By Amy Whittle
Binge eating in itself is an eating disorder probably not widely recognized by the public. I imagine if a room of people were asked to draw someone with an eating disorder, then a similar image would be replicated from person to person—a tiny stick of a human with the word “anorexic” flying about in conversation. I think it’s time to step back and acknowledge that eating disorders don’t just present in the form of an overly thin, white woman. An obese person of color who binges and purges is suffering from an eating disorder as well.
When I am brave enough to be honest and open to someone about my illness, I often get the dreaded question. The one thing that I have hated hearing over the years is, “So which disorder do you suffer from, is it anorexia or the bulimia?” This is not a phrase I want to get after opening up to someone—it casts doubt in my mind that I am actually suffering at all. For years, I have thought, “Well, hang on, I’m not thin enough to be classified as anorexic, am I? And I’m not making myself sick all the time, so I can’t be bulimic. So, I mustn’t have a problem at all! How embarrassing that I have even told someone about my disorder, I won’t be making that mistake again.”
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), is a feeding or eating disorder that does not fall into a clear category. It is the eating disorder with the most sufferers and believe me, I was as surprised as you probably are right now that it is actually a thing to not fit into one, specific, well known eating disorder. Instead, you’ve conned yourself and others around you that you do eat “normally”.
“I had loads of chocolate last Friday, so I’m not suffering from anything at all,” or maybe you’ve heard someone say to you, “How do you manage to eat all those biscuits without getting fat? I wish I could eat like that.” Phrases like these are what allow you to get away with this vicious cycle. Everyone, including yourself, seems to comment on the times when you’re eating a lot. There have been times when I was low and desperately wanted to share what I was facing but stopped myself by thinking, “God, if I tell them now that I have an eating disorder, they’ll think I’m such a fake…they saw how much I ate last week, and I’m not even skinny enough to be taken seriously as a sufferer. How embarrassing, I’m not mentioning this to anyone. In fact, there’s not even anything wrong with me.”
It’s still incredibly hard to openly admit that I actually do have an eating disorder, and there are only a few people I have trusted with my circumstances since I opened up six months ago. It’s hard not to listen to my mind as the ideas start ticking over and the guilt sets in, as I feel my stomach and criticize my body. But I’m learning not to act on these negative thoughts as I once did. I’m getting help and am hopeful that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBD) will keep helping me erase these negative thought patterns from my mind for good.
I feel it is so important that people out there understand how binge eating can mask disorders and how it can play a huge part in OSFED amongst other conditions. The symptoms of OSFED are masters of disguise. They fool everyone, including yourself.