Question: I have just left eating disorders “care.” Why am I now binge eating?

Hello! Wow, I have heard this question so frequently. I can’t necessarily say why this happens to every single person who has asked this question. However, I can suggest a few possible explanations as to why this happens so frequently.

Does eating disorders “care” really address binge eating?

I haven’t run the circuit of treatment centers, but from what I have seen, these places address two thing: 1. They restore weight by forceful means. 2. They try to stop you from throwing up by invading your privacy. That doesn’t exactly sound helpful to me. In fact, it sounds downright awful!

Maybe the whole time you were in there, you wondered if you would go back to binge eating upon leaving. This fear may have loomed in your mind the whole time. Since all discussion of binge eating is discouraged, you keep that fear to yourself. If this is your very first experience in lockup, maybe you are totally convinced you will never binge again, only to be find that big rude awakening following discharge. Sometimes, “staff,” who don’t truly understand eating disorders, might say, “Of course you won’t binge. You are recovered!” This might have totally convinced you that having been in this place magically makes you immune now. However, you know, deep in your mind, that the problem STILL hasn’t been addressed.

So if you purge, and they’ve addressed the throwing up, what’s going to happen when you get out and then binge? You are no longer on a “rewards” system for not purging. I’ll bet many who binge most likely revert right back to purging. Or you restrict all over again, and the ugly cycle comes right back.

Should prevention of purging be the focus, or prevention of bingeing?

Many people who purge tell me that if only they didn’t binge, they’d have no reason to purge. Others have told me that they don’t binge, but when they feel too full, the temptation to purge is very strong. From what I recall of “care,” they filled us up, often via tube feeding, until just about everyone felt bloated, then monitored us to ensure we didn’t throw up our food. This addressed nothing. We had no control over our situation. Many were dying to get that control back, no matter what. Some say that eating disorders are all about control, and there we were, controlled like robots.

Getting out is overwhelming because “treatment” is oppressive.

When you get out, or shall I say when I got out, I felt like I was in a world that had suddenly become too wide. Too bright. Too much space. I’d adjusted to the cramped environment and artificial light of the “unit.” Now, I was in this new thing, Freedom. I usually left dehydrated, so as soon as I could, I’d try to get fluids into myself. However, I also often binged. Was Freedom too much for me? That’s what my therapists claimed, stating that I couldn’t manage and therefore needed long-term lockup. But I knew that wasn’t true.

I binged because I’d been in an oppressive environment, literally a prison. Our bodies react to this. Many studies have been done on both humans and animals that have measured the effects of being behind locked doors. But do we need studies to prove what we already know?

Does the average “staff” even know just how destructive binge eating is?

I used to bite my pride and approach staff as discharge neared. I’d ask, “How do I stop myself from binge eating?” The response was generally to pass the buck, simply because the staff had no real solution to this. So they’d usually say, “Ask the nutritionist.” I’d wait for days to see this person and then finally ask. I asked a number of them. Their response? “Follow your meal plan.” Or, more often, “You should take that up with your outside treatment team.” If I ever said that these tactics never solved the problem in three decades, they’d shrug and say, “Then you aren’t trying hard enough.” Really? I found that remark insulting. I wanted so much to be free of ED!

I have clear memories of that first binge following release from lockup. I remember telling myself all the while, “This shouldn’t be happening. Aren’t I better now?” I’d ask what went wrong. I never came up with an answer. Afterward, I’d feel terribly sick.

Why do we see the “revolving door syndrome”?

I know many run right back to lockup. Have you ever done that? I remember seeing these patients come in. They looked ashamed, often hiding their faces or bodies and not saying much. I felt bad for them, the repeat offenders.  I’d hear things like, “I guess I wasn’t ready to leave before.” Is this true? Maybe. Maybe they were repeat offenders because the lockup joint failed them, again and again.

However, from what I recall, if they had no solution to binge eating, how did these facilities expect anyone to magically stop? This is one of the major ironies of such “care.” If you pick apart their logic, you will find this logic is flawed, to the point of being rather absurd.

Anorexia, jealousy, and inappropriate comments are a major factor.

I found it rather difficult to face the outside world because they’d put so much weight on me. Many people I knew that I saw in person gave me that “look,” that up-and-down look, checking out how much I’d gained. I’d hear, “You look so healthy now.”

I felt so ashamed hearing these comments, even if the intent was not to harm. I’d ask what was behind these comments, which frankly, are somewhat rude. I realize now that the jealousy factor is at play at times. Not always. But some people who have issues with their own weight might see you heavier and then take out their frustrations on you. They feel relieved to see you at a higher weight, but why? Are they truly caring about your health? Or do they feel relieved because you are not such a threat to them anymore?

Yes, a threat. Those of us who have been at a low weight become familiar with the envy factor. Some people feel challenged by us, even jealous. They might privately ask themselves, “Why can I not control my eating, while this anorexic person struggles to get every bite down? It’s unfair!”

