Who, not What, is Binge Eating Disorder?

Tell someone you hear voices and that might spark some concerns – but isn’t a thought simply our inner voice speaking?

I’ve scrolled through many articles over the last year and often find the descriptions of binge eating disorder to be a tad inaccurate. I understand why lists of symptoms, behaviours and feelings are easier to identify and put into neat, easy to understand checklists, but I also wonder if there’s a fear of being too explicit about the condition. Maybe writers err on the side of caution to avoid making the condition and those of us who suffer from it, seem weird or crazy.

It’s probably best for me to say now – I don’t shy away from the weird or the crazy, mainly because I don’t see it as such.

As I looked through the lists and descriptions of what others believe BED to be, and thought about what it is for me, I realised that eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, feeling the loss of control in my eating behaviour, and experiencing guilt and disgust, are all just the symptoms of who binge eating disorder is to me. It’s the person of BED, not the behaviours, that’s been the real cause of my struggle and distress.

So who is Binge Eating Disorder?

Well to me she’s a she. She sounds like me and at one point in my life, she silenced me and was the only one allowed to speak. Only her voice had control of my thoughts and I seemed to disappear. She’s like a friend you’re not really sure you like or want to be around, but call a friend and hang out with anyway. She has a narcissistic personality: comforting and encouraging just enough for you to lower your barriers, only to turn on you and become the most critical person you’ve ever met. She’s not satisfied until she’s left you completely stripped of any self-esteem or self-worth.

When you pluck up the courage to walk away, she comes pleading, apologising and vowing to treat you better. And with the internal isolation and loneliness she’s strategically created in your life, it’s hard to resist the companionship of someone who you believe genuinely cares about you, even if it’s just for a moment. After all, remember that time when you had your heart broken and she was there with the goodies to soothe you. When you were stressed and overwhelmed, she didn’t leave you, she ordered that take out and spent the evening with you, didn’t she? She knows the times you’ve cried in to your pillow and she’s whispered words of understanding when no one ever did.

You wish she was that caring all the time. But like clock-work, she switches on you again.

She’s not really your friend

The diet-binge cycle maintained the yo-yo in my weight, but it’s this toxic relationship cycle that maintained my mental illness. I was scared to walk away because I’d lost my voice and any sense of who I was – I knew I was in there somewhere, but it had been so long and I was so confused. It was easier to follow her gentle nudge to go to the shop and spend money I didn’t have, rather than face myself.

It was acknowledging the truth about the toxic nature of this relationship that helped me to walk away.

Knowing what you’re dealing with, makes it so much easier to change. It doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes take years, but one day it’s possible that you hit the block button for the last time and don’t look back. When she tries to make contact, you stay focused, knowing that the only way to be free is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, heading as far away as possible.

You will hear and read more from me about this relationship…where it started and how it developed, but Eating Disorders Awareness Week couldn’t pass without me sharing this vital part of my lived experience of BED.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *