Binging on Idiocy
All fat people overeat in the minds of people prejudiced against fat. They spend hours a day doing nothing but lounging about and gorging on junk food. No evidence to the contrary will ever be enough.
There are people who have genuine difficulties with overeating, either with or without purging. Such people will binge on “comfort” foods for hours, consuming thousands of calories in one sitting. They will display other symptoms of eating disordered behavior, such as secrecy, withdrawing from friends and family, measuring oneself, and so on.
However, in order to be diagnosed with an overeating problem, you need to establish that the patient, in fact, overeats.
So, how is overeating defined? How many calories constitute a binge?
According to the Mayo Clinic, binge-eating disorder may include the following symptoms:
- Eating large amounts of food
- Eating even when you’re full
- Eating rapidly during binge episodes
- Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
- Eating a lot even though you’re not hungry
- Frequent dieting, possibly without weight loss
- Frequently eating alone
- Feeling depressed, disgusted or upset about your eating
Here is another discussion about binge eating from Kids’ Health (Warning: Fat hate ahead).
Type “How many calories constitutes a binge?” into Google and you will find people asking this same question on message boards.
A valid point can be made that the act of binging is less about calories and more about process. Did you eat way more than normal in a short period of time? Were you secretive and guilty about it? Did you feel sick after? Was it a special occasion or is this something that happens regularly? All of this is very, very true.
However, there is a pitfall in not having a ballpark calorie count, as it is all too easy misclassify someone as having a binging problem. Basically, anyone that looks fat or who has gained weight is assumed to have overeaten.
Of course, naturally thin people can and do binge eat. Assuming that binge eating is a disease of fat people ignores the problem thin patients have and marginalizes their experiences. It becomes difficult to find competent help or even get people to believe them.
This is still assuming that we can actually diagnose binge eating disorder accurately, whether you are fat or thin, but especially if you are fat.
Our culture has turned eating into a sin and a chore, such that people who “admit” (like you admit to a crime) enjoying food are seen as having a weakness. People who overeat on holidays, or who plow through a pint of ice cream just because they feel like it, sometimes feel pressure to act ashamed of it. They preface their admission with statements like, “I know it’s bad, but…” or “It’s not like I do it all the time, but…”
It is looked down on, especially for women, to fill their plates or ask for seconds. Forget about dessert unless it’s really a special occasion and you get the low-cal variety. There is the constant fear of looking like a pig.
Now that our society has significantly lowered the threshold at which ordinary eating behavior becomes piggish, how do we diagnosed someone as having a genuine binge eating disorder?
All my life, I was taller, heavier, and more muscular than most other kids my age. I also ate well. I ate a lot and I ate many different things. I felt no shame about my eating or my size. Somehow, I had failed to internalize gender norms about body and food, and my mother and sister sought desperately to change that.
They glared at me when I asked for food, especially sweets, or when I asked for seconds or thirds. Over the years, I continued to eat, continued to grow, and continued to disobey commands to be properly embarassed at myself. This, naturally, led to hiding my eating from them, but eating 100% normally in front of others.
In their minds, I had a “problem.” I “couldn’t stop” eating and I hid it because I was “secretly” ashamed. My size was proof positive that I had this problem. So their attempts to intervene only intensified.
Eventually, I became convinced of it myself. I had a problem with overeating because my family treated me as though I did, and when I tried to resist that treatment that only reaffirmed the diagnosis in their minds. Plus, I was getting larger all the time during my teen years, which is, of course, normal.
I started seeking help for my “problem” only to find out that I had no problem. My mother and sister had the problem, but since I admitted to mine, now I have that stain on my character.* See? Even she admits it! Yet, she won’t do anything about it. She must really be sick!
When I hear someone confess to a problem with overeating, especially if it’s a fat person, I question it. I think our society sets fat people up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. We shame them from eating normally, so they must do it in secret. If they eat publicly, they must eat restrictively, which sets them up to binge later on. We encourage them to feel a deep sense of shame for eating at all. So I’m not convinced that a lot of people diagnosed with BED actually have it. I’m sure they believe they have it, but that is society’s fault, not theirs.
So what exactly in binge eating?
Who the hell knows?
*No eating disorder should be a stain on anyone’s character, but in the minds of many people, that’s exactly what it is. I just chose language that reflects that attitude. I do not espouse it myself.