– TRIGGER WARNING –
I’ve been putting off writing about this hack for awhile. This one is difficult to admit. Food, weight, and control are some of my biggest triggers, and here they are in one embarrassing life hack.
Let me start at the beginning: I’m on a number of medications, including antipsychotics. I take them at night, but there’s this twilight hour (sometimes longer) between the time the meds kick in and the time I fall asleep that is hell. All I think about is food, and my self-control disappears. If that twilight zone lasts too long, it goes into a cycle of binging and purging. I eat tons of stuff that I don’t even really like, and then Ctrl + z my stomach by puking. Again, and again, and again until I fall asleep.
To make matters worse, I eat in my sleep. There have been times when I wake up with half-eaten food in my bed and I have no idea how it got there. Chips, crackers, tortillas… even frozen (!) lobster ravioli. When the sun comes up, it shines on crumbs, shame, guilt, and one hell of a stomach ache.
I’ve tried everything to stop. Brushing my teeth, chewing gum, chewing wax, whitening my teeth, drinking water, drinking Diet Coke, taking my pills later, taking my pills earlier, mints, low-calorie snacks, trying to just say no, self-injury, eating more during the day, eating less during the day, “thinspiration,” positive thinking, negative thinking, eating acidic foods so it hurts to purge, journaling, art… this is only a portion of the list. And you know what it did?
When I lived at college, I just didn’t keep any food in the room, but when I moved back in with my parents, I couldn’t control the pantry. However, when I moved into a new space with my boyfriend, I decided to accept the side effect and admit that I needed a stronger barrier than what my tired mind could provide.
And that’s where the bicycle lock comes in. I’ve designated one cabinet as a secure snack space. I put all of the foods I’m most likely to binge on or sleep-eat. It’s mostly dark chocolate (I have a small piece every night before I go to bed), high-carb food, desserts, and salty snacks. If it doesn’t fit in the cabinet, I only buy small portions. During the day, I leave the cabinet open. I only binge after I’ve taken my meds. Before I go to bed, I lock the cabinet and hand the key to my boyfriend P, who hides it somewhere around the house. Sleep-me can’t find the key, and awake-me often settles for a low-cal snack or just gives up. There’s something about removing temptation that sets me free and relieves stress. I don’t have to put so much effort into self-control if binging isn’t even an option. When P wakes up, he unlocks the cabinet or tells me where the key is.
The process started out as humiliating:
“I’m so pathetic that I have to lock my food up?”
“What does P think? I’m so embarrassed.”
“I’m a failure.”
But somewhere along the way, I realized that it’s not really me who’s binging. That’s Seroquel-me, not regular me. It’s not something I could really control even if I tried. There have been so many studies about gaining weight on antipsychotics and other psychiatric medications. If this is something I have to do to counteract Seroquel-me, I shouldn’t be embarrassed.
There are a few problems with this system. You can’t live alone (who would hide the key?). If you live with a lot of other people, they might not be happy about locking food up. It’s harder to lock fridges and freezers. Your roommate could forget where they hid the key. If you have guests, it could be embarrassing for them to see locks on the cabinets (I use a bicycle lock to prevent this- I take it off and no one is any the wiser). But who knows? It might work for you.