Zoe, May 15, 2019

When I first got told I had an eating disorder, I didn’t believe it. I thought you had to be skinny, overly skinny, to have one

I have Binge Eating Disorder, which can affect both men and women and usually starts in a person’s early adulthood.

From the NHS website:

“The main symptom of binge eating disorder is eating very large amounts of food in a short time, often in an out-of-control way. But symptoms may also include:

  • eating very fast during a binge
  • eating until you feel uncomfortably full
  • eating when you're not hungry
  • eating alone or secretly
  • feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed or disgusted after binge eating.”

When I first got told I had an eating disorder, I didn’t believe it. I thought you had to be skinny, overly skinny, to have one, and I’m obese. But as the signs and symptoms were explained to me, I realised I do have an unhealthy relationship with food; and it’s more than laziness or greed, like people tend to assume. I both love and hate food. I buy ‘special’ foods to gorge on until I feel sick. And then I feel incredibly depressed because of how overweight I am and how guilty I feel. But the rush I get at the thought of eating it is like euphoria. I get giddy walking round the aisles picking out my stash, and I eat it in secret; always in secret, because I could never allow anyone to see me binge.

The actual act of eating can sometimes feel like a chore; sometimes I feel the need to eat even when I’m full which can lead to severe discomfort or, sometimes, I will eat dinner after a binge because I don’t want anyone to find out even if it causes me physical harm.

The world is constructed in a way that shames you for being too thin or too fat. You must conform to society’s standards or be ridiculed. I’m a woman who currently finds chairs with arms uncomfortable to sit in because they’re size restrictive so imagine me trying to find attractive clothes or just to simply ‘fit in.’ In a world where I just want to disappear, I stand out like a sore thumb as a beacon of everything the world likes to sling their disgust onto. Overweight people seem to symbolise unemployment, greed, laziness, poor hygiene; the list goes on.

When I heard the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week was body image, I wanted to bring my diagnosis out from the shadows. Larger people aren’t all weak and lacking in self-discipline; there are real psychological factors out there and telling me ‘just to stop’ isn’t just unhelpful; it’s damaging. I’m always being told to focus on my mental health and to worry about my weight later, but what happens when the two are deeply connected? What happens when my sense of self and my body image are equally distorted?

More awareness about this very real disorder needs to come to light. I myself had never heard of it until I was diagnosed. I’ve tried dieting and exercise but the urge to binge always overwhelms me. I may be ahead in my recovery for other psychological issues but I’m at stage one of overcoming this; acceptance. Now if I can just get the world to treat myself and others with a little more compassion, maybe I can start finding a way to beat this instead of fighting this battle all on my own.

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