How Binge Eating Can Mask An Eating Disorder

Occasionally binging on what felt like mountains of food in one evening is what allowed me to hide my eating disorder not only from others but also from myself for so many years.

Binge eating in itself is an eating disorder probably not widely recognised by the public. I imagine if a room of people were asked to draw someone with an eating disorder then a similar image would be replicated from person to person – a tiny stick of a human with the word ‘anorexic’ flying about in conversation. I think the biggest thing in today’s society is to step back and acknowledge that eating disorders don’t just present in the form of an overly thin individual. An obese individual that over indulges on a daily basis is suffering from an eating disorder. A person who starves themselves either daily or a few times a week, or makes themselves sick from time to time, is also suffering.

The one thing I have hated hearing over the years, and still to this day hear from time to time (when I am brave enough to be honest to open up to someone about my situation), is ‘so which disorder do you suffer from, is it anorexia or the bulimia?’. This is not a phrase I want to hear after opening up to someone – it casts doubt in my mind that I am actually suffering at all. For years I have thought ‘well hang on, I’m not thin enough to be classed as ‘anorexic’, am I? And I’m not making myself sick after every thing I manage to eat, so I can’t be bulimic. So I mustn’t have a problem at all! How embarrassing that I have even told someone about my ‘disorder’, I won’t be making that mistake again.’


If any of you out there are like me – you yoyo between depriving yourself of meals, starving yourself, living each day calorie obsessed, then the next you spend an evening binging on your favourite snacks – consciously aware in the back of your mind that being sick will ‘erase’ all the ‘wrong’ you are doing or for the next few days you know you can just avoid food to ‘make up’ for all these calories you’re consuming – then please Google ‘EDNOS‘. ‘Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified’ is the biggest eating disorder out there – it consists of a cycle of starving then binging then purging (check out my previous blog entry for more). Believe me, I was as surprised as you probably are right now that it is actually a thing to not fit into one specific well known eating disorder. Instead, you’ve conned yourself and others around you that you do eat ‘normally’ – ‘I had loads of chocolate last Friday so I’m not suffering from anything at all‘ or if you’ve heard someone say to you ‘How do you manage to eat all them biscuits without getting fat? I wish I could eat like that‘ … Phrases like these are what allow you to get away with this vicious cycle. Everyone (including your own self) seems to comment on these times when you’re eating loads. There’s been times when I was low and desperately wanted to share what I was facing in my own mind day-in-day-out but stopped myself just thinking ‘God if I tell them now that I have an ‘eating disorder’ they’ll think I’m such a fake…they saw me eat all that chocolate last week and I’m not even skinny enough to be taken seriously…how embarrassing, I’m not mentioning this to anyone. Infact…there’s not even anything wrong with me’.

It’s still incredibly hard to openly admit that I do have an eating disorder and there are only a few people I have trusted with my circumstances since I opened up 5 months ago. I still binge from time to time and the same thoughts enter my head of how to ‘undo’ it all the next day. It’s hard not to listen to my mind as the ideas start ticking over and the guilt sets in as I feel my stomach and think how horrendously fat I’ve become. But I’m learning not to act on these negative thoughts as I once did and I hope CBT will help me erase these thought patters from my mind for good one day.

I feel it is so important that people out there understand how binge eating can mask disorders and how it can play a huge part in EDNOS amongst other conditions. Binging enables easier vomiting and therefore plays a massive part in bulimia. It is the master of all disguises to everyone around. After all, who would second guess someone who ate all that food at the party the other night? They’re not starving themselves or suffering are they? Yes..they most likely are. Infact, they’re probably sat down now feeling horrendously shameful and guilty of their actions and have likely already began their next task of undoing all their previous ‘wrongdoings’.

Amy Whittle

My name is Amy, I’m 22, and I’ve been living with an eating disorder on and off for 9 years. A few months ago I was finally honest about it with my loved ones. I am now on my challenging journey through recovery and have started an online blog to help aid me along the way and hopefully provide some positivity and motivation for others who are going through a similar thing.

EDNOS: Living a Life in Fear

I’ll be honest, I’d never even heard of EDNOS until someone told me I had it. ‘Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified’ to be exact. I remember reading through the symptoms online in an article and each bullet point hit me like a bucket of ice water as the realisation struck that I’d been living with an actual condition. Until then I suppose I’d been in denial about what I was doing to myself, although I’d be lying to myself now if I said I still wasn’t trying to deny to myself what I have, or even what I have become.

