Binge Eating Disorder & Bulimia: Finding The Balance Again

27.5.19


*trigger warning*

I've experienced a lot when it comes to my relationship with food. I've discussed the Anorexia side of things more in depth before, but never really delved too deep into the whirlpool that is Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia. I guess that probably comes with that 'typical' shame that surrounds our irrational behaviors with food and our habits with it. I mean, I don't really want to be spilling the beans when I'd rather be eating them, right?

The Binge Eating part of my ED is something that I've always found to be an embarrassment to me - something I've never really wanted to share too openly and something I've always feared people knowing about. Like I said, that's pretty typical behavior. When you're faced with a unusual feeling around food, it's not really something you want to shout from the rooftops... but hey, here I am, sharing it online instead!

With any eating disorder there comes that extreme 'guilt' that can overwhelm you to a point like no other. You're no longer in the drivers seat of your own mind, a whole other thing has taken command of it all and you're just the empty shell that it's inhibited.

This year, Binge Eating is something I've battled a lot with: the secrecy around food, the overindulging, the loosing control and the constant yo-yoing of weight. However, it's also something I've began to open up about a lot more, and that seems to have helped me with managing it a lot better.

I can safely say to you that I've not had a binging episode in around 3 months now, and although that may not seem like a massive amount of time, in the scheme of things it really is. To finally get out of the cycle of reaching for food for comfort, to fill a void, or just simply because it's there, is really bloody hard, and for me to be 3 months deep into having not giving into those thoughts, feels like a big deal for me.



I think I've always had a bit of an obsession with food. It's always been that safe comfort blanket - the constant that would never leave me. My earliest memory of over-indulging in food would be after school. You know, when you'd get in at 3:30pm, stick on a bit of Disney Channel and have a snack? Well, for me that always seemed to be the time where the eating never stopped - that was the time where it felt like everything had to be consumed or the world would come to an end for me. It was chocolate bar after chocolate bar, followed by bag of crisps after bag of crisps, and then cereal and whatever else my Mum had stocked the cupboards up with. It was that time for me where whatever I was dealing with internally could be suppressed deep down by the comfort of a Twix and a hot chocolate (X12).

I remember hiding wrappers and empty bags from my Mum and Dad and then scurrying to throw them in the bin when they weren't looking. I felt ashamed to eat in front of people, or to even get food from the kitchen in front of people, so would factor in the times where I'd be able to go and sneak some snacks up to my room or dispose of any evidence of binges.

Despite this idea of food being my friend, the binge eating was something I really felt no control over. It was like another side of my brain had taken over and put me on auto-pilot, diving head first into a swimming pool of junk food. I mean, it isn't even always junk food, it's just large quantities of food being consumed at the speed of light with nothing that can stop you. In that moment where you're eating, it's completely liberating - what you need to make yourself feel better - but it's incomparable to the feeling of anger, hatred and frustration towards yourself afterwards. That's the thing I always seem to forget when I ever I relapse, but it's the constant thing I remind myself of now - eating that much will not fix my problems and only make me feel worse.

Primary School/High School were where my 'secrecy' habits regarding food began, and it was a habit that continued to grow bigger and more confusing the older that I got. By the time I was in year 9, I had hit the peak of puberty. I had boobs and a bum and all that weight I'd gained from my metabolism slowing down but my obsessive eating habits still continuing. I hated myself. Like, REALLY hated myself. My self-esteem was nonexistent.

I didn't look like the other girls - I never had a tiny frame to begin with, but I certainly couldn't keep up with the small girl figures when I had 36D boobs and a 1,000,000 calorie diet. I felt so confused and unsure of how to 'fit in', so I continued to suppress it all with food because that was my only vice. I couldn't click my fingers and get my 10 year old girl body back, I couldn't make myself be 'popular', I couldn't force people to like me and invite me to parties. Food was the only thing I could have a sense of power over - food was the only thing I could be sure wasn't going to let me down.



