What’s in a name? Pt. 2

CW: eating disorders, weight-loss 

There are times when eating everything isn’t sexy. Sometimes after eating a McDonalds, I don’t joyfully suck dick; I throw up. 

Not deliberately; involuntarily, due to the sheer volume of food I’ve eaten in a short space of time, the combination of the two causing my digestive system to shudder and churn and billow, and the storm that was brewing suddenly surges, darkened, and smashes everything in its path. 

Then, calm. Only, it’s an eerie, foreboding calm because you know you’re only suspended in the eye. 

That first taste of saliva, the realisation my mouth is watering, truly is divine when I’m faced with the sweet head of a dick about to pierce my mouth. But, when it’s intuitively pooling in my mouth signalling the onset of nausea, it’s hell. 

“Why don’t you just, not eat like that, Robyn?” I was formally diagnosed with binge eating disorder when I was 25, but it’s dominated my eating habits, my life, since I was a teenager. I remember my very first binge, when I was 12 or 13, coming home from school after being relentlessly bullied and eating through an entire 12 pack of Morrisons own-brand crisps in a single sitting in my bedroom. Afterwards, I was terrified about my mum finding out they were all gone. 

One psychologist referred to it as self-soothing; another, as self-harm. Why I do it, I ultimately don’t know. My triggers are so complex they blur and I’m not even sure how to distinguish them. Sometimes, in very dark moments of despair, I wonder if this is just who I am. 

There’s an opinion that people with binge eating disorder are simply greedy and lack control, that it’s not a “proper” eating disorder. I admit, I am greedy. I do lack control. But neither of those things are simple. My urge to binge is often born out of anxiety and panic; I worry that I’m not eating enough, that I should be eating more, that I’m not going to feel satisfied, that I’ll feel hunger, that I can’t quench my emotions, that I’ll spin out of control, that I’ll die. My mind tells me I should binge, rather than my stomach signalling it wants me to. Binging is always the last thing my stomach wants. 

Binging is not comfort-eating. Binging isn’t comfortable. There’s a few moments of perverted pleasure, sure, when it begins and you’re dampening down all those nasty thoughts that led you to this place, but then it builds and builds and any control you imagined you had ebbs away and is replaced by a gnawing, clawing, frantic need. The need to eat and satisfy and make everything shut up and be quiet. 

Then, calm. Quickly followed by guilt and regret and fear and disgust. But, later, you only remember the calm and you then associate the binging with bringing you peace. That’s how addictive cycles begin.  

People often associate binge-eating with an addiction to food. I love food, I adore it. To me, food is social and joyful. It’s warmth. It reminds me of raucous group dinners for my birthday, Boxing Day buffets, sunny restaurant terraces on holiday, childhood picnics in the ruins of some castle. I might be addicted to it and those happy memories, but binging isn’t any of those things. It’s not about food, it’s about eating. It’s a process, cold and mechanical. 

For a start, it’s never social. You may have seen me over-eating, over-indulging, but you have never, ever seen me binge. You’ve almost certainly seen me excusing myself from a social occasion early to go and binge. You might have seen me in the supermarket, buying food specifically to binge on, although I would have done my best to hide what was in the trolley. You might have seen the empty food packets in the wheelie bin outside. You will never witness anyone binge. It’s a disgusting secret we keep. 

And because it’s a secret, it isolates us. The time when you’re binging is often the loneliest time you will ever have. 

Sometimes I miss the feeling I have when shopping for a binge. It feels special, like a treat. I go around the supermarket or deli or farm shop alone and feel so incredibly happy picking out little gifts for myself. As I place them in my trolley I imagine what they’re going to taste like, what the texture will feel like against my teeth or tongue, and I feel giddy, not just because I get to experience those things but because it’s something just for me. Binging is my secret, special thing. 

