Why therapy doesn’t work for many binge eaters

I realize now, way too late, that going to therapy for binge eating back when I was 23 was a mistake. I had no way of knowing where it would all head, not back then. I started ED in 1980. Most of you were not alive then, so allow me to explain. We didn’t know what anorexia was. We had no internet to look these things up nor was anorexia very common. No one spoke of it, ever. Bulimia had barely been invented and BED would not enter the DSM until 2013. Most clinicians did not know what binge eating was, and many didn’t know what anorexia was. I remember many of them couldn’t spell anorexia and they couldn’t spell bulimia, either. How was I to get help at all?

I didn’t know what caused it. I never found any clinicians, ever, who fully explained it to me….

After anorexia, your body is still recovering even if you are eating normally and even if your weight is okay. This goes on an average of nine years. During this time you will find that you binge now and then. This is not a disease, it is part of your body’s normal process.

For those who were never anorexic but find themselves binge eating, almost all were starving prior to the onset of bingeing. Either this was due to a diet or due to unavailability of nutritious food. Some were starving and never knew! This can happen at any weight.

Yes, binge eating is extremely uncomfortable and incapacitating. However, overly focusing on it in the form of therapy will likely make it worse. I don’t think therapy that doesn’t deal directly with the behavior is the answer, either. I think therapists that won’t talk about it are avoidant and possibly aren’t comfortable talking about food issues themselves. Or the ones I remember I had were like that. They would talk about anything but!

Overtalking about it will make you obsess about the behavior. It’s just like thinking too much about not sleeping will cause insomnia. Same deal. This is also why keeping a “food diary” can be quite defeating for many people. Never mind the therapists who insist on peeking at your food diary. I always felt violated when they did that. I usually didn’t want to admit this to the nicer therapists, either.

Seeing a competent nutritionist might be the way to go. Expect to shell out big bucks to find one that know his/her stuff. Some of the alternative ones, so-called, might be better, but many of those don’t know anything about ED whatsoever.

I found it helpful to talk to my acupuncturist, just talking helped me immensely. My first one, anyway, the next one I didn’t like as much. I would say my first acupuncturist was a terrific influence on me. I would like to write her a thank you. Back then I remember going and feeling like she was the only one who would listen. It felt hugely relieving to go. I had no social life back then. Acupuncture was it. She didn’t do therapy. She hated traditional medicine as much as I do now.  She would feel my pulses and look at my tongue and then ask me some very basic questions about how things were going. She was incredibly intuitive. She and her supervisor were the ones who recommended I report to the police, after I told them I’d been raped by my neighbor in 2008. They knew I wasn’t lying.

Sadly, my appointment with the cops happened after the acupuncturist graduated. I had no way to get in touch and I couldn’t use her as a validation witness. The police told me my story “sounded fabricated.” And that was that.

We do what we can do. I stopped bingeing after I stopped therapy.  After I stopped all mental health treatment and stopped calling myself a mental patient. It didn’t happen right away, but being free of “them” was a big deal for me, as I realized that after 33 years of therapy, totally wasting my life, I had finally done something right.

After that, I taught myself many things that have helped me. I found I didn’t need a therapist after all and that therapy was holding me back.

I love my life now. I think about other things, not ED. I have many goals and I manage to achieve some of them. I love working and earning money. Paychecks are starting to come in. The next big step will be to get off the disability rolls for good.

What traditional ED “care” is like and why it so often fails

This is what traditional “care” for eating disorders is like….

The first goal is to knock down the patients’ current ideology. They do this by telling the patient their lives are unmanageable. Here, the First Step of AA works brilliantly. Your life is unmanageable because of your ED. They will point out how things are out of control. Your marriage. Your kids. Your job. Your social life. Your house is a mess, your clothes don’t match, you look a wreck. Your behavior is erratic. You have anxiety. You can’t control your drinking, either. You got into a car wreck. Your grades are faltering. They’ll tell you anything, any reason to knock down current beliefs.

Then what? They place blame on a fictitious Devil named Ed. Ed is to blame for your crap life! Ed is the Bad Guy, the Devil who has taken possession of you! Ed lives inside  you, and only “treatment” can get Ed out! But you have to follow every word we say. We’re the authorities. Only the Staff can tell you how to get Ed out. The Staff are the experts on life itself! The Staff have it all together; patients do not.

Now what? You must follow what Staff says. You must do what the therapist orders. You are possessed. All ED’s are sneaky liars, so you cannot be trusted. From now on, Staff will weigh you because you, Sneaky Liar, will lie about your weight. You, Sneaky Liar, will lie about what you are eating so from now on, Staff decides what you’ll eat. And Staff will watch you every second of the day, even watch you pee and poop.

In some facilities, patients are watched while they shower. In other facilities, showers reek of vomit since this is the only private place the patients have. Do they vomit due to some horrible illness? Or do they vomit out of sheer desperation because their human rights are denied?