The thing is, for a long time food was my companion. Food was what I felt I needed to make myself happy. It's a big dark void that, in that moment, you feel like only food can fill, and it's a numbness you feel while doing it which can be the cause of the never ending eating. You never feel full, not until your body really tells you it can't take anymore, so you just continue and continue, looking for the next thing you have to eat.

Years went by, my low self-esteem heightening and binge eating getting worse and worse, and then one day, I looked at myself in a photo of me and my group of friends, and I remember something clicking in my head: I didn't want to be that person anymore. 

It was a sudden realization that the way I looked and the things I hated so much about myself were caused by food - the thing I thought was helping me. It felt a new wave of ideas filled my brain and I just HAD to be thin NOW, and there was nothing that was going to stop me. I'd had fluctuations in my weight from moments where I'd binged less or binged more, but nothing had ever felt like enough. This was a point where 'thin' was my only goal and I wanted to take total charge of it.

This is when I began binging and purging.

Now, if you're not familiar with that, then that's where you binge eat, and then 'purge' it out by making yourself throw up, using laxatives or whatever it may be. I'll openly admit that some of my Bulimic habits are yet to leave me as of right now, but there certainly not in my life the way they used to be, which I'm extremely glad about. There was a time in my life which was made so dark by the whole thing and it really was the beginning of a 4 year spiral that seemed never ending.

I would do my usual 'come home from school, eat everything in the fridge' ritual, but rather than sitting there all content with my full stomach and Hannah Montana singing 'Best of Both Worlds' on the TV, I'd be sprinting to the bathroom, running the shower and sticking my fingers down my throat.

I could be there for hours - making sure any little remanence of food was out of me. Or, I'd be running back and to throughout the evening whenever I thought no one would hear me. Worst came to worst I'd throw up in plastic bags in my room and hide them until I could get rid of them discreetly. (sorry, probably TMI but it's true). Laxatives weren't a thing I knew too much about before this time in my life, but they were something that became an obsession to use and I couldn't live without.

I began exercising, but completely in excess. I would be up in my bedroom jogging on the spot until the point I felt like I was going to pass out and had 'thinspo' pictures saved as my phone background as to spur me on. I became constantly agitated and exhausted, but I could never explain to anyone why, because no one could know what I was doing.

I made my throat bleed, my teeth were worn down and weak, my knuckles were scratched and scabbed, I had stomach cramps constantly, I was lightheaded, and my hair began to fall out. It wasn't glamorous, I'll tell you that, but it felt like my only resort - it felt like the only way I could get away with trying to take control of my weight again.



I use the word 'control' lightly here, because in reality, I wasn't in control, I was completely out of control. I'd lost all sense of self and the only thing I was living for was to finally prove to people I could be a 'skinny girl' too.

I'd ruined the way my body functioned. I ended up with weak teeth, yellowing skin because my liver couldn't cope anymore and a extremely messed up bowel system - my body still isn't back to normal now. I'd lost all dominance over my own thoughts and my own body. It wasn't worth this 'ideal' figure that I was trying to achieve.

A year passed by before I told someone. Well, my friend actually confronted me about it at a house party and I just turned into a drunk blubbering mess... but same difference *shrugs*. Finally telling someone was a big step for me - even though deep down, below all the confused thoughts I was having, I was truly crying for help - actually telling someone felt completely terrifying.

I wish I could say that's where the whole thing ended, but eating disorders are a lot more complicated than that. It's rare that you hear someone feels cured from it all - I think they're parts of your mindset that you drill into your daily life for so long that they're hard to let go of. I know that I live my life a lot more freely now, but that's not to say that the thoughts aren't there, it's just easier to fight them.

Despite opening up about my Bulimic habits, my brain convinced me to find a new form of secrecy, which is where my Anorexia began. I'm not going to go into detail about this, because it's almost a whole other thing, but I'm sure I'll cover this topic again soon. Often, I guess eating disorders can all blur into one, or one can lead to another and so on, but I want to focus solely on a different side of things in this post.



