Firstly to the thousands of sufferers out there (especially men) let me start by saying “I am a man and I have an eating disorder”. As Beat has so excellently raised the awareness for, men also get eating disorders and that is why I found it so incredibly important to write this blog entry.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when but in 2018 I finally admitted to myself that I have binge eating disorder (BED) and I needed to seek help. Many, many times in the past I have uncontrollably eaten large amounts of food before being faced with severe guilt and a wall of depression, or as I call it: “the big dark cloud”. I can’t even pinpoint when this all began – most likely around 10 – 12 years ago, but on some level I’ve always had a complex relationship with food.
I had never told anyone about this until summer 2018, where I told my best friend (I hadn’t even told my wife!) and the reason I think was actually quite simple: it had just become a part of life. Albeit, a very dark part of life, but nonetheless probably only a small part that allowed me to still live an otherwise normal (and mostly happy) life. Sometimes it was a few times per week, others only a few times per month, sometimes a month would pass. It always returned but it also always went again. This cycle led to a strange combination of both acceptance and denial at the same time, for years.
It just slipped out one day while having a beer with my friend, this part of me that had been bottled up for so long, my relationship with food and how I binged…he was taken aback at first but within a few moments he was talking normally with me about it and it was the biggest weight off my shoulders I’ve ever experienced.
Since then I’ve visited a registered dietician specialising in eating disorders and told my wife (who could not believe there was this other side of me that had stayed buried for so long and who was sad that I’d kept it from her…she’s now incredibly supportive!) as well as a few other friends. I would also like to think this year I’ll tell my colleagues at work, which I’m glad to say is a place that encourages speaking up about mental health.
Probably my best learning so far, is this: “there is no silver bullet”. From reading some blogs and books I assumed there would be a eureka moment and I’d suddenly quit sugar, start fundraising, run triathlons, feel great and shout from the rooftops about my recovery, but the truth is that for me it’s far slower and more “routine” than that. I still sometimes overeat chocolates and biscuits and analyse was that a binge or just “mindless eating in front of the TV” (whatever that means), I still get bouts of feeling low and still suffer from poor body confidence, and my weight has actually increased as I have begun to remove the “good/bad” restrictions and labels I had placed on foods for more years than I had ever thought about.
My most important note to you however is to stop quantifying whether you “binge enough” to have BED, as this has held me back for years. I always questioned “will I be taken seriously” or “perhaps I’m a just greedy person” or “everyone gets low and comfort eats” or “how can I have a disorder when I seem to have a normal life”. If you’re feeling like this or if you know someone that sounds like this, then take it seriously. Tell someone and seek help from an expert. You will never be compared to someone else, and like everything in life I believe BED is a sliding scale that changes not just from person to person but from month to month or year to year within a person.
I’m now recovering from BED and it will take time. My message to you is simple: If you haven’t already, tell someone close to you in 2019 and seek professional help…
In 2018, I did and I’m beginning to feel a whole lot better.
Eating disorders take many different forms, and anyone can have one, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, class, ability, or any other aspect of identity. Yet these things can have an impact on the way someone's eating disorder develops and on their ability to seek and receive help. Have you got a story about how stereotypes and expectations around eating disorders have affected you? If so, please get in touch at email@example.com
Particularly with binge eating disorder, it’s so easy to get trapped in your own head and convince yourself that you are the problem and are unworthy, and this can be so, so dangerous.
To this day, my relationship with food is a complex one, but I am very much of the belief that next year will be better, and the year after that will be even better.
I needed to find some way to disappear and become inconsequential, as if I did society maybe wouldn’t notice the disability. The eating disorder was the only way I could see to do this.