Addressing binge eating

Laura Lothrop

Human beings have a fairly basic relationship with food: we rely on it for survival. However, in the modern day, our relationships with food have taken on more complexity, requiring us to define healthy balances between appropriate indulgence and unhealthy use of food for an escape that goes beyond filling a basic need or occasional craving.

A distortion of this balance can lead to many eating disorders that have long term health implications. One such example is binge eating.

Binge eating is an eating disorder that alters how individuals perceive themselves through feelings of internal disgust, guilt and repression
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, binge eating is marked by recurring episodes of overeating, wherein individuals consume abundantly large portions of food and experience a feeling of loss of control, guilt, self-loathing and disgust.

In my past, binge eating has seriously affected my relationship with food and my own body image. There have been times where food feels like an enemy, intent on causing me to hate my body. There are other times where food is the friend I go to when I need to distract myself from stress.

At my worst, food is a blessed tool that I selfishly use and waste, consuming it just for the sensation on my taste buds.

The feeling I hate more than the lies which disturb my body image are the lies that tell me to eat more food in order to forget about stress, commitments, anxiety, and self-loathing.

Binge eating needs to be exposed as a legitimate, harmful eating disorder. Binge eating is not simply the consumption of extra portions, but a loss of control triggered by an emotional distress in an individual, which destroys their health and shatters their self-esteem.

Many students on campus have food readily available through their meal plans and dining dollars, where the options to splurge on ice cream and unhealthy snacks are convenient and accessible.

Sometimes the luxurious and plentiful supply of food that many of us have readily available can be abused in order to function as a form of escape. Binge eating grips individuals in covert ways which are seemingly unrecognizable, and actually normalized through the stress-filled years of college.

College has the unique ability to frame our schedules in such chaotic ways that we begin to believe we have no time to prepare or consume a legitimate, healthy, balanced meal. It is as though pizza and french fries are an expected staple for students who stay up doing homework, consuming treats outside of the bounds of moderation, and ignoring the warning signs from their own body, simply because of a stressful midterm or for the sake of so called “self-love.”

Our bodies deserve to have treats, but they also deserve those basic needs as well, like water and vegetables.

There is no such thing as bad food, within moderation. Treat yourself when you deserve it; a well-rounded diet does not starve, deprive or overwork the body, but instead fuels it based on the nutrition that the vessel needs to sustain itself, and not from fulfillment placed in the control of food.

It is important that we understand the habits and temptations that food bring out of us. Binge eating is more common than we would like to believe, because it is ingrained in the fast-paced, rushed, fast-food diet of college students who do not always have time to cook for themselves.

Binge eating starts off as a snack and then transforms itself into a shopping spree at Trader Joe’s; the kind of spree that looks delicious and enticing, but really functions as a form of escape and disillusionment.

Especially in college, this disorder is overlooked and, on the rare occasion it is addressed, is strangely categorized or blown off as a fun college experience that supposedly comes hand-in-hand with the undergrad experience.

But binge eating is not something that should be normalized, it is not a way of coping, and unfortunately it is not something that our culture calls out as unhealthy.

This inability to recognize it as a disorder, simply because the person abusing food (unconsciously, unintentionally or uncontrollably) appears to remain the same size, does nothing to address the damaging physical and mental effects it has on the person, and how it ruins one’s relationship with food.

Helping others re-frame their relationship with food comes with providing tools with which they can address the problem, and then steps to take to work toward a solution.

Binge eating is an overlooked eating disorder, yet one that has profoundly detrimental effects on the ones trapped within its grip. As a community and a culture, we need to recognize this issue, name it for what it is, and work toward providing help for those who need assistance in escaping from food they see an enemy, and instead understand food as a partner in a balance lifestyle.