Binge Eating Disorder

I still make myself laugh sometimes.  I really thought when I started this healthy lifestyle journey that I would reach an ‘end.’  That some of the ‘bad’ things would disappear and no longer be an issue.

Joke’s on me.

A weight on the scale? Permanently changed/banished behaviors? Some sort of finish line?

I really had no idea what I thought would be the ‘end’, but I was so sure there was one. I thought that once I got healthy, got to a normal weight that some of these problems would simply just disappear.

They don’t.

Who knew?


An old friend came to visit two weeks ago.

And that’s totally a euphemism for ‘something shitty that I was really, fervently hoping I had killed/abolished/changed/was going to stay the HELL GONE FOREVER just knocked me on my ass… ‘

My old friend showed up again.

I was am a binge eater.

I always dressed that up, when I had to say anything at all, and said I was a compulsive overeater. Which is true — that’s a component of the problem I battle.

Overeating can be sporadic, no guilt/shame, just a bad habit.  An overly full belly from time to time

Binge eating is a whole different animal.

Binge eating disorder (BED). “BED is a medical condition, and it’s the most common eating disorder in the United States. People with BED regularly eat large amounts of food while experiencing a sense of loss of control over the eating episode. They often feel guilt or shame after eating. Characterized by eating when not physically hungry.’

Hunger has NOTHING to do with it. Nothing.

Binge eating sucks.  Big time.

There I said it.

For me a binge gets started when I’m sad, not being active and things feel increasingly out of control.  The more of that toxic combination there is in my life, the more I lean toward food for gaining that control, that ‘love’, that comfort…

I know binge eating is an issue for people — one we do NOT talk about.  Yet BED is the most common eating disorder in the US. ( Healthline). I know from conversations, texts, emails, FB messages that this is not something I’m suffering with alone. There’s a bunch of you out there suffering quietly. Miserably.


Last big binge for me was before my mom died.  Over 8 years ago.  2009.  I’ve done some overeating in that time since, for sure.  But not a planned, purposeful binge.

I thought I’d ‘cured’ binge eating.  Or had it buried deep and totally under control.

Until 2 weeks ago.

This binge caught me totally by surprise and none of my new, healthy, hard-fought habits were worthy of stopping it.

It scared the shit out of me. And I couldn’t stop it.

The binge lasted 4 days.

No one knew I was doing it.  When I finally reached out for help the friend I told said ‘I didn’t know you were binging’…  To which my reply was ‘Because I didn’t want you to know.  I’m damn good at this shit.  Damn good.  If I didn’t want you to know, you would never know. But I need you to know now and I need help.’

I can tell you that as far as binging goes — I had not lost any of my skills…  This episode was methodical, anticipated, carefully planned, enjoyed, deeply hidden, devastatingly successful.  I was thrilled to be doing it.  Mortified when I was in the midst of it. Sad and broken and totally beaten down after the first bite.

I reached out for help at day 4.

I quickly got appropriate help. I got support.  I was reminded that I am loved.

I was also harshly reminded that this is a cunning foe that I have to keep working to learn and understand.

So what was the binge?

Trail mix.  Freaking Costco trail mix.  I bought 4 bags. They each weigh 4 pounds.   I paid cash.  I ate a bag a day for 4 days. I ate it all day long.  Quietly, a serving at a time. Hidden away and portioned out so no one would suspect or question or figure out what was going on.

Your mind is trying to do the math. I’ll save you the effort…  Each bag was 36 servings with 9,600 calories per bag.  38,400 calories, 3,360 grams of carbs over 4 days. (In my healthy eating ‘norm’ I eat about 1,500 cals, and limit carbs to 90 grams per day…)

Yeah.  The scope of this binge is even more horrifying when you put all the numbers on paper.

And I was also eating ‘regular’ meals so that no one would catch on to my binge eating.

And entire bag a day, for four days. 

I was somehow able to stop the binge, even though I still felt totally out of control and sad and frantic.  I reached out, which goes totally against ALL instincts in a binge eating haze. And then I began to battle the shame and guilt and failure that comes on the heels of losing total control over food.  The shame and guilt of hiding my binge. Feeling isolated and alone and terrified I would be found out. Or that it wouldn’t stop.  Or that all of my hard work to learn to run and reverse T2 diabetes and lose weight would be GONE because I could not/WOULD NOT stop eating.

This is an old friend I would be happy to never, ever see again.

I simply have to understand that s/he may show up again at any time for the rest of my life.

 

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30 thoughts on “Binge Eating Disorder

  1. You have a such a great way with words. I hear you, I feel you, I’m battling this with you, you are not alone. Thanks for expressing so well what others of us are to afraid to share. Let’s battle together.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In some ways I wish I was alone. And that no one had to suffer with this. Battling together sounds a whole hell of a lot better than what I have been doing. I want to make it OK to talk about all of this. Shame can’t hide in the light. (Thank you Brene Brown!) No shame. No hiding. Fighting to get healthy. I’ve got your back.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Betsy the fact that you are so willing to be vulnerable now is the difference it shows the growth that is still taking place. I truly relate to every word thank you so much for sharing so authentically.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such a painful post to write. But I promised myself not to hide things in shame anymore… So hid for a few weeks. Then wrote to share in hopes that — SOMEONE, somewhere WOULD need to hear this. And get strong. And get help. We need to run soon…. Looks like you’ve got your 100 miler picked. 🙂

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  3. Oh Betsy….I have been there..mine comes while I’m driving..I have learned to control it for the most part by putting servings in smaller bags for each day. The other bags are in the trunk! Am I successful every day, no, but by stopping the car and having to get it … makes me stop and think. I also hope your friend doesn’t appear again. You are a true inspiration to so many people. Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I use that trick to to STOP THE MADNESS for a second and see if the part of my brain that understands can kick in and take over. And I thought that my habits was on lockdown, no-fail. I thought I had this thing beat or at least pushed to the very thin margin and I would see it coming back a mile away….This was just a really good wake-up call that I have work to keep digging into. Things show up around food for me – even though food is not the issue. Such a complicated world, but I’ll use this life happily and well to figure it out and get as healthy as possible. 🙂

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  4. I am SOOOO glad you were willing to write and share this. Yes, a lot more people than we realize struggle! In my opinion (and because I’ve dealt with all of them in varying amounts) this is the worst of the eating disorders because of the shame, guilt, and lack of control. And YES, the giant costco trail mixes were my instigators, but the feelings that caused it, and for me, a starving, nutrient-deprived brain/body were definitely the causes. I was once told by a former therapist who had overcome bulimia that you don’t necessarily get rid of the instinct 100%, but you do learn to navigate the road signs ahead of time better to avoid getting to that place. Bingeing is not my first go-to, but I’d definitely say her experience/advice has also been true for me on all the disordered eating fronts.

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    1. I didn’t know I was BACK ON THE ROAD so wasn’t paying attention to any of the signs. Then when I did realize what was happening, was happy not to stop it… And that tipping point was SCARY AS HELL. Thats when I realized this thing wasn’t under control, it was controlling. I think one of the key things about this — advice from you, Spencer, two other good friends who battle BED is to think in ACTIVE terms, not passive words or past tense. Lightbulb. Obviously one, but one I needed to click on none-the-less. For now I’m being really careful, intentional, joyful with shopping for food, eating, running… Just getting joy back around the things that matter. Put the stress and control on the meditation mat and in some carefully constructed lists. 🙂 Little things bring back bigger order for me.

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      1. That is so good to hear! And yes I can definitely agree it can be very subtle/invisible. I’m not always good about it, but I’ve gotten so I try to check in with myself at least once a day by getting quiet and asking myself how I feel, and what I need to be at my best that day, and then following through with whatever presents as an answer. For me, this practice has been a big game-changer.

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  5. Thank you for writing this! It is as if you were in my head and my life for a few moments. After all the battles I have conquered binge eating is my greats ever! The shame, the quilt, the secrecy… When I’m mentally off track and in that mode the very first thought I have when I awake is (what did I eat yesterday?). So much truth to this and so much pain! How Betsy have you gotten to the place of letting the truth be the truth and not hide from shame? You are in all accounts a rock!!

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    1. Rena! Oh… Yeah… The morning after. I think ‘What did I eat? Did I enjoy any of it? Did I gain weight? Followed quickly and intensely by ‘What fresh hell and havoc can we cause today? Let’s go buy all of the things we know we shouldn’t eat, hide them and EAT THEM.’ And that’s about the first 30 seconds of waking up… You ask a REALLY IMPORTANT question. How to get to the point of not hiding… Battling shame. Such a complicated answer. And while I would prefer to craft it in an email and send it to you; I’ll write a version of it here in case someone else has your question… I decided I was going change my life. Blindly, naively, passionately. And I just started making changes. And trying my best to simply see the things that came up as part of the ‘old’ me and figure out if it served well for the ‘new’ me, or needed to go or I needed to spend some time learning more about it. I surrounded myself with people who are amazing – and who were all headed in roughly the same direction; trying to be the best version of themselves they could possibly be. They’re from all walks, stages of life. I dove into the work of Brene Brown. She is a researcher in social sciences. Her Ted talks on shame/vulnerability are life-changing for me. I watch them often when I need a reminder. She talks about joy and hope and shame and vulnerability form a science standpoint. She’s funny and blunt and dealing with humans. She talks about how shame can not hide if it is exposed to the light. And that resonated for me. BIG TIME. Shame was holding me hostage and controlling what I did – and if I could simply get brave enough to open the door and shove it outside a little — it would go away/dissipate/weaken. So I started trying it out with some smaller things AND/OR things that were deep desires of mine. I wanted to walk and run more. And I knew I was getting mocked and laughed at at the gym and on the road. As a 400 pound woman trying to move more, in ill-fitting men’s large sized clothing; I was a target. And I was deeply ashamed, But more than being ashamed – I wanted to be a walker and a runner. So I found some small ways to get the walking done and NOT feel shame. And I kept building on those experiences. Looking for the positives. And eventually it was waaayyyy more positive – even if a rare comment or action was flung my way it was suddenly more SHAME ON THEM for being asshats, than shame on me for being fat…. BIG MOMENT. So I have some practice knowing that even if someone doesn’t agree with me, or doesn’t like what I’m doing or it feels really vulnerable and scary to talk about things that I’m internally cataloging as ‘shame’… – that doesn’t mean I have to own any shame around it. I’m not talking about being unlawful or dangerous. I’m just talking about owning up to who I am, who I want to be. Not everyone is going to post this stuff on a blog. It’s the road I chose. I think that for someone else it might simply be talking to their partner. Or finding a therapist. Or confiding in a close friend. CRACKING OPEN THE DOOR…. And we have a set of social stigmas setting on top of this that are so complex and deep; but I can’t worry about society at large, I can only worry about my sphere of influence. And shame is not welcome here. Thank you for asking that question. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope this helps. And PLEASE reach out to me if you want to keep talking!!! betsy.hartley@gmail.com. “If we can share out story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” — Brene Brown. I went and found someone to empathize and listen and try to understand to talk to at first. And now I promise to BE THAT PERSON as often as I can….

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  6. Oh my gosh, this has totally been me for a long time now, months, in fact, with various kinds of foods. I do it secretly, and throughout the day, and in portions no one will suspect any “bad behavior” from. For a while it was gummi bears – a pound a day, sometimes more; boxes of Hostess cakes that were on sale at the supermarket; Subway cookies, ice cream… as a result I have gained 45 pounds since August. After losing over 100 three years ago. I am so, so afraid that I can’t stop going in this direction. I feel like total crap and my clothes are starting to not fit. (I wear a lot of jersey knits and leggings, so I do have stuff to wear, but pants? Nope.

