I spent the day filming at a dumpling festival in Brooklyn. It was all going fine until I started to get bored and think about cake. Before I even knew what was happening, I had abandoned my crew and was trolling around Whole Foods, looking for carrot cake.
Before I found the cake, I found the free samples of something called “carmelita” bars. I had known this was coming, because all the previous night I had been thinking about Whole Foods carrot cake. But I hadn’t given into my urge. I had stuffed it down into me along with every other emotion in my life.
I bought my cake and a carmelita bar and made the three-block walk back to the dumpling festival. Having that sugar in my hands made me feel like a crazy crack addict. By this time, I knew there was no stopping what was about to happen.
I tried to be nice and share some with my team, but I downed pretty much the whole carrot cake myself. I tried to convince myself I had it under control, but that’s really never the case.
When I got home, I decided to go to a different Whole Foods that was close to my apartment to get salad supplies. This was my ritual. Go on a binge of eating terrible foods, then attempt to make myself feel better by buying truckloads of green vegetables. That’s not exactly how things played out this time however.
As soon as I walked into the doors of the Columbus Circle Mall, I remembered there was a Godiva chocolate store on the first floor. I walked there so fast! When I start a binge, it’s always fast movements. I can’t allow time for my brain to realize what’s going on. There can’t be time for rational thought.
I managed to contain myself somewhat and to settle for a small piece of cookies-and-cream candy bark. It really wasn’t even that good. But of course I ate the whole thing anyway. By now, I was trying to talk myself down. “You feel like a moose. Walk away from the chocolate store. Go down to Whole Foods and get your truckload of vegetables.”
I kept repeating this plan in my mind. But, as soon as I got downstairs, all bets were off. I walked right over to the baked goods section to see if there were any samples out. Samples don’t have calories! They’re small and free!
There were no samples out, so I rallied my thoughts and walked over to the pre-cut dessert section. I picked up an apple crumb bar and a peanut butter death bar (or something like that) and went to the register. (In these moments, I always feel so transparent, as if everyone around me can see my boobs and butt getting bigger and feel how out of control my energy is.)
As I approached the register, I could see that the lines were WAY too long. This just wouldn’t do. There would be way too much time wasted waiting in line, forcing me to think too long and too hard about what I was doing to myself–or, even worse, why I was doing this to myself.
I abandoned my basket of desserts, but it was too late to go home now. My self-destruction switch was turned on. I knew that, unless I got hit by a truck crossing the street to the Bread Factory, nothing was going to stop me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get hit by a truck. I made it into the Bread Factory, and I was overwhelmed with choices. At one point, I even considered pizza. But I finally decided on a slice of baklava (which was as big as my head), and, at the last minute, I threw in a piece corn bread. Like, really??? What the fuck with the cornbread??? I don’t even really like cornbread. Well, at least not without chili.
Leaning over a garbage can shoving baklava in my face on the corner of 54th and 9th, I made a desperate attempt to regain control. I decided to try to end this madness by calling my sister to see if I could home for the night.
She was supportive and comforting, but she couldn’t relate to how powerless I was feeling. She told me I could find the power within to put it down and stop myself. But, if I really needed to come home, I could.
I finished the Greek dessert I can’t spell and headed for home, feeling sick and (almost) defeated. I began to feel extremely guilty that, earlier that day, I had been filming at a charity event whose mission was to end hunger in New York City. At least it was safe to say that they had one fewer New Yorker to worry about.
Looking back, I can see that I was in a fight with myself. I had one Sarah trying to kill me with carbohydrates and another Sarah trying to save me by getting me to a safe place.
Luckily, Saving Sarah was shining stronger. I knew I had to get on the bus and get to my sister. The only way I was going to stop myself was to get on a bus home.
I Googled the bus schedule and saw I had 49 minutes to make it to Port Authority for the next bus. I could do it. This was my way out, my escape for myself. I rushed over to 6th Avenue from Columbus Circle through a street festival. I was so thrilled I didn’t have cash on me, because, if I had, I most certainly would have stopped and bought a soft vanilla waffle cone or a burger or both.
I ran into my building and started throwing shit into my book bag. I really needed only the essentials: ear plugs, my retainers, my pajamas, and my anti-depressants. (Can’t forget those. Clearly they were working miracles on my ability to function normally.)
I dashed out the door and started walking as fast as humanly possible (well, as fast I could without throwing up) to Port Authority. As I passed all the wonderful shops, I thought, “If I only had time to stop! So many more places to get more food!” Thank goodness I was on a time restriction.
I got to the station in time, bought my ticket, and had about 12 minutes to spare. I couldn’t help myself. All the rationality and control I had left inside me was used up to get me to the station. So, with my 12 minutes, I went to the news stand and bought peanut butter cups, a Snickers, a Twix, and two gossip magazines. I almost bought an Oprah “O” magazine in a desperate attempt to find answers as to why I was doing this to myself. But I figured not even Oprah could help me right now.
My mom happened to call while I was buying my candy. I was sure my sister had already filled her in on what was going on, so I told her the truth about what I was doing and why I was getting on a bus to come home.
She said, “This is what happens when you restrict yourself too much.”
I spoke, holding back tears. “This has nothing to do with my healthy diet. I do this to myself because I don’t like myself.” I almost couldn’t believe what had come out of my own mouth. It was the truth. I had just never verbalized it before
There was a pause. Then she responded, “Well, now that you know this, what are you going to do about it?”
She had said it in the most loving way possible, and it’s the question I needed to be asked. But, unfortunately, I didn’t have an answer for her.
I stuffed those thoughts down with my candy and took another bite of the Snickers bar. As I went to open the Twix, I started to panic about running out of food and having to face what I had just done to myself. To avoid this, I quickly got into line at Auntie Ann’s Pretzels to order one plain pretzel and two cheese dips. (What can I say? I had the urge to end the splurge with something salty.)
As I took my remaining goodies to the bus, I continued opening the candy, taking one bite of things and throwing the rest away. My goal was not to have any food on the bus with me. After all, what was the point of getting on the fucking bus. To stop myself! You can’t buy food or get food delivered on a moving bus. It was the best logic I could come up with at the time.
I savored every single bite of that pretzel with cheese (well, as much as you can savor something in about two and a half minutes), ditched the wrappers, and got on the bus. I was actually shocked. I didn’t really feel that sick. I probably could have physically eaten more. Clearly no amount of food was going to fill the void I was searching to fill.
I now had two hours and 45 minutes to think about what I just done to myself. It was a long ride with my thoughts. I knew my escape home was only temporary, because tomorrow night I would be heading back to New York City, and the process of digging myself out of yet another hole would begin again.
When would I be able to admit that I was running away from something that’s impossible to get away from?