Big Enough to Absorb the Pain

by Lori Blough, Writing/Publishing Intern (2013)

I’m fat.

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.

I binge.

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 was Eating 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.

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Related content:

Discrimination and EDNOS: One Woman’s Story

EDNOS: The Eating Disorder You Haven’t Heard Of


15 thoughts on “Big Enough to Absorb the Pain

  1. Like another commenter I am not obese or even that overweight, but I gain and lose in rapid fashion. I don’t purge, but I restrict. I have only been at a healthy weight for about 4 years now; my childhood equalled fatness from overeating daily.

    I am finally addressing this with a therapist. We have just begun the evaluation stage of cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s hard to believe that this cycle can EVER be stopped, that I will EVER not want to binge…

  2. I stopped bingeing when I stopped trying to control and restrict my food intake. I started by learning about how I needed to eat to balance my blood sugar and cut out the food that I react badly to (gluten). Then I moved on with 180degreehealth’s Diet Recovery and finally gave myself permission to eat as much as I wanted, instead until I was just starting to feel full. I then worked through Charles Eisenstein’s Transformational Weightloss and learned how to allow myself to experience my true needs and feelings.

    It was a strange experience after battling binge eating from as soon as I was old enough to open the biscuit tin, to find it almost completely melting away with a week of truly giving myself permission to eat as much as I wanted of what I wanted. It felt like a miracle to be honest.

    I have to admit, ditching the “food addiction” idea was a big part of it for me. I used to be a big believer in sugar addiction and spent 10 years following the Potatoes not Prozac plan. Not any more.

    Just what worked for me, I know others find approaching it from the angle of it being an addiction to be more helpful.

  3. I lost 115 lbs without surgery. I was born with Epilepsy, and when I gained so much weight from food addiction, I developed Sleep Apnea, which only made my seizures worse. I was making myself sicker with overeating. So my Neurologist sent me to an eating disorders group and it saved my life. I lost 115 and I treat my overeating and binging like alcoholism or drug addiction. I also go to OA for support weekly. You can do it, but don’t wait until your obesity makes you sick. Being sick is painful and health care is extremely expensive. Everyone gets old and sick eventually, why hasten it?

  4. I’ve hurt so much in my life and I too suffer from BED. I can relate. It’s good to know you’re not alone. Great post!

  5. thank you for the story you shared, lori; you very succinctly put into words where i was six or seven years ago. thank you for your courage and well done with recovery! good luck, you can do it! and you a totally loveable, i promise.

  6. Adios Barbie is such a great blog. It supports and explores so many different kinds of body issues.

    Every time I read a blog post here I feel much more aware of everyone else’s struggles. It’s a big eye opener. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks for all the kind comments and I’m so glad some of you chose to also share your own story with us. We are not alone!

  8. I don’t know that I binge as such, but I am very overweight. I sometimes see my food as an addiction, often liking it to the illness of alcholism or drug addiction. When I see it like this, I feel very hard done by. Its not fair, If you are addicted to drink or fags or drugs there are replacement theriapies that help you avoid these addictions. When you feel like you are addicted to food you cannot avoid it. You have to eat. This makes an easy excuse.

    I had a light bulb moment in one of my recent counselling sessions. Its not so much about being addicted to food thats the problem, or even needing to avoid food, like an alcholic would avoid alchol. Its about eating all the wrong types of food.

    Portion control certainly plays a part and this is something I do struggle with. But I also identify with a lot of the emotions mention by Lori.

    Another light bulb moment that I had yesterday was the imapct of my job on my overall wellbeing. The fact that the company that I work for and I have a different ethos means we are incompatable. I had to accept that this was not about my competencey. Its just we have different priorities in our ways of working. It has spurred me on to keep up with the learning a new career in my spare time.

    I have started blogging and learning SEO ( search engine optimisation). Although some days I have no energy and want to stay hidden from the world, I have managed to find an interest that is engaging, stimulating and a great outlet for my ideas and thoughts.

    Gosh this is all a bit deep for 7:30 in the morning

  9. Thanks for sharing, at least now I know that I am not alone in my recovery. I reached the final point last year when I had multiple organs failure, and expend 2 weeks in a hospital bed with wires connected all over my body. And after 3 surgeries there wasn’t anybody to blame but me, myself and I. All this years of not having control in the way I ate damaged not only my self steam, also my body. I believe I learned mu lesion this time!

  10. Not alone! Girl, you are not alone. I binge. Yesrs ago, it’s how I recovered from anorexia. So many people are surprised to hesr that, but it’s a common way our survival instincts kick in. But now my bingeing is like an alcojolic with booze. Once I start, there’s no telling when I will stop – 3 days? 3 weeks? But I’m not morbidly obese. I gain and loose over and over. The cycle is BRUTAL. It’s devastating. Writing and honesty has saved me. Eating dislrders are so individual, but they are all real. I am with you. I hear you. Connect >

  11. Thank you for this! I can relate on many levels and am just beginning the recovery stage. Thanks again!

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