Tried To Fill The Hole: How People With Uncontrolled Overeating Live

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Tried To Fill The Hole: How People With Uncontrolled Overeating Live
Tried To Fill The Hole: How People With Uncontrolled Overeating Live

Video: Tried To Fill The Hole: How People With Uncontrolled Overeating Live

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Video: Binge Eating Disorders 2023, January

The frozen cod thawed slowlyturning around its axis. Polina watched her, her nose pressed into the microwave door. It was no longer possible to wait. Polina pressed the stop button, grabbed the cold crackle and grabbed it with her teeth. Half an hour ago, Polina decided to go home to change and get ready for a working meeting. Now she was sitting on the floor in the middle of an empty apartment, trying to chew on disgusting, wet, uncooked fish. Ice crunched on my teeth, my fingers were cold. For a second, Polina seemed to see herself from the sidelines and began to cry.

Binge eating can be a symptom of an eating disorder, like Polina's. Or it may turn out to be an independent disorder on a par with anorexia and bulimia. Compulsion is an obsessive action that a person performs over and over again to relieve nervous tension - whether it is cleaning, counting cracks in the pavement, sex, or overeating. And while some compulsions are relatively harmless, others seriously affect the quality of life and health. We will tell you how people with uncontrolled overeating live and how they try to help themselves and others. The names of the heroines have been changed at their request.


Yulia Dudkina


Fix it all

A year after the episode with the fish, Polina is sitting in a small room in the center of Moscow, next to her in a circle are ten girls of different ages and physiques. Polina is holding a small book and a folder with papers. She begins: “Today I am the host of this meeting. Let's stay in silence for a minute and invite God, and then say a prayer for peace of mind."

For a while, the girls, holding hands, are silent. Then they say in chorus: “God, give us reason and peace of mind to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other. Thy will be done, not ours. Amen".

This is how Overeating Compulsive Anonymous begins, a self-help group for people with eating disorders. Polina came to her in the summer of 2018, and from that moment, as she believes, her life has changed dramatically.

“I have always been annoyed by people who are on diets,” recalls Polina. - I condemned them, I thought that they were not concerned about that. I came to lunch with my colleagues and put myself a large portion of potatoes, defiantly ate a couple of croissants. I believed that you need to eat what you want, and torment yourself with diets is stupid. " At the same time, for a long time, Polina's weight did not increase, and she was glad that she was able to “stay slim” without doing anything for this. But after twenty years, her body began to change, and she unnoticed for herself began to gain weight.


All life has turned

in cycles: first fasting, then a breakdown, then vomiting

“Once, while standing in the bathroom, I lowered my eyes and suddenly saw a fold on my stomach,” she recalls. “In my own mind, I was still as thin as a teenager. Suddenly it turned out that my body had changed. I stood in front of the mirror and began to examine myself. I couldn't believe I was so big."

Polina went in for sports, she spent at least three hours a day in the gym. On weekends, she went to the fitness center in the morning and only returned in the evening. All carbohydrates disappeared from her diet, then protein foods. For six months, Polina lost 15 kilograms. Going on vacation, she decided to buy new clothes and in the store found that now not only S but also XS sizes are suitable for her. “I began to constantly think that the kilograms could come back,” says Polina. - Then it would have turned out that all efforts were in vain. I always wanted to look like a sixteen year old girl, and I decided that my goal was to start buying clothes in teen shops."

For a couple of years, “consolidating the result”, Polina was on strict diets and continued to constantly go in for sports. She liked to eat "light" food, it seemed that she was ready to eat salads and yoghurts all her life. But one day she suddenly wanted pasta in a creamy sauce. Polina imagined her taste and smell and could not begin to think about anything else. In the end, she decided: nothing will happen if you neglect the diet once.

“I ate, and then I sat and felt the food filling my body,” says Polina. “I thought I could feel the folds forming. I started to panic, I had to 'cancel' this action, return everything back. Then she caused vomiting. The anxiety disappeared. Obsessive thoughts about food and folds on the body stopped for a while. This way out seemed brilliant to Polina - you can eat something "forbidden" and immediately "fix" everything. She continued to diet, but now sometimes she allowed herself to eat a whole cake or a huge package of fast food. Immediately after the "jam" she was "cleansed".

