Have you received a Binge Eating Disorder diagnosis and wondering what happens next? Are you trying to balance relief and hope with confusion and uncertainty?
Are you undiagnosed, binge eating more than you’d care to admit to anyone, but find it hard to believe that you have an eating disorder?
Whether you’ve received a diagnosis or not, these three answers will give you the ‘best friend’ insights you’ll thank me for later.
It’s a day I remember vividly
Leaving the hospital after my assessment, stepping over the puddles and huddled under my umbrella while I waited for the bus. My head was buried in my phone googling three specific questions. I asked them in different ways to find out as much as I could. I wanted to know what this was and how getting help was going to change my life. I didn’t find much and ironically what I did find, was telling me that medical help doesn’t work and suggested other ways to stop binge eating. (Like signing up for an independent coaching programme).
Like many other search rabbit holes on Google, in the absence of any other information, I jumped in with both feet. I got to the point of seriously reconsidering whether medical help was necessary for me – so many people said it wasn’t because “what did professionals know anyway!”
You’ll have guessed by now that I continued along the medical route and had no shame about needing it either.
Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been clear that I’m an advocate for seeking and receiving professional, medical help
Unfortunately it’s not always quick (waiting lists are a pain) and yes, there are gaps in the quality and ease of accessing service provision, however, it was medical treatment that helped me get to where I am now and I hope that by sharing my lived experience I’m able to fill in some of these gaps for you.
There were three questions that were whizzing around in my mind after that appointment:
What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?
What will happen in treatment?
Will I lose weight?
I wanted the answers, but I didn’t want the research paper or the academic, theoretical perspective – I wanted to hear from people who had real life experience. I was looking for those people out there who understood what I was going through. As I said, I didn’t find much and that added to the feeling that this was a ‘me problem’.
That’s why I’m here and that’s why I want to give you the answer to these questions in my own words, because this isn’t a you problem, it’s a we problem.
So first of all…
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
For me it was a relationship with food, eating habits and my Self that caused distress, discomfort and held me firmly in a grip of fear, frustration and false hope. You want to fight it, but you don’t, because there are days when it’s comforting to know you have help dealing with life and the emotions that you fear the most.
Unlike other eating disorders that cause restriction or purging, BED leads to binges and consuming a large amount of food (and calories) in a short space of time, regularly, without purging. And by that, I don’t mean a one-off overindulgence in ice cream, pizza or popcorn, I mean a whole binge episode; boxes and bars of chocolate, packets of biscuits and cakes, fast food … all in one sitting, eating even when you can’t eat any more and start crying through it, unable to stop.
Tapping out and numbing emotions is the motivation but the hope of feeling better gets clouded by shame and distress afterwards, that’s why I call it a false hope. This was my life for far too long.
What will happen in treatment?
Different organisations provide different treatment options, so I can only speak about mine. I had three 1:1 sessions with a therapist and then joined a 12 week group therapy programme where we worked through a different subject at the session each week and had ‘homework’ to complete between sessions . Check out my free Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Guide for the Top Ten Takeaways from my treatment programme.
It was in 2020 during lockdown, so we attended the programme online rather than in-person – it worked better for me, especially on days when I couldn’t face putting on clothes or leaving the house.
Unfortunately I didn’t get the sessions with a dietitian and didn’t realise until much later that I should’ve had them. I know people who’ve had these sessions and found them extremely valuable.
The main thing I would highlight from my experience of group therapy, is that it’s a relief to hear from people who completely understand what you’re going through, not because they’re empathetic but because they’re facing the same thing too. The additional individual therapy sessions are also good for checking in personally with how you’re feeling and how you’re getting on in the programme.
Whatever the programme or type of treatment you receive, prepare to be vulnerable, honest and committed. It’s not always easy and there will be highs and lows, but remember the bigger picture of getting better. (Your mind is unwell so don’t always believe what it tells you)
Will I lose weight?
I’ll be honest, I wanted this diagnosis and treatment to be the solution to my weight problem. I believed that if a medical professional could help me to lose weight, then my life would be better and all my problems solved. Ha! If only. I soon learned that it wasn’t the solution to my weight problem, but my mind problem. It was a hard pill to swallow and without those sessions with a dietitian, I think it was probably harder than it needed to be. I didn’t just not lose weight, I gained weight, and believe me, that was tough.
I can’t say if you will or won’t lose weight but what I can say is that treatment and the early stages of recovery are not about weight loss. I know, I was gutted too! However, I will say this …
From my heaviest, to my lightest, I felt fat and ugly. Losing 112lbs didn’t make me feel better and that’s because it wasn’t a weight problem, it was a mental health problem – that is the purpose of treatment. Weight loss had always been the measure of success in relation to my eating behaviours (good vs bad), but I discovered it wasn’t a good measure of my mental health.
Binge Eating Disorder is a mental health issue
Getting the appropriate help will support you to become free from the distress it causes. There’s an abundant life waiting for you on the other side, which may very well include weight loss, but I have to be honest with you, it may not. Although I can’t promise it’ll be easy, I can say from my own real life experience, that it’s worth it.
I found my answers as I went blindly through the process and I hope I can pass on a little light to you and make the process a bit easier, less scary and remove the weight of uncertainty.