The staff know better. Staff will tell you what to do, and they know you better than you know yourself. They know and you do not. What they say goes. You have no rights. Human rights do not exist on this Unit. Nor in ED therapy, where you are force-weighed, regularly threatened, accused of lying whether you are or not, and coerced onto a meal plan. If they want to monitor you more closely, all they have to do is accuse you of suicidality. That ALWAYS works. You’ll be guaranteed 1:1 monitoring, ordered by a doctor, and no amount of protesting will end the abuse.

What will end this? Starving yourself to death is a viable and often appealing way out. Why? They can’t stop you, can they? What a game this has become, whether you realize it or not, you’re playing a Game of Death where the Thinner is the Winner.

There IS a way out, and it’s not death at all. You stop playing the game. That’s right. Quit. End it. Stop the game. Call it a truce, or make like your mommies called you in for milk and cookies so you have to put away your chess set now. Sorry, no checkmate. Not today. Walk away and end it.

Walk away from the fake game and walk into your life. I guarantee that life will treat you better than ED “care” which is riddled with human rights abuses. While I know life itself is a game of sorts, how you play that game is up to you. You can wear many hats, choose your strategy, and play it fast or slow. In ED “care,” they choose that path, the path that so often leads to death or permanent disability. In life, the choice is yours.

What may have been true was that eating was difficult. But you are not hopeless, not defective, not “overly needy,” not hopelessly dependent, nor inferior, not a liar, not sneaky, and just as trustworthy as anyone else. Many people have difficulties. This is just one of them. I don’t think it warrants them denying your human rights, that is, denying your humanness.

Go show them. Never mind that, show yourself.

Eating disorders online meeting tonight! 5pm New York time!

Here is the information:

Support for eating/ food challenges. Call toll-free 855-661-1243 or web-in to: uberconference.com/peerlyhuman. Details below.

This is a group for those of us who identify as having eating/ food challenges. Gather virtually to enjoy a meal together, take back our bodies and celebrate our freedom to choose. No assessments, no monitoring, no force. Bring your food to the computer or your computer to the table. If you don’t have a mic (these are generally built-in to newer machines) then you can call in by phone! Video (always optional) coming soon.

We celebrate freedom to:

• choose our own food, according to our bodies’ unique needs
• reclaim authority over our bodies
• celebrate our unique food histories and preferences
• eat without intrusive monitoring, judgment, threats, or force
• celebrate the joy of cooking and the variety of and abundance of our planet’s resources
• understand the politics and economics of food and agriculture
• speak our minds, voice our thoughts – without fear that we will be censored or ‘trigger’ others
• speak up, voice discomfort and take responsibility if we want to change the topic.

Our only rule is mutual respect and some level of table manners. Remember we are each other’s guests! Let’s have fun!

To Join the Group:

-Call Toll-Free: 855-661-1243 No Pin Needed
-Alternate number: 331-205-7196
-Web in: https://www.uberconference.com/peerlyhuman
-International: https://www.uberconference.com/international

For Added Privacy:
,
Please use the *67 feature to block caller ID. For instructions on how to do this: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-an-Anonymous-Call

ABOUT US:

This event is part of the Virtual Drop In/ Respite, a project of the Wellness & Recovery Human Rights Campaign, https://www.facebook.com/groups/WellnessRecoveryRights.

For a complete schedule of events at the Virtual Drop In/ Respite, http://right2bu.blogspot.com/2015/11/virtual-drop-in-crisis-respite-weekly.html

For more information about the Wellness & Recovery Human Rights Campaign and what we stand for, http://right2bu.blogspot.com/

My First Impression of the Alcott Unit at Walden Behavioral Care, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, “eating disorders treatment”

I wrote this a while back.  I found it in my files. I found it just now and am posting it. I did very little editing just now, only to eliminate or substitute a word or two for the sake of others.

My First Impression of Walden’s Alcott Unit
by Julie Greene
written July, 2014

I am a 56-year-old woman and I was 52 at the time of my first admission to Walden’s Alcott Unit. I believe the date that I phoned the Admissions office number was my fifty-second birthday in January 2010. I recall that the psychotherapist I had been seeing at the Edinburg Center, [name omitted], LMHC, had instructed me to telephone the main admissions number of Walden to see about getting in. I wasn’t happy about this at all, but at the same time, was rather curious as to what this “eating disorders care” was all about.

It had been nearly 30 years of suffering with an eating disorder, yet I had never been treated for it, certainly not at the inpatient level. I’d first gone to “therapy” and found that no one knew anything about eating disorders, and some “therapists” hadn’t even heard of ED. I’d been to OA and it never “worked.” I’d been to “groups” where I couldn’t relate to other members. I was even told you couldn’t die from an eating disorder. I was told I was exaggerating or “faking it.” Then, in February, 1983, I was in a hospital hoping someone would listen and at least care, when I saw on the news that Karen Carpenter had died of anorexia nervosa.

