Yep, things are about to get personal.
I’ve always struggled with eating, with my weight, with knowing when to stop.
Ever since I was a kid I would find ways to eat more food, to sneak it when no-one was watching.
I was always bigger than other kids, even when I wasn’t particularly fat. I was taller, broader, but a lot of that used to come from my love for swimming and endless laps up and down the pool, sometimes up to five days a week at my prime.
But, as so many of us sadly do, I gave up that sporting passion. My exercise went down, and my weight shot up.
Going to college, getting a job and having control of my own money was when things really started to get bad – why not buy that mid morning meal and the afternoon chocolate bars? All your skinny friends are eating ’em!
I’ve had issues with body confidence and self esteem all my life. Being overweight and perpetually single, with clothes at least 3 sizes bigger than all your friends…that makes you feel isolated. Makes you feel worthless. Makes you feel like you’re going to end up alone your whole life, and what’s the point in even trying when no one is interested in you anyway? That’s diet culture talking, of course, but it’s voice can be deafening.
All of this emotion, I battled with eating. Stockpiling chocolate and sweets and highly calorific foods, torturing myself every time I entered a supermarket, hiding the wrappers and feeling the ultimate shame and panic when anyone found them.
After years of internalising self hatred and making excessive consumption into a habit and a coping mechanism, I realised what was going on was so much more than greed or a lack of willpower. It’s a disorder, a full blown eating disorder. I, Sophie Butcher, have an eating disorder. It feels weird to write it down. I might not have been officially diagnosed or had a doctor actually say those words to me, but I know it’s true. I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life.
Binge Eating Disorder, or BED, is a condition in which a person feels compelled to overeat regularly in the form of binges. And yes, you might be thinking ‘that’s not a real thing’ or ‘everyone overindulges from time to time’, but this is more than just ordering dessert at a family meal, or munching through a whole bag of Doritos on a hangover. Binge Eating Disorder is the consistent act of buying lots of high calorie, low nutrition food and eating it in one go until you feel sick and bloated – and you do it again and again to cope with emotional or mental issues.
When you binge, you don’t even know where you are or who you are. You don’t taste anything, it’s just the act of putting something in your mouth and forcing it down until your jaw hurts that gives you some kind of twisted comfort – that is until you’re finished, which is when you become weighed down with shame and guilt. And then the cycle starts again.
Looking back, I was doing this on almost a daily basis, from when I was about 16 up until a few months ago. That kind of behaviour, it affects you. It changes you from someone who just overeats, to someone who obsesses about food at every waking moment (in a different way to those with a healthy relationship with food say they do), and becomes crippled with depression because that obsession with food has consumed them and blocked out every seemingly positive thing in their life.
I know this is getting kind of heavy, but this is something I’ve needed to get off my chest for a long while now, and even the act of typing it is making me feel lighter. I feel like it’s time to share my story, my truth.
All of this built up over a long period of time and eventually I forced myself to talk to a doctor about it. I also had a blood test which lead to me being diagnosed as pre-diabetic, with my blood sugar levels being very close to full blown Type 2 diabetes. Having diabetes is a long term fear of mine that has caused me real anxiety, and so being told I was on the verge was, well, horrifying.
How could I have done this to my body? How could my brain, a part of me I’d always been so proud of, let this happen to me?
Basically, I don’t have diabetes now but if I had kept going on the way I was, it’s extremely likely that I would develop it in the future.
This spurred me into action, but slowly. I’m doing better at getting healthier than I have in a long time – I do netball twice a week, go the gym and have been regularly competing in 10k runs this year, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I’m praying that when I go back to the doctors, it will be to receive better news.
Learning I was pre-diabetic was a wake up call alright, but was it a big enough one to overcome my eating disorder and mental health demons? I’m not so sure.
It’s a weird feeling, living in fear. It doesn’t make battling an eating disorder any easier.
All I know is that I’m doing a lot better than I was, most days anyway.
I know I have no choice to get better, to get healthier, but I’m going to focus on taking it one day, one meal, one mouthful at a time.
I’m sharing all of this because I want to raise awareness and recognition of BED, as well as other eating disorders. BED is now recognised as an eating disorder, just like anorexia and bulimia, but seems so much less talked about. I want to share my story as a sufferer of BED to hopefully help anyone out there in the same situation feel less alone.
Expect to see more posts like this on here as I go through my journey to recovery and improving my physical and mental health.
I’m not a mental health or medical professional and can’t advise on suffering with depression, pre-diabetes or BED other than my own experiences. If you feel like you have any of these conditions, please go and see your GP.
Be brave, it will help – I promise.
***This post was edited in May 2018 to remove any content that is triggering, fatphobic, weight-stigmatising or related to diet culture, and to try and show my experience with an eating disorder more responsibly. If you’ve been affected by this post, please contact eating disorder charity Beat for support.***