There's more to binge eating disorder than a mere lack of willpower

Posted 20/07/2017

"Binge eating? Can't you just get over that with will power?"

That's what 13-year-old me would have said. Maybe even 16-year-old me – but 17-year-old me is surrounded by the wrappers of food she barely even remembers eating. Suddenly, those heartless comments I made off-handedly a few years ago have a whole different meaning, and I realise I was once my current nightmare: someone judgemental and ill-informed. Contrary to what people believe, there is SO MUCH more to binge eating disorder than a mere lack of will power; it's a complete absence of control or understanding.

For me, it started in my bulimia recovery, although binge eating can of course be a completely solo issue. I was clean of purging, but I couldn't break the eating patterns I had drilled into my brain. I was craving sugar and calories that I knew I didn't need and didn't even want to eat, but for some reason, I couldn't stop myself. The urges wouldn't go away unless I ate it. Even then, they returned soon after, longing for more because my body didn't expect to have to deal with it properly. I spent several months eating my way to a nausea I was terrified of, and wondering afterwards why I was doing this to myself.

Inevitably, my body began to show the damage. I would feel my clothes get tighter and fall into a low. "I'm fat anyway," I'd think, "so I might as well just give in to these cravings." That was the point where I lost my self-control. The disordered thoughts broke my will power; it was non-existent.

You can have all the will power in the world, but it won't heal your broken leg. It won't take away your ailment. Only time and love for your body can do that. Neither are easy to obtain, I might add, though they are both exponentially worth it. A good friend of mine has recovered completely (bless her and her amazing efforts!) and is the brightest and happiest she's ever been.

Have I recovered yet? No. Have I tried and failed? Yeah. A lot. But that isn't going to hold me back. Binge eating is a very difficult condition to recover from; one bad day and a feel-good treat, then suddenly you find yourself back at square one in hopeless disappointment. But it is not hopeless. One day you'll get there, and you'll look back at the pit you're in today and be proud of yourself for your achievement.

In addition to the forums provided here at Beat, there are also several fantastic recovery forums dotted elsewhere on the internet (a particularly supportive one for me being 'We Bite Back'), so you're guaranteed to find someone who can listen and understand. Because more of us have been there than you think; binge eating disorder has been proven to be among the top three most common eating disorders in the UK. Maybe if more people knew about it and understood, that would be even higher as more people would come forward. So you're not alone out there.

The worst part about this disorder is the lack of control you have over it, so take control over what you can and reach out. We're all here to support you, and we believe you can recover, because no matter what any misjudging person says, you are suffering from a real and valid disorder and deserve help. To keep going at all, your will power must be phenomenal.

Contributed by Daisy