All eating disorders are incredibly serious and life-limiting, so while no disorder is more or less important than the other, I wanted to talk about the disorder that I have, which isn’t often spoken about in the media or even by professionals.
In my own words, binge eating disorder is an uncontrollable compulsion to eat. For me, this means that it is incredibly hard for me just to limit or manage what I eat. I find it incredibly hard to stick to ‘sensible’ portions or to know when to stop eating. I don’t have this ‘start’ and ‘stop’ mechanism that I guess others do.
I was a very healthy child, I was always doing sports and eating good food, my parents were very health conscious and ensured that I had the best possible start to life, within their own ability.
I was not born with this compulsion, I developed a binge eating disorder.
At the age of 7, I moved home and something changed. It could be down to the new environment, a change in a situation or the many traumas that came from uprooting my life. I did not realize it at first, but I soon became obsessed with food, but not with counting it or enjoying it.
I developed this urge to eat, I always seemed to be hungry and no meal or snack ever seemed to be enough. I couldn’t see past this voice in my head that told me that every situation deserved a treat, I was eating to celebrate, because I was bored and simply because I needed to get a drink and I happened to be in the kitchen.
I didn’t enjoy the food, not in the sense that ‘foodies’ will talk about flavour and texture. In truth, I would just shovel whatever I could find, things like golden syrup or even spices. I felt like I needed to fill whatever was inside of me, like a starving monster.
I enjoyed knowing that I was silencing those thoughts for a while.
By the time I started high school, I fitted into women’s clothes, and while I will never shame a person’s weight, because that does not determine the value of a person, I had eaten so much that I was now technically obese.
I didn’t see this issue I think, I just felt like food was a typical part of the day and didn’t bother me at all until people close to me started calling me ‘fat’, it struck a nerve, especially when I was told to ‘just lose the weight’ or ‘go on a diet’.
It was never that simple for me, I couldn’t just stop my obsession with food, I hadn’t actively chosen to be overweight, this feeling inside of me was so much greater and complicated than what anyone could see on my exterior.
I spent my teen years starving myself and then binge eating, I constantly gained and lost weight, which did not do me any good. I was in a circle that never ended between wanting to be attractive so that I could please the people around me, because I didn’t want to be seen as fat, I wanted to be seen as human. But inevitably, I always feel back to that desire to eat, it only took one bad day, one bad comment, to send me there.
Today, I still battle binge eating, I still find myself losing control any time I am invited for a meal out or there is an occasion. I still find myself eating my whole cupboard because my mind won’t unleash me from the compulsion to eat. However, I am getting to a healthier place, I am fighting, but it has taken me a year of hard work, many wobbles and replaces and I am still not at the end of this, it may be a fight that I will always battle.
My main weapon against binge eating is the reminder that I am fighting for myself, I am fighting for my life.
It’s not glamorous though, I see these challenges that people do, to eat as many calories as possible, yet they seem to go back to their normal mindset.
For me, I will be in tears because I can’t stop myself, I will be in so much pain where I know that I can’t eat anymore, yet I can’t put down the food in front of me. I will look at myself in the mirror and feel sick because of the way I look, because I don’t see the person I am, I see the person who is unable to silence the compulsion. And every time someone suggests that it’s easy to change your lifestyle, I feel like an utter failure because I’ve tried so hard.
I have tried so many diets and things that everyone on the internet seems to think can help anyone who overeats, but it does not work, because I am not a typical person who wants to lose weight, I am a person with a disorder that needs more than a week to week diet plan or exercise routine.
If I can just say one thing, to whoever feels like they are controlled by the food around them, is that it does not make them a bad person. You are not gross, fat or lazy, you are the person who you know to be inside and underneath all of these bad thoughts.
While the journey is long and hard, binge eating can be fought, it’s what I am doing right now and I still see success stories, I still see hope. So, please know that you are not alone, I am right by you, I’m walking that same journey.
Charlotte Underwood is a 22 year old from Norfolk UK. She is a growing mental health advocate and has found passion in writing to make her voice heard.