Addicted To Food: What It's Like To Live With Binge Eating Disorder
I remember sitting at the kitchen table and looking down at my astronomy book, attempting to ignore the dozens of sweets laid out in front of me.
My little sister had just been asked to prom by her boyfriend, who happened to make a trail out of doughnuts, cookies and cake, to lead her to the ultimate sweet: himself.
I sat there on purpose.
It had been almost a year since I started binge eating, and I was getting so tired of having to avoid food because it was destined to reel me in. This time, it wasn't going to happen. I was going to sit there and do my homework. I wasn't going to eat a single bite of anything.
This lasted for about two minutes.
When you develop Binge Eating Disorder (BED), you aren't able to fight your desire for food. It's like an addiction. Scratch that. It IS an addiction.
The sweet, salty and fatty indulgence that fills your mouth and your belly sends thrills to your mind.
It is a stress reliever, a way to avoid negative emotions and a way to feel better temporarily, only to hate yourself the moment after doing it.
It's just as consuming as alcohol is to an alcoholic or a lit pipe is to a meth addict.
I started with a doughnut; just one to shut up my brain:
"There you go, stupid brain. You had your sweet. Now shut the f*ck up."
But, no, it never stops just there. That first doughnut only gives the urge more strength. Suddenly, all rational thought begins to dim and your obsession takes over.
Another doughnut, a cookie, another cookie, a piece of cake, one more doughnut. Now you need something salty.
You basically eat your weight in food or until you feel like you're about to throw up. I think you get the picture.
I ate too much in one sitting. This is something we all do every once in a while, but I did it almost every other day. It was a cycle of binge, restrict, exercise, repeat.
It was terrifying and all-consuming. I thought of nothing but food for days, for weeks, for months, for years.
Most people who have seen me over the past few years wouldn't think I had this problem. Even my family had no idea about the amount of food I was taking in.
My sister's ice cream, my father's cookies and my mother's leftovers all started disappearing. They would always question where everything went, but I simply sat back and let them blame each other.
This is one of the worst parts of the addiction: how lonely and shameful the habit can be. I think that's also why I let it last so long.
It was my secret. I would continue to tell my therapist I was healed, and then, I would go back the next month to admit I was still having issues.
I was deeply and utterly ashamed. Sometimes I still am, as I type this out knowing it might be seen by those I know.
Now that I have recovered, the thought of this shame makes me really sad. I remember how isolating the addiction made me feel, and how it must be affecting others the same way.
I remember even trying to attend an AA meeting, only to feel like I was still too different from those who were addicted to alcohol.
They were able to escape drinking, celebrating the number of days they had remained sober, while I went there after a day of binging. I felt so ashamed.
While other addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, are more widely known and understood, food addiction and BED isn't. I felt like no one could help me.
Even when I tried explaining my problems to others, people would tell me what I was experiencing was normal. It was not normal.
Eating over 2000 calories in one sitting is not normal. Making yourself eat until you are sick is not normal. Trying to overcompensate with exercise or not eating the next day is NOT NORMAL.
Not only is this disorder less understood than other addictions, it's even more difficult to just get rid of the problem.
Imagine an alcoholic being forced to sit at a bar every night, the bartender just pouring shots right in front of him. That is what food addiction feels like.
You can't avoid food. It's everywhere, and you need it to survive. Even when you're attempting to avoid all junk food, the simple acts of biting, chewing and swallowing can remind you of the terrible habit.
I think the most important lesson I have learned from this addiction is to be patient and kind with yourself. But you must be tough on yourself as well.
You have to make the changes and put in the work to finally create the life needed to stop the habit.
Read books, join groups, talk to people and get therapy. Start building a better support system and a stronger inner self, whatever you think will help solve the problem.
As long as you are continuing to fight, know you are not hopeless. You are stronger than your addiction.
You WILL beat it.