For almost half of my life now (9 years – on and off – to be exact), I have spent each day in fear of being overweight; getting fat terrifies me and I will do whatever it takes to ensure it does not happen. I don’t think I can remember a time I was ever happy with my body which is sad but true. I’m not happy with it now but I’ve gained some progress in that I can accept to myself I probably won’t ever be happy with it for as long as this voice of ambivalence goes on in my head as I continue to let it (EDNOS) rule my life.

I was always overweight growing up and when I reached age 13 I was a chubby young girl with massive insecurities. I was bullied for most of my childhood, mainly over my weight, and I hated the way I looked with a passion – but never did anything about it. I can’t really pinpoint what changed in my mindset but something did and I suddenly did not want to eat and wouldn’t. Weight shed off over the months and I was literally going through each day managing what was probably a forkful of pasta followed by feeling horrendously sick at the thought of having anything more. People started to notice at school and someone must have told a teacher because she phoned my mum and then I was monitored at home for a bit with what I was eating. I can’t really remember this period of time well but the worst part was all my thick lovely hair falling out over time and I was left with thin hair (which I still have to this day) and a big bald patch on the back of my head. I remember walking down a corridor at school and people murmuring behind me that I was bald and must have been making myself sick – I don’t think I was being sick often at this point but there was probably a fair few times.

Anyway, that went on for some time and then around age 15  I got into a relationship. As most people do in relationships I let myself go, I stopped starving myself and began over eating – so another bad relationship with food began and I piled back on the weight I’d starved off myself, as my metabolism had obviously dissolved into nothing. I was in this mess of a ‘relationship’ for over 4 long years with a man who turned out to be incredibly manipulative and emotionally abusive, adding to my own negative imagine of myself as he poisoned my mind with insults and statements which I perceived to be nothing but the truth. Finally breaking free of his vicious cycle was the best decision I ever made and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t. But anyway…back to the point.

I can remember the day I ‘relapsed’ back into EDNOS as my addictive behaviours surrounding calorie counting and starving myself began again. I was once again obsessed with being thin and wouldn’t stop until I was. But I was never happy, the less and less I ate, the less and less I weighed, it was never ending. The day I clicked back into this cycle I was 18 – I’m now 22 and I’m still in it. The difference now is I have been in an incredible relationship with my partner for 2 and a half years – he is without doubt the most amazing thing to have ever happened to me and I would be lost without him. He keeps me going each day no matter how fed up I feel with myself and it pains me to see how much my controlling behaviours surrounding restricting food and losing weight are affecting him.

So this is where I am today. For 2 years of our relationship I hid from him that I was calorie counting and lying about having a big meal before seeing him when in reality I hadn’t eaten all day. I was in a spiral of lies to him and myself as well as everyone else around me. He knew about my previous history with starving myself but because I’d become a master of lies he had no idea what was going on. I’d started making myself sick again, I’d been binging and then starving, day in day out. I count every calorie that enters my mouth and I can’t help it. The next day if I’ve eaten what I consider to be too much then I wake up feeling horrendous and plan what to do that day to ensure I don’t get fat. If I can’t feel my hip bones each morning or night I feel like shit and I get angry with myself for eating whatever I have that has produced this fat which means my stomach is no longer as flat as it once was.

It all came out one drunken evening 5 months ago  as I broke down and told him and my parents what I’d been doing and what was going on. Naturally the next day I was embarrassed and wished I’d never told anyone so I could continue on my journey to thinness – but he was my rock and got me a dietitian that put me on a meal plan. I have stuck to this plan for a few months but have recently dwindled off and started back with my sneaky behaviours (not being sick though) but missing stuff here and there and over-weighing myself. I can’t help but feel my stomach each morning and start the day off shit as my hip bones are less and less visible. I want to do it for him but I also need to do it for myself. I want to be healthy and have kids but the voice in myself is all I’ve ever known for as long as I recall and that voice is telling me I must be thin and I’m not happy unless I am. People tell me I’m thin and my body is great but to me it isn’t and by eating regularly I massively fear getting fat. I feel guilty when I eat ‘properly’ and I feel shit when I don’t because I see what I’m doing to the best thing in my life and I hate hurting him. But I cannot lie anymore. I’m waiting for CBT and I hope it will help me escape my own thoughts. I want to write to voice my thoughts and hopefully look back and see one day what I hope to overcome. I am my own worst enemy but something needs to click in my head – it is incredibly hard to retrain thoughts that have lived within my mind every single day and mounded my behaviours which I feel have made me part of who I am. I must start somewhere – so here I am today.

Amy Whittle

My name is Amy, I’m 22, and I’ve been living with an eating disorder on and off for 9 years. A few months ago I was finally honest about it with my loved ones. I am now on my challenging journey through recovery and have started an online blog to help aid me along the way and hopefully provide some positivity and motivation for others who are going through a similar thing.