Honesty.

Candy hearts photo

(Warning: discussion of disordered eating in this post.)

It’s said by many professionals that eating disorders thrive on secrecy. So, it’s in my best interest to be honest.

I’m a binge eater.

By “binge eater”, I mean that I can eat – and have eaten – an exceptionally large amount of food in a short amount of time.

My eating disorder – because that is what it is – has cost me my health. I am diabetic, I have sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and I feel lethargic all the time. Most, if not all, of these issues are tied to heredity, but I won’t try and fool myself – they’re also affected by my eating habits.

See, when I’m in the middle of a binge eating episode, it’s so good. It’s almost orgasmic good. As soon as the last bite is swallowed, I realize what I’ve done to myself and I feel awful. I go from bliss to guilt in the span of a few bites of food. I know this is disordered eating, and yet I keep doing it to myself for that oh-so-short feeling of bliss.

I came to the realization that this needed to stop a few weeks ago when I saw my doctor for my regular checkup. Since January, I’ve been regressing back into my binge eating patterns really bad due to stress and anxiety. I hadn’t gotten to the point where I was hiding it from my husband yet, but I was getting close. So I decided to talk to her about my anxiety and stress eating, and see if she could recommend anything that could help – therapy, medications, anything. I was really hoping that she wouldn’t send me to a nutritionist, since me not knowing portions and nutrition isn’t my issue.

I sat in her office, shaking out of fear, almost on the verge of tears. I’m not stupid, I told her. I know this needs to stop. I know this is doing harm to my body. My cholesterol is through the roof. I need help.

Bless her for understanding and not giving me the cold shoulder, or telling me to “eat less and move more”, or all the other placating things that doctors have told me over the years. She recommended that I try this drug called Contrave. It doesn’t help repress your appetite, like phentermine (which I tried and it didn’t work). What it does is triggers the feeling of being full sooner, so you don’t eat as much, and also helps you with that “reward” center in your brain that goes off when you binge. She told me that I was not the first person that she sees with this issue, and wanted to try this to see how it works for me. She also said that she’d be more than happy to recommend a therapist. I told her I wanted to see someone specifically for binge eating, and she said she would do some research to find someone.

She gave me the first month as a sample, a prescription to take to the pharmacy, and a savings card from the manufacturer. I just started my third week, and although I’ve had the occasional moment where I over ate (and very quickly discovered WHY this is a bad idea on Contrave), I feel like it’s starting to do some good. I know I’ve been eating less of my plates and I don’t feel the burning need to eat all day long. I haven’t felt the need – the drive – to binge once. Some of it may be psychosomatic, some may not. All I know is that I’m experiencing some difference, and that it’s helping.

So, now to get to the meat of this post. I know, y’all are thinking “wait, this ISN’T the focus of this post?” Nope.

So now the question is: how do I come to terms with stopping my disordered eating patterns, and taking what is technically a “diet pill”, without feeling like a total hypocrite about being part of the body positivity movement?

I believe that Health At Every Size (HAES) is a thing. I believe in loving yourself, no matter what your size. I believe that fat people are no less human than anyone else, and deserve to be treated as such. I believe in fashion for every size and shape and age. I dislike that women’s magazines and click bait websites targeting women focus on things Iike dropping pounds to get “beach ready” or “wedding ready” or “prom ready” or whatever-ready. I believe putting value on yourself becaue of a number on a scale is foolish. I believe I should be able to eat a slice of cake – or even lunch – without having people judge me.

I’m a firm believer in the power of body love. It’s done wonders for me. But there are times when I wonder if I’m really part of the movement, or if I’m just a hypocrite, because I WANT to stop binge eating.

The bopo activists that I see out there are amazing. Some of them are gorgeous fat ladies who just said “fuck it” and decided to make self love just one form of activism. Some of them are recovering from eating disorders and are helping others while helping themselves. Some of them just spread the word that it’s perfectly okay to love our body and tell diet culture to kiss our collective asses. I love reading things from all of them. I love looking at their pictures on Instagram, I love feeling like I’m part of their movement.

But I also recognize that when I binge, I’m not just eating to feed hunger, or to give my body the sustenance it needs. I’m feeding something else, something dark and fucked up and wrong. I’m doing something to stop it. But is that giving in to diet culture? I don’t care about being skinny, I don’t care about being beach or summer ready because I’m ready for that as I am. I just want to stop feeling like my ONLY joy comes from eating. I want to feel that same joy when I hug my husband, or see my family, or kiss Gizmo on his snoot.

