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Bingeing: 'I eat until I feel sick. I don’t realise what I’ve eaten until after the binge'

Binge eating was only declared an eating disorder in May 2013 so there is still a stigma surrounding it, writes Jodie Kenny.

Jodie Kenny See Change Ambassador

HONESTLY, I DIDN’T even know that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) was a thing until I was diagnosed with it. I thought that my eating habits were the result of me being greedy and undisciplined.

Even after the diagnosis and some Googling, I was sceptical. Yes, I identified with the symptoms, but was it really an eating disorder? This is a big problem with BED, the disbelief that it is, in fact, an eating disorder with the same level of severity as any other.

It took a lot of soul searching for me to finally come to terms with my disorder, accept my diagnosis and move toward recovery.

When I binge it’s as if I’m in a trance

BED can be different for each person who experiences it, but the main symptoms prevail. For me when I binge, it’s as if I’m in a trance. The rest of the world is gone. I’m not thinking, I’m not in control, I’m not in my body.

Normally I don’t realise what I’ve eaten until after the binge, I don’t taste or even enjoy the food as I’m eating it. It’s the definition of mindlessness and the main reason that mindfulness was one of the best treatments for me personally to address BED.

The manner of my binge is consistent

It starts with a negative emotion, an emotional trigger, or a reaction to something. Then comes the dissociation, the binge trance. This is when I start eating. I’ll continue eating until I feel sick, as if I’m going to throw up.

I’ll wait until the urge to throw up has passed, and then I’ll continue eating. This will continue until the initial emotion that triggered the binge has been sufficiently suppressed by food.

After this I normally experience a wave of negative emotions related to the binge, which at the height of my disorder could cause another binge. As with any eating disorder, BED can lead to vicious repetitive cycles, and almost always cause serious body and self-esteem issues.

Binges range in foods and calorie intake

They tend to often be “comfort foods” which can contribute to a range of health problems and weight gain. Binge eating disorder is relatively new, having been only officially declared an eating disorder in May 2013.

Due to this, there is still a large amount of negative stigma surrounding it, something which I have experienced first hand. A lot of people don’t recognise it as an eating disorder, and even if they do they tend to dismiss the severity of it. Many people choose instead to label BED as greed, gluttony or lack of discipline.

These are incredibly harmful labels for BED sufferers as it enhances the shame and embarrassment they already feel. In reality BED, like other eating disorders, has less to do with the food and more to do with emotions. The act of bingeing is symbolically forcing the negative emotions back down, suppressing them. The act of bingeing offers temporary relief and comfort.

Shame and guilt

However, bingeing often leads to more harmful and negative emotions, particularly shame, guilt, and disgust. These feelings can often stop BED sufferers from reaching out and make the experience of being unwell much harder.

Thanks to a lot of hard work and therapy, I’m mostly recovered from my BED. Occasionally I still slip up, but my binges are nowhere near the size they used to be, and self-compassion has been a hard lesson to learn. If you’re suffering with BED or any form of eating disorder, then the best advice I can give you is to reach out and get help. Eating disorders are hard to beat, and even tougher if you try to tackle them alone.

Jodie Kenny is a final year Nanotechnology student with a strong passion for raising awareness about mental health. She spends a lot of her spare time volunteering; she is a See Change Ambassador, a Teenline Ireland school speaker and a member of her local Jigsaw Youth Advisory Panel. See Change is Ireland’s national stigma reduction partnership. You can find out more about See Change and its upcoming Green Ribbon campaign at www.seechange.ie and www.greenribbon.ie. Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from February 27 to March 5.

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About the author:

Jodie Kenny  / See Change Ambassador

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