Is BED Back?

20 months later and I started flexible-working; two days working from home and two days in the office.

Lockdown is over. Office working is back. And so is my need for food. Ugh! First week back on site and I turned to food for help. It was an instinctive coping strategy to deal with my emotions – the emotions that were only reflecting what I knew to be true – I didn’t want to be there, in the office…at all.

I was afraid that Binge Eating Disorder was taking a grip again.

In the past, I habitually used food to manage my emotions at work, it helped me get through the days. It provided the comfort that sustained me in my quest to be normal and earn a decent wage. Back in the office after 20 months, I felt like an observer watching myself succumb to the temptation of old behaviours. I watched as I went to the shop and spent money on food, and I heard familiar whispers convincing me that I needed it to cope.

The tools and strategies I’d learned and been practicing for nearly a year, were nowhere to be found, except one of course: Self-compassion. If I’ve said it once, then I’ve said it a million times – Self-compassion saves the day every time. When all else fails, when old thoughts and habits reappear, when it feels like you’re back at square one … be kind to yourself … show yourself compassion, sometimes that’s all you have in your toolbox, and that’s okay.

I was falling down the slippery slope

Even though I witnessed my new thoughts standing up to old ones, which gave me some hope, it required a lot of energy to believe that although my eating habits felt like they were slipping, I was doing well.

Was I failing?

I knew I was close to celebrating a year without bingeing or restricting but disappointment and fear concluded that I was failing, and BED was back. I returned to the past. I remembered the fear I’d expressed at the beginning of my therapy treatment – afraid that it wouldn’t work. Ten, nearly eleven months later, the thing I feared the most, stood in front of me. But I soothed myself, allowed myself to feel, and sat with my emotions. A new thought appeared and it said “this isn’t BED, this is emotional overeating”.

I googled ‘binge eating disorder and overeating’ to understand the difference. And as I read the list of symptoms of BED, I clearly saw the difference.

  • I was still eating my regular meals (even if they weren’t ‘healthy’ meals).
  • I wasn’t eating lots in a short space of time, nor did I feel a loss of control.
  • Although I was afraid of relapsing and I felt distressed about being in an environment I didn’t want to be, I wasn’t feeling distressed, disgusted or embarrassed by my eating or myself.
  • I wasn’t ashamed of eating in front of people.

I was relieved to know that my healthier and fitter mind was working, even when it felt like I was falling and failing. That felt great, but as I took the time to check in with my emotions and feel my feelings, I became aware of a deeper problem that I needed to address. It was an ongoing problem that was affecting me and had been affecting me for many years.

It was my job. So, I resigned.

I say those two short sentences rather flippantly, but the truth is, I spent a lot of time reflecting and asking my emotions what they were telling me – they revealed a pattern; When I’m not at work, my eating habits, my body and my mental health improve considerably. It was clear to me, for the sake of my mental health and my life, that after nearly a year of recovery, the time and circumstances had aligned for me to take the step of releasing my job and courageously welcoming in the new.

So, two weeks ago, I wrote my resignation letter and sent it to my manager and director. I’ll be leaving my job at the end of October and stepping into freedom – something I’m excited about and looking forward to. I’m in no doubt that my eating and mental health will benefit as a result.

I feel empowered

BED helped me cope with my emotions, and although it’s great to know that I have the mental fitness to deal with those emotions now, rather than avoid them, it’s also empowering to have the awareness and courage to change and remove things from my life that negatively affect me.

So here I am, with four weeks until I leave. I don’t know what the rest of this recovery journey will look like, but one thing I’m sure about, is that taking this step is exactly what I need to do for me and I’m proud of myself for doing it.

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