The words eating disorder have a certain ring to them that can make any person cringe. Usually the first thoughts that come to mind is someone who is suuuuuper skinny, yet sees their self as fat or someone who eats a lot and then forces themselves to throw up later. But there is a third condition in the realm of eating disorders: binge eating. The Mayo Clinc defines binge eating disorder as the following:
Sounds scary, right? I suffer from all symptoms listed above. After my post about feeling bullied I spoke with a friend concerning my eating habits. She told me about how she often used to feel the same way and visited a counseling center to deal with her eating. I took note and one fateful Thursday, she made the trip with me to meet with a psychologist, holding my hand the whole way. After the initial appointment, the psychologist suggested that I seek weekly individual counseling with another therapist. The thought terrified me. I made a call to my mother and tried to tell her. Through the unending sobs, I just could not get the words out. I ended up sending her an email to tell her that there was a reason I struggle with food so much. It is because I have an eating disorder.
So, you may be wondering what binge eating disorder looks like. It is hard to sometimes classify binge eating because it usually involves overeating, which so so so many Americans love to do. Is going out to eat with your family binge eating? Can anyone be a binge eater? What classifies someone as a binge eater? These are all questions I desperately seeked answers to, praying that I was just an avid overeater and that I didn’t have an eating disorder. I sought help and am currently receiving it. My questions are being answered, and my body and mind are both in a recovery process.
Here’s my story and what binge eating looks like for me.
I am currently a senior in college and have struggled with food my entire life. I literally have a photo of myself circa 9 years old eating straight from a huge bag of cheetos drinking a 2-liter of soda. Back then, I felt no shame in eating. Now eating has become eating that same bag of cheetos, but adding in a bag of salt and vinegar chips, Doritos, and pretzels and eating every last bite all alone behind closed doors. When I have finally finished and am physically sick to my stomach due to it being so full, I put the empty bags in my backpack, walk down the hallway, and put them down the trash chute. Destroying the evidence. Some nights it might look like getting two combo meals from Cookout, a combo from Taco Bell, an order of nuggets and fries from Chick fil a, then sitting in my parking garage in the farthest corner I can find and eating every single bit of food as fast as my body will allow. Promptly after finishing this binge fest, I get out to throw away the trash, then go find a parking spot closer to my apartment. There have been times that I go into a normal fast food joint, ordering a normal size meal that a normal person would eat. Then after examining who is working behind the counter, I go through the drive through, ordering more food, always ordering two drinks, and making the person taking my order think that there is more than one person that this food is intended. I get to the window and am so overly nice since the kind lady working the register has no idea I was just in there and that she just politely handed me my poison of choice.
Or other times binge eating looks like going out to eat with friends at a sit down restaurant, ordering a normal menu item, and being “too full” to finish, then proceed to hit two fast food stops on my way home to reward myself for not cleaning my plate in front of my friends. Sometimes I hide in my vehicle and eat in shame, other times I hide the food in my backpack, walk through my apartment saying hello to my roommates, then lock the door behind me as I scarf down more food than my body can handle before my roomies knock on my door wanting to chat. I tell them to hold on while I change clothes, trying so hard to hide the bags in my closet. This is binge eating.
Usually on binge days, I sit in class daydreaming about what I’m going to eat afterwards. The thought of food consumes my mind sometimes and my mind is always wondering when my stomach will gets its next fix. When I do binge, I feel out of control. Even when I eat past the point of sickness, my brain won’t tell my hands to stop going to my mouth. I reach a fullness capacity and still refuse to put the food down.
I have wonderful friends, a great boyfriend, magnificent parents, and I am enjoying my senior year of college. My ducks are all in order. I don’t hide in my bedroom or my car because I’m weird and anti-social because I’m not. I do it because I’m ashamed. If a skinny person ate two huge combos by themselves, they and others would joke around and loosely use the term “fatty”. But if a fat person like me was seen doing the exact same thing, words would go unspoken, and judgments would filter the air. As long as no one can see me indulge in my overpowering food desires, then they don’t know that I do. Hiding is part of the shame.
Food fills my stomach and body until I get physically ill, sometimes throwing up. Not because I purge myself like a bulimic, but simply because my body needs to spit out the excess that I consumed in under 10 minutes. I end up staring at my wrappers, empty boxes, and crumbs and feeling disgusted, guilty, and discouraged. Usually a multitude of tears follow and I crawl into bed praying that morning comes so I can forget the negative and hateful feelings that flood my mind. Being fat isn’t fun. Being a binge eater is even worse. I am addicted to something that surrounds me constantly. Food.
I make a conscious effort to avoid the scale at all costs on binge days. The number is only an ordinal to the level of unhappiness my body feels on the inside. A number isn’t important at that point. My weight loss goals aren’t important. I’m not important. What is important at that point is food. On non-binge days I hop on the scale crossing my fingers and toes that the number will be acceptable to me. If not, it usually induces me into a binge state. In my mind I know what it takes to lose weight. I know that eating a great diet and being more active will get me the results I want. But sometimes when my mind is focusing on a binge, it doesn’t think logically. I know what it takes. After all, I have lost 57 pounds before and felt good doing it. I can be that person again.
Binge eating disorder is a real thing and it shakes me to my core. Now, there are some days that I don’t binge at all and don’t even have the thought of a binge. Other days I don’t binge at all and fight all day for the accomplishment of saying I did not binge. And of course other days I binge with regret, guilt, and disappointment. Most recently, I made it 22 days without a binge. But food got the best of me.
So, to treat my eating disorder, I meet once a week with my therapist. We sit in a room with big comfy chairs facing each other. He doesn’t write anything down, but all of our sessions are both filmed and recorded. I always have a box of tissues next to me ready to wipe any tears that never fail to make an appearance. We talk, he asks me questions, and I answer as honestly as possible. I get real, I get raw, and I get emotional. I say things that have been hidden and suppressed for so long and I do not receive judgement. It is such a liberating feeling to freely express my addiction and disorder with someone whose primary concern is to help me heal and recover from it. I always leave counseling with a huge weight off my shoulders. The past three weeks have been great, and like I said, I made it 22 days without a binge.
Over the next couple of months, I will be sharing random tidbits of what I learn in therapy and how I am recovering from my eating disorder in addition to my regular postings about becoming a runner and losing weight. A long road definitely lies in front of me, but I hope that by being honest and real here on my blog that people will know who I really am and that will encourage me not to hide my shame and guilt. Maybe some of you are struggling just like I was/am. Please know that you are not in this alone and that there are people and resources there willing to help you. I may have an eating disorder, but an eating disorder does not have me.