I tried to tell the nurse. “Look, that’s what I have. Anorexia. Something like that.” But again, I was ignored. Given pills and sent along my way.

A year later I realized the doctor I was seeing had lied. He’d only taken money from my parents. He knew nothing about eating disorders. That’s when I took an overdose. This was a few days before my 26th birthday. The doctor’s name was Thomas Alkoff, PhD, and his associates were the psychiatrist Carl Burak, MD and the psychologist Ronnie Burak, Carl’s wife. All three left town a few years later following multiple scandals, including the suicide of my friend Diane Daw (Manchester, VT) and the tragic death of Bennington College freshman Libby Zion. There were many others. The next “doctor” I saw, Charles Capers, MD at Gould Farm, didn’t even have a license to practice medicine. To get me onto SSDI, he pronounced me “schizophrenic” rather arbitrarily. I’ve had to live with the fake diagnosis “schizoaffective” ever since.

In 2010, I had a therapist who really was trying to help and really did care. She said I needed to eat. This was her main concern. She said Walden was a good place. So did my psychiatrist, Dr.Kimberly Pearson. Yet I was aware that there was always considerable strain between these two practitioners, though they tried to hide this from me for the sake of keeping professional distance from me.

I recall making the first phone call to Walden. I had already e-mailed with my circle of friends who were my age. These were women friends I knew online. Sadly, none of them are friends anymore. This is what happens when you are afflicted with anorexia nervosa. However, these friends were all in agreement: Julie needs this “Walden.” I phoned and reached a man named Brian. His voice sounded soothing and kind. Every time I called, Brian answered in his melodious voice. I told myself that he must calm the very young and frightened girls who call for the first time with questions, and calm the crying ones.

Brian asked me many questions, which I answered to the best of my ability. I thought: wow, this place must be state of the art. I’ve never been asked these questions before! No one has even cared! He asked me if I starved, and how much I ate. Usually when I have entered a mental hospital all they wanted to know about were suicidal intent.

That’s how it works., though, with hospitals. The admissions people such as Brian are the first ones you meet and you assume they represent the hospital. You are totally convinced that these organizations care about you, based on their “front” people, their PR dudes. Brian has tact and he’s smooth-talking. Their website looks nice, too. As does the website of any mental prison. I have my own website and I have designed many pretty ones and ugly websites, too.

Brian asked about height and weight. I am five foot one and was rather thin at the time. My highest weight was achieved because I was coerced into taking the drug Seroquel. I weighed nearly 200 pounds. My lowest weight was 78 last summer, as I weighed myself the day my kidneys failed. I have photos of myself at my highest and lowest weights for history’s sake. I think if I had allowed my weight to drop further, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

I am alive, however, because I walked away from psychiatric abuse. I am alive because a I refused imprisonment. I am alive because I refuse to go to one more so-called “hospital,” and I have been to many. I am alive because in the end I refused mental health care. I know the difference between “care” and “abuse.” I am alive because I recognized that beyond a doubt, my eating disorder is not a disorder at all, but a set of inherited nutritional traits that was passed on in the bloodline. My mother went through the same ordeal without any such imprisonment from the ages of 14 until 16 and never saw a therapist nor specialist.

My mother is right now in a nursing home in Johnston, RI. If you go see her you will notice a few things. Go eat with her. I have never been there myself but I’d love it if anyone would do this. With a variety of food in front of her, she will act differently around the dairy food. I guarantee this, and yet she and I have never discussed this openly. [note: my mother passed away August 12, 2015.]

Dr. Greenblatt, who runs Walden, was spot-on in his book, that eating disorders should be solved with nutrition, not by locking kids up and abusing them. However, Greenblatt sold out, clearly. I find this heartbreaking.

I arrived with a large suitcase at the appointed time. I had read that it was okay to bring a cell phone and I had traded mine for a used one that didn’t have a camera. I had my knitting with me. I was working on a sweater for my little dog, Puzzle. Now, neither knitting nor cell phones are currently allowed, as the rules have changed. I came by MBTA bus. I asked myself if this be the End, this anorexia? I told myself to quit thinking like that.

Well, this was what I needed, wasn’t it? My friends would approve, wouldn’t they? I would get super advice and learn a whole lot of new things about eating disorders that I had never learned in three decades that I had been bumbling around with a bunch of psychotic people. And after all, I wasn’t even psychotic. I “needed” this care, supposedly.  You’d figure these Walden folks were the experts. How could I know anything? I was only a sufferer.

Hell, no. Those of us who have been through the disorder know far more, because we are the ones that actually go through it. Those with book knowledge only know only what is in books, and the books have it all wrong. I was going to find this out, rather shortly.

