Spoon & Struggle: A Binge Eating Story
My relationship with my body has been the most complicated relationship I have ever had. If there is one thing that is constantly on my mind more than anything it is my body; what I don’t like about it, how I need to change it, how it will never be good enough. I know I am not alone in this and that many of my peers feel similarly. When I look back on my childhood I realize that I cannot remember a time in which I felt content with my body. Instead, some of my earliest memories are of me trying to lose weight or of me crying to my mom about how much I hated myself.
It is impossible for me to think about my relationship with my body without thinking about my relationship with food. My relationship with my body has been characterized by years of having an unhealthy relationship with food, along with deep feelings guilt and self-hatred. As a very young child I had a healthy curiosity about food which increased as I got older. I was lucky to be raised by two wonderful parents, one of whom is a talented cook. In that respect, I was extremely privileged; I always had access to delicious, healthy food. I looked up to my mother and wanted to be like her someday, so eventually I began cooking and baking alongside her. As I became more interested in cooking and baking, my insecurities about my body and weight grew. During this time I developed what I have now come to realize was a binge eating disorder. It has taken me many years to recognize that I had and still have an eating disorder. The more I binged, the more I hated my body and what I was doing to myself.
Food is central part in all our lives and eating should never be an unpleasant experience, if anything it should be enjoyable. My binge eating disorder ruined my relationship with food for many years because after every binge my self loathing increased. Eating became something that caused me to feel guilty and disgusting. Around the same time that my eating disorder grew worse, my older brother began making fun of my weight. Not only was I struggling with my eating disorder, but my brother was now regularly calling me fat and commenting on how much I would eat.
Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, sexualities, and races. Binge eating disorder has only recently been formally recognized in the eating disorder research community, creating gaps in data on the prevalence of the disorder. Symptoms include eating until uncomfortably full, eating a large amount when not hungry, loss of control of eating, allocation for specific times of binging, and feelings of guilt and shame following a binge. Although I have had disordered eating habits since I was in elementary school, it was not until college that I was able to recognize that I have an eating disorder.
Now, as a twenty year old woman, I still struggle with my body and eating, but I have a better relationship with my body than ever before. I try to remind myself that my body is strong and allows me to do active things that I love such as biking, swimming, and hiking. I wish I could say that I love my body now, but that would be an outright lie. In reality, I see other women and compare myself to them and criticize myself for not being as disciplined with my diet or working out hard enough to have the ideal fit body. This ‘ideal fit body’ is both unattainable for most people and displayed in the media constantly so that we have been exposed to it from a very young age. Movies, television, Instagram, music videos, and Tumblr all reinforce the image of what a “truly hot woman” looks like; white, thin, muscular (but not too muscular because that would be gross and masculine!), big boobs, a Kim Kardashian ass, and slick long hair. As a white woman with blonde hair I am aware that I see far more images in the media of the beauty that I can relate with than people of color or disabled people do.
I wish I could love my body for what it is; strong, capable, and healthy. I wish that I could even believe that my body is beautiful, hopefully one day I will. It saddens me to think that most of my close female friends share similar insecurities about their bodies that I feel. It is as if we have been raised to accept self-hatred as part of womanhood.
I am unable to see myself as adequate until my body looks like an ideal body that is a narrow representation of beauty. I realize how fucked up this is but I still buy into the idea that if I get that body I will be happier, more desirable, more fulfilled, and more successful even though I know that this is not true.
I try to do things every day that make me love my body a little bit more. Sometimes that is exercising, sometimes it is cooking a nice meal, and sometimes it is scrolling through body positive Instagram pages. Sometimes I feel like I am a liar or a phony; I talk about body positivity and encourage my friends to love themselves no matter their size, but I am unable to accept my own body.
My struggle with my eating disorder and body image robbed me of confidence for my entire adolescence, but as I have gotten older I have allowed myself to open up about my experience. To people struggling with body image issues and/or eating disorders: you are not alone. It is scary, but sharing your experiences and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your loved ones will provide you with a support system. Having a support system of my mother and my friends has allowed me to slowly rebuild the confidence that I have lacked for so many years and to build healthier relationships with both food and my body.