Someone asked me yesterday why people have binge eating disorder, as if there is one answer, she said, “is it trauma? or is it the media’s preoccupation with being thin? or what?”
Okay, so clearly there is no one answer, there are like 100 or one million reasons and they’re all mix and match. But let me tell you here the ones that I’ve come across most often:
1. Backlash from dieting- A long time ago, somebody said that you were unacceptable. Maybe it was your Mom, maybe it was a teacher, or maybe in fifth grade, the boy you had a crush on said that you had a big butt, maybe in seventh grade your five best friends all decided that they didn’t like you anymore and you ate lunch all by yourself on a bench for the rest of the year and then everyone else followed suit and stopped talking to you. Maybe you couldn’t figure out why and so you blamed it on your body. Whoever or whatever caused you to think that you were unacceptable, you blamed it on your body, and so you decided to do something to change it. You decided that if you lost weight, you couldn’t get hurt anymore. You could hide, be invisible. But one day, you went off your diet because there was a big piece of birthday cake in front of you. And then, eating that birthday cake symbolized everything that was wrong with you. All the hurt, all the bad things everyone ever said about you. That birthday cake told you that you were going to be abandoned, alone, lonely for the rest of your life. And it was too much to take. So you ate more to make the pain go away. And then you hated yourself. And so you ate more. The next day you ate nothing. And you were hungry. But still you ate nothing. The day after that, you were so hungry that you ate 5 bowls of cereal for breakfast. Bam. There’s your Binge Eating Disorder.
2. There was abuse– Someone, along the way, did something that hurt you. Hurt you so much in fact that you decided that you needed to hide. And so you covered yourself and protected yourself by eating and putting on weight. The weight kept you safe and the food kept you sane. It was your coping mechanism and the way that you protected yourself physically from being abused or hurt by people.
3. Depression– You weren’t the type to use alcohol when you were sad, and drugs weren’t your thing. But you could free-base sugar and snort lines of white flour like Grandmaster Flash. Food became your anesthesia, it became your prozac. Bingeing on starchy, sugary foods raised your generated a dopamine response which lit up the pleasure center in your brain. But the dopamine signal regulated and you became depressed again and more concentrated sugar and processed carbohydrates were needed to make you happy, although ultimately, your depression got worse because you didn’t want to be binge eating. The cycle became vicious.
4. Overstimulation- Used to be that food was hard to get. I don’t even mean back in the paleo times, I mean like, when your Mom was a girl. You went to the fish market for fish, the fruit stand for fruit and the butcher for meat. There wasn’t a bodega on every corner with cheap processed food for grabbing and eating on the run. Food became less food like and more chemically, addictive substances that your body became addicted to. Food became so processed and so concentrated that it was no longer food, it was your chemical laden drug. Funyuns and Hohos got you high. You began going on benders and felt that you couldn’t stop. You were addicted to the chemicals and to the high.
5. Perfectionism- You were trying to be perfect, look perfect, act perfect, eat perfect. And you did this perfectly… in front of everyone. But when you were home and alone, you just cracked. You had to stop being perfect even for a moment. You sat by yourself bingeing in peace and for a moment, you could drop that perfect facade. And it was a relief.