The admissions process was lengthy. I know the word, “cozy,” is overused, but that seems like a good one to describe the Walden office, their “front” for allowing inductees into their fold. I had to fill out questionnaires and was interviewed. I got weighed in a paper johnny. How many others never forget those paper johnnies. Funny, though, you can drink as much coffee and water as you want before you get weighed, but you can’t sew a ten-pound brick into that johnny. Don’t worry, as soon as we get admitted we are all on the identical meal plan anyway. It’s called Chicago. Once you have been there a couple of times you have Chicago memorized. It’s not too different from the standard diabetic meal plan, made of so-called “exchanges.”

Greenblatt’s book tells us we get extensive testing. I had nine tubes taken in their admissions office via the Newton-Wellesley ER, but this test cost Medicare$2,000 and nothing was done with the results any of the times I was there. Greenblatt states in his book that patients should be neuro tested for what psych meds will work. I don’t think such state-of-the-art testing is ever done at this facility on anyone, or if such testing even exists. Some patients get zinc and some don’t, but it seems arbitrary to me. In fact, most of the nurses tell the patients the vitamin supplements are “optional” and “not very important.” Most nurses also don’t understand why they are given, if you ask them. They seem to be rather heavy-handed, on the other hand, and insist on bossing patients around, ordering them to “group” or telling them when to go to bed or that they need to stop talking about certain subjects. Patients are often threatened and told their socializing amongst each other will be “staff monitored” if they cause any trouble.

I did get tested by a neurologist during one of my five stays at Walden, by a real neurologist. This was to see the extent of the damage caused by self-starvation I asked the nurse practitioner, Deb, to tell me the results. She said, “I cannot read his handwriting.” I questioned her further but she put me off over and over. I was unable to get a straight answer from her.

I was allowed to be admitted to Alcott following the nine-tube, expensive blood test. I felt weak. I was guided to the unit and helped with my luggage. I wanted to sit down and rest, and I was thirsty, too. We had to follow endless hallways and open many doors. So many confusing elevators and beeps and buzzes. I wondered what this place would look like. I hoped the people there would be kind at least.

We arrived at the final door. The hallway turned and then, I saw the doors to Alcott. “This is it,” the admissions person said.

“Is it really named after the author?” I asked.

“I believe so.”

I said, “I am a writer, too.”

We arrived at the locked doors. “Here we are at Alcott.” She let us in.

Here was a hallway not much unlike Three East at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Oh my goodness. My heart sank. Another psych unit. No, this couldn’t be.

I felt so tired. Someone guided me to a chair. I knew I was right by the nurses’ station. I saw the old familiar wite-out board. Patient names with only a letter for last name. Confidentiality, they say. And those doors had clicked locked behind me.

I gripped the chair. I said, “Wait. This is a locked unit?”

“Yes, Julie, this is a locked unit. We have some paperwork for you.” My heart sank another few notches as a staff person got out some old familiar-looking papers. That ole CV. Conditional Voluntary, it’s called. That means you have to sign a special paper to get out, and to get out of this prison, it meant waiting three days. If you don’t pass a judge’s decision, you can be locked up a good long time.

“Let me explain this to you,” the counselor began.

I said, “That’s a three-day. I know those. If I don’t sign in, I can be committed.”

“I would recommend you sign this, Julie. Don’t give us any trouble about this one.”

Soon, it was time for 3pm snack. I couldn’t believe that much time had passed since my arrival at the admissions office first thing that morning. I didn’t want to eat. I wanted to stay thin forever. If only I could leave that place!

I realized that everyone goes through this, this very moment of saying, “Why the heck did I agree to this. I’m stuck here now!” How long would it be? Weeks? What would happen here? The patients didn’t look happy. Instead, many were holding their bellies, as if they had stomach aches. About half the patients had tubes taped to their noses. The tubes appeared to go deep into their nostrils and were taped to the outside of their faces. Before long, the slurpy sound of liquid rushing through those tube feed pumps would be the sound of my life.

Many people shuffled into the dining room. Obligatory snacks had been distributed in a cramped dining room where we all had to eat together. We also had to drink either milk or juice. I was shocked at these snacks. I looked for the one with my name on it, “Julie G.”

There sat a package of Lorna Doone cookies and a big glass of milk. I sat there with those cookies in front of me for a long time. I looked at the other patients. How could they stand this? This was food slavery. I didn’t enjoy the sound of crunching. Someone began a game of 20 questions. I felt insulted to play a kiddie game.

My body wasn’t accustomed to eating this type of food. I knew one package of Lorna Doones wasn’t going to hurt me or poison me. Of course not. But still, my stomach hurt afterward. My friend wanted to speak with me to find out how things were going, so I phoned her following snack time. There was no private place to sit and talk, so I sat in the living room area where many others were seated.

My friend was home and picked up the phone.

