Stigma, Shame and Suffering - Overcoming Binge Eating Disorder
“I’d always been a fan of my food. My nan and my aunties would comment on it when I was a kid. My mum never made me feel bad for it, but I was definitely aware that I ate more than other boys my age. I was pretty good at sports and did quite a lot as a teenager. Even though I ate loads and was starting to feel like maybe I enjoyed food a bit too much, my weight wasn’t an issue because I was so active.
I went to college when I was 18 and I found it really tough. I felt like everyone else on my course was more intelligent than me and I didn’t know how they all seemed so confident. My mental health started to suffer and I got quite depressed and anxious. I started eating even more, and drank a lot too. I wasn’t doing sport though and my weight really went up. I became a bit of a loner really. I’d just hole myself away with loads of food and vodka and basically used it to self-medicate.
My drinking got really out of hand. I felt like all I did was eat and drink. I knew I needed to sort myself out and look after my mental health so I quit my course. My mum was into intermittent fasting at that point and suggested I do it too so I did. And I joined the gym she used too and got really into weights and stuff.
I felt much better for a while. I was proud that I’d managed to turn around my eating and drinking. The fasting was tough but honestly it felt easier to just go long periods without eating than to try to suddenly just eat loads of salad and fruit. I was starting to see results which I liked too. Going to the gym several times a week and fasting meant I was losing weight and toning up and loads of people were telling me how much better I looked. It was definitely a confidence boost.
But then eventually I couldn’t keep up the fasts. And on the days I did manage to fast, I’d end up having massive binges. I couldn’t control them. They just happened and I felt so guilty after. It was really embarrassing. I felt like a fraud because I’d become this “healthy” person and now I would have these sessions where I’d just eat and eat. I’d go on specific shopping trips to buy all the foods I binged on. Savoury stuff, sweet stuff…I’d fill a trolley. I’m sure people thought I was shopping for a big party or something.
I’d still go to the gym sometimes, but to be honest even that started to fall by the wayside as I became more and more embroiled in the bingeing. I started planning my days around when I could binge and where at first I binged mainly at night, as time went on the episodes came earlier in the day too. It really felt like it was starting to take over my life, and I was so ashamed because I felt like I had no control with food, like I was this disgusting greedy monster. I stopped seeing friends because I knew if I started eating in front of them, I might not be able to stop. There was one night where I did watch a match with my friends from school and we had takeaway and then I came home and had a huge binge and I couldn’t work out why I was doing this when none of them did.
I think eventually something in me knew enough was enough. I hated how ashamed I felt all the time and living in fear of being caught in the act made me so anxious.
I saw a counsellor and it took quite a while for me to really open up fully about it, but when I did, they told me about Binge Eating Disorder and I recognised so much of what she told me about it in myself. Especially the feelings of disgust and shame that came over me every time I binged.
She really helped me to start moving away from my bingeing habits. It was really hard, but she helped me stick to regular eating instead of fasting or bingeing. My hunger and fullness cues were totally messed up, so it took a long time for my body to catch up and for a long while I needed a meal plan to make sure I wasn’t eating either way too much or far too little. It felt stupid at times, like I was some little kid learning how to eat…such a basic thing. And I didn’t tell many people about it. I still felt a lot of shame about what I’d been doing and I didn’t really think people would understand. Eating disorders aren’t really something guys my age think about and my friends would’ve felt really shocked and awkward if I’d told them. But I guess I just wanted to share a bit of my experience here because I know there might be other men like me out there thinking they’re just greedy or f***ed up, when actually they have an illness. And having gone through it myself, I can tell you that trying to recover from binge eating can take a really long time, but it is possible and although I don’t feel my relationship with food is totally uncomplicated now, I haven’t binged in over a year and I can eat with other people and stuff again too now. I’m starting at college again in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to it, but know I’ll need to be careful to eat properly too. I think I’m ready though, and I know now that if I’m feeling low in confidence or struggling with the academic work, bingeing isn’t going to help me fix that.”
Thanks to Jamie for sharing his experiences.
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- Aug 2021