I confess...I haven't reread the below but it is something I've wanted to write for a long time. And I hope people read it. And I'm also scared to have people read it.
I am 5’4”. In recent years, my weight has ranged from 115 to 125. My highest weight was 150…not healthy on my frame but I was never truly obese. So no one passing on the street would peg me for what I am. A binge eater. At times, a pretty severe one.
It truly is amazing what people will say when you don’t fit their stereotypes. I’ve checked out of the market with a dozen big bakery cookies (and other stuff too…) and had the clerk joke she couldn’t buy them because she’d eat half the first night. I planned to eat them all. A colleague on the elevator saw me with a large thing of jelly beans and chocolate and made a joke about how I must throw it all up if I eat that stuff and look like I do. I’ve never purged.
There were roots to my binge eating that I can see it retrospect. Times when I’d order way too much delivery in college and try and hide any evidence before my roommate returned. But there is one moment when I really truly knew that something was wrong. I was in graduate school and living in a suite of rooms…my own bedroom and bath but a shared living area and kitchen. I wanted food but my roommates were in the common area and I didn’t want to be seen. I found a packet of hot chocolate in my bag. I ate it “raw” sitting with my back against the bed. And I got this massive head rush.
When it was at its peak, I binged (severely) every three days. We’re not talking an extra piece of pizza. We’re talking a package of cookies, a pint of ice cream, a bagel with extra cream cheese, and half a jar of peanut butter…in thirty minutes. I’d eat until I was almost physically incapable of eating more. I’d try to keep it secret…even stopping at multiple places to avoid buying my full feast at once. I probably would have done it more often if my body hadn’t rebelled with pain.
I don’t tend to binge when I’m hungry. Or at least not physically hungry. It is not about that. And I’ve thought a lot about what it IS about. I think it is about feeling. Consciously or unconsciously, I am feeling something I don’t want. So I eat. And there’s this total rush with all the sugar that pushes away other feelings. Even the bloated and ill aftereffects are part of it…I can’t feel much else when I feel so ill. I hate how I feel after, and it lasts for days sometimes, but that may be part of the addiction. Because I can point to that feeling and because it pushes away everything else.
And it is also about control. I am borderline OCD…never diagnosed but I need order and consistency. On my “good” days, I know exactly how much I eat. I run….a lot. I like my hair to be straight and neat. I like piles on my desk instead of chaos. I like to board the train in the exact same spot every day. But a binge is the total opposite of control. It is out of control to the highest degree. It is a rebellion against myself.
If you passed me on the street, I wouldn’t stand out. If I bought a burger and fries, you wouldn’t give me a “she shouldn’t eat that” look. If you thought anything about my body, it would probably be that I’m in pretty darn good shape (and I’m pretty modest so I can only say that because it is objectively unavoidable). I’m usually a size 2 these days (though vanity sizing helps). And if you heard I had food issues, you’d probably think I battled anorexia in college or something like that. You wouldn’t guess. So you might comment on the package of cookies I’m buying and joke about them.