“You ate what? They gave you Lorna Doone cookies? Not something healthy like nuts or something? Or fruit? Maybe an orange?”

“No,” I told my friend. “All packaged junk food. You have to eat it and you can’t complain. I feel really awful and my stomach hurts.”

“I really thought they would be more sophisticated than that.”

“Maybe they are just doing it cheaply. Anything to see to it that we gain weight as fast as possible.”

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a staff person. I knew this because he wore a badge with his photo on it. He said to me, “Julie, you cannot speak to your friend like that. We don’t allow this. You cannot say these things. You must hang up now.”

I turned to him and said, “Why?”

He said, “It’s triggering to other patients.”

I knew this was bogus, though. They only didn’t want patients speaking to anyone on the outside about “care” or lack thereof. It was the same in any mental prison. I felt trapped. I excused myself from my phone conversation. I realized, though, that Alcott wasn’t going to be any different from any other mental prison.

I am finding that after three and a half decades suffering horribly from severe eating problems, after my bio family has been torn apart, after I have lived for decades in poverty, after my chances of a career have been stripped, after I have no chances of ever having kids or raising a family of my own, after my own public reputation is ruined, after my brothers have denied me the privilege of knowing their children and raised their kids without Auntie Julie, and now, since I was threatened with forcibly being drugged forever and permanently locked up, saying goodbye to the USA for good….Well, heck, it all could easily have been solved within the first year nutritionally, perhaps eliminating certain foods from my diet, eating a good source of Omega-3, taking some vitamins., and never, ever setting foot into the halls of “Mental Health Care,” nor any hospital, ever.

I spend quite a bit of time laughing over it all lately. Yes, looking back and laughing. Psych abuse gave me a darned good sense of humor. If I had my way, I would tear down every mental prison ever built.

Perhaps one wall would remain standing. Let’s call this the Wailing Wall. I saw one such wall, when I was 19 years old, when I traveled to Jerusalem, the last wall standing of the Temple the Jews had built.

I suppose that one wall would remain for history’s sake. I can imagine right now standing before such a wall made of stones. Papers stuffed hastily between the stones by visitors. At 19, I was an ambitious and promising young college student.  I wondered what was written on these papers. Were these prayers to a deity? Or messages honoring those that have passed and are now gone? Or something else?

 

Provider Review: Maria Mellano, LICSW, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Occasionally, I write product reviews here if I feel that doing so may help other people make a decision. I have posted product reviews elsewhere as well, such as on Amazon and You-Tube.

I am not a professional reviewer nor have ever been hired to write these. I am not sponsored by anyone and no one pays me to do this. I only want to share my experience honestly.

“This is the first time I’ve seen opportunity to post an actual review, which I can only hope won’t be taken down. I started seeing Maria Mellano around Thanksgiving time in 2010, and ended my therapy with her in March 2012. Like most therapists, Maria will look her best during the first meeting. She ropes in patients via a “meet and greet” session. Most service providers will shine during that first session. I fell for her “therapy,” which was a huge mistake on my part. I was doing well before I began seeing Maria, but after a brief time in her “care,” my whole life went downhill rather rapidly. Time and time again, Maria used control and manipulation to convince me she was “saving my life.” Go look at the testimonials on her site and you will see those very same words, “She saved my life.” She had me convinced, too. However, one day I awoke to the reality. Maria is one of the most controlling and manipulative therapists I’ve ever worked with. The idea that she “saves your life” will keep you hooked and coming back for more. I was convinced I would die without Maria. However, I came close to death more than once because of her. Today, I am alive in spite of her.

“When I started seeing Maria, I was 52 years old. My previous therapists had allowed me responsibility since I was reliable and honest, and tended to show up and be otherwise cooperative. Treatment with Maria was based on her persistent distrust of me.

“Specifically: I was forced to go to unnecessary weekly weigh-ins with my PCP. These involved repeated threats and bullying by my entire treatment team. The pressure over the forced weigh-ins was tremendous since Maria insisted on running the show. I recall hearing things such as, “If you don’t gain a half pound by Friday, you’re going to be sectioned.” After a while, she used threats and scare tactics during every session. She also threatened to put me in a state hospital. Each session, I was bombarded with talk about what she required me to do to avoid long-term institutionalization. She also repeatedly accused me of all kinds of things I never did. Her most usual accusation was that I was lying when I wasn’t. During the last few months of “therapy,” she repeatedly said the word “bullshit” after I made various statements. I began to wonder, “Is this therapy?”

“Meanwhile, I had lost all my friends. An abusive relationship with a therapist will isolate the patient just like an abusive marriage. That’s what happened to me. One day, I awoke to the reality of the abuse. I realized that Maria has an intense need for power over other people, which she sells as “therapy.” It saddened me to see other patients duped just like I was into thinking that her power was “lifesaving” when it was really killing me.

