BED

Nanna Navntoft

2018 - Ongoing

Denmark; The Hague, South Holland, Netherlands

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most widespread eating disorder in Denmark. It is a severe, life-threatening disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food. Going along is a feeling of loss of control during the binge and experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards.

Suffering from BED is closely related with bad self- esteem, often a difficult childhood, sometimes abuse and a life centered around weight loss. Few people know about the phenomena, but 40.000-50.000 Danes are suffering from it. Their lives are all about hiding what they consume. They have all tried every possible diet but every time it ends in failure. And for every pound lost there are more pounds gained. Obsessive thoughts about food are constantly there. All though BED is the most widespread eating disorder in Denmark, there are only very few opportunities to receive treatment.

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  • As a child Karen had a tough childhood. Her mother left her childhood home the day Karen graduated from school. She then lived alone with her handicapped father and had what she calls an “ugly abortion” when she was 18-years old. Then her firstborn son had leukemia for three years as a child to which Karen says: “When life is tough, my good friend, the eating disorder, addresses me and wants to help. Then I eat with both hands and I can’t stop. I don’t know if he will ever let go of me. And at some point, I have given up now. He is just there.”

  • “Sometimes I loose 30 kilos but then I gain 35 kilos. Then I loose 20 kilos, and then I gain 25 kilos. It is constantly like that and I don’t think I have ever weighed as much as I do now.”

    Karen hides food. Often behind the computer. She does it when her husband is sitting behind her watching tv. She knows that he is aware of what she is doing but she just can’t help herself from doing it.“

  • Ever since Heidi was a teenager her life has been about food. About diets, losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight and gaining weight.

    ”It becomes an obsessive thought. I just don’t have any peace until I eat. I can keep on fighting and tell myself “no”, but it will not leave me alone”. In 2010 Heidi had a gastric bypass surgery. It has helped on her weight, but she still binges. Sometimes she can get into a panic for not being able to eat as much as she did before. She tries anyway and only stops when she is sweating and shakes.

  • The box with candy in the closet is one Heidi had her boyfriend make. There are two strips in the one end and two padlocks in the other. Only her boyfriend knows where the keys are. Heidi can’t control what she eats and especially not at home. She is really sorry that her boyfriend can’t have any sweets in the house without her eating it.

    “My common sense tells me it is totally crazy, and it is sick what I do. But I can’t help it. I just simply don’t know what to do about it.”

  • “When I was 20, I was so heavy that I was afraid of getting bigger. Then I figured out that if I vomited after binging, I wouldn’t gain any weight. At that time my weight was about 190 kilos.

    Because of all the vomiting Hans quickly lost a lot of weight. And the more he lost the more positive his surroundings acted on it.

    ”I vomited, ate less and trained more which just meant that I instead developed bulimia also. When I turned 28, I sought help for the first time. But my doctor rejected me. He said it wasn’t true what I was telling. He said that men don’t vomit and I just had to quit doing it. That is of course not what I hoped for and I didn’t seek any help for a long time after that”.

  • “What happens is that I buy something unhealthy that I want to eat. But then a thought appears in my mind saying that I should eat something healthy first. Then I do that and when I am about to eat the unhealthy stuff the thought appears again: “If you can still eat, you should continue eating more healthy food before you start eating the unhealthy food”. I remember days when I have eaten two kilos of oatmeal.”

    In 2015 Hans had a gastric bypass surgery. He has lost about 60 kilos which probably has saved his life. But the surgery doesn’t mean that he now has a healthy relation to food: “I had a surgery in my stomach – not in the head”, as he usually says when people ask him if he is cured.

  • Charlotte began to gain weight at the age of four and it has continued ever since. She has tried to lose 31 kilos in half a year but then gain 42 in just three months. She has been in a weight loss camp as a young child, psychiatric ward, hospital ward for eating disorders, at dieticians – just to name a few. Since the disorder is not yet an acknowledged disorder in the Danish healthcare system, Charlotte has never been able to receive any help.

