Binge Eating: My Experience

Binge eating is one of the lesser talked about eating disorders, yet can be equally as destructive…

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Inspired by Kit Preston Bell’s testimony of his experience with depression, I decided to write this article. I can empathise fully with Kit’s struggle with a condition which is surrounded by a great deal of stigma, shame and guilt. It’s because of this that however much I admire Kit, I don’t feel able to write under my own name about the disorder from which I suffer: I binge-eat.

The term “binge-eating” probably brings to mind the morbidly-obese contestants paraded  around on the weight-loss shows which glut our TV screens. It’s a term which is often bandied about but which is difficult to define. Most people over-eat occasionally; that in itself is hardly abnormal, and the point at which the occasional bout of “normal” over-eating turns into a full-blown disorder can be almost impossible to pin down. After years of being disgusted by my own perceived “lack” of will-power I’ve come to realise that with true binge-eating, will-power doesn’t come into it.

The truth is that telling someone with a binge-eating disorder to “just stop eating”, is akin to telling an anorexic to “just eat”. I know it seems ridiculously simple – or just plain ridiculous. I know that at no point is anyone forcing me to consume more food. But that doesn’t change the fact that every day is a struggle not to binge. I’m painfully aware of the damage I’m doing to myself – physically and mentally – but that doesn’t make it any less difficult not to do. I’ve never told anyone about my disordered eating and probably never will; it is a disorder which engenders secrecy and deceit.

Initially my binges were sporadic and infrequent, perhaps fewer than one a month. Now it has escalated to the point where I binge daily. It affects my ability to concentrate and socialise, and cripples my self-esteem. Although I am deeply unhappy with my weight, you wouldn’t necessarily think I had a problem with food if you saw me in the street; I may no longer be skinny, but I’m not exactly obese. I do partly hope that writing this article will help me gain a different perspective about my problem, but mainly I want to highlight an issue which is widely misunderstood and trivialised, even mocked.

Awareness of anorexia and bulimia has improved in the past few years, but there needs to be greater awareness of the many forms an eating disorder can take, including binge-eating and compulsive overeating, as well as EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified –  disordered eating which does not fit exclusively into one of the above categories). Many sufferers show symptoms from two or more of these categories, and one can easily develop into another.

My personal experience has been confirmed by countless articles blogs and Internet forums. For example: binge-eating often develops in people who were originally restrictive with their food. My bingeing first began after a 12-18 month period in which became obsessed with calories and weight loss, losing a drastic amount of weight very quickly.

Binge-eaters may not suffer the same life-threatening health effects to which an anorexic can fall prey very quickly, but it is a recognised eating disorder which can ruin lives. And personally-speaking, it can feel like a living hell.