I am honored to be launching a book with my dear friend Chevese. I knew from our first phone call about a national organization to represent BED that something special was happening. The tides were turning; BED was finally coming into the light as an eating disorder, one requiring specialized treatment, support and compassion. Chevese is one of the most committed people I have ever known; her determination to advocate for BED recognition has played an enormous role in the lives of many people, and in the writing of this book. I am proud to call her both friend and colleague.
For my part, this work is many years in the making. When I first sought help for my own binge eating, BED didn’t even have a name. Terms like “compulsive eating” and “emotional overeating” were used, but they always seemed minimizing, as though I could simply build skills to exert more control over my thoughts and feelings and the binges would stop. Not like I had a “real” eating disorder on par in severity with anorexia or bulimia. Somehow, even from the beginning, I knew there was more to my binge eating than this approach would suggest.
My first attempts in treatment were helpful in the short run, but ultimately missed the mark of sustainability over time. I learned “strategies” and “tips” to avoid binge eating and, as with dieting, it worked for a few weeks, or even a few months. But ultimately, binge eating returned. I felt like a failure yet again, lacking in self-discipline and willpower. Apparently I didn’t “want it” badly enough. What I came to realize is that my binge eating was not pathological; it was adaptive. It gave me a way to soothe, to distract, to hide and to give myself a way out. It was a tool to get away from anxiety, from pain, from shame. Until these reasons for its continued existence were addressed and healed, change would be emotionally impossible.
Ultimately, I needed to change how I saw myself in the world before I could stop binge eating. I needed to feel safer and better able to navigate life and relationships without feeling so much fear of doing something “wrong”. I have found that to sustain such change, it is essential to heal at the deepest level our relationship with our most wounded parts, and to challenge the oppressions and judgments we experience in our lives that may be continuing to damage us, especially with regard to food and weight.
When we know we are fundamentally worth the best care possible, we will take an active role in protecting and advocating for ourselves and our bodies. In this regard, recovery is both a personal and political action; it is about healing ourselves as well as helping to heal the world around us. It takes courage, strength, and the risk of vulnerability to our deepest truths. It involves coming to cherish our authentic self and the body in which we spend our lives.
My hope for our book is to help people with BED, and those supporting them, to feel better able to understand our relationships with food and body image are not shameful, nor are they a sign of pathology. BED comes from doing the best to care for ourselves with the resources at hand. The work of recovery is to discover we deserve better, and most of all, how to offer it to ourselves.