When I’m shopping or planning, I don’t think about the dark; I only think about the light, the pleasure and the relief. Often, I pick a particular time and make myself comfortable and safe; maybe put on a film in the background, lock the door, cover myself in a blanket. Those are my favourite times. They feel more satisfying than having to rush, because you’re squeezing it in while your partner has a shower or comes to bed or before your next meeting and you’re panicking about being caught. 

The process and the end is always the same though. They’re inescapable. 

And if you’re thinking that the way I can think about it so fondly, with such a warm glow, after so many paragraphs describing how horrifying and cold and lonely it all is, is truly terrifying, then you should try living in my head. It’s a maelstrom there. 

It’s always worse after a period of recovery. Sometimes I can be in recovery for weeks, sometimes months, usually not as long as a year. I can feel stable and confident and settled, and eating is simply eating. Sometimes eating is even a chore, I resent it, after so long forcing myself to binge so regularly. With recovery often comes weight-loss; an unintentional by-product of not over-consuming day after day. Sometimes, weight-loss is even welcomed. 

But when my body starts to change, the feelings of fear and disgust really set in. As I get smaller I worry; I worry about every new lump that’s revealed, I worry about my skin sagging, I worry about my bum flattening, I worry about my tits hanging, I worry about becoming unattractive, I worry about discovering cancer. Fat is a great big security blanket that wraps around my body and obscures it all. When it begins to melt away, what is going to be left? 

And so, it creeps back; the worry that I’m not eating enough, the feeling I should be eating more, the agitation I’m not going to feel satisfied, the anxiety that I’ll feel hunger, the fear that I can’t quench my emotions, the agitation that I’ll spin out of control, the concern that I’ll die. 

So, I binge. 

I binge to shut it all up. 

And on it goes. 

Despite it all, I have hope left. I have hope that it can be cured. That the latest period of recovery will endure, that it’ll be the last. That one day I can say that I used to have an eating disorder. That this isn’t just “who I am”; it’s not a part of me and it doesn’t define me. Sometimes there are only drops of hope, at other times waves. 

I’ll probably still eat everything, because I am greedy. But it’ll be on my terms, and I’ll be fat and exceedingly happy.


My site icon: a photo of my stomach and upper thighs, with my bright orange underwear on display.

3 thoughts on “What’s in a name? Pt. 2

  1. One of my dearest friends is also a binge eater. She has struggled since ber teens but only in the last year or so has she begun opening up to close friends. I can’t imagine how painful it is, for you both. Thank you for sharing some of the pain in your heart, it gives me an insight into the pain in her heart too. X

  2. This is a wonderfully raw and honest post.

    I can’t pretend that I am going through anything near what you are, but I also have a problem with overeating. This started with teenage depression and it hasn’t really fallen off yet – I feel hungry a lot of the time, and sometimes I eat just because I can, rather than because I want to. Sometimes I don’t even notice what I’m eating.

    Unlike you (because you look fantastic every second without even trying), I’m not happy with my body shape. My physical disability stops me from doing any cardio to burn body fat, and I’ve got invasive adipose tissue filling up the holes in my muscles, but I’m having to work very hard to admit that I’m always going to look like this.

    I even have disturbing body fantasies – picking off a spot and squeezing out all the fat; untying my belly button and using a hoover; finding a way to liquidise it all and pissing it out; lasering it off with a lightsabre and… you get the idea.

    Your closing comments give me a lot of hope. Your issues are a lot more than mine (I’m just a glutton, is the probable explanation), but if you can feel this comfortable, I’m crossing my fingers that I can too. Or that we can do so together.

    1. I certainly don’t feel fantastic all the time, but I do really appreciate you saying so. I often see myself somewhere on a scale between filthy hot and utterly disgusting; each day is different.

      I completely understand those fantasies, and mine is cutting my stomach off with a knife. And in really dark times, I’ve come very close to doing it.

      I don’t believe we’re always one thing (such as a glutton). I think our relationships with food is quite a fragile one and we also have to sustain ourselves against a background of so much societal noise. It’s hard for practically everyone.

      I can have hope for both of us, in the meantime, and I’m always happy to talk about it.

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