“She will have you sign an insanely long “contract.” I’ve learned that contracts can be used abusively. Maria added pages to the contract and took them away, changing rules or breaking them herself whenever she felt like it. I can imagine this is scary for many patients, confusing, and damaging.

“I was fearful under Maria’s regime. I realize now that no one should have to live with the daily terror Maria caused me. I was afraid to fire her, but I took the plunge.

“I can’t say it was easy after that. I was without friends, desperately lonely, and suffering from post-trauma from Maria’s “therapy.” Three years have passed and I am still suffering the effects of trauma. However, I found out that what I originally believed was still true. I never needed the strict monitoring Maria insisted upon, the extra appointments, the threats, scare tactics, nor unfounded accusations. None of these tactics are curative.

“I am doing much better now that I got Maria Mellano out of my life. My eating disorder has improved considerably because I shook off the myths and brainwashing I was taught in “therapy.” I took responsibility for myself, which Maria never allowed. In being fully adult without unnecessary babysitting, I regained my precious Freedom of Thought. I cannot believe I lived all that time trapped, like a slave.”

***

I am confident in what I have written and stand behind it. If anyone else was damaged by Maria and needs a witness, I am available and willing to testify in court on behalf of victims. If you, too, were also harmed, feel free to contact me. Solidarity, enlightenment, education, and the concepts behind human rights, that we are all indeed worthy, will help us regain our lives. Please don’t give up hope.

The “Anatomy of a Binge” story you don’t ever hear, and other commentary on food choices

I think at this point, we can most likely find a handful of binge eating narratives out there in popular literature. In ED “care” they discourage any talk of such things. The assumption is that it doesn’t exist if we stop talking about it. It’s “triggering,” they said. So in that sense, those of us who were plagued with such  behavior could certainly never resolve it since we had no one to discuss it with openly, and any efforts  we made to express ourselves were immediately shut down.

I asked myself last night if anyone ever did a study of what happens in the body if we repeatedly binge on massive amounts of food over a long period, say, over a year.

It seems that science barely acknowledges that the body, following starvation, braces itself for further famine for the next few years. This is one reason why stopping anorexic habits can be so difficult. We can feed our bodies fine, but they react oddly for a long time even though our eating might be okay.

I’ll bet there are no studies out there about what happens once the body comes to expect binge eating. Here’s my thinking:

At some point, there’s some stimulus or stress that causes you to do what for sure you do not want to do, yet it happens. Imagine you get into your car at around 1am to drive to the convenience store. On the way, your stomach already knows what will happen. It will have to handle an intake of far more food that it is designed for. I can imagine that while driving, the stomach excretes juices to ensure it can digest whatever you grab at the store.

I read that inducing excretion of gastric juices is the purpose of appetizers, such as hors d’oevres.  For this reason, they might be spicy or strong-tasting. Mustard is known to have this property and is thought of as a spice that increases appetite. So I can imagine that increased gastric juices means that your appetite increases as you drive closer. In fact, your digestive organs might begin churning away.  Your appetite for an ungodly amount of food only gets worse since your body considers it inevitable and is preparing for it. In that sense, the unstoppable cycle has already begun.

I rarely binged when I was hungry. In fact, I used hunger to help me make good choices. They tell us not to shop on an empty stomach since it might lead to impulse food buying. I don’t think that is true for all of us. For a long time, though, I believed this rule to be Gospel truth.

It is said that if a person is starved enough, they’ll eat just about anything. I find that this, too, is untrue. If a body is starved it can only handle certain foods. Other foods will overwhelm it. You bet our bodies are smart enough to reject what they cannot handle until ready. This is why many people who have experienced anorexia might appear overly fussy. There’s a darned good reason for it.

During a binge, what happens in the body? What about afterward? What happened to me was that I often felt extremely exhausted, like I was so full I was going to collapse. Maybe I’d pass out like a drunk, as soon as I got to bed. I’d wake up a couple of hours later in the night sweating, and often, my heart pounded and my temperature was raised. I couldn’t sleep in that condition.  Come morning, I still felt extremely sick and sometimes farted and belched so much I had to hide out all day. No one ever saw me like that. I was in so much pain I couldn’t get much done. If I had to, I lied and said I was “busy” or “sick.” This alone prevented me from getting much done and stole years of my life.

To delay my getting better, in treatment, my body sense was denied and never respected, over and over for many years. We were told we weren’t good observers, when the truth was, we were the only observers. We were told we made poor food choices, when in fact, we were the only ones who lived in our bodies and were the best ones to make those choices. Other people’s ideas of what feels healthy got imposed on us. All this took place within a backdrop of total control, total supervision, and constant invasion of personal privacy. The patient is not honored for her wisdom, only faulted, over and over.

