Outing My Midlife Eating Disorder

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Recently I decided to out myself to my friends. That is, I decided to out my eating disorder. You know, “I, Elizabeth, am a binge eater.” There, done.

Most people who know me have no idea I have an eating disorder (we bingers are a crafty bunch.) But frankly anyone that has seen me eat can’t pretend to be completely shocked. It had to cross their minds that I wasn’t piling on pounds by eating delicately. (Trust me when someone is heavy, they are eating a lot and a lot of the time.) I have always been an “enthusiastic” eater. I was never shy about having seconds. Or thirds. But I did my real eating alone. Binge eating is a solo sport and as a world class champion I would have been a shoe-in for the gold at the Binge Eater Olympics.

Binge eaters are not always overweight but often the conditions overlap and rot away at the self-esteem. I finally lost the weight but inside of me will always live my treacherous fat twin plotting a coup. The word fat and its fat word friends like husky, stout, large, portly, heavyset, meaty and the loathsome obese are the fat persons arch enemy. How about circumferentially challenged, one big hoot of a way to say YOU’RE FAT! The last acceptable prejudice in America is harmless fun, right?

I am not going to talk about all the reasons why people become overweight and how difficult it is to lose it and keep it off. There is plenty out there that explains it better than I ever could. What bugs the hell out of me is what ever became of empathy and kindness? Does anyone truly believe that an overweight person wants to be heavy? If you have ever gained 10 or 20 pounds and hated how you felt and then bitched about how hard it is to diet, imagine having to lose a lot more. You, my friend are a lightweight (no pun intended.) Try taking off 50 or 100 or more.

Fat bashing has become a national sport and people can be relentlessly cruel in kicking around anyone that makes them feel superior. If I could round up all the bullies who go after the fat kid I would probably spend the rest of my life behind bars. I can’t stand to see someone being bullied. Regardless if that someone is an overweight kid or teen or adult. I was not a fat kid but my heart breaks to think so many suffer miserable childhoods because our society teaches kids from a very young age to place so much value on appearance. Modern society not only promotes and rewards the superficial but an entire culture fueled by social media has developed around it. Consider the cultural jargon: selfie whores, fame whores, haters gonna hate, skinny jeans, skinny bitch, skinny-fat, overweightness and celebrity culture. It is not an easy world to maneuver for anyone suffering the prejudice of fat shaming. It is however easy to choose kindness over cruelty. For anyone who is a victim of fat shaming, what someone says about you says more about them than it does about you.

In a society that idealizes thinness and shames fatness, even our pets are at risk of weight bias. Why, just the other day my portly feline showed signs of emotional trauma when I refused to feed him again after he wolfed down his dinner. He carried on for a good 5 minutes but I held firm. Oh, the humiliation and shame of owning a circumferentially challenged cat. Fortunately being a cat he doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks and has a quite marvelous opinion of himself. The power of great sense of superiority self-esteem in action.

Soooo, there you have it. It is important to me to be out there with this because I know how horrible and hopeless life can feel when you have an eating disorder. If I can help someone by sharing my story you can call me all the fat words you want.

I also think it is liberating to own who we are, the good parts and the not so good. To deny who we are is to disregard an opportunity to turn our weaknesses into strengths. I strongly believe that only by fully owning my eating disorder will I ever be free of it, as contradictory as that may sound. But the things we fret on are what keep us awake at night, not the things we accept. I am who I am and it is what it is. And I am just fine with that.

Elizabeth is a writer and blogger at Midlife Eating Disorder, where she ponders healthy aging, binge eating and life.