I HAVE an eating disorder. I wish that I could say that I HAD an eating disorder, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth. When I went a year without a relapse, I thought I was all better – healed. Then I relapsed. I relapsed hard. The truth is that I will possibly struggle with my disordered eating for the rest of my life, or I may eventually reach a point where I never relapse (fingers crossed). For now I have to learn how to live with my present circumstances. For now I have to be gentle and forgiving of myself. For now I have binge eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder is hard. For one, a lot of people out there don’t recognize it as an eating disorder. People equate it with a lack of self-control or gluttony. People tell me to just stop eating so much – “Just put the cookie down.” If only it was that easy. I was ecstatic when the American Psychological Association officially recognized it as an eating disorder. It made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy, like I wasn’t alone in this struggle.
Binge eating disorder isn’t the same as gorging on a good dinner or snacking too much. It’s also not always the same as eating for emotional reasons, although emotional eating is often tied to the disorder. It’s a chronic, loss of control in the consumption of food.
According to the APA, “The condition … is marked by recurrent binge-eating without purging and is typically seen in people who are obese. Like people with bulimia nervosa, those with binge-eating disorder carry distorted attitudes about eating, shape and weight, as well as mood symptoms such as depression and personality disorders. The disorder affects about 2 percent of the general population and 8 percent of people who are obese.”
I’ve tried explaining how binge eating disorder feels for me, but I can never seem to find the right words. The closest I can explain is that it literally feels like my mind goes blank and later waking up surrounded by empty food cartons. Grazing binges go unnoticed until I start to feel sick to my stomach. The worst binges are like a snapping of the mind causing me to attack food like an animal, ending only when I am so sick that I vomit. When these worst binges end, I literally feel like coming back to consciousness after an out of body experience. I sometimes have no memory of the binge. I usually curl into a ball, crying, and cursing. The fallout from one of these bad binges can last for weeks, even months. That’s why an eating disorder is a disorder. It’s not about the food, it’s not about hunger, it’s about a mental disruption that takes over your whole life. Fortunately, the bad binges have started to grow few and far between
I’m not writing this to try and compel people into believing that binge eating disorder is an actual disorder. I’ve gotten past the point of caring if other’s believe me. Like many things, I am writing this for myself. I am writing this to get the struggle out of my mind and onto a page where I can reason with it, where I can begin to understand it. Writing down my history with the disorder, which I might detail in a later post, has helped me learn where and why it started. I didn’t just wake up one day binging out of control. It took a lot to get me to the point where I would literally wrestle and claw someone trying to take food away from me in the middle of a binge.
By figuring out where it started and my triggers, I’ve been able to take back more control of my brain. My 70-pound weight loss is a testament to how far I’ve come. Unfortunately, this past couple of years has been full of stresses and triggers that have caused several relapses. I came down hard on myself. I was devastated that after losing 80 pounds I had regained 50. I didn’t care what the reasons for my relapses had been. After my dad died, I had several weeks of uncontrollable binges. I finally stopped, wrapped myself in a literally cocoon of blankets, and forgave myself for losing control.
I’ve struggled with this disorder for almost 12 years now, and it won’t go away overnight. I have to be patient and kind. I am learning how my mind works. I am learning what triggers a binge and how to counteract it. I am learning to take care of myself. Most importantly, I am learning to let God guide me one step at a time.
What struggles have you faced that only time, patience, and God could help you overcome?
by Charlotte Hilton Anderson is one of my favourite blogs for many reasons. Her frank, honest, and compassionate discussions about eating disorders is only one them. Here are a couple of my favourite posts on the subject. Please take a minute to check them out.