“You have two choice’s….extreme medical intervention or inpatient admission. You can’t control this. It’s a psychological disorder. You have Binge Eating Disorder.”
When I was a teen I vaguely remember reading about the term “Binge Eating Disorder” in my medical books. Yes, even as a teen I wondered what was wrong with me. Why I couldn’t stop eating. Why was I 13 and sneaking food? Why was I 12 and weighing 250 pounds while still being active? Why I was in kindergarten and eating food from other kid’s lunchboxes. I couldn’t put the food down. All it took was one bite of a trigger food and *bam* it was all over. As I grew up the weight continued to drift higher and higher. On plan eating through the day or week would be thrown off by binges where thousands of calories were consumed in a short period of time. A day or two worth of calories all downed in a matter of hours.
The weight continued to increase.
For 10 years, it was coupled by bulimia which is an additional eating disorder where food is purged through self-induced vomiting, however, more often than not….I kept the food down. The cycle of binge…..guilt…new resolve….diet/restrict…..binge….guilt….new resolve….diet/restrict has been in play in my life since I was a child.
Working with a therapist now who specializes in eating disorders, I am now finally seeing how my eating disorder formed and the protective role it played in my life. We were very poor growing up so when food was available and meals were cooked, you ate until you were full and you cleaned every bit of your plate. I remember eating ketchup sandwiches because there was no food and one night even going to bed on an empty stomach. Food insecurity was a very real experience. My mother, suffering from binge eating disorder herself, would bond with me over food. When she had extra money we would sneak away and visit multiple fast food restaurants, eating burgers from here…fried chicken from here….eating until I was beyond full, but I loved spending time with her. I needed love. Food was love. Her weight would later take her life at 550 pounds.
When I was little, the weight also played a protective role for me. Growing up sexually abused and physically abused by so many, the weight was my protector. I didn’t want to be touched and if I was, I would have this huge suit of armor to protect me. When I was, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I ate my emotions. My size also made me intimidating at school. Being bullied for being poor and wearing tattered clothes….I had fewer bullies….sure…I still was bullied mercilessly and sometimes violently by those tougher than me, but I was more intimidating with my size so the bullying was less than what my peers experienced. As a teen, major depressive disorder began to sink in and we didn’t have the money to continue my medication so I went unmedicated which threw gasoline on the flames. Then came the deaths of multiple family members, including my mother and abusive father. Then came the stalking. By 24 I was a suicidally depressed mess….and working my way towards 500 pounds. I hid in food. I ate. I drank. I kept to myself. All weight loss efforts failed. Exercise, diet, fasting, pills, everything would eventually come undone in a matter of weeks or months. It took me until my 30’s to realize, I needed a comprehensive plan of action including eating disorder therapy – Thank God my insurance covers it because before there is no way I could afford it! – along with medical intervention – whether it be surgery or intensive binge eating disorder therapy.
I started seeing my eating disorder therapist and learning more about binge eating disorder. We started working through my emotional issues. We still are. Chipping away at the perfect storm of a difficult life that create an outlet of food for me. I love my body and what it does for me. I love it for taking care of me and protecting me all these years. Now it’s finally my turn to take care of it. I’ve worked hard on my self acceptance and self esteem but the binge eating disorder is still with me. Now I’m working on relearning food behaviors. Relearning emotion management. Relearning coping mechanism. Addressing my past. It’s a long journey, but finally putting a name to the face that’s haunted my life for decades is oddly comforting.
For more information about binge eating disorder visit the National Eating Disorder Association