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Atypical Anorexia Nervosa (Binge-Purge Subtype)

Trigger warning: if you struggle with disordered eating, maybe skip this blog.

Today I sorted through my dresser and closets. I pulled out thicker coats and tucked away thinner tops.

Thinner tops.

Thinner.

A lot of what I packed away was t-shirts, not for being impractical winter wear, but for being a size or six too small. You see, I’ve gained a lot of weight in the past year. People who knew me in college might look at me today and guess that I look the same as I always did, but that’s only because between college and this year, I had lost a great deal.

…Yeah, about that…

I mentioned in my last blog that I’ve struggled with eating disorders. About five years ago I was diagnosed (in so far as I could be with something that isn’t in the current DSM) with Binge Eating Disorder.

BED isn’t just an inability to put down the fork, it’s a cross between an addiction and a compulsion. I wouldn’t necessarily eat because I could, I would eat because I had to. If the food was there, I had to eat it. If it wasn’t there, I had to get it and eat it. Not doing so would have irrationally terrible consequences. Trying to resist the compulsion to eat meant sobbing in the fetal position while the world crumbled around me. I would eat until I was full. Then I would eat until I was sick. Then I would drink a lot of water, use the bathroom, and eat until I was out of food.

At the beginning of 2011 I went on what I considered an “extreme diet”. Specifically, I fasted. I thought if I could just take a break, get away from food, show myself I didn’t need it, and flush out my system, maybe I could have the fresh start that I needed to get things on track.

Some people advocate fasting as a great cleansing exercise, and perhaps, when done for a short period of time, under a doctor’s supervision, and for the right reasons, it could be.

I fasted for forty days, unsupervised, to lose weight.

It didn’t take long for me to become addicted to the numbers sliding off the scale. It also didn’t take long for my mentally ill brain to latch onto my behaviour as the latest way to manifest its insanity. My “extreme diet” became something like anorexia. I couldn’t be officially diagnosed because, again, the current DSM doesn’t have a name for it. I was addicted to the weight loss. I was addicted to my changing body shape. I was hooked on the positive feedback, in love with the feeling of emptiness, and obsessed with how much stronger I was than every other girl struggling to lose weight. My inner monologue was cruel towards everyone around me, and even more so towards myself.

It also never failed to remind me after every positive compliment that I was dying. I was slowly killing myself, and nobody cared; they were just happy that my pant size was smaller. That was how little I meant to the world. I deserved to suffer. I deserved to starve.

I went on six fasts over the course of eight months, ranging from 28 to 40 days. In between fasts I would gorge on all the foods I’d forbidden myself for the preceding weeks, and follow each meal with a handful of extra-strength laxatives to get it all out of me as soon as possible, since I couldn’t palate the thought of induced vomiting. It didn’t really work, though, and at one point I gained 30 lbs in just 9 days.

My hair started to fall out. My teeth felt loose. I looked pale and sick. I had chest pains and breathing problems. I lost so much muscle tissue that I could barely climb stairs or force my feet into my shoes. I had to get off the subway every few stops to curb the constant nausea. I would black out if I stood up too long. My butt hurt from the pressure of my chair on my bones. My stats at work went from among the best in my department to the absolute worst. I had no energy. I slept all the time. I missed social opportunities for fear that someone might ask me to eat. I lied to everyone I knew. And on top of all of it, even at my smallest I still felt like an absolute cow.

Eight months. Less than a school year was all it took for me to destroy myself. And where did it get me?

More or less right back where I started. It’s been just under fourteen months since I started eating again, and I’m within a stone of my starting weight. My hair is still in the process of growing back in. My skin is stretched and scarred and sagging. I have chest pains almost every day. And I still hate my body.

I didn’t write this to announce some great victory I’ve recently achieved. As much as it could serve as a cautionary tale, that isn’t the point, either. This is mostly just a confession, and perhaps an explanation. People saw my weight go down, and they’ve seen it go back up. Most of my friends don’t even read this blog, but at least, having written and posted it for the world to see, I no longer feel like a liar.

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3 thoughts on “Atypical Anorexia Nervosa (Binge-Purge Subtype)”

  1. Regarding my relationship with food it’s like i were searching for something in that food, but i don’t know in my head if “food is real food”. I just know i feel in a certain way and I have to eat a piece of chocolate or something like that, something that I really like.
    But I don’t want just a piece, i want it all.
    And I think I want it all because I feel guilty wanting a piece.
    When I can have just that piece and I’m satisfied, i feel I had enough and I’m okay.
    If not, I would eat more and more sweets till i’m almost sick (and after that I want to throw up and I feel happy at the moment of eating but guilty and disgusted right after that).
    Sometimes I don’t have any. I just restrict wanting to be small and not to need food.
    Wanting not to need anything.
    Thanx for this post, made me feel i’m not alone.

    • Thank you for replying. Sometimes the most empowering (or at least comforting) thing in the world is simply knowing you’re not suffering alone, and you’re not. I still struggle with food on a daily basis. People think it’s simple, like you can just eat more or eat less, but it isn’t that simple for some people. There are lots of us. I hope you can sort out your relationship with food and become healthy. :)

  2. it’s like my story. more or less. except that I don’t know if if suffered from binge. I’ve never binge. I mean I like sweets and I eat when I’m bored or worried or sad. but I’ve always had a normal weight, for my heigh and age.
    suddenly I don’t know if i saw my relationship with food as an addiction, in particolar regarding to sweets and chocolate. I was also very sad in that moment of my life. I feel I had no control over my life and emotions.
    I became addicted to weight loss and restriction and to “anorexic image”. Restriction gave me sense of control and above all, thanx to that, I could cover my problems and worries.
    I wasn’t diagnosed with anorexia so I felt like a crazy person because everyone noticed I seemed anorexic and I behave like one but it was not official.
    In my head, it was like a defeat for me. I mean when u want to be thin and to control u want to know you are the best. I thought “I look like a ill person but there’s someone whose control over food and thinnes is reconignesed”. I felt confused about being a fanatic of anorexia or a person with an eating disorder. In therapy it was told me I had “a problem with food”, but It left me confused.

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