I recently searched “binge eating” on Twitter to see what I was going to find and I came across this extremely informative article that discusses what everyone should know about Binge Eating Disorder. It’s one of those phrases people throw around casually (“Oh my god I totally binged on a bag of chips and a package of cookies last night.”). And most people don’t really understand the seriousness of it because everyone overeats and feels guilty about it at some point in their lives so binge eating is normal and okay to do right?
I beg to differ.
Binge eating disorder is another level, a whole different extreme. It’s a disorder. It’s an eating disorder. It’s actually the most common eating disorder in the U.S. If you didn’t click on the link above, or if you did and decided the article was too long (I really hope that wasn’t the case), I’ve summarized the main points in the article as well as elaborated on my story a bit. I feel it is so very important for people to see what binge eating disorder is in order to bring awareness and understanding to something that 3 to 5 percent of women suffer from.
Approximately 57% of binge eating disorder sufferers never receive treatment. This breaks my heart. Especially since the recovery rate is higher than recovery from anorexia or bulimia. I can absolutely understand why the majority of those suffering don’t receive treatment because that was me for almost 2 years.
My journey has been, and still is, complicated.
When I first began binge eating, the spring of 2014, I thought it was something I could totally stop cold turkey. I would tell myself, “That was my last binge ever.” “I can do this on my own.” “I will stop soon-when I want to.”
A part of me didn’t realize how abnormal my behavior was, I didn’t realize I needed help because at first it wasn’t that bad.
So what, I’d go to City Convenience and buy a package of cookie dough and eat the entire thing in one sitting, or I would go to Insomnia Cookies and buy myself a cookiewich (ice cream sandwiched in between 2 cookies). But I deserved it. I had dieted for 16 weeks for a bikini competition and now I had nothing to work towards.
I had no one expecting anything of me.
I was alone.
Very soon my binges spiraled out of control. A package of cookie dough or a cookiewich weren’t enough. I wanted both. And then I wanted something salty to eat afterwards. And then I wanted more and more and more.
I wanted to fill myself up to the point where I couldn’t eat anymore. I wanted to be totally and completely full. Or else it wouldn’t be enough. I would be disappointed.
These are all traditional characteristics of binge eating disorder, things that make my behavior abnormal. Not only did the amount of food I ate escalate, but so did the frequency of my binges. It went from once a week, to twice a week, to every few days, to every day. It was becoming a habit. But there were also days (almost full weeks) that went by where I didn’t binge. I had a calendar on my wall where I would mark a smiley face in blue pen on the days I didn’t binge. I felt so proud when I got to draw that face and so guilty and disappointed when I didn’t.
Another reason I didn’t seek treatment, or did seek it and then stopped, was because binge eating doesn’t completely disrupt my life.
I’d say I’m a functional binge eater.
When I was binge eating while at school I still showed up to class, I got good grades, I hung out with my friends, I made it to my club meetings. I binged through senior events, graduation, getting a new job. I did what I had to do and didn’t drop the ball on any of it. I was making it work.
My life was fine.
But it wasn’t. After suffering completely alone, in shame, loneliness and isolation for a few months, I realized recovery was harder than just saying, “I’m never going to binge again.” I knew something bigger and deeper was going on. Why would I make myself feel so sick with food, so full and bloated and disgusted and then do it over and over again? I knew I needed professional help. So I looked up a kind, wonderful woman who had experience with eating disorders. She was my therapist and I saw her for a few months. I also went to a nutritionist and I saw a psychiatrist, all at the same time, but something didn’t feel right. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t ready to get better, or because I didn’t believe I could get better, or something else, but I stopped going. I told myself it was too expensive, that I was still binging so it wasn’t working, that I could get better on my own. Again, like most of society, I didn’t recognize the seriousness of the situation. I didn’t recognize how horrible and awful and depressed I felt. I watched Youtube videos to try and get help, I read an amazing book called Brain Over Binge, which I totally got because I am a Neuroscience major, and I thought I would get better on my own again. But none of that worked for me. I now think it was because I didn’t fully comprehend that my binge eating has to do with my emotions and my feelings.
There is nothing wrong with me.
I am not a problem that needs to be fixed. I just deal with my emotions in a different way. I seek fulfillment from food rather than from friends, family, a good book, or writing. But I would have never realized this on my own. I think I read about this before, I’m sure my therapist had mentioned it, but it had to be coming from the right person at the right time for it to really sink in. Even with all of the knowledge I have gained in the past few months, all of the amazing, empowering conversations I have, and rituals I do, I am still struggling with binge eating. It definitely gets worse before it gets better but I am borrowing other’s faith in order to find the strength, positivity and power to keep moving forward.