My Binge Eating Disorder and Islam

A reader is sharing her compulsive overeating story with us to explain how this disorder has jeopardised her professional and personal life. I will not be publishing her name.

Suffering in shame and silence, the stigma of Binge Eating Disorder

I’ve been suffering from Binge Eating Disorder for over six years now.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a lack of control over eating and consuming larger amount of food during a short period of time. BED is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating. This is such a bizarre eating disorder and I pray to God that people realise the seriousness of this horrid disorder.

I am on edge and I feel slightly suffocated when clock strikes 8:00 at night. I cannot wait for my 3 year old son to go to sleep. I read him story after story, but at times he is just so handful. Once he’s sleep, I go downstairs. I’m shaking in anticipation of indulging my eating disorder with a large carbs infused binge. This has been my life for past six years now. I binge after my son has gone to sleep and after exhausting myself and body with large amounts of food, I retire to bed by 1:00am. My son is an early riser. He wakes up at 7:00am and I spend my day attending to his needs, restricting food and planning my night time binges.  What a way to live your life?

My social life is non-existent. My weight has fluctuated between obesity and obesity for several years now. Once an obsessed cleaner, now my house is tidy but no way near what it was few years back.  My relatives are always commenting on my weight gain. My mother is critical of me and ashamed of my lack of control over food. No one can hate themselves as much as I hate myself. It was only after years of hiding my disorder that I came to terms with my illness. This disorder is swathed in shame and secrecy and how can you explain to your close knit Muslim community and friends and family that you have an obsession with eating huge amounts of food?

My husband works night shifts and does not get back till 3am in the morning. He has no clue. In fact he is often confused by my weight gain. In front of him, I’m perfectly composed. I eat less and give out a message that I’m trying every method in book to lose weight.

What happened, and how did I become such a compulsive over eater?

I was always overweight. I went on a diet at age of 17. It wasn’t an extreme diet. I just reduced my intake of junk food and incorporated healthier foods such as fruit and veg into my diet. By the time I finished my accounts degree at university, I had lost over 16 kilos in weight. After my degree I got married and though I gained weight, it was only by few kilos and it was just a happy post wedding weight.

I started binge eating at night to cope with the pressures of my job.  I was working full time and also studying for my Masters degree.  Every day after my evening classes, I would come home and eat large amounts of junk food and study. This cycle continued for 1 year. I completed my Masters, but by that time my disorder was out of control. I ate all the time, if I was happy I ate, if I was sad I was eating non-stop, this resulted in a huge weight gain and in 11 months I ended up gaining 18 kilos in weight.  Food was my best friend. After my binge, I would be consumed by enormous guilt and hatred for myself; I would feel sluggish, ugly and out of energy. People thought I was pregnant.  I tried few more diets but failed. I just couldn’t stop late night binges.

After the Binge Hell Follows

I started losing my confidence and left my job to stay at home. Depression followed with insomnia and I became more trapped in vicious cycle of binge eating. My routine revolved around buying large amounts of food and consuming those foods in large binges. I would purchase multi packs of crisps, cheeses, seeded breads, croissants, chocolates, biscuits, cakes, fizzy drinks, ice creams and frozen ready meals. Other times I would be running to convenient stores to replace the food I had eaten during my binges. My husband was unaware. It was during these times that I fell pregnant.  During my pregnancy I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and other health problems. I had a very difficult pregnancy.

Binge Eating costs you a relationship with God

I was also slipping further and further away from Islam. I used to pray daily, fast in month of Ramadan and attend events at mosque. As a result of my eating disorder, I stopped praying and stopped reading Quran. I was always depressed, irritable, angry and overly tired. Ramadan became a nightmare and I would only manage to keep few fasts here and there. All the time I was busy thinking about food and planning my binges.

Now I’m a mother and my disorder is having an impact on my son’s life as well. After my binges, I’m depressed, upset and in pieces.  At the age of 27, I have a high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels. My doctor is constantly advising me to lose weight. I can deal with high blood pressure, my diabetes, difficult pregnancy and even my fluctuating weight, but what I can not deal with is my eating disorder and how it has completely possessed me. In six years, I have binged every day and I am under a huge financial debt to serve my addiction.

My relatives are unaware of my mental state. My poor husband has no clue. He refrains from passing comments on my weight because he doesn’t want to upset me.

A Learning Curve

But what have I learnt from all this? Please do not live in denial. I cannot emphasis enough on how important it is to get help as early as possible. If your disorder is picked up right at the start and treated correctly, Inshallah, God willingly you will will make a fairly quick and full recovery, but if you leave it untreated, the way i did, the impact of an eating disorder worsens.

Get Help

I have taken a step to get help.  Maybe it’s late but never too late. I am getting one to one therapy, but I have also visited a Sheikh, a spiritual leader to help me deal with inner turmoil and depression. My first step has been to establish some form of regularity with my diet and my prayers.

It is a duty of every Muslim to take care of their health. If you have an eating disorder then please don’t ignore it, get help before it’s too late.  With BED seeking professional help from a doctor is important – push for a specialist help if required, for example from a dietitian to help with establishing a regular eating pattern to a therapist to a counsellor for help with depression and stress management. Don’t forget through suffering God helps us to better ourselves and make good our mistakes. 

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