    I’m not sure what to do to stop, and I will be honest: Part of me doesn’t want to be helped and doesn’t want to stop. I guess that is a big part of the problem.

    *hugs*

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    1. Hugs right back to you. Lots of hugs. There’s nothing I can tell you that you have not already heard, you don’t already know. We’re very savvy and smart about our own condition. We know how to hide it and pretend it’s livable. Even when it’s literally eating us alive. Getting systemic help seems to be key for me. Therapist, dietician that I am actually listening to who knows the BS that BED eaters try to pull, support network, some stop gap measures with trusted friends around shopping/dining out/accountability and some serious boundaries with others until I figure out how to find my own damn feet. All tricks and tools to stop me from doing what I really want to do…. I knew this wasn’t about food. Even years ago I pretended not to know, but I knew. It was about body shame, control, avoiding conflict with anyone for any reason, it’s about finding love from something since people couldn’t love me and my fat body…. And that shapes up to eating a whole lot of food. Non judgemental, love-me-back, comfort-me-at-the-worst FOOD. Happy (totally distorted and effed up, but happy) memories around food helping me cope. So…. HUGS my friend. And you answered your own question. Not wanting to stop or get help is the biggest part of the problem. And none of us can solve this for you. We can support you, encourage you, love you. But you have to do this part of the journey on your own… HUGS…

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  7. Love you, love your caring replies. Thank you sweet girl for helping me and so many others, just by being you. A totally open, brutally honest but always caring Betsy makes a fantastic holiday gift!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you… Again. Kind of wish I was alone. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But thank you for reaching out and assuming me that I’m not suffering alone. I’ll keep fighting for me. And for others.

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  8. For a very long time I put off educating myself on what I too suffer from. I read some information on NEDIC, but I have been reluctant to read real people’s stories. I guess reaching out to people is harder when you deal with something that brings you so much shame. Anyway, thank you for sharing this. Your post is the first that I have read of a real person’s point of view. What other people are saying is true; your words are spot on. I could relate in some way to most all of your words. As shameful and guilty as I feel almost daily, I feel some bitter sweet comfort knowing I am not alone. I wish you all the best and sincerely hope your old friend takes the hint and stays away for as long as it possibly can.

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    1. I just devoured your entire blog. Shame is overpowering some days. I was choking back tears and telling my room mae yesterday that I was afraid to go to work… I knew people were looking at me differently. Guess what? They aren’t. They’re engaging me in conversations about how they can help, asking good questions. They care about me as person regardless of this extra little baggage I carry around. Keep reaching out. It’s accelerating my healing. Awareness. Making the shame slink back to it’s black little hole… You can always reach out to me. I’m not healed, I’m learning, but I can sure as hell listen… Betsy.Hartley@gmail.com

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  9. I am sending you a big hug of sisterhood. I know what you are talking about all too well. I am also a compulsive overeater and am working on my recovery. Putting this out there like that is so very important for all of us. That’s why I recently started a blog about it as well, in the hopes to help someone. Your post is helping. Much support to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some days my blog is solely for me. I can look back and see huge growth, even if I’m tackling a new problem. Sometimes it points out trends for me that I need to pay a little more attention to. Not one day have I regretted starting/committing time to my blog. 🙂 And somedays my blog is for anyone else who needs to find some sort of kinship in the good, bad, life, being a women. 🙂 Good luck with your blog and your journey! Recovery is one day at a time. I have a business partner, good friend who is in recovery from drugs and alcohol. He always says one day at a time. IN my mind I always correct it to one BITE at a time. But the common theme is choosing and not giving up. And we can align with that regardless of our ‘drug’ of choice.

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