The monetary cost of an eating disorder

What could you do with an extra USD 25K a year?

I promise you this is not an exaggeration. I once calculated that my spend on binge related excursions a year came to approx. USD$25K (HKD$200K) per annum. It may be hard to imagine an overspend of more than USD$75 (HKD$600) a day on food for one person, right? We are not talking about a drug habit here, this is food right?

Absolutely. This is a conservative estimate and it will shock you even more when you ready how it adds up. Here is just one example of a day as a bulimic.

A day in the life of my illness

Below where I suggest a binge cost I am only adding what would be on top of a typical day in recovery. So only adding where the ‘additional’ cost would be.

It always starts with best intentions

I would skip breakfast or resolve to have something small. + USD$0

But then something would happen

Something could be ANYTHING. I could get offered a treat at work, or I could get an unpleasant email, or I could feel bigger than I expected from breakfast, or I could really crave something more, or I could be bored, or I could try on an outfit that doesn’t fit, or I could feel bad about something I had said or done, or I could be tired, or the sun could shine, or perhaps it was raining. ANYTHING.

Que internal debate of ‘should I?’, ‘shouldn’t I?’, ‘what if It was just a little?’, ‘I can start again tomorrow’, ‘you wont have a chance to eat later’, ‘they only have that snack for a limited period so you should get it now’…..

So I would go and get a fairly acceptable snack, deciding I may or may not purge after.

Snack and Coffee + USD$0

I may even survive the first wave and try again

I would most typically decide that having breakfast + snack was too much and I would purge. I would begin the day again but now I wouldn’t know whether to eat lunch or to restrict. I would choose to hold off for now…

But then something would happen

I would get hungry or faint and would need to eat. The purging often made me feel dizzy and I would worry that I would faint if I didn’t eat. So I would go out in search of lunch. Only, now I had the shame of the morning binge on my mind so I would have an extra hard debate regarding eating something or going for an all out binge.

Then I would hit the fuck it button and spend the rest of the day hiding

It would always go this way.

I couldn’t satisfy my true need to binge at home or in work so I would wander the streets at lunch time. I would go somewhere no-one knew me and have secret meals. Depending on how fast the food was I may have two meals in secret and then buy takeaway for the office/home + some snack food I could hide in my bag for the afternoon.

Takeaway lunch = + USD$3 (HKD$24), the lunch was always one dessert or snack item more than a set.

2 Secret lunches = +USD$25 (HKD$200)

Bag snacks = +USD6 (HKD$48)

After lunch another purge and by 4pm or so I would get the need to go to get more snacks with my afternoon coffee.

Bag snacks = +USD6 (HKD$48)

Then the end of day would come. I knew I would be eating at home with my husband when I got home so I would delay going home and visit some more fast food restaurants and cafe’s. In between I would eat more snacks from my bag  on the bus or train or taxi. I would find places to purge to allow for more food on the way. However, if I didn’t believe I was ’empty’  then I would get more food and purge again until I was either too tired to continue or too scared I would have a seizure.

On average I would visit 2-3 cafes before going home.

2 Secret Meals = +USD25 (HKD$200)

After purging I would feel unable to have dinner without further binge food, it had to be all or nothing. But I knew my husband would suspect if I didn’t make some excuse to celebrate or have a special treat. So I would pop by the grocery store EVERY evening and buy snacks for ‘him’ as a treat. These were really so I could justify buying for myself without judgement. I always pretended I didn’t like his particular snacks so I could buy multiple bags.

Post dinner snacks and treats = +US10 (HKD$80)

At the end of the day

I would be poorer and destroyed. I would vow to start again tomorrow while having ‘one last hurray’ to this illness. It was like this for at least the last 12 years of my illness.

So there you have it. The sad truth. The experience was as awful, shameful and confusing as it sounds. Money doesn’t buy you happiness, for me, it certainly bought unhappiness.

With this extra cash, what do I do now?

Since I got into recovery my life has changed so so much. For the first time in my life I was able to save money and pay off old debts I couldn’t seem to shake. I was able to travel more and do a lot of pampering at first. I went to India on my honeymoon and used my income to get massages or beauty treatments that were healthier coping mechanisms than my old binge purge cycle. And in Feb this year I took the decision to take some time off work with the money I had saved since my recovery began. I was able to focus on me, and even decided it was time to share my story with others.

I am not really into handbags and luxury clothing but if that is your thing then just think what recovery could be like. Even being free from further debt is a true gift of recovery. Set yourself free.

You will find even more benefits of recovery on this site.




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