    “At the hospital ward for eating disorders I was told they could see, that I had an eating disorder. But since BED is not accepted in the Danish healthcare system, they couldn’t offer me help and I was sent back home.”

  • It is not by coincidence that Charlotte’s fridge opens towards the hall. Because then she can hide behind it – and no one can see what she is doing.

    Charlotte has two sons and the youngest of them has picked up upon her eating habits. She is deeply sad about it since that is exactly what she has tried to avoid. But as she says: “It is difficult to pass on a healthy relation to food, when you’ve never had one yourself”.

  • Troels lives temporarily for four months at a folk school, named Ubberup Højskole, that focuses on weight loss and wellbeing. He hopes to lose some weight, but more importantly to find some sort of balance.

    “I dream of having a better balance within. And to understand why I do what I do. When I am in imbalance I am stressed out and in a bad mood. I don’t have any energy. I shut down completely and feel like my life is passing by. I don’t want to spend any more of my life feeling like that.”

    Troels has always been overweight and has also suffered from depression.

  • “The only thing I can buy in a normal store is shoes.” Troels cares a lot about what he wears. He has always done that. If he isn’t wearing nice clothes, he feels like people are frowning on his size. The nice clothes are a way for him to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

  • "I was teased to the point I vowed not to eat a meal in school. I had one muffin a day, but it was not enough, so I ate the paper too”.
    Eve used to suffer from Binge Eating Disorder. But luckily she retrieved the right therapy for her, and today she no longer suffers from it.

  • “I don’t want anyone to know what I have been eating. If I am embarrassed about it, I wrap it in paper towels and then make it wet before putting it in the bin. I can’t help it. I just do it.”

  • Having served 10 years in the military and being deployed to war zones five times, Michael developed a severe PTSD. This is when his weight issues begin.

    “A lot of people in my situation take solace in alcohol. But I have never liked alcohol, so I would take solace in food. Lots of food and I would eat extremely unhealthily. I would eat up to or sometimes more than 11.000 calories a day. I gained about 180 kilos in 10 years. The food has given me comfort, peace and some sort of happiness. But I was extremely depressed inside.”

    “My friends, family, doctor and colleges have all tried to say something to me. But I was so much in denial. I would get up in the morning and attend my job. I just said that people should mind their own business. I have had a mentor for six years now, and she is the only one who has asked me about my mental state. No one has helped me in the way that she does. It is so much more than just diets and kilos. She is the only one who has thought about my psyche.”

    In October 2019 Michael had a gastric bypass surgery, which he hopes will help him eat less.

  • “I would call the pizza place around the corner on Mondays, then on Wednesdays another one, and on Thursdays a third place. When I ordered, I would also order a children’s menu to make it look like I ordered for more than one person. I would then keep the door almost completely closed when they dropped by with the food, so no one could see that it was only for me.”

  • “Recently I was in a restaurant. Normally I don’t like to go alone but at this time I just didn’t care. I needed it. Everything became foggy in a way and when I left, I was high and almost drugged. I was able to feel pain in my stomach in the good way. The way where I don’t have any thoughts left in my mind. Only silence”
    Camilla´s father is sick with terminal cancer and her eating disorder is getting continuously worse. Sometimes she tries to brush her teeth to prevent herself from eating more. But it rarely helps.

  • “I need to get rid of the evidence as quick as possible. Then I hide it different places. Sometimes it is inside toilet rolls before throwing it in the bin. But right now I almost don’t care. Everything is a mess anyway.”

  • Lars sleeps with a mask that helps him breathe during his sleep. Without the mask he stops breathing in long periods of time while sleeping. Sleep apnea is a frequent sequela to severe overweight.
    “I have been in the health care system for more than 20 years and nothing has helped me. I guess you can say that I have lost my motivation. The fact that I also suffer from depression probably also have a great deal to with how I eat and treat myself. This isn’t solved with a surgery in my stomach. I am certain I will only become even more sick.”


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