Jax sat in a circle among the other participants of the eating disorder group he’d been meeting with for the past three weeks. It wasn’t easy, sharing his issues with strangers, but he was learning that it helped him look at food differently and understand that it was okay to have something unhealthy every now and again without feeling like he had to pay for it by starving himself and putting in extra workouts.
The binging was harder to deal with though, as was the headspace he found himself in when those moments hit. He hadn’t been able to share those thoughts with the group yet, most of the time he just tried really hard to ignore them or berated himself until they went away. Like this morning, when he’d felt the urge to buy half a dozen donuts on the way back from him run and start scarfing them on the short walk between the bakery and his door.
On one hand, he felt fortunate that he’d only eaten three before rational thought kicked in and made him hand off the rest to Callum, but that didn’t mean he’d stopped beating himself up over it. Sighing, he shifted in his seat and told himself to focus on the African American man who was speaking.
“Sometimes I eat when I’m not even hungry,” the man explained. “And yet I can’t seem to stop myself from getting up and going to the fridge. My wife is constantly yelling at me about eating all of the leftovers and getting into her shakes and yogurts, but I can’t seem to help myself.”
“Let’s talk a moment about what you feel while this is taking place,” the group leader said. “Are you board, restless, stressed? Many people find themselves using food as an escape from something else.”
“I wouldn’t say I was stressed out,” the man said. “Bored maybe, it feels like I’ve gotten into such a rut lately. Every morning I get up and I go to work and when I come home I find myself too tired to do anything but sit in my chair, turn on the television and make constant trips back and forth between that chair and the fridge until it’s time to go to bed.”
“Then perhaps it’s time that you look for activities you can do outside of your home. Explore a hobby, or a recreational sports league, perhaps even find something that you and your wife can do together so that you’re not simply sitting in front of the television each day.”
“I used to play football, back in high school and college,” the man said. “Thought about joining a park league but it seems like I miss the signups every year.”
“Then that might be something to plan for in order to not miss it next year. In the meantime, what else do you enjoy?”
The man shrugged. “Never given it much thought.”
“Perhaps it’s time you should.”
The whole time the man was talking, Jax was thinking about his own life. He’d never been one for television, and he was rarely bored, but when he was stressed, or feeling negatively about something in his life, he found himself eating more. In fact, all of his binges had come after big disappointments, the worst being after Jason had cheated on him and broken up with him because he hadn’t fit the ideal Jason had for what he’d wanted his boyfriend to look like.
Jax had been trying so hard too. Working his ass off in the gym to get cut and lose the last bits of extra weight he’d still been carrying around. After Jason’s betrayal, he’d done nothing but hold a private pity party for himself and indulge in every sugary treat he could get his hands on, indulging himself in a pity party of epic proportions until he’d woken up once morning and realized that only two pairs of jeans still fit.
After that, he’d never allowed himself to backslide so horribly, but a few time it had come close, and that had scared him so badly he’d made himself sick trying to make up for it.
“When I’m upset I eat,” Jax blurted, the words leaving his mouth before he could fully give himself time to think.
She nodded in encouragement and gave him a small smile. “That has been one of my biggest struggles too,” she admitted.
“I was always the fat kid, all through school, I guess I used food to make up for the fact that I was lonely, and that I was shy and I was never really good at fitting in, plus, it was kind of hard to make friends with people when their parents never wanted them to hang out at your house because your mom always seemed to have a different guy over.” Jax said.
His hands were on his knees and his eyes on the ground as he spoke, but now that he’d started opening up it was very hard to stop.
“There was always something in the fridge to eat though, and it wasn’t until I got older that I started looking in the mirror and hating what I saw. The only problem with that is, once I started, I can’t seem to figure out how to stop. I still look in the mirror and see that fat kid and when things go wrong, I still turn to food to make me feel better, even though I have friends I can talk to and someone who’s becoming very special to me.”
The change in his pocket jangled a little as he bounced his knee up and down.
“The thing is, I keep asking myself what he could possibly see in me. How he could ever find me attractive? I want to be with him but I keep thinking that it will only be a matter of time before he finds someone better and ditches me or cheats on me and I know that isn’t fair to him, to judge him by the things that one of my ex’s did, but I don’t know how to put away that fear.”
“One day at a time,” the group leader said. “And with honesty and conversation so he knows that you have issues that you are working through.”
Jax nodded. “He knows, sort of, I mean, I haven’t really been able to tell him my fears about him and I, but I’ve told him a little bit about my life when I was growing up.”
“I take it this is a new relationship?”
“Then as you both come to know each other better, these are things that you will want to share with him,” she explained. “It takes time and effort and sometimes a lot of setbacks before you’ll start to be able to look at yourself differently and even then, there might be times when something triggers you to slip back into old habits. If you can share what you’re dealing with, than the people that are closest of you will be better prepared to help you.”
“Even my sister and my closest friends don’t know all of it,” Jax admitted. “I’ve tried to keep it hidden and deal with it, but sometimes it’s too much and I can’t handle it on my own.”
“And that’s when you need to let others in and allow them to help you.”
“I have the same problem,” a blond girl three people away from Jax said. Carol, he thought her name was. “I try to keep my binging a secret, and I feel so ashamed when I notice that my clothes are fitting tighter. I lost my boyfriend over it all about a month ago and that’s just made it harder.”
“Did he, um, break up with you because of your weight?” Jax asked as politely as he could, not wanting to offend her or hurt her feelings. He knew first hand how bad that felt.
She just shook her head. “No, he told me over and over again that he didn’t have a problem with my weight, that he loved me. What he couldn’t deal with was me freaking out and getting jealous every time he talked to or even looked at a skinny girl.”
“I can relate to that,” Jax said.
“Is your guy built like you?” The blond woman beside the group leader asked.
Jax shook his head. “No, he’s shorter than me, a little stocky.”
“But you smile when you talk about him and your eyes light up,” she said. “It’s pretty obvious that you’re into him even if he doesn’t look like he’s spent hours and hours in the gym. So why shouldn’t he feel the same about you?”
Jax blinked, because damn, he’d never thought about it that way. True, Danny wasn’t built like most of the guys he’d been with and while he tended to lean towards women who were curvy with a little extra meat, he’d never considered that they might want him even if he was less than ripped. Maybe there was more skewed about his thinking than he’d ever considered.
Jax never could find an answer to her question and when the meeting broke up a short time later, he checked his watch, grateful to see that he had two hours to kill before he had to be at the shop. Gassing up the bike, he headed out of town to cruse the highway and try to get his mind straight.