another cold winter or two again in the clothes, and then decide which ones would be better off donated.
Halfway through my decluttering of my room, I realised I had built up a good amount of digital clutter too. I can probably write a whole post about all the spaces online, on my phone and on my computer that I went through and decluttered. Reading those two books really changed my outlook on life.
It really helped to get rid of some of the suffocation I was feeling. And my family even started to change along with me. At first they were upset that I was donating so many of my belongings, but eventually they supported me and even thanked me when it leaked into the rest of their lives.
When my best friend was over at my house we Konmari’d the medicine cabinet and got rid of nearly 3/4 of it because it had all expired. We also did the pantry and a few more cupboards. Seeing how much we ended up wasting by not being mindful about our purchases was really a wake-up call for everyone.
The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.Marie Kondo
Another great experience was when we moved into the new house and we had to buy new furniture and appliances. We were extremely mindful about all of the purchases and everything matches and goes along with our theme.
This was something I have been wanting to do in my own life when it comes to my clothes and the things I surround myself with. My shopping binges are usually so haphazard that I end up with a mishmash of things that don’t belong together and then I don’t know how to wear them.
This particular problem is aided with making lists and sticking to them. I don’t want to buy a bunch of clutter again. Now that my room is finally more organised it is so much easier to see what I don’t need and what I do. I can make the decision at home and write it down before I set foot in the store. Only buying what you need, instead of what you want (in the moment) is a much more mindful way of shopping.
My binge eating has also been controlled again. I decided to follow a vegan diet as soon as I arrived in Australia nearly two months ago. It has really brought me back to a place where I think about everything before I eat it. When I was a vegetarian I really stopped caring about what I ate entirely. Milkshakes, cakes, pizzas, they were all vegetarian so it didn’t really matter how much I ate of them. I didn’t realise how wrong I was.
I’m mildly lactose intolerant and I have never been a dairy lover, until I went vegetarian in 2016. Then I couldn’t get enough of dairy. Cheese and mayonnaise were like drugs. And eggs too. I would never eat eggs more than once a month before. Eating as a vegetarian I became addicted to eggs and I could eat them every day for a week. It was ridiculous. I even made myself sick a few times. Deep fried mac and cheese balls, a milkshake, a cappuccino, and a bit of cake, all in the span of five hours… it didn’t end well and let’s leave it at that.
I finally realised that I was hiding behind the fact that the things I was eating were vegetarian and I pretended that my binges didn’t count. I wasn’t eating McNuggets and KFC anymore, so it wasn’t that unhealthy. It was probably worse. I consumed so much dairy and sugar and even salt over my two years being a vegetarian, it probably made up for the 4ish years that I stopped.
Making the decision to become vegan was also a decision to become more mindful about what I put in my mouth. I automatically started eating more vegetables again. I wanted to add something green to every meal without really realising it. I still have the occasional chocolate and ice cream, but I don’t wake up in the middle of the night to go raid the fridge anymore. I wake up early for yoga and breakfast. I pack healthier snacks to class. It was almost effortless after the initial detox symptoms.
Whenever you let go of something negative in your life, you make room for something positive.Cait Flanders
Slowly but surely it has dawned on me that the cure for bingeing is mindfulness. When I make an effort to think about how I am spending my time I end up making a better decision. An hour of yoga makes me feel so much better than the same hour just watching a show.
I have started using Forest and Pomodoro again to concentrate on my studies. I am only allowed to watch shows or read during my breaks and before bed. I stumble every now and then but I’m slowly building the habit, day by day.
I stopped watching series just for the sake of watching them. We all know there are some shows that just get horrible eventually and you can almost predict that season will be their last. I stopped watching shows that I didn’t enjoy anymore. My series tracker, TV Time, has a nifty feature where you can just swipe to the left and never be notified of a new episode again.
I used to feel obligated to watch the entirety of a show from the first to last episode and it’s a huge relief to give myself permission to stop. To just stop being that person and to stop wasting my time on things that don’t spark joy.
I am now reading one book at a time and finishing them quicker than ever. I would read three or five at once and the ones I didn’t really want to finish would drag on beside the others. I don’t finish books that I don’t like anymore. It’s a waste of time. I don’t feel guilty for putting a book back on the shelf anymore or giving it to someone who will actually enjoy enjoy it.
I’ve never felt so… light.Cassandra Clare
I really cannot express how sincerely grateful I am that I stumbled upon these two books. It’s not the first time (and hopefully not the last) that a book changes my life for the better.
Until next time
Take care Inklings!