Out of control

“I learned to be perfectly encrypted,” says Polina. “After eating, I went to the toilet with a cosmetic bag, caused vomiting, and then tidied myself up, tinted up and returned as if nothing had happened.” For every meeting with friends, she now chose cafes that met certain requirements. Toilet cubicles should have blind doors. Inside - necessarily a sink. It is desirable that loud music play in the toilet room - then you can not be afraid that someone will hear and guess everything.

While during the meetings friends chatted and laughed, Polina studied the menu and carefully planned her meal. It was necessary to choose something not tough, preferably not flour - then it will come out easier. There was also something to wash down the food. She did not follow the course of the conversation, it did not matter to her what was happening to those around her. The whole life turned into cycles: first starvation, then a breakdown, then vomiting. Once friends confessed to Polina: they noticed that after eating she went to the toilet and returned with reddened eyes. “They guessed everything and asked me to stop doing it,” says Polina. - For some reason, it seemed to everyone that you could just take it and stop. I would do it myself if I could. But I already had the feeling that I did not belong to myself."

Now she felt "abnormal", began to fear that someone else would find out about her problem. She talked less and less with people, stopped going to dinner with colleagues - during a break she went to McDonald's alone, overeat and went to “cleanse”. It turned into a soothing ritual. Some people don't take on any business until they smoke a cigarette. Polina began to feel addicted to "bouts of gluttony" and artificially induced vomiting. At the same time, she was constantly haunted by a feeling of shame. It seemed that all other people "live normally and eat normally," and only she was unable to cope with herself.

“I went to both psychotherapy and psychoanalysis,” she recalls. - I understood a lot. For example, I found that from childhood I was afraid to express negative emotions. It seemed to me that then I would become a “bad” daughter for my parents. Since then, I haven’t learned to say no and get angry openly. With the help of food and vomiting, I eased the nervous tension, which because of this grew in me. " But although Polina began to understand herself better, she could not stop repeating her ritual. Before going to work, talking to her husband, or even vacuuming at home, she felt the need to fill her stomach with food and then induce vomiting.


The girls took turns introducing themselves: "Recovered Bulim", "Recovered Anorexic".

They talked

it's very simple about it

“It was like a black cloud hanging over me all the time,” she says. - I had no strength, my health deteriorated. Hair began to climb, nails crumble. Once I went on a diet in order to start better control over my body and my life.It seemed to me that if I become thin, I will be happy and people will love me more. But it turned out the opposite. Everything is out of control. I got worse and worse, until one day, in the spring of 2018, I found myself on the floor, crying, with frozen fish in my teeth."

As clinical psychologist Yulia Lapina explains, a so-called dietary culture has formed in our society. Thanks to her, many people believe that the volume of a person's body is somehow related to his moral qualities and level of happiness. First of all, this culture puts pressure on women: it forms the belief that a woman's body should always look the same - as in adolescence. That is why it is considered a special achievement to "fit into a prom dress" or "prenatal jeans" if a woman has given birth to a child. Age, living conditions - no natural changes should be reflected in the appearance. But such demands are unnatural and impracticable.

“At the same time, we live in a society with high levels of poverty and stress,” says Lapina. - Food is often the easiest and most affordable way to deal with this stress. And this method is safer than, say, drug use or compulsive sex. But it is overeating that is constantly subjected to the maximum condemnation. They even react to gambling or alcoholism with much more understanding. In a fat-phobic society, abundant food is perceived as a sin, from which one must refrain from it at any cost. A person who is already under stress is told: “Pull yourself together, you just need to eat less and exercise more.” Because of this, he begins to experience additional pressure, which provokes another attack of overeating."

12 steps

Once Polina learned that there are self-help groups for people with addictions and eating disorders. By that time, she was already desperate and had little faith in the fact that something could help her. But I decided to go to an open meeting of Compulsive Overeating Anonymous. At first, she hardly understood what was happening - several girls in turn read aloud the "Big Book" and periodically said something about a higher power. Polina never considered herself a religious person, and for her it looked unusual and strange. But she drew attention to something else. The girls took turns introducing themselves: "Recovered Bulim", "Recovered Anorexic". They talked about it very simply, they even laughed at their problems. For the first time, she realized that she was not the only one in the world who goes through all this. For an hour she sat in the meeting and cried incessantly. And then I met my “sponsor” and began to go through the “steps”.

