Supermarket Shame

Please read with care, and take steps to keep yourself feeling safe and secure, if reading about eating disorders, body image and associated topics are triggering for you.

I still struggle to write openly about my eating disorder. It’s been such a deep personal, secret part of me for so long, that I instantly feel vulnerable when sharing my story. But I do it because I know what it’s like to suffer in silence, so I hope my words provide comfort to those battling alone, and also helps to raise awareness of the other end of the scale of eating disorders.

I’ve been having a really tough few months with a lot of emotional turmoil in my personal life, and, as ever, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life and swamped by intense emotion, it instantly affects my eating behaviour. See, although I identify as having Binge Eating Disorder, I deal with disordered eating patterns from across the spectrum. So most of the time my default is to overeat, but sometimes I go the other way and barely eat at all. And that’s where I’ve been for the last while. I was determined to eat more healthily, but when I do this the world instantly dulls for me and I lose all interest in everything. Colours fade, sound becomes white noise, living becomes existing, and food, food becomes completely uninteresting and dissatisfying. I’ll start off force feeding myself, but with every meal I become more apathetic towards food until a meal becomes a few slices of cucumber here, and a slice of bread there. I’ve been weak and exhausted beyond belief because of it, and coping even less with life because I’m not in a good mental state. Due to having M.E it’s even more dangerous and irresponsible for me to eat so little because I’m knowingly doing harm to my body and my health, but no rationality is enough to spur me into eating properly.

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These days I know the starvation period will pass and I’ll slowly feel able to start eating more and more again, so I tend to just ride it out. It’s a process; a cycle. The more I start eating and enjoying food again, the more I start falling back into eating less healthily because I’m addicted to the buzz that yummy food gives me, and before I know it I’m back to eating too much of the wrong things.

Nonetheless, I’d been pleased that I had gotten this far without bingeing and I wanted to keep that up for as long as possible. But I’ve had a particularly tough few days that saw me crumble and fall apart emotionally, and I was straight to the supermarket to get a trolley load of binge food. Sometimes what I buy is a carefully thought out and meticulous process, other times it’s a supermarket sweep. This time it was the latter. I got all my classic go-to foods: pizza, chocolate, crisps. I’m on a high when I’m filling up my basket/trolley. I’m excited at the thought of going back home and scoffing the lot and how delicious it will taste, and how happy I’ll feel.

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But then the bit I always forget about – paying for my food. Granted, it’s easier these days with self-service checkouts, but I still feel everyone’s eyes on me. This time round I went via a cashier and I just wanted to breakdown and cry as I loaded everything up onto the conveyer belt. I felt paranoid, I felt judged, I felt humiliated, and more than anything I felt ashamed. I didn’t want to be doing this, I didn’t want this to be my life anymore. But I needed it. I had coped this far without caving, but I couldn’t cope any longer. I at least needed it in my house to know it was an option. The mountain of food was my safety, security, and protection. I had to have it all.

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So I took deep breaths, and started concocting the usual story in my head of it all being for a party, just in case someone questioned my purchases [You’d be surprised how often cashiers feel the need to comment and remark on what you’re buying. Ground swallow me up, now!] Then I scurried out of there as fast as my chubby legs could carry me. I don’t even make it back to the car before I’m eating. And then once I’m in the car I’m tearing open every packet and trying to shovel things in faster than I can eat them. I don’t stop until I get *that* feeling. I don’t even know how to describe it. Something just clicks inside me and I feel okay again. A sense of relief and security sweeps over me and I feel able to breathe again. I guess it’s a calming effect in a world of turmoil.

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