Life under quarantine is difficult — there’s no other way to put it. Being ordered to stay in our homes for weeks, with no real ending in sight is stressful in a way that was incomprehensible until very recently. But, as Dr Anthony Fauci, MD, the American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, said, “The virus dictates the timeline.”
What we do within that timeline, though, is up to us — but that supposed freedom can lead to other problems, particularly for those battling eating disorders, like binge eating.
Food has always been a great comfort to me, especially when I’m feeling anxious or sad. My go-to treats are chocolate and cheese — and I have had my share of them in these past few weeks. I know I’m not alone; a lot of my friends have told me they can’t seem to stay out of the kitchen either. It makes sense. The anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19 is driving us to look for solace anywhere we can find it. But for those battling binge eating, this is a perfect storm of triggers, as some people fighting BED (Binge Eating Disorder) are forced to deal with the trauma from this pandemic while made to stay in their homes, where they have limited options in terms of mental health care or even friends with whom they can speak.
Isolation is a real problem for those in recovery, but Christina Fisanick Greer, PhD, wants other people with BED to know that they are not alone. I had the chance to spend a day with Greer, a professor and the author of The Optimistic Food Addict: Recovering from Binge Eating. She spent 34 years battling binge eating before entering recovery. She told me that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a series of challenges relating to her eating disorder.
In the following short film, Greer explores what it’s like being in recovery while in quarantine.
According to the National Eating Disorders, BED is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, often very quickly and to the point of discomfort. Some symptoms are feeling a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress, or guilt afterwards; and regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures to counter the binge-eating. Not only is BED the most common eating disorder in the United States, but it's also more prevalent in African American, Native American, and Hispanic communities.
Chevese Turner, the Chief Policy & Strategy Officer of National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and also Founder & Former CEO of Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), told Refinery29 that there is hope for those struggling with BED during the pandemic. She said, “What we need is connection, because that’s how we heal. Be gentle with yourself during this time while things are in the unknown category. If you do binge, think about it in a way that’s more positive. Don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge how it made you feel and talk to someone about it. Give yourself your break.”
It’s best to be gentle with ourselves, especially in the current environment of stress and uncertainty. As Turner said, “Emotional eating is normal.” Just be kind to yourself, and seek the help you need when you need it.
Please contact the Beat helpline at 0808 801 0677 if you believe you or someone you love are struggling with an eating disorder and need help.
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. It says you can protect yourself by washing your hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing (ideally with a tissue), avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and don't get too close to people who are coughing, sneezing or with a fever.