Compulsive Overeating Anonymous is one of dozens of fellowships built around Alcoholics Anonymous. Commonwealths operate in a similar way: each new person receives a "sponsor" who helps and advises him. Having entered the program, a person performs certain actions that, in the opinion of the program participants, should lead him to recovery.

At first, says Polina, it was something like an exercise in accepting the situation and recognizing the problem. Then you had to remember all your grievances against other people and try to think about what led them to these or those actions. Next - make a list of those whom Polina herself offended, and ask them for forgiveness. “None of the 'steps' involved food, she says. - I just gradually expanded my view of the world, crawled out of my shell. I realized that there are many forces and circumstances around, many different people with their own motivations. It wasn’t just me that existed in the world now.”

Polina claims: she did not even notice how she began to eat again, without causing vomiting. “A few months after I came to the program, my friend and I walked around the city and went to an American pastry shop,” she recalls. It was one of those cafes that display huge, multi-colored cakes on display.A friend offered to order this - one for two. “I ate a couple of spoons and stopped,” says Polina. - I didn't want to eat everything, I didn't want to count which of us ate how much, I didn't want to go to the toilet and induce vomiting. At that moment I realized that I was starting to recover."


Repeat after me

Strictly speaking, food is not an addiction. Unlike drugs or alcohol, a person cannot refuse food. So both compulsive overeating and overeating followed by "cleansing" is not an addiction, but a behavioral problem. But there are traits that make them related to addictions, such as work addiction, alcoholism, gambling addiction. Sometimes an eating disorder can coexist with addictions and have similar causes.

As psychiatrist-narcologist Pavel Tuchin explains, an addict often turns to a chemical or a game as a lever of control. The world around him, for one reason or another, gives such a person pain. It exists according to its own rules, and it is not always possible to influence it. A drug or alcohol allows you to regulate at least something - your own mood. Likewise, a person may turn to overeating to calm themselves and gain the illusion of control. “That is why it is so important for the 12 Steps program that a person learns to accept what does not depend on him,” says Tuchin. - Life is chaotic, it promises a lot and takes away a lot. We must learn to accept what is happening and let go. Hence the traditional prayer: "Give us reason and peace of mind to accept what we cannot change." In fact, this is how people learn rational thinking."

12 Step groups are often criticized for their strong emphasis on religion. Some call their approach “sectarian,” meaning that instead of alcohol and drugs, the program offers participants belief in a higher power. But Pavel Tuchin believes that there is much less religious in it than it might seem. Many of his patients have felt better by going to a self-help group, he says: “Addiction has no days off, it affects a person around the clock. The program takes this into account. Once the “steps” start, the participant is not interrupted, he participates in “Alcoholics Anonymous” all the time. Another important point is that every addicted person is exhausted, weakened, he is overcome by anxiety and distrust of others. He is not ready for anything new, it is difficult for him to get out of his comfort zone, even if she gives him pain. At the first meeting of such a group, the person is told: "Just repeat after me." He is not asked to do what he does not have the strength to do."

As a rule, an addicted person thinks to the last that he is able to cope with his misfortune. It seems to him that no one around him understands him and cannot help. Arriving at the program, he meets the participants who have gone through the same thing that he himself is going through. “His inner illusory grandeur is receding. In a sincere, communal atmosphere, they say to him: “You can't do it alone. Trust someone else, " says Tuchin. The first step of the program is for the person to admit that he is powerless and can no longer cope with the situation. His life is out of control. The second step is to believe that there is someone or something to help you cope. To get well, you have to accept help from the outside. The third step is to acknowledge the existence of a force more powerful than the person himself.


Going through the "steps", people learn empathy, begin to recognize their emotions, grow psychologically

“At first glance, it looks like a religious cult,” admits Polina. "But in fact, you don't even have to be a religious person to join the program." Indeed, following the tradition of the program, participants often talk about God and a "higher power". But the reference literature that accompanies the "Big Book" explains this point in detail. In fact, you don't need to believe in God or something supernatural at all.The idea is only to accept that you cannot control the world around you and everything that happens to you. This idea is present in most psychotherapeutic directions.