When many of us leave, we look different, and we are often told to suck it up.

I remember going home from “care” feeling so ashamed. I always hoped the next few weeks were cold, so I could keep my body covered with a coat. I felt bloated and sick from “refeeding.” I wanted to avoid the looks I got, but it was hard because my face was still visible. My self-esteem dropped.

Meanwhile, I was terrified that I would binge. I felt like I was always looking over my shoulder with dread. I’d tried so hard to tell them in “treatment” that it was imperative that I lick the binge eating. I was scared that it would get so bad that I’d get suicidal. If I did binge and ended up back there, they refused to address the cause, simply because they had no clue how.

On and on and on and on.

For the most part, these expensive rehabs don’t really work, despite their claims.

So much of this lockup nonsense doesn’t work. Same with the expensive “residential” programs. They might look nice in their pamphlets and websites, but then you find out you can’t even go outside unsupervised, and the rules are rigid and illogical. You might find yourself STILL locked out of the bathroom, and that your basic human rights are taken away in residential, just like lockup all over again. But you feel guilty because someone is paying an arm and a leg and counting on your “recovery.” Whatever the hell that is.

Why do I binge in the first place?

In part, binge eating comes from stress, a physical body reaction. Another reason people binge is due to malnutrition or even a reaction to the standard water restriction imposed on patients. The diet I had to follow in there wasn’t at all healthy. I was force fed junk food, processed crap, and I was shamed if I didn’t finish everything. The whole time, I was dying to get out just so I could eat plain, healthy, whole, unprocessed delicious food. Never mind tube feed, which is loaded with hydrolyzed blah blah blah, cheap corn products, and other rather unhealthy stuff.

Perhaps we might not ask, “Why have I binged after treatment?” But, “How could it possibly be avoided?” Perhaps you were assured, “Of course, you are bingeing. It’s a sign of healing.” Some doctors and therapists poo-poo binge eating because they don’t know how to treat it. They don’t want to admit this, of course. They blame us, over and over. “You didn’t follow your treatment plan.”

No, the treatment plan was oppressive, and therefore, harmful.

“Mental health” is in fact a human rights issue.

The one thing no one needs is to be railroaded like cattle from group to group. No one needs to be told over and over that they aren’t the authority on their own bodies. No one needs the typical gaslighting you get from staff if you dare to speak out against the regime.  Treatment is a lose-lose situation.

We all deserve basic human rights. We need to find our own path.

These days, I am often asked how I solved my eating disorder rather quickly by ditching the meds and the lies force-fed to me in “therapy.” I can tell you it took a lot of experimentation. I found that no way is binge eating or restricting “poor coping.” It saddens me that so many people latch onto this lie like it is a given. It’s not even true.

We’ve already been through that for years. We’ve tried so, so hard to pinpoint just how poorly we cope. This basic false notion holds people back. Instead, see binge eating as YOUR BODY demanding food. Not just all food, but a particular nutrient, or handful of them. It is crying out to you. Have you listened to your body today?

Sadly, in “treatment,” every time we tune into your bodies, we are told, “That’s Ed speaking.” Well? It’s entirely your choice if you want to believe this, but I personally have never met this Ed. Show me the dude inside my head and I’ll show you mushy-looking brains. Nothing else.

There is no Ed. It’s a marketing ploy, like Santa Claus, designed to deny you what you need. It’s a way they control you. Ditch it.

You are you. All your thoughts are your thoughts. Own them and embrace them. Embrace your body. Your body is crying out for respect, dignity, and privacy that you have been denied for so long. Isn’t it time we demanded these very simple things?

So I am sitting here writing rather spontaneously. I am laughing because this stuff just comes out of me, for whatever reason, and usually, I end up leaving it just as is. For you. Because I truly want the best for you. Be happy. Live.

6 thoughts on “Question: I have just left eating disorders “care.” Why am I now binge eating?”

  1. Julie this is BRILLIANT…This is the single most ALIVE, VIBRANT, MOST TRUTH-TELLING piece on the consequences of hospitalization and treatment for EDs (but not for binge eating,) that I have ever read. Just magnificent! Wow, you have my head spinning, but only with the truth! I love it!

    1. Thanks, Pamela. I certainly admire you for all that you are doing. You have amazing insight into what REALLY happens in institutions. I guess for those of us who have been around a while, we eventually see the darkest sides of these places, the nasty stuff no one wants to believe is true.

      Julie

      1. Isn’t that funny. I would not have called it “insight” at all, but merely speaking truth to power…as they say. I would have said, All I am doing at Wagblog is basically mouthing off, and telling it like it is, but as ANYONE with half a brain could see, if they just look!

  2. Would you mind if I reblogged this on Wagblog? Or at least copied it and gave you credit, whichever you prefer? I don’t want to do anything you would feel was intrusive, but this was truly incredible…

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