by Lori Blough, Writing/Publishing Intern (2013)
I’m actually more than fat. I’m morbidly obese. And I have an eating disorder. I’m not anorexic or even bulimic, though the heavens know I certainly prayed for that in my early teens, as awful as that sounds. I would have rather had some disease, some cancer, some tapeworm, than to be what I was, what I was becoming.
Often, binge eating is depicted in the media as a woman (though approximately 40% of binge eaters are men) raiding her refrigerator and cabinets alone, pulling out everything and eating it all in a sudden rush until she is breathless, sobbing by the end. And while that certainly happens, please understand that it isn’t the only way to binge. That isn’t how it happens for me. Instead, I usually do it in the context of a single meal. And I can even do it in public – in a restaurant.
Binge Eating Disorder, previously often diagnosed as EDNOS (Eating Disorder Otherwise Not Specified) had no official title for a long time. But in May of this year, the American Psychiatric Association will release the updated version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-V. And this year, finally, the APA has recognized and added BED to its eating disorder directory. The hope is that this change will allow more people access to appropriate care for their eating issues.
The DSM-V will characterize BED as eating an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time, often alone, to the extent of feeling uncomfortably full at least once a week for three months. Binges are associated with a feeling of being out of control or other distress, and often result in feelings of remorse, shame, guilt, or disgust.
An important difference to note here is that binge eaters do not purge, or exercise it off, or take laxatives. It’s not even that we simply overeat. We binge.
I have been on diets. I’ve been on all of them: the blood type diet, the menstrual cycle diet, the one where you drink shakes, and all of the low-fat, low-carb, low-cal, low flavor ones. I have aerobicized, jazzercized, and even Zumba-ed. I have counted all of the calories-in and calories-out and measured and weighed and stuck sticky notes on all the mirrors. This time, I can do it! This time, it’s about being healthy!
But diets don’t work – at least not for me, not in 30 years of trying. Dieting for me was always about being “good enough.” If I could eat the right amount, the right food, then someone might love me. But I was always miserable and hungry, in pain from torturing myself on some gym machine, and so incredibly depressed every time I looked at yet another plate full of salad (no dressing). And for what? Fifty pounds gone, sixty pounds gone, and yet I’m still…fat.
So I binge.
I binge when I’m depressed – no surprise. I binge in order not to feel the things that I ought not to feel, like sadness, anger, and humiliation. But I also binge in order not to feel the things that I don’t deserve to feel, like joy, love, and pride. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I’m embarrassing and ugly, that I should not be seen in public, that I don’t deserve respect or love, and that everyone is allowed to hate me because I’m disgusting. I’m unattractive. I’m unfuckable. I know that. I have believed that in my very soul.
I binge so that I don’t have to feel anything.
I know that the guilt and the shame are ahead, and that’s okay, because at least I deserve that. Even when I hit that first level of fullness, I know I’m going to keep going, because I deserve so much more. I deserve all the pain I can get.
I get so full that it actually hurts a little and there I am, finished at last. But it isn’t finished, because half an hour later, the pain really hits, and I’m sick, and I want to throw up, but I can’t and I won’t because this, this, this is what I wanted when I started. To feel nothing.
The physical pain kills it all, and I’m riding high on a numb bubble, and for now, just for a while, maybe an hour or so, I don’t feel hate or shame or disgust or sadness or joy because there’s only room for pain. And that I can handle.
But it didn’t have to be that way. As it turns out, I wasn’t alone.
This past February wasEating Disorder Awareness month. Coincidentally, it was also my one-year anniversary of living binge free; I haven’t binged in one full year. Just over a year and a half ago I had finally reached the end of my rope. I was bingeing almost every day and having anxiety attacks. I barely left my house. My family was concerned, but didn’t know how to help me. On Mother’s Day, my mother asked me for only one gift: that I would talk to my doctor about my depression and anxiety.
So I went to my doctor and poured it all out. My doctor recommended a therapist, who helped me surround myself with a support team of family, friends, and professionals. I helped them learn how to help me, and they helped me take my life back.
If my story sounds familiar to you and you’d like to get help taking your life back, there are a number of resources available. First, of course, talk to your primary care provider. Next, check out the National Eating Disorder Association or the Binge Eating Disorder Association for a massive variety of information for you, your family and friends, and your doctor, including great information on where to find a therapist and how to interview them to be sure they are the right fit for you.Image via walkerwellness.com