We find ourselves immersed in a fake world where we are always on the very bottom of the heap. I find that the underdog role is hard one to bust out of. You have to find that power and assert it rather persistently, with family and anyone around you. If you end up repeatedly banging against stone walls with these people and situations due to their low expectations, as I did, you might do well making major changes. What did these naysayers really expect of me? Failure, failure, failure. They’d fall apart if I succeed. In fact, now that I am doing just fine without their “treatment,” I believe they truly are falling apart, unable to handle that maybe they aren’t gods.

Get away from that nonsense. You’ll be glad you did. Get away from the harmful low expectations of others. You will be surprised at the results. We need as many out there, all of us that exist who have proven the myths to be incorrect, to find each other and join voices. We need to bust those myths that get crammed down patients’ throats in “treatment.” If we unite and speak out, for sure, the general public and medical worlds both will gain a greater understanding of our experience.

Myth: “Binge eating, without vomiting, is not a serious concern.” Not true!

Binge eating, by itself, can be very dangerous. The main danger is not overweight, contrary to the literature. Eating a lot of food, no matter how you do it, will certainly cause weight gain. However, binge eating is not the same as overeating.

In some countries, such as the UK, no distinction is made between overeating and binge eating (last I checked). The danger of this is that both the general population and the medical community end up viewing it as gluttony. As a consequence, the sufferer feels more need to hide the problem, and feels even more ashamed than he/she would be otherwise.

So what defines a binge? I personally don’t agree that a binge is self-defined. I’ve been in “treatment” with people who viewed one small sandwich as a binge. I’ve met others who defined “binge” as “going off my diet” or “not following my meal plan.” However, breaking rules when you eat is not a binge. I certainly enjoy breaking rules and busting myths on a daily basis.

A binge, as far as I am concerned, happens when you stuff yourself full and then keep eating until you can barely breathe, until you can stuff no more in. You may feel the food won’t go down anymore due to stomach fullness, and that you are so stuffed that the food can’t move from your esophagus to your stomach. They say the maximum a person can eat and keep down is 15,000 calories, but I am sure that this varies from person to person. To give you an idea of how much that is, a woman my size might eat 1,500 calories a day, or certainly much more if she is active. To lose weight she might eat 1,400 calories. They say under 1,200 isn’t a good idea, especially not for an extended period. Anyone on meds will need to adjust what they eat. Most meds cause deficiencies. I believe patients should be aware of this and eat accordingly, adding vitamins in powder or pill form if absolutely necessary, however, don’t expect to hear that from the average doctor. Either way, if I were to eat 4,000 calories in one day, that would be a lot, too much, and I’d feel terrible afterward. Imagine stuffing oneself, within a short period, much much more than that, and you can imagine what a real binge is.

I don’t buy that binge eating is a feeling. It’s not. It involves consuming actual large quanties. If you only feel it’s too much, but in fact, it isn’t, then to me, it’s not a binge. You may suffer from guilt or shame, but shame in itself isn’t going to harm  you medically. I do not for one minute see shame as “nothing,” since I know that it can certainly affect the way a person lives. Shame could cause a person to not go out or not socialize, or to skip out on occasions such as potluck dinners or a trip to the beach.

My experience, over three decades of it, of dealing with doctors and therapists was that when I spoke of binge eating, they assumed that I was suffering from shame. This wasn’t at all what I was dealing with. I was binge eating so much that the physical discomfort became excruciating. This was what led me to quit school originally.

Doctors either ignored me, or poked fun at me. I felt like I was being treated like I was complaining about one eyebrow hair out of place. They told me, literally, that people with depression and bipolar suffered far more and were more deserving of their concern. This was repeated to me over and over. Can you see where this all led? I was told so many times that my concerns didn’t matter that I ended up lying just to get “care.”

I told them I had insomnia. This was entirely true. Of course, after a binge, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed and moan occasionally. I had to stay in bed all day after a binge simply because walking or even sitting in a chair was impossible. Not that lying down was comfortable. Any position I lay in was painful for me.

No one knew that this was going on. I wasn’t trying to keep it secret, it was just that the therapists and doctors I saw generally changed the subject whenever I tried to explain. I believe what was happening to me made them uncomfortable just to hear about it.

Don’t you hate it when therapists get like that, when they can’t emotionally handle your issues? I’ve heard this from many people, that they cannot get to the core of what is happening to them in these therapy sessions, since the therapist herself isn’t emotionally equipped to hear it. This shouldn’t be the case since we pay these people. I realize now that speaking to a person who has really been through it all is far more helpful than any “therapist.”

