Eating with the enemy

For just over half my life I have suffered from binge-eating
disorder (BED). It started when I was 16 and I used it as a way of
coping with life at school where I was mentally and physically
bullied. Any confidence I did have was slowly eroded away until my
self-esteem was at rock bottom.

When I was in the sixth form I used to skip lessons and drive to a
local beauty spot, filling my face with junk food, crying and
wanting to end it all. At home I used to gorge on cake, chocolate
and crisps in the privacy of my bedroom until I felt sick. All the
wrappers were stuffed under my bed so as not to arouse suspicion
from my parents.

In the same way that a drug addict takes heroin or an alcoholic
drinks whisky, I rely on my fix of junk food to get me through
life. My “addiction” is my greatest friend but also my greatest
enemy. It soothes and comforts me when I find it hard to handle my
emotions but leaves me feeling guilty and disgusted with myself.
This “relationship” will be the death of me – literally. I’m only
33 but I already weigh 19 stone, have high blood pressure and
suffer from hiatus hernia, of which obesity is a contributory
factor. I have tried diets in the past but this makes me think
about food more and makes my bingeing worse.

Unlike bulimia and anorexia, there is little literature on BED,
even though it is probably the most common eating disorder. If I
tell anyone about my bingeing they will often say “everyone comfort
eats from time to time”. This annoys me as it is not merely a case
of over-indulgence, it’s a psychological problem.

Recently, I came across an internet discussion board for people
with eating disorders. It was interesting to read that those who
had anorexia before they developed BED felt they had been taken
more seriously by their GP while suffering from the former. This is
short-sighted of doctors because, although people suffering from
anorexia undeniably need urgent medical and psychological
treatment, those suffering from BED need immediate help too.

I’ve been to GPs in the past who have assumed that I’m just plain
greedy and that all it will take is a couple of lessons in
nutrition from the practice nurse to solve the problem. This is
insulting as I probably know more about nutrition than the average
person because of all the weight loss programmes I have attended.
They fail to realise that BED needs early psychological
intervention, not a diet sheet. If they allow someone to continue
bingeing the person will be storing up serious medical problems for
themselves in the future and GPs will have even more to deal

Luckily, I am now receiving psychological help and, by changing the
way I think, my bingeing is slowly decreasing. I know it is going
to take time to get better but at least I’m being taken seriously
and getting the help I think BED sufferers deserve.

Amanda Robinson uses mental health services

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