Terence Gorsky, an American psychologist, sociologist, and chemical addiction consultant, explains that the self-help group itself can be considered a "superior power". The point is to believe that the collective help of several people can do what the person could not do on his own.

You can often hear people participating in the 12 Steps program say that they have “overcome self-centeredness” and have started “doing good deeds”. As Pavel Tuchin explains, such rhetoric may seem strange to a person who does not suffer from addiction and does not recognize it. But we are not talking about the usual understanding of egocentrism. The fact is that for a dependent person the whole world begins to be built only around his addiction. He is ready to pay any price to satisfy his need. “At the same time, if a person gives up addiction, there will be a void inside him - the same one that he fills with the help of addiction,” says Tuchin. - You can't leave him with that. The program suggests a focus on spirituality. On what some people call ethics and some call emotional intelligence. Going through the “steps”, people learn empathy, begin to recognize their emotions, and grow psychologically. They have a solid foundation, thanks to which they will be able to live without dependence."

Gorski emphasizes that it is best for someone who is attending 12 Step groups to work with a professional therapist at the same time. Together, two approaches can help achieve the best result. “Unfortunately, not everyone in Russia has access to quality medical care,” says Pavel Tuchin. - A self-help group is available to everyone, people come to it free of charge, it can be organized anywhere. For many, this becomes a salvation in conditions when there is no need to count on other help."

Plug the hole

Vera has been involved in professional sports since childhood. She knew that the attention and affection of a coach must be earned with training and results. She also got used to the fact that her body can be controlled with the help of loads and food: for different competitions and sports, she had to either gain weight, then lose it.

“My parents are professional athletes themselves,” says Vera. - Since childhood, it has been so that if I go to the sports section, then I do not just do it for my own pleasure, but try to become the best, overcome myself, even through 'I can not'."

At the age of fifteen, when Vera decided to quit sports for a while, she had her first love. As she recalls, the story was not traumatic or demeaning. But for some reason, after experiencing a strong experience, she began to quickly gain weight. Vera stopped going to school: she spent a whole year at home, reading books, eating chips and chocolates. She gained 30 kilograms and began to treat herself with hatred. It even gave her a kind of pleasure - at the same time calling herself ugly and feeling sorry for herself.

“When I returned to the big sport, I managed to lose all those pounds,” she recalls. - True, the food has not become uniform. For months I tightly controlled myself, went on diets, and then broke down and started eating everything. Then I decided to finally give up sports and start building a career in another field. It so happened that I started organizing events. For such a gambling, addicted person like me, it turned out to be a dangerous occupation."

Vera recalls: when a new project began, she slept for three hours, came home in the morning by taxi. She liked to take on almost impossible tasks and cope with them: for example, equip a dozen pavilions in a day and do it at the highest level. She took on several jobs at once, and then completely opened her own business and began to combine employment with her own business.“It was like drinking binges,” she says. - I suffered, did not sleep enough, but when one project ended, I immediately took on another. The feeling that I am in control of everything, I can cope with everything, was necessary for me, it fed me. During one of these projects, I fell ill with mononucleosis, walked with a temperature of 39, but did not even notice it. The fact that I had suffered from mononucleosis, I learned only a year later, passing tests."

In professional sports, Vera has learned that for good results you have to work constantly. These principles helped her in her new job as well. Every difficulty was a challenge for her. At the same time, relations with family and friends deteriorated - she herself did not notice how she was pressuring people in excitement, communicated with them harshly, did not hear them. Gradually, she began to get depressed. She stuck problems at work in restaurants. The weight increased, the strength became less and less - the constant work was exhausting. She decided it was time to start a new life. Quit your job and travel.


Katya was

on a strict diet

and this only made her happy: everyone told her that she was melting before our eyes

For a while, moving, new places and acquaintances saved her. Weight has returned to normal, mood has stabilized. For eight months she settled in the Mexican city of San Cristobal de las Casas. There, every morning, she woke up in her little wooden house, walked to the nearest mountain and did yoga, looking at the rising sun. Shamans, gurus, masseurs and fortune-tellers lived in the city. There were many visitors here - people who, like Vera, were looking for themselves. Among them, Vera felt at home.

