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“Freedom means no longer letting my life revolve around what I eat and how much I weigh.”
(what does freedom mean to you?)
No matter how desperately I wanted to have an epic, dramatic love story in my life, the most difficult and complicated relationship I’ve ever had has been with food. Following a summer trip to France and having already spent four years counting bites and getting angry when people offered me sweet treats, the legendary self-control I was so proud of broke down. Calories meant nothing anymore. Something was waking up inside me and it was furious, commanding to be fed.
Something was waking up inside me and it was furious, commanding to be fed.
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At the time, I was staying with my French relatives and though what happened to me was unfair and ill-timed, they handled it in the worst way possible; all they did was judge me out loud. Given that their comments made me feel even more ashamed and disappointed in myself than I already was, my sole consolation were the binges. Packs of chocolate chip cookies, armies of pain au chocolat, boxes of cheerios, even something simple as a loaf of bread with Nutella, all consumed in one sitting. Alternating between sweet and salty flavors helped me eat more. Maltesers, crisps; chocolate filled wafers, cheese straws; a pack of macarons, popcorn. I unwrapped and transferred half the package content to a bowl; that created the illusion that there was more to eat than what actually was.
All my relatives did was judge me out loud.
I tried to lose weight, go back to what used to be normal for me but none of my old tricks worked. I no longer had the will to exercise incessantly; who would when there are tubes of deep-filled chocolate biscuits waiting at home? Casual sex wasn’t the fun distraction I remembered it to be. I was too scared and embarrassed of what my partners would think of my body. I stopped doing all the positions I loved the most because they exposed more of myself and insisted on a no-lights policy during the act. My body disgusted me and I recoiled to people’s touch. I was no longer special; I didn’t stand out anymore. I was just like everyone else.
Shortly after, I returned to Greece and things took a turn for the worse. When I fought anorexia, my parents got worried. This time, they were angry. My dad, in particular, is a good, hardworking man who’s always provided for me, but he thinks mental illness is like Santa Claus. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just control myself, like a normal person. The fact that I was living in Greece, unemployed and depending on them for support, certainly didn’t help. The recession had hit Greece very hard, to the point where the unemployment rate for people in their twenties was close to sixty percent. I had the odd job here and there but nothing permanent or well paid enough to the point where I could stick it out on my own.
When I fought anorexia, my parents got worried.
In a very short period of time, I gained an exorbitant amount of weight and, once again, I shut myself off.
During my anorexia phase, I was on a tight schedule when it came to meals and that’s why I needed to be at home: I ate specific things of particular brands at specific times. If a foreign element was introduced I freaked out. But this time, it was the shame that forced me to retire from the world. I was humiliated and convinced that what was happening to me was divine justice, punishment for all those years I spent judging people, like the mean girl that I was.
I found even the slightest contact with people painful because I knew what I would think if I saw a person that looked like what I had become. My clothes had stopped fitting long ago. I lied to my friends and told them I was still living in France, too embarrassed to face them.
I found even the slightest contact with people painful.
All that excessive amount of sugar I consumed made it impossible for me to sleep. I went out at odd times at night, just walking around so I could leave the house without the danger of being seen. When it came to shopping for my daily binge, I picked different convenience stores in fear of being recognized by the clerks working there. I always kept my head down and wore a pair of black, over-sized sunglasses, as if I was a movie star avoiding the paparazzi.
The binges became the center of my life, the only time when I could pause the hate and disgust I harbored for myself and just enjoy. If only I could make them last longer and retain that glorious feeling. I tried to make myself sick so that I could keep on eating, but nothing worked. Every time, I told myself this was the last one, that I’d start fresh tomorrow, join the gym, eat healthy, go out and eventually, over time, tell the truth. Instead, I bought diet pills and a sauna belt online.
The binges became the center of my life.
My sister lived through the entire thing with me, trying to support me. I owe her so much but at the time I acknowledged her efforts so little, and even hated her because she fit into sizes I thought I never would again.
In the meantime, with all that free time in my hands, I was writing again, something anorexia had taken from me (since I was too busy scheduling my food routine and lying about my life). I published a story in a magazine, in London. For the first time in years, I felt like I could care for something other than the number on the weight scale. I started casually looking for Creative writing courses in the UK and kept on writing. The binges grew sparser and I even managed to lose some weight. I applied and was accepted in a Creative Writing Masters Program and my parents concurred that this was the best option for me. So, I went to England for a fresh start.
For the first time in years, I felt like I could care for something other than the number on the weight scale.
Remnants of my life in Greece followed me like the Furies; I introduced myself as ‘Evey from heavy’, masking my contempt for myself with the quirkiness of a European. And, naturally, the occasional binge still occurred.
There is no magic formula for Binge Eating recovery. This is never going to go away completely. I have accepted the fact that I will never look in the mirror and be one hundred percent satisfied with what I see. When it comes to how I look, I can’t be objective but I can try to be ambivalent.
I think it’s heartbreaking that people choose to suffer in silence instead of seeking professional help, fearing that they will be branded crazy by their peers. And though I am proud I clawed my way to recovery on my own, I wish someone had told me asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak.
I think it’s heartbreaking that people choose to suffer in silence; I wish someone had told me asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak.
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