Content Warning: Eating Disorders, Depression, COVID-19
Ever since I was a little girl, I questioned my eating habits and why it seemed as though I were obsessed with food. It was a rabbit hole that I found myself falling deeper and deeper into without really understanding anything. All I knew was that food helped me feel better whenever I was upset, but it also made me feel out of control. I always knew about eating disorders because they were talked about a lot throughout middle and high school, but none of them ever “fit” what I was going through.
After much research about my habits, I realized that I had potentially been struggling with Binge Eating Disorder (also known as BED) for many years without realizing it, never receiving the proper help. I thought I would feel a bit relieved about knowing what could be “wrong” with me, but I felt even more confused and upset over my habits. It took me so long, but I have finally found peace with myself at 24 and I’m ready to share my story with the world despite this growing fear.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is an extremely serious eating disorder where one frequently consumes an unnaturally large amount of food despite not feeling hungry and feeling as though they’re unable to stop eating. It’s now recognized as an actual diagnosis. Though most people overeat on occasion (think eating a whole pizza to yourself), those with BED can find that it feels like they’re out of control with their excessive overeating and it becomes this habit of regular occurrences. That’s what crosses the line from overeating to binge-eating disorder.
Those with BED might feel embarrassed about overeating and make promises to themselves about stopping, but there’s this compulsion that one can’t resist binging and it continues. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), almost 2% of people worldwide are affected by binge eating disorder.
It’s important to note that I’ve just barely scratched the surface of Binge-Eating Disorders and there is so much information out there that can truly help. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website for more information.
When I realized…
I always felt like something was wrong with me. I never felt “normal” with how much I ate despite feeling full and how I felt like a zombie when doing it. It wasn’t until my final year at my community college that I realized that all of my symptoms were an eating disorder and not just me being “fat” and “unable to control myself.” I never reached out after doing my research because I was scared to know what other people thought of how much I was suffering. It just didn’t feel right to me because I always thought, “I can’t have an eating disorder. I’m not thin.” That was a mindset that took me a long time to get through, only breaking through it when I was officially diagnosed by a doctor with Binge-Eating Disorder.
One of the main things to help with BED is reaching out for help, but I was too afraid to do such things. How could I reach out to a therapist and casually mention to them that I “just can’t stop eating” when I silently struggled for years? So I didn’t go. My fear of therapists is quite irrational and I knew I was being silly because this was the best step forward. Just being diagnosed with BED was enough to send me running and I didn’t step foot in a doctor’s office for two years after that, because I knew doctor offices triggered me. I highly don’t recommend running away.
But it was starting to get harder and harder to live with BED.
This disorder was starting to take over my life in a way that I never thought would happen. I found that my binging had gotten worse from just once every other week or when I was overly stressed to once a week no matter how I felt. I’d binge when I’m happy, sad, angry, tired and every mood in between. It was a really frustrating time. The only thing that I think helped was when I barely had groceries in my first year at UCF and it only made sense because I thought, “If I don’t have groceries, then there’s no way I can binge!” Instead of getting the help I needed, I turned to a toxic lifestyle that only caused me to binge more since I would go all day without eating until I snapped and purchased delivery at midnight. This turned my once-a-week binging into an everyday occurrence that I could no longer ‘control.’
That was over three years ago. My struggle with my self-image and depression has gotten worse since then, as well as my binging. It doesn’t help that COVID-19 trapped me in my home with family where I couldn’t act out my compulsions, which would be seen as good if it didn’t make my emotions spiral. There’s a study that those who are fat are more susceptible to catching COVID-19, which I didn’t believe at first until I found myself in the hospital near the end of January this year. It was definitely a scary time and the feeling of being unable to breathe made me question every decision in my life as I thought I wasn’t going to make it.
But I feel like I was given a second chance from the nurses and doctors that checked up on me regularly. It had taken me a few weeks to feel better, but it seemed as though everything fell into place once I did. Maybe a near-death experience was what I needed to get over my fear of reaching out for help and trying to get my health in gear.
It isn’t easy though.
Taking control and trying to recover.
Old habits die hard. That’s especially true for eating disorders that have gone years being ignored without therapy. It wasn’t easy to start this new “way,” so I threw away everything I knew about dieting and started slowly.
It’s been three weeks since my mom and I started waking up at five in the morning to take hour walks, and the change of pace was a welcoming one. Our eating habits changed drastically, which is something I still struggle with. I’m fine with drinking just water and going on walks or working out, but my relationship with food is one that I continue to find difficult. We’re not “dieting,” but we’re eating much healthier and in portions. It’s just that sometimes my BED hits me hard on some days where all I want to do is hide away in my room and binge. Those intrusive thoughts are always there that I have randomly burst into tears from the frustration of not being “strong enough” to control myself, which is what I was told. Don’t tell someone with an eating disorder to control themselves.
My recovery isn’t all bad though! I have a friend I reach out to whenever I’m feeling at my worst and she helps remind me of my worth despite those thoughts. I have also ordered two amazing books on binge eating to help me with my recovery as I wait to find the perfect therapist to help me. Self-help books are a great place to start when trying to recover because you’ll learn more about the disorder and this will help you figure out how to tackle it. The Binge Eating Prevention Workbook by Gia Marson and Danielle Keenan-Miller is one of the books I’ve purchased, and though I’ve barely started in it, I’ve found that it’s been extremely helpful during my recovery process.
Another thing that has helped me with trying to control my eating disorder is by eating filling meals that include a lot of protein and vegetables. Chicken salads and omelets are my favorite meals. It’s strange to talk about food in such a positive way, but it feels almost empowering. Though I have my days where the need to binge is very strong and almost unbearable, I’m proud of myself for not binging every day or even once a week. My binges come out of nowhere now sadly as I don’t “feel” when they’re about to come, but I’ve learned to quickly talk myself out of a mental battle with myself after these moments. This has really helped me with my self-esteem and love for myself.
However, I know that these are temporary fixes. I’m still struggling with the idea of reaching out to a therapist, but I have been searching for one that fits my needs. That’s my last piece of advice. Find a therapist that you can trust to help you with the process of trying to recover from your eating disorder. It’s a very long, exhausting and tedious change of life that can almost feel like it’s never going to work, but it will with the right kind of help. Even if you have to go through five therapists before you find the perfect one, it’s imperative that you don’t give up because this is your life and you only have one.
If you feel that you or someone you know is suffering from Binge-Eating Disorder, please don’t ever feel ashamed to reach out for help; it’s important to understand that it’s a serious illness that deserves the right kind of treatment. After ignoring my issue for many years and blaming my “habits” on being overweight, I realized that did nothing but make the problem worse for myself mentally and physically. It’s imperative that you understand that what works for me might not work for another person. This is a scary journey that I have decided to embark on, but it’s one that is necessary for me to feel better mentally and physically.
Do you think you might be suffering from an eating disorder? The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has a free and confidential screening to help you determine what your next steps might be or you can always call the NEDA helpline.