Binge eating disorder looks like…
However, when it sneaks out it transforms itself into restriction and starvation, compulsive eating, and doing shameful, unforgivable things with food.
If you look closely enough, you can recognize it in brittle nails, thinning hair, canceled plans, and frantically raiding the refrigerator or pantry the minute everyone leaves the house. It looks like anorexia on the outside, but food addiction on the inside. It’s major weight swings, food hangovers, purging, and body shame.
Binge eating disorder feels like empty happiness because you’re finally skinny enough to win society’s approval yet it feels like the scariest, oddest, most inhumane thing imaginable. You absolutely hate it, but yet are attached to it more than anything else.
It’s feeling faint from going a day or two without food before you start bingeing again. It’s shame, anxiety, and depression all wrapped up into the prettiest-looking gift under the Christmas tree.
It’s calm and shame at the same time. It’s love and hate at the same time. It lifts you up but quickly drops you. It’s your best friend and your worst enemy.
Binge eating disorder sounds like “I’m too fat. I’m not skinny enough. Why am I not good enough? What do I need to do to make my body look better? I hate my body. I hate myself. No one likes me. I’m disgusting. I’m a pig. Don’t eat that; it’s bad. Now I’ve really blown it. So much for toning up this summer!”
All the while you appear perfectly healthy. It’s your dirty little secret. It’s your double life. It’s always planning the next binge. It’s isolation: leaving social gatherings with friends or family knowing your binge awaits you at home; making another trip to the store or restaurant because you didn’t get enough food the first time. It’s eating a week’s worth of calories in one or two days.
It’s canceling plans you have just so that you can crawl back into your shameful world. It’s the only place you feel comfortable. It’s the world where you have less anxiety and less depression.
It’s that mental tug- that inner voice telling you that you want something. “You need something.” It’s like an insect drawn to a bright light. You learn to disguise it behind the smiles; behind the gaiety; behind the convincing talk that you’re just hungry.
You’re “o.k.”, but how “o.k.” are you when you’re stuffing your mouth as tears stream down your face? How “o.k.” are you when you’re hovered over the toilet crying because you can’t get yourself to throw up? How “o.k.” are you when you’re keeping down fewer than 500 calories a day? When will it be enough?
Recovery from binge eating disorder means learning how to say, “I need help.” It’s learning how to take care of yourself without guilt. It means occasionally confiding in a friend or loved one. It means learning to listen to your body instead of your head when it comes to food choices. It’s meditation to calm anxiety around food. It’s going for walks. It’s putting yourself first. It’s letting go of the desire to lose weight. It’s allowing yourself to eat what you want until you’re satisfied. It’s eating whatever you want, whenever you want- hungry or not. Binge eating disorder is challenging your beliefs about what defines beauty and worthiness. It’s loving your life. It’s loving your body. It’s accepting everything about yourself no matter how negative or imperfect.
Binge eating disorder is just a bad habit. Recovery is the chance to take back all the power you once gave it.