Confessions of a secret eater
This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and we are sharing a blog by one of our Parent Champions about her experience of binge eating.
Binge eating? Me? That’s not something I would do, right? Well, actually food is a great comfort to me. It’s hard to admit, but I have struggled with my weight most of my life. When I was in my mid-teens, I was incredibly skinny. I got called ‘Annie-Anorexic’ and was told that, if I got kicked, my legs would break. I think this started off my lifetime of bad habits.
When I was in my late teens, I started to put on a little weight, as you do as a woman. I then started the horrible ‘d’ word: ‘diets’, and I have been on and off them ever since. I have always found it hard to have a happy medium. Either I’m slim, and I eat really healthily and exercise regularly – or I’m fat, and I eat everything and anything in sight without caring. I sometimes still do this to myself, this constant yoyoing.
I think the main problem occurred after my dad died. I found great comfort in food from the feelings of loss, guilt and relief. That’s when I first put on a large amount of weight. Unfortunately I didn’t see it, and it wasn’t until I saw a photo of myself that I knew I had a problem.
The thing about binge eaters is that we don’t recognise what we are eating. I put empty packets inside of other empty packets, and then take them to the bin. It’s almost like I kid myself into believing that I have only had one ‘treat’. Other packets get stuffed down the side of the sofa until I hide them at the bottom of the bin, carefully placing other rubbish on top. Everything used to be about food. When we went out, it would always be about where would we stop for tea and cake, where would we get lunch.
Having seen photos of myself, I took action and control of my habits. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been an overnight miracle. I have good days as well as bad but I’m now in a position where I feel accountable for my habits. If I over-eat one day, I will cut down the next. It has been particularly difficult in the last year dealing with an injury and watching my weight grow again but, with patience and time, I can deal with that too.
I think the main help to me has been not weighing myself. Previously, I would weigh myself at least once a day. I then went to once a week – that was probably worse for me because, if there was no movement, I would crash and hit the snacks. I would crash for days, weeks and sometimes months. Exercise routines would get more gruelling, more punishing and more exhausting.
So what do I do now?
- I NEVER weigh myself. If I go to the doctors, I always tell them not to let me see my weight. I have to be quite stern because some of them think I’ll then look, say ‘oh dear’ and start to giggle. But I won’t. I genuinely do not want to know. I know from the past that, if I weigh a certain amount, I think it’s only a few pounds until the next whole stone down. I get below that and then think that I may as well get to the next half a stone down, and so on.
- I no longer keep a food diary. I know a lot of people recommend this, but I found that I would restrict myself and then I always had this target to not break. If I had one ‘naughty item’ (I actually hate this terminology), then I would crash again.
- I try and exercise regularly, but not to the extreme. I like goals and I try to achieve them but, if I am tired, then I don’t force myself. It’s okay to have days off – if you don’t, you will actually do more harm than good to your body. My injury was originally as a result of just that!
- If treats are important to you, perhaps allow yourself a treat each night but go for a low-calorie version – try skinny popcorn, ice lollies (many are available now under 100 calories), baked crisps, or homemade snacks.
- I don’t buy magazines anymore. I feel that they lower my self-confidence. If you do read them, it’s often not true what they say about celebrity weights or clothes sizes.
- Finally, be accountable for what you have eaten. Be open and honest with yourself. If you can’t, it will be difficult to break bad habits. Food is one of the biggest addictions to conquer – it’s a necessity in everyday life, so it’s not something like smoking or drinking that you can quit for good.
Life is here to enjoy, but remember that you can enjoy it longer by enjoying the finer things in life in moderation. It’s about finding a good balance. You are stronger than you think.
If you or someone you know needs help right now, you should, if possible, try to talk to a parent, carer or trusted adult. If talking to an adult is not possible, visit our urgent help page which includes organisations that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can also find free mental health support services for young people aged up to 25 on the Youth Wellbeing Directory.
We also have contact details on our urgent help page for BEAT – BEAT provides support to help young people beat their eating disorders.