When Self-Discipline And Eating Disorders Collide


I licked the spoon clean and let it clamor at the bottom of the sink. Remnants of peanut butter stained the silver utensil, making the reflection cloudy and streaked with gluttony. I twisted the lid back, pushed the half-empty jar to the back of the fridge, and felt the heavy indulgence fill my stomach like thick cement.

How could this happen again? I’ve always been the disciplined one. People reminded me of it daily. It came up when they praised me for maintaining a vegan lifestyle, turning in work assignments on time, following through on undesirable commitments, or waking up early on Saturdays to check off items on my to-do list.

But tonight, as with many nights of the week, I stood alone at my kitchen counter with an aching belly, feeling anything but disciplined. How does the most disciplined person develop a habit of bingeing—the ultimate lack of discipline?

It feels like being seized by a puppeteer, ruthlessly steering you to the fridge and grabbing that spoon and jar with weightless arms.

It feels like being under the Imperius curse and losing control of your own thoughts and actions, forgetting the physical pain that will torment you tomorrow, or the long-term damage it will inflict on your body.

It feels like momentarily forgetting your convictions for those few moments of bliss, with your senses consumed by that rich chocolate bar swaddled within that foil wrapper.

But then discipline returns in full, ugly force. “I must undo this,” your discipline says. “I am disciplined. People expect me to be disciplined.”

You skip breakfast. You run. You bypass the subway station and walk three miles for a simple errand. You eat a light salad for lunch. You skip dessert when you eat out with your friends. “You’re just so disciplined,” they comment. You detect and relish their tone of envy and admiration.

Success. You’ve maintained your title. You are you again. You defeated the puppeteer.

Soon, the pain goes away. The bloating subsides. You feel the promising signs of a smoothly functioning metabolism, one not clogged by an entire Theo chocolate bar or ten spoonfuls of almond butter. You, your body, and your brain are disciplined. 

You feel ready to be “normal” again. But this time, you’ll remain disciplined. You’ll ignore the voices. You’ll fight off the puppeteer. You’ll cut the string from your wrists.

But tomorrow, it happens again. You lose your discipline. You lose yourself. The puppeteer numbs your mind, hijacks your identity, pilots your movements, steals your discipline.

Afterwards, you fight even harder to prove you still have it. No breakfast. More salad. More walking. More running. Just one cocktail at happy hour, and none of the sweet potato fries your group ordered for the table.

And all the while, nobody notices your inner war. “You have so much self-control,” they praise with a veiled tinge of shame as they lick their fingers and order another round of drinks.

Your discipline is their aspiration; their nonchalance is the thing of your dreams.