I am happy to share a guest post from a young woman who’s been a client for the past year. In her words below, she bravely explores her journey from binging to self discovery. I feel continually honored and inspired to bear witness to the evolutions I see clients make. Betul is no exception, she’s someone I’ve delighted in working with, and has even recently been certified as an eating psychology coach herself. I hope you’ll read and enjoy her story! xo, Jenna*
I have been a fraud all my life. The image of a smart, successful, healthy young woman who has the perfect family and friends was naively impartial at best and obnoxiously deceptive at worst. When the illusion of ‘perfect’ stopped working for me, I began sharing my deeper, more vulnerable story with others, only to realize that these stories are the single best way of connecting with each other. I may add in or omit certain details of my story every time I share it, but these two landmarks are always there: (1) I am a recovering perfectionist, and (2) I have had binge eating disorder for most of my life.
Those are the shushed, supposedly disgraceful turning points in my story. The ones that I should not put in writing or words because that would validate their existence. When silence stopped working for me, I started opening up to those hurtful moments and discovered the paradox: giving credit to hurt does not break me apart, but strengthens me, keeps me on track and helps me connect with the world.
Thinking of binge eating disorder from this relaxed, compassionate window changed everything for me. Around the time I was trying to make sense of my binges, I was introduced to the concept of ‘fragmented selves’ by Jenna. Our fragmented selves are an array of personalities we developed early on to compensate for various wounds to the Self. These fragmented selves act out in ways that are often painful and we usually want to hide or get rid of them, yet if we trace them back to their purpose, they lead us back to our wholeness.
What I have come to call ‘the binger’ is one such fragment in me: the sassy, wise, all-knowing, sometimes arrogant, mostly childish binger in me who gets loud and whiny every now and then. I don’t binge anymore in the clinical, psychiatric definition of the term. I don’t consume thousands of calories in one sitting, food does not stress me out and I don’t live in the two extremes of binging and dieting. But I occasionally ‘binge’ according to my personal definition of the term. That is, I have a very strong urge to eat enormous quantities of food but instead of acting upon it, I choose to do some detective work. Since I have adopted this new approach, what seemed to be random and unjustified episodes of gluttony turned out to have a very specific pattern and a very valid underlying reason.
Here is a recent example of how I approach these urges nowadays: A few weeks ago, I had the sudden impulse to eat potato chips as a late night snack. Having years of experience with similar impulses, I knew this wasn’t out of physical hunger (unlike physical hunger which for me emerges gradually, my emotional hunger strikes immediately, is for a specific kind of food, and has to be satisfied in the moment). I had similar urges for the following few nights, getting worse in anticipation of the weekend.
I soon noticed that the urges came immediately after I got off the phone with the man I was dating, worsening toward the weekend when I was planning on travelling to see him. The relationship, although exhilarating to my mind, was hurtful to the recovering perfectionist in me. My boyfriend was a charming, charismatic and intellectual man, but also the dictionary definition of perfectionism with his endless list of unspoken but evident expectations. I felt the need to please him, be approved of and be enough.
Perfect is unattainable for all of us and this situation was no exception. In the words of Marc David, the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, “Perfectionism always leads to self-abuse.” My urge to binge grabbed my attention in time and the work I have done around it gave me the strength to end a relationship that had the potential to push me into old patterns of self-abuse in the form of binging.
I should note that I am not trying to romanticize binge eating disorder. It was nasty and extremely hurtful to my mind, body and soul. It took me many years to come to terms with the fact that my ‘binger’ will never go away. It took me even longer to tune into these urges as a reliable barometer, nudging me whenever I make unhealthful life choices. But since I have made that shift, ‘binging’ has become one of the highlights of my story.
Betul is an Eating Psychology Coach certified by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and a first year Medical Student at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience from the University of Michigan. Her “perfect storm” happened when she was diagnosed with binge eating disorder and depression in 2012, immediately after her father passed away. Since then, she has come to embrace mental health issues and unwanted eating habits as Divine guides from beyond. She has recently established her eating psychology coaching practice in hopes of helping people discover the deeper message within their eating challenges. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook (facebook.com/betul.tatar12).