So she lived for eight months - absolutely happy. But once a friend asked Vera to sit with the cat. The next day, her head began to itch. She immediately understood what had happened: in the state of Chiapas, sooner or later, everyone gets lice. Vera has always been afraid of parasites. In a panic, she rushed to the supermarket. She got a cart full of lice and Oreo cookies. For the next few days, she stayed at home, opened one packet of cookies after another and cried. She wanted to go home.

“So I started eating again,” she says. - Back in Moscow, I gradually cut off all contacts. I began to eat "cycles" again: I sat on a strict diet for a week, and then went to the "jam". In the most difficult periods, my weight reached 112 kilograms. " Vera celebrated the onset of 2018 together with her sister - she had no one else left. Standing at the table with a glass in her hand to the chimes, she felt that inside her there was an emptiness. She wondered at least once in her life to feel happy.

On New Year's holidays, she sat in an armchair in front of the window, looked at the snow and cried. And then by chance I saw on TV a documentary about Jane Foundation. The actress talked about her psychological difficulties: she struggled with eating and sexual behavior disorders for a long time. And she admitted that once she even started something like an addiction to plastic surgery. Vera recognized herself: Fonda's story reminded her of how she plunged headlong into work and stopped sleeping, how she became addicted to a sense of success. Having heard about Alcoholics Anonymous in the film, Vera began to look for similar organizations in Moscow. So she ended up in Overeating Anonymous.

Studying in the group, she realized that all her life she had been trying to either lose weight or earn more money. But all this time, in fact, it was not her figure or financial success that worried her at all. “Before, it was like there was a voice inside me,” says Vera. He kept repeating: "Everyone is looking at you, they are condemning you." And on other days, on the contrary: "Everyone envies you, they admire you." Everything in my life was subordinated to this voice. And some incomprehensible emptiness inside me, which I constantly tried to fill with work, food, travel. " According to Vera, today she no longer needs to "plug the hole."

Don't wanna pull yourself together

Compulsive Overeating Anonymous appeared in Russia two years ago.“At first there were three of us,” recalls Katya, one of the first participants. - We rented an inexpensive room at our own expense and began to invite new participants: we went to hospitals and doctors. They offered to transfer our contacts to patients who need help."

Like most of the participants in the program, Katya managed to survive several eating disorders. “In my family, food has always been used as a punishment or reward,” she says. - I could have been left without dessert or awarded delicious food for good grades. Also, my brother and I always quarreled over who will get the most delicious piece. " In addition, Katya's father drank heavily. All her life she saw that an adult uses a certain means to "calm down" and "forget". According to her, this also influenced subsequent events.

When, at the age of sixteen, Katya had her first unhappy love, she began to "seize" her. “Of course I gained weight,” she says. “I was teased with Jennifer Lopez's Booty.” I began to search the Internet for diets, constantly sit on them. At work, I went to the toilet every hour, put a towel and rocked the abs on the floor. I did a hundred approaches. Colleagues asked me why I leave so often. I said that I have cystitis. When I was cleaning or having sex, all I thought about was that I’m burning calories right now.”

Katya recalls: looking in the mirror, she noticed only those parts of the body that she did not like. First of all, the stomach. “Some have it flat in life,” she says. - And I, on the contrary, always had a small mound, no matter how much I starved and pumped the press. I wanted to tear it off, I pinched this mound, I wanted to hurt myself."

By the age of twenty-one, Katya had stopped her periods. She went to the doctor and found out that she had serious health problems and, probably, she would not be able to give birth to a child. At that moment, she realized that she really wanted children. For six months she was undergoing intensive treatment, every day she took hormonal drugs. Finally, she managed to get pregnant. She found out about it at the gym - did a pregnancy test in the toilet. The fitness club administrators were the first to hear this news. “But I still didn't want to get better,” says Katya. - I understood: to carry a child, you have to eat at least something. So I sat on buckwheat and chicken breast. Everyone envied me that I remained so thin. " Katya allowed herself the only chocolate bar during her pregnancy on the way to the hospital.

When the child was born, it turned out that he was severely allergic to many foods. During breastfeeding, Katya was on a strict diet, and this only made her happy: everyone told her that she was melting before our eyes. “The day I decided to switch to formula, my mother gave me a party,” she recalls. - I woke up, and on the table cheesecakes, pancakes. Everything that I have denied myself. " At that moment, her patience ran out. She decided that she could reward herself for all the difficulties. That morning she ate so much that she had a terrible stomach ache, she literally could not get up.