Anyway, it's now 4/5 years since I was diagnosed with my eating disorders, and at that point I really wasn't sure how long it would go on for. I didn't know whether having a doctor say those words to me was going to spur me on, or terrify me so much that I'd just snap back to reality. Honestly, it was a bit of both. One part of me wanted my life back, but the other still wanted total control over everything.

That's the thing, it can be a constant battle between your mind, food and other people. You never know which way you truly want to go and it can be a struggle to find your feet.

With that being said, I'm definitely at my most 'stable' right now, which is amazing (woohoo!), and I feel that's mostly down to the way I've learnt to face the terrifying concept of 'change', the people I've surrounded myself with and confided in, and the things I've learnt about myself throughout the past few years. However, I'm not saying it came easy, and even just 4 months ago I was back in that dreaded cycle of binge eating.



I told myself that after being Anorexic that I could never go back to binging again (how could I? I was a 'skinny' girl now?!), but little did I know, the changes in my life would lead me right back to it.

It's that idea of 'letting go' that used to be so scary to me, that actually became my new way of life. I met new people, got a boyfriend and began to not have a care in the world. Everything felt free and liberating and I loved every second of it... until I gained weight, of course.

I felt like I did when I was 14 again. I felt sucked up in a world of feeling crap, so then eating crap. I would literally go to the shops, buy bags of cookies, chocolates, sweets and take them home and eat them, all alone, in one sitting. (I'm guilty of choking on a donut whilst binge eating, crying and watching The Notebook... don't judge me). I was back in the whirlpool of never ending confused emotions, that could only be solved by eating food, but could only be worsened by eating food too. My mind felt like a mess.

I started hiding things again. I would hide all the food I'd bought to binge, I'd hide myself away in my room and everything felt like one big embarrassment.

But, I couldn't go back down the rabbit hole - I really didn't want to. The idea of having to go through everything again was more horrifying to me than the idea of a few extra 'lbs(that is what we call GROWTH ladies!) So, I confided in the people closest to me and said I needed help. I needed them to notice when I was spiraling, because when you're in that bubble you can't stop yourself.

Now the people around me know when I'm doing something that isn't going to make me feel good. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sat here eating lettuce leafs for every meal and drinking 8 glasses of cucumber water a day, I'm still living a free life filled with G&T's and Pizza Hut hangover days, but none of it is in excess anymore, and no one will allow me to do it in excess either, because they know what it leads me to.

I make sure to let there be a couple of said 'cheat days', but they're always followed by days where I go back to normality and eat well - everyone around me insures I do that too: from my Mum, to my boyfriend, to my friends - if you have good people around you, it makes the world of a difference.




Sometimes to get through something like this, you need to count on other people to get you through the start of it - that's always the trickiest part. The first week of trying to get out of those binge eating habits is the worst. It's like you're so aware of all the food around you - like it's literally calling out to you - but you're trying to gain that self-control back so you're fighting through it.

I think it goes for a lot of things, but getting through 7 days of it, is really when the ball starts rolling. That's when I felt I could take off the stabilizers (i.e. everyone holding my hand through it) and start taking charge myself.

I've learnt what my triggers are and how to recognize them, I've learnt to stop being so polite and decline something if I know it's not going to do my mental state any good to eat it, and I've learnt a balance that works for me, without cutting out all of the things I enjoy in life.

Like I said, I'm in a really good place right now, which I hope continues, but finding the balance in your relationship with food isn't always easy.

When it comes to BED or Bulimia, it's learning to find that control, when enough is enough, and listening to your body and what it is telling you. Find distractions - put on a film, read a book, ring a friend - do anything that take your mind away from that fixation for a bit.

If you're out there and any of this applies to you, I'm going to throw a good ol' cliche at you:

"things get better" ... oh and: "everything is temporary".

Eating disorders are crap, but we're all stronger than we think we are. Fight through it and find yourself again. Life wasn't made to destroy ourselves over the 'perfect' self, life is made for living and food is meant to be enjoyed, not feared or abused.

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