After some discussion and weeks of thought, this is what I’ve concluded:

Body positivity is about loving yourself. Loving yourself means taking care of yourself. I feel that I cannot love my body if I am constantly feeling awful, which is how binging makes me feel. So, my act of self-love is to do some really real self-care, by stopping what is harming myself. And if that means taking a drug which results in me feeling better, that HAS to be a positive step forward.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment, tweet me, or drop me a line.

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12 Comments

  1. Self-love and self-care are hard work. They sure are for me.

    “I want to LIVE, and my eating habits are going to kill me if I don’t get them under control. If wanting to live isn’t being body-positive, I don’t know what is.”
    This statement works for you because it is coming from your self-love. It is very common for other people say things like that to someone, and it may be actively harmful because it feels like an assault and magnifies self-loathing. That’s the reason you might be getting push-back from body positive communities. It’s hard to separate one’s self and not take that on when it’s been a weapon used against you. I remember when the only ads facebook showed me were diet ads, because all facebook knew was my gender. (My weight is perfect, thank-you.)

    I want to congratulate you for finding what works for you to be healthy and love yourself.

    I also want to mention that the surgery has the side effect of sudden death. Many people find it works well for them, and recommend it. But two people I love died.

    1. Hello! Thanks for commenting. I actually haven’t gotten any push-back from the bopo community – the conflict is only with myself and my personal beliefs. I would NEVER dream of telling anyone else what they should –
      or shouldn’t – do with their bodies. I know from personal experience that you do not know what another person is going through, or what they are battling, by appearance alone.

  2. I have been morbidly obese, and I am currently considered a healthy weight. Here is my observable experience:
    1. Being thin won’t stop disordered eating. What stopped me finally was the physical limitations placed on me by surgery. I was FORCED to retrain myself to prioritize what I eat. I can eat a bag of cheetos instead of a healthy meal, but when my stomach runs out of space, it’s out of space, and whatever I loaded it up with is the choice between feeling healthy and feeling like a slug. I still reach for snacks under extreme stress. But now, I have an awareness factor that wasn’t ingrained into me before and it keeps me honest more often than not. It’s still up to me, though, and ultimately, I choose my health. I owe it to my kid to be around to raise him. I still reach for THINGS sometimes, but the difference is that now, when that happens, I reach for the RIGHT things.
    2. Body shamers are body shamers, and they’re all assholes. Although I know it happens more frequently the other way around, I was never once openly shamed about my weight as an adult until I became thinner than someone I considered a friend decided was acceptable for her to handle. She apologized about it, but it REALLY took me aback. Our friendship hasn’t fully recovered from it – if you’re being a dick about a success that I’ve worked hard to accomplish, then what are you going to do with the things where I’m struggling and failing?
    3. “Healthy” is what to strive for, but determine what it means for YOU. If I follow the tenants of the Gospel According to BMI, I should supposedly lose another 10-15 lbs. If I were to follow that advice, I’d look ready for the Thriller video. I am comfortable with where I am.
    4. Being thinner makes physical things 300,000 times monumentally easier. I am much more proud of the days spent running in the park when I weighed 235 lbs just after surgery than I am of running two weeks ago at 125 lbs. The difference is in those first days, not only did I have to show the drive and ambition to pull it off, but I had to literally put in double the effort. It was MUCH harder then. I stuck to it. I think starting there gives me a perspective that most naturally thin people don’t have – it’s HARD to take those steps when your body is inclined to fight them. The downside of it is that I’m more aware now of when people are making excuses vs. making effort and tend to be less forgiving of it in my own head. I’m working on that, though, because frankly, unless they’ve asked me to weigh in, it’s none of my fucking business.

    Anyway, body positivity is about being comfortable with *yourself* and not bowing to the standards of other people who try to determine what beauty is. If you (the general-at-public-you, not you personally) can believe that a morbidly obese person is beautiful but someone who is thin absolutely cannot be, then what that tells me is that you’re an intolerant person who wants everyone else in the world to be just like you instead of someone who celebrates people as unique physical entities. Basically, what all this rambling means is that if you want to lose weight, you owe no one justification, arguments, defense or explanations. You do you and don’t worry about the shamers of the world. And we’ll be here for you regardless.

    1. Cathy, thanks for weighing in (ha, no pun intended). You have a pretty unique perspective on the whole thing, considering that you remember how it feels to be on both sides of the size spectrum. I have considered the option of weight loss surgery, and one of the major reasons why is that it would force me to confront and get a handle on my binging. Everyone I know that I have spoken with has said that their blood sugars got better, they had more energy, they’re blood pressure got better, and so on. I’m tired of taking what feels like 50 million pills every damn day. I know there’s a possibility that the issues WON’T go away, but I won’t know unless I do something. At this point in my life, the only thing holding me back from doing the surgery is the money and time off of work. Do I think the surgery is for everyone? Hell no. I would never try and push it on anyone else. My health is my business, and yours is yours. That’s how I see it.