“I wanted to eat everything:

and the airport below us, and people with suitcases. I cried on the plane

and my husband looked at me and did not understand what was happening"

Gradually, such breakdowns began to happen regularly. First, once a week - on Saturday. Then - on Saturday and Sunday. The child and the husband seemed to exist somewhere in the distance, in the background. “If before I was just very thin, now the weight began to fluctuate - I was gaining ten kilograms, then I was losing,” says Katya. She guessed that she had an eating disorder and looked for a way to cope on her own. She searched the Internet for materials on this topic and somewhere she saw advice to try vegetarianism. She liked this idea. At first, she refused only meat, then - generally from animal products. Then she switched to a raw food diet. The breakdowns stopped, now the weight was constantly leaving, and with it - the vitality.

Previously, Katya had her own business, but now she has almost abandoned her business.The trainer in the gym asked, "Do you have anything to eat?" Once, standing in front of the mirror and looking at herself carefully, Katya realized: she was afraid to die. “I had a friend who used to drink a lot,” says Katya. - I recently saw her, she said that she had quit for two years already. She was helped by one of the 12-step self-help groups.” Katya decided to apply to a similar group for people suffering from eating disorders. There she was told that according to the rules of the group, you cannot eat flour and sweets. And they recommended a "meal plan" - the group members were supposed to eat a liter of food a day. “I carried a one-liter container of vegetables and beans with me,” she says. “During the day it was all mixed up, I would shake out something that looked like food for pigs onto a plate, and ate it without pleasure.”

Another breakdown happened when Katya went with her family on vacation to India. In the morning, she pulled money out of her husband's wallet, went to the store and bought food in packages. Then she sat under the palm trees, ate and cried. She decided that the “zagor” would stop as soon as they land in Moscow. And before that, she will be able to eat again to the full during the transplant. “But everything did not go according to plan,” says Katya. - Because of the fog, the plane did not land for a long time. I realized that I would not have time to eat. And I wanted to eat everything: the airport below us, and people with suitcases. I was crying on the plane, and my husband looked at me and did not understand what was happening."

Katya called a self-help group, where she was recommended a meal plan, cried and asked for help. But there they answered: "It seems that you just do not want to pull yourself together." In the end, she was told: in the States there is a Russian-speaking woman named Tatiana. She is a Fellow of Compulsive Overeating Anonymous, and you can turn to her for advice.

“I called her,” Katya recalls. - She asked if I accept powerlessness in front of my illness. Of course I did! So I went through the first step. Tatiana became my sponsor. And then I met a couple of girls from Moscow, whom she helped. " Together they launched the program in Moscow. For a year and a half, dozens of people managed to pass through the "12 steps" Mostly women. “The men also came a couple of times,” says Katya. “But usually they didn't stay long. They tend to find it much more difficult to admit their problem and accept help."

“In a dietary culture, even 'helping' communities can contribute to the development of eating disorders,” says psychologist Yulia Lapina. “Often they suggest“building relationships with food, but not getting fat”or“losing weight without worrying about food.” But in order to really cope with the problem, you must first of all ask yourself: am I ready to reconsider the dietary mentality and attitudes? Am I ready to give up the idea that my body should look a certain way - the way I want? " Another danger associated with dietary culture is self-diagnosis. A person may himself incorrectly define compulsive overeating in himself, simply because he does not eat in the way that is customary in this very culture. “In this case, the person thinks: 'Oh my God, I want a cake, there is something wrong with me. I overeat compulsively,”explains Lapina. "Although in reality, he just sometimes wants something sweet, because it's completely normal."

At the end of the Compulsive Overeating Anonymous meeting, newcomers are invited to stay after the meeting - to have tea with the group and tell more about themselves. "Sponsors" Polina, Vera and Katya set the table, taking out a huge box of cakes. Now they are not afraid to eat sweets - the problem was not in him at all.

Photos: smspsy -, TheFarAwayKingdom -, lucielang - (1, 2), vvoe -, Marc Dietrich - (1, 2), Dmitri Stalnuhhin -


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