TRIGGER WARNING: BINGE EPISODES, NEGATIVE SELF TALK, WEIGHTS AND NUMBERS
The article below is my journey as someone who suffers from BED. I am hoping it will help other people (especially men) relate and realize they are not alone.
As Long As I Stay Under 300 Pounds
By Peter I. Klics 7/7/2016
“As long as I stay under 300 pounds I can control this.” Those are the words I lived by for the last 10+ years. Those are the words that I repeated in my head countless times a week to convince myself I hadn’t gone past the point of no return. Ironically those are the words that helped open my eyes to the real problem. I am a food addict who suffers from Binge Eating Disorder. Wait…big, burly, bearded, tattooed men don’t get eating disorders. That type of stuff is for woman or sissys. At least that is what society teaches us as men…or used to.
First a little bit about how I came to be a 44 year old, 311 pound man that suffers from BED and is just now starting to understand there is more to life than logic. There is also emotion. I knew this at some point in my youth, I’d imagine, although it is buried pretty deep down wherever emotions are stored for someone like me. I was the smart kid. Too damn smart. I was the kid in all the “genius classes” growing up. Basically I was a nerd in a time before nerds were socially acceptable.
Like many in my position my parents were emotionally absent although I never realized it until recently. My dad worked all the time and my mother never really wanted kids to begin with and she was sure to tell us as often as she could. They split when I was 13 but before that they tried their best I suppose to deal with who I was and I cannot imagine the difficulty in dealing with a child who had my intellect at such a young age. I was always bored. I wanted to know everything. They decided to listen to the “experts” and involved me in programs designed to cater to children like me. Those constituted college level courses in the summers when all my friends were enjoying the break and being kids. Instead of pool parties I was at universities with students twice my age sitting in classes I understood better than they did. I was a scared kid thrown into a hostile adult world.
This went on for a while. Summer classes became weekend classes during the school year and the ridicule intensified as those “adult” students learned to detest me and made it known at every opportunity that I had no place being there among them. I hadn’t realized it at the time but I stopped crying after a while and just became numb to it all. My parents just kept reminding me of the opportunity I had and dad told me I needed to be a man and suck it up. I tried my best to get along and act like none of it bothered me. I was a child who was able to comprehend everything around me except why I was so hated for just being me. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was starting to build the foundation of what would one day become the walls that separated me from my emotions and all that pain I had to somehow deflect if I was to survive. I think the worst was when I was 12. I was to take the SAT’s and was placed in the same room with all the high school seniors to take the test. I spent the entire test getting pelted with M&M’s by the older students. I still probably outscored them.
I was always a bigger kid, chubby, but not fat. I was also pretty athletic thankfully. But I remember having less and less control when it came to food as time went on. Eventually it caught up with me and I was 11 years old transitioning from chubby to fat. My parents tried to control my eating but I would outsmart them…or so I thought. I would sneak eat after everyone went to bed, I would take money and go buy snacks, etc. I was in control of this. Not them. What I failed to realize at the time is that I was using all this food to help keep that emotional wall up. By the time I was 13 I was not only the smart kid but now I was the full blown fat kid too and about to enter high school.
The bullying got pretty bad for a while until one day I had enough. I decided I was not going to take it anymore and stood up to the kid who was bullying me. That was my first of many fights and eventually I was able to stop the bullying. I would have done anything at that time to make it all stop and I did just that. I figured if I were more “normal” people would accept me. So I made a conscious decision that I would not be smart anymore, at least not outwardly. I became the chameleon and I adapted to every situation to guarantee I’d be accepted.
I won’t lie. High school was a lot of fun with my new mentality. I had friends, I played sports, I went to parties, I had a beautiful girlfriend and I rebelled every chance I could. I also ate. A lot. I was able to maintain my weight because of sports and in my latter teens I became involved heavily into weightlifting. I could be big as long as I was also strong and everyone accepted it. I remember just out of high school I weighed 225lbs but was pretty solid. I consider that to be the best shape of my life. 5 foot 8 inches tall and 225lbs. But hey, it was muscle…mostly.
As I ventured into the real world I had less and less time to dedicate to weightlifting but I always found ways to eat enormous amounts of food. That was my norm and I truly saw nothing wrong with it. But I was gaining weight. Within a few years I was up to 250lbs…then 275…then 300lbs for the first time by the time I was 25. I was stunned. I couldn’t stop gaining. I decided for the first time in my life I will never go over 300 lbs. I dieted on and off for the next decade to keep myself between 250 and 300 lbs. Every time I’d get near the 300 mark I’d starve myself and then binge and repeat the cycle so many times I’ve lost count. All the while I truly believed I was in control. I justified the enormous amounts of food I would consume because I was still under my mark. I even started to bury the shame I began to feel with more food. I’d start to criticize myself for my choices because someone with my intelligence “knows better” which of course only led to more shame.