      However, there was a time where I felt guilty because I’ve talked a lot about loving yourself, yet by doing this surgery I would be caving into the social thought that thin = healthy. I don’t like hypocrites, and I don’t like being considered one. But I had to come to a resolution about my self-love and my personal health, and my opinion is that eliminating what is harmful to me is the best version of self care.

      1. I treat my surgery kind of like my religion – I’d never push it on anyone, but if I’m asked, I’ll be truthful about it. The only regret I have about my surgery is I didn’t do it 10 years ago. Do I like being able to buy a cute bra set that costs less than $50? Yeah, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that wasn’t part of it, but mostly, it’s this: My A1Cs are, in the words of my physician, “disgustingly healthy,” my blood pressure problems are GONE, I now have to go to ZERO care coordination appointments to satisfy my employer with insurance requirements, and the only pill regimen I take involves the word “multivitamin.” I am able to do so many things physically that not only could I never do before, but now, having done them, inspire me to try things I never was willing to even try before. I am still very much accountable for my actions, but now I know that it’s in MY hands and not my crap metabolism that had me exercising six hours a week with ZERO response because my body had become insulin resistant. Basically, I have control of my health now, and it’s the best thing ever.

        Know what else? I have sagging skin on my inner thighs and arms. I have stretch marks that will probably never go away. I have thin hair that I battle with Biotin each day. I am a size four and I STILL have body issues. Being thin doesn’t magically make that stuff go away. Basically, I’ve been fat and thin and self-conscious in both directions because when it comes down to it, “skinny” doesn’t fix low self-esteem. It really comes down to what’s best for you and your health and screw anyone else who wants to give you hassle about your personal choices. Skinny-shaming is equally as repugnant as fat-shaming; anyone who would do that isn’t about acceptance – they’re about intolerance. So find what YOU need and go with it. If that means counseling works and no need for surgery, great! If that means you use surgery as a tool for a jump start, that’s great, too. When it comes to health, there is nothing more individualized and personal so don’t let anyone else tell you what’s best for you unless they have the letters MD behind their name.

  3. I have some similar issues, though in my case, it’s emotional eating. I eat to make myself feel better. But in the end, I’m not happier. It’s a vicious cycle. I thought my anti-anxiety meds would help me with that, now knowing what some of my issues of unhappiness are but obviously, I’m not there yet.
    But good for you for trying to get to the bottom of this! So rooting for you!

    1. This is kind of a rough thing to admit publicly, especially considering my size. I keep thinking things like, “Way to break the stereotype of the fat girl eating all the food.” But like I said, eating disorders of all kinds thrive on secrecy, so admitting it to myself first and speaking out about it is my first step in forcing my mind to break itself of the cycle.

      And thank you. Feel free to message me if you ever want to talk about things. I’m here if you need me. ~hugs~

  4. I feel the same way Caroline feels. Some of my eating has been based on mood (sadness, depression, etc.). I am always going to be plus size, but I decided a couple years ago that it was time to stop worrying about what other people think about my body. Started going to the beach with my daughter, wearing clothing I get from places like Torrid and doing things like coloring my hair purple. Watching you and how you deal with your beauty has encouraged that in me even though I am now 66 years old. I do want to lose some weight – but not to please anyone else. I just know I feel better when I’m about 50 pounds lighter. So thank you so much for sharing your struggle. You always seem so put together. I am glad you are finding help. I know we don’t see each other often and you have lots of people that are closer friends than we are, but always know I am here for you also.

    1. Awwww, thank you. I’m glad you’re starting to accept your body as well. As for me seeming put together – HA. I guess I put up a good front. There are some days where I feel like I have it together and others where I’m just barely hanging on to adulthood by a thread. I just thought that’s how life is, you know? As much as I talk about loving yourself and loving who you are, there are days where I do NOT feel that way at all and I feel like I have a long way to go. But I’m just taking it one day at a time – that’s all I can do! Lots of love to you.

    1. My thoughts exactly. I do see a lot of negativity online in the bopo and fat activism communities about wanting to diet or lose weight of any kind. My thing is that I want to LIVE, and my eating habits are going to kill me if I don’t get them under control. If wanting to live isn’t being body-positive, I don’t know what is. <3