**Content Warning: this blog post talks about disordered eating and Binge Eating Disorder. Please give it a miss if you think this might trigger you.**
I’ve spent a long time hating my binge eating. Hating and despising the excessive, mindless consumption that makes up such a big part of my eating disorder.
I’ve also spent a long time thinking that the binge eating is the problem, the thing to be cured. Stop bingeing = feel better.
The truth is, that I’m only just realising – I think I’ve got that equation the wrong way around.
The key to feeling better isn’t to stop bingeing. Actually, I think, the way to stop bingeing is to feel better. The bingeing is, was, a symptom of something much deeper – not the thing that needs to be treated.
There is much to be ungrateful for with binge eating; the feeling of a stomach so full it could burst, the way your gums bleed as you frantically brush your teeth to try and scrub away what you’ve done, the weight gain that leaves you unable to recognise your reflection and facing the very worst parts of our weight stigmatising culture.
But, being angry at the bingeing doesn’t help. Believe me. All that does is feed into the guilt and shame that increases your self loathing and drives you to those food wrappers again.
I once heard Laura Thomas say that to rip away binge eating from someone in recovery from BED is like taking away a child’s safety blanket. All it does is remove the coping mechanism that they’ve been relying on to survive for so long, and it will most likely send them into turmoil.
That’s why I realise now that maybe I should be thanking my tendency for binge eating, rather than just resenting it.
Thank you, binge eating – for being the thing that helped me eat my way out of my darkest hours.
Thank you, binge eating – for being there for me when it felt like no-one else was.
Thank you, binge eating – without you, I might never have started the journey that lead me to rejecting diet culture and finding body positivity.
Thank you, binge eating – for at least fueling and nourishing my body somehow. If I had developed more restrictive habits, my body could be paying a much higher price now.
Thank you, binge eating – for keeping me alive.
If the thought of stockpiling food and eating alone is the thing that helps (and has helped) my self-harming thoughts to pass, then so be it.
There are worse things I could do to manage my sadness, I think, than eating. Much worse things I could do.
It might seem counter-intuitive to be grateful for the binge eating voice that lives in my head, but maybe if I treat it (and myself) with a little more compassion, I can continue to heal – and, eventually, find peace.
Of course, I’m not saying we should be so happy to have our disordered eating habits that we just carry on doing them, never trying to find a way to recover. Quite the opposite. I’m saying that if we just give ourselves a break once in a while, it might give us just enough strength to fight the underlying issues to our disorders and hopefully, be free of all of it for good.
I’ve been feeling a lot better over the past 6 months or so. Not perfect (who is?), but better. I’ve let a lot of things go, or I’m trying to – the desire for weight loss (although this still crops up), apologising for my body, waiting for it to change before I do things, and policing my eating.
Honestly? I’m just not really focusing on it. I’m doing my best to listen to my body and figure out what she wants to eat, but balancing that with what my feelings want to eat too. I’m not mentally or physically restricting myself. I’m just sort of eating what I want. And that may not be the most nutritious thing at all times, but that’s okay. It’s all fine.
I’ve been trying to take this approach for almost a year now and guess what…nothing’s changed. I haven’t dropped down dead or ballooned in size – in fact, if anything, my weight has gone down a little, although that’s not something I’m aiming for – and I’ve just got on with my life.
Finding a way to stop obsessing over food and just trying to have a good day has been so helpful to me. I’m not recovered yet; I know that. In times of distress or sadness I know I eat emotionally, and I accept and see that, but I’m no longer judging myself for it.
And so, I think I finally have some perspective. Some distance from my disordered eating; enough for me to look at it more rationally and see that whilst it’s not something I’d ever want anyone else to go through, I can be grateful for it.
It may have stolen so much of my life over the years, but it brought me to this place, now. Alive and breathing and smiling and writing.
So thank you, binge eating, for getting me this far. But I think I can take it from here.
**Disclaimer: I am no expert in Binge Eating Disorder. I’m not a doctor, or a therapist – just someone sharing her own individual experience. If anything in this blog post affected or triggered you, please contact eating disorder charity Beat for support.**