My very first therapist wasn’t the avoidant type, as most are. I liked that about her. But she had no clue that I had an eating disorder. Remember, it was 1981, so there was no knowledge in the field of ED. After I got to day treatment, I fonnd that the therapists had multiple issues of their own and were hardly equipped to deal with ours. I remember I brought up the fact that I was in a cult (the Moonies) to one therapist, and he immediately shut me down saying I probablly wasn’t in a cult. I never said another word about it. They also didn’t want to hear about the abuse I’d been through in high school. I give them credit for at least acknowledging it, though. After that, the therapists I saw got very uncomfortable whenever I brought it up, so I stopped talking about it. Those were very serious issues, and had I dealt with them when I should have, perhaps the trauma part of what was happening to me would have been resolved. Therapy then got worse and worse as the years went on, and less effective.

I began to speak more of the insomnia, since I figure this might make them listen. I lied and said I was “anxious” but many therapists saw through that. I was then called a faker and attention-seeking. But hey, that’s what I was truly asking for. Their time and attention to a very serious matter that was being ignored.

After years and years of my ED being ignored, even if my weight was low, I started to see myself differently. I saw myself as depressed. If anyone asked, I had “depression.” Meanwhile, I hid my eating disorder, simply because no one gave a shit anyway.

If you can’t stop binge eating early on, you will continue to binge into middle age and then, your senior years, if you are stil alive. When a person is older, the risks become more serious. Older people end up with various health problems that require a precribed diet. You can’t follow such a diet if you suffer from binge eating. This is where it begins to become more dangerous.

The risk of stomach rupture is far higher than doctors want to admit. I even had a doctor who insisted that if anyone ate as much as I did, their bodies would react by throwing  up. For many of us, this isn’t true. I am one of those rare people who didn’t even throw up from half a bottle of Ipacac, which I once took out of desperation, back in the days when it was around. My dad always said I had an “iron stomach.” Guess so! Stomch rupture will kill you very fast. It isn’t talked about, but yes, it happens. For a long time, I was terrified that this would happen to me.

If you are a suffer, and really want to speak with someone about this debilitatiing problem, you might want to find a person who has been there. Otherwise, how can these “therapists” possibly understand? They might say, “Go back on your meal plan.” Of course, this isn’t helpful. Truth is, they don’t even have real answers anyway. Sad to say, some people feel so hopeless that they will ever stop that they just give up.

The DSM does binge eaters a disservice, by not making a distinction between a real and perceived binge. So when a person gets diagnosed, they might feel good about the acknowledgement, only to find out that their very serious binge eating is taken very lightly, with focus on shame. Since psychiatry and therapy are not the answer and these people are clueless as to how to help, the sufferer is told over and over that he/she is exaggerating or that it’s simply a matter of perception. While it’s true that for some, it is, but for many of us, our concerns get further shoved aside, as mine were for decades.

In the end, I solved the problem on my own. This took extensive experimentation that I could only begin once I refused to allow “doctors” to run my life. I realized that the system, and the media too, encourages worship of doctors. If you have heard on TV, “Ask your doctor,” you know this is all part of the coercion. Why should I get “doctor permission” for something I do related to my own body and no one else’s? So I had to ditch that thinking. They aren’t gods. I solved the problem nutritionally. I wish I had done this decades ago instead of going through all the hell I endured.

The worst of “ED Hell”: Those intense and terrifying feelings of “I’m so fat!” that poison and kill us

I was there once, and it was miserable. I remember well waking up and that very first thought that popped into my head was, “Fat!” What an awful way to start the day. That was pure hell.

This has nothing to do with vanity or being trite. People with eating disorders are deep thinkers to the same or greater extent than anyone else, even though many believe we see only what’s on the surface. If anyone tells you your problems are trivial, walk away.

This is about intense, torturous self-deprecation. Almost as if you are completely abhorrent to yourself. Imagine if anyone else told you, “You disgust me.” Or, “You are the filth of society.” Or, “You are a sinner in the eyes of God.”

One day, I put on a certain jacket that you bet I no longer own. I began to zip up that jacket, then suddenly, I noticed that my butt filled up an unacceptable amount of it.

I was so, so angry. I tore that jacket off and threw it down on the floor, in a total rage.

No one can say I don’t know what an eating disorder is, or that I’ve never been through this. Because I have. The self-deprecating is often referred to as the worst part of ED Hell. You would cut that fat right off your body if you could. You imagine slicing it off with a knife. No one wants to hear it, either. Just how much this sucks. It seems neverending, that you’ll never be able to stop those thoughts.

What if we really could slice off all the crap in our lives? What would remain? Imagine it. Life without ED. If you are that deep into ED Hell, I’ll bet it’s tough to imagine. It was for me.

It was a lonely time. Hellish loneliness. I could get no one to listen, no one to hear, no one to sit by me, no one to speak to me. I felt like begging for help, but begging seemed so shameful. It was too discouraging because I’d always get the door slammed shut before I was even given a chance.

No.

And that would be it. I’d walk away. Or maybe waddle away.

I kept walking. Further and further into it. Until, as I walked, I came through. Only a few steps more, and then, I saw the smallest bit of light.

Just hold onto the warmth of that for one more minute.

I love you.

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.