I never made the correlation to what I was doing. The food allowed me, just as it has done all my life, to not deal with the things that were unpleasant, foreign or too emotional. Like so many others out there suffering I stuffed my feelings with as much food as it took to stop me from feeling. Instead, I lived my live through logic. My intellect allowed me to decide things quickly based on most likely possible outcomes. I made it a point to never rely on emotions. They simply did not exist in my world any longer. This went on for a long time and became my norm. If I was in a situation where I was not able to binge I trained myself to wait, just like I did as a child, until I was alone or people went to sleep. I was fine as long as I comforted myself by planning the binge. Knowing it was coming was something to look forward to.
At 39 I met and married the most amazing and compassionate women I’ve ever known. Problem was she was starting to get concerned about my overeating and weight gain. I secluded myself more and more and found ways to eat more than I ever had at a speed that was mindboggling. I could not stop and I was in a tailspin. I got a brief reprieve when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and ended up in the hospital for a few days. When I was released I hit the diet hard again and got down to 276lbs and got my blood sugar under control. I won. Finally I won! That lasted about 2 weeks. I got to my goal…now it was time for my reward. I put off binging for months while I got healthier but the cravings never went away. They waited. Calculated their return and when they returned it was with a vengeance. I stopped weighing myself. I stopped testing my blood sugar. I stopped caring. I ate at work, on the way to work, on the way home from work, at home, at night while my wife slept and I hated myself for it. I was pretty sure I was killing myself with food and I was slowly accepting my fate. Luckily for me I was given a wakeup call.
One day while surfing the internet I came across a short video talking about Binge Eating Disorder. I watched the video and went to the link provided to answer a few questions which were to determine if I should seek help. Turns out I related to every single question posed to me. The logical part of me that has run my life for as long as I can remember could not deny this irrefutable evidence and I sought help. I started my therapy with Dr. Adams who was an eating disorders specialist in my area. We spoke and started to delve into things for a few sessions but I switched jobs
and stopped going to therapy.
For the next year I would watch as my binging would slowly increase and I was nearing the 300lb mark again. I decided it was time to revisit Dr. Adams and start working with her again. Dr. Adams welcomed me back and we got right to work. I fully understood the mechanics of the disorder but I had no clue how to control it. Through therapy I started to try to feel what was happening during a binge. I watched myself become increasingly emotional as we touched on of the pains buried in my past but I never truly understood what I was up against until I visited my regular doctor about 6 weeks into my therapy for a checkup. That was the day all the pieces started falling into place and I truly understood how powerless I was and why. I searched for this why my whole life and it was mind-blowing.
When the nurse took me back and asked me to get on the scale I was stunned at what it read. I was 311 lbs. 311 POUNDS! I’m not allowed to be over 300 lbs…at least not this far over. It seems while trying to deal with the disorder I had lost the only control I had over it. For a moment I went back in my mind and heard Dr. Adams telling me it will likely get worse before it gets better I just was not prepared for this. What came next tore me apart inside and I don’t think I was ever as disgusted with myself. My doctor proceeded with his exam and when it was over he brought my records over and showed me where my weight was 2 years ago. I was 276lbs. That means I had gained 35 lbs in under 2 years. I loathed myself for the entire ride home. When I got home I hated myself even more. My wife had picked up some taco salads for dinner that night and my first instinct was to not eat. But I knew if I did I’d have to answer for it and I was not prepared to deal with that as I was already trying to choke back emotions I didn’t want to deal with. Instead I only ate the “protein” part of the salad and left the chips and the fried tortilla bowl the salad was served in determined not to eat the stuff that made me 311 lbs.
For the first time in my life the food did not make me feel any better. I ate but I was still upset. My wife tried talking to me about but I was beyond livid. I was so angry I was shaking. She asked me what I was feeling and I barely answered. She then asked if I had a friend who was in a similar situation what advice would I give. I turned and snapped at her as tears began to well up from the anger. “I’d tell him to push away from the freakin’ table and get himself under control. He should know better than this!“ Then my wife said and what if it was a child? Without hesitation I yelled “Same thing. He should know better too!” My answers stunned me for a moment because I was starting to realize I was yelling at myself for my behavior over the last 30 years. Not some friend or child. That made me even more upset and I remember sitting there for a few minutes, mad as hell and eyeing the leftover food from dinner. Then it happened.
As I gave in and started to eat the food I felt a wave of calm wash over me. The food was actually making me feel better. By the time I was finished I was numb again and I turned to my wife and said “I’m fine now, sweetie. The food made me physically feel better. I’m not upset anymore” It was at that moment I realized how badly this addiction had become. Like a junkie I needed this to function. Without it I was a wreck. For 30+ years I have been suppressing emotion with food and I finally understand what that meant and more important what that feels like. For the first time in my life I understand, like I imagine all addicts do, that this is something that cannot be beat or controlled. I have to learn to live with it and going forward, that is precisely what I intend to do. I’ll make peace with it. Learn to feel what I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding and repair the damage I’ve done to myself. I believe with this newfound understanding I am finally strong enough. Time will tell.