A lot of people have certain preconceptions about what a binge eater or anyone with an eating disorder should look like. You might assume that a binge eater is an overweight, lazy, and insecure woman who lives alone and has few friends. It is easy to judge something that you don’t understand.
Kathryn is a forty-something-year old successful lawyer in a busy metropolitan community. She works long days, defending some of the town’s worst criminal offenders. She has a fifteen-year-old son from a previous marriage who has just discovered girls. Her current husband, Jack, is a business owner. Neither of the men in her life knows about her secret. Kathryn is a binge eater.
Kathryn finds her work incredibly stressful. She deals with some difficult clientele, most of whom do not appreciate the work that she puts into their cases. She spends about ten to twelve hours per day at work and very little time with her son, who would rather be skateboarding or playing video games.
It happens about once a day. Kathryn finds herself in full-fledged panic mode. She seeks solace in the food she keeps stashed in her desk drawer. She locks her office door and eats. She eats until she feels like she will explode. Her weapon of choice is usually a family-sized bag of potato chips, but if she manages to sneak out of the office, she will order multiple meals at the local fast food joint and pretend that she is buying for the office. The she sneaks away to a quiet corner of the park and eats. The eating itself seems to soothe her, but the aftermath is devastating. The rest of the day she feels disgusting about herself and ashamed. She distracts herself by immersing herself in her work.
Although Kathryn’s husband is very loving and supportive, she is too ashamed to tell him about her issues with food. Instead, she tries to avoid meals with her family. She is too embarrassed to have people watch her eat. She has sought comfort in food for the better part of their marriage, slowly gaining weight until she was eighty pounds overweight. Jack tells Kathryn that she is as beautiful as the day he married her. She feels guilty and like a failure for not being able to stay the petite, size-six woman that she once was.
When Kathryn does eat with her family she is able to show restraint. Her façade is too much of a secret to let her guard down in front of her loved ones. When the urge to binge overwhelms her, she makes an excuse to get out of the house and heads straight to the convenience store for a few hot dogs or a bag of chips. On her worst days, Kathryn estimates that she eats about 10,000 calories. She hates herself for it, but she feels powerless to stop.
Kathryn is a typical binge eater. Symptoms of binge eating disorder are an inability to stop eating, gorging on large amounts of food even when already full, hiding food, being secretive about the binges, and eating constantly throughout the day. Sufferers are often embarrassed, ashamed, and unsatisfied with the amount they eat.
Binge eating can cause a number of health consequences. Most of the health problems related to overeating are as a direct result of obesity. Binge eaters may suffer from high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, gallbladder problems, and type II diabetes.
Luckily for Kathryn, there are a number of resources available to her. Groups like Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous offer support for people like Kathryn, free of charge. This way, she can start on her road to recovery without having to admit to her family and friends (although she may eventually want to reach out to her family when she needs their support).
The first step that any binge eater must take is admitting their issues with food. After this initial step, your doctor can refer you to a program or recommend a support group for you. Your doctor might also recommend counseling, psychotherapy or medication. Whatever treatment you and your doctor choose, it is important to take this critical step. Eating disorders can have detrimental effects on your health. The sooner you start to heal, the sooner you regain control over your happiness, health, and life.