“I know you’re probably busy having mind-blowing sex, but I feel you need to know that your good friend, Miranda Hobbes, has just taken a piece of cake out of the garbage and eaten it. You’ll probably need this information when you check me into the ‘Betty Crocker Clinic.’”
My fellow millennial women will undoubtedly recognize this quote from the iconic HBO sitcom Sex and the City — season four, episode four, to be precise. In this episode, Miranda, one of the sitcom’s four leading ladies, starts binge-eating cake after she swears off sex.
One night, Miranda feels particularly low and cannot stop eating Betty Crocker boxed chocolate cake mix. She throws the uneaten part of the cake in the garbage, but still cannot resist it. She fishes a piece out of the trash and eats it, and subsequently leaves a voicemail for her friend Carrie, during which she makes the above spiel about the Betty Crocker Clinic.
Miranda’s inability to stop eating the cake more or less represents the feeling people get during binge eating episodes. While they are portrayed pretty comically on TV, episodes of binge eating are actually very serious and, if experienced frequently, can indicate an eating disorder.
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association officially listed Binge Eating Disorder, or BED, as a clinical eating disorder diagnosis in the DSM-V. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, men and women with BED regularly binge on large quantities of food, but do not purge or make any other extreme attempts to rid their body of food after binges. They feel extremely out of control during these episodes and feel ashamed and embarrassed about their struggles with food.
The media has developed an interesting obsession with eating disorders. We’ve seen documentaries, talk shows, and Lifetime movies cautioning against the dangers of anorexia and bulimia. Many female celebrities have bravely opened up to the media about their struggles with these disorders, letting the public know that anorexia and bulimia are, in fact, serious mental illnesses.
Now, there are definitely problems with how anorexia and bulimia are portrayed in the media. Sometimes, these diseases are glamorized or portrayed as choices instead of psychological disorders. But there is at least a bit of awareness that these issues are, in fact, mental illnesses.
With BED, we’re not quite there yet. In a culture with plenty of weight-loss reality shows such as The Biggest Loser, we tend to view dieting as the answer to issues of food addiction and binge eating. In our fat-phobic society, we view people with BED as lacking self-control and send them to our own versions of Miranda’s Betty Crocker Clinic, just focusing on specifics of their food intake (such as how many cakes they eat) and exercise habits.
However, all eating disorders, including BED, are about much more than food and weight. They’re complex diseases in which people use food to deal with painful emotions. Eating disorder sufferers need treatment and support, not simply a food and exercise plan.
Last month, Monica Seles, a world-renowned tennis champion, publicly spoke about her struggles with BED. Unlike many other public figures that have spoken about their struggles with food, Seles specifically refers to her binge eating as an eating disorder. She also mentions speaking with her doctor about it, indicating that her BED is indeed a serious and legitimate disorder that needs more than a diet to be treated.
Maybe this is one step toward finally releasing BED sufferers from the Betty Crocker Clinic and encouraging them to get the help they need.
Haley Bierman is a recent college graduate working in theatre administration. She is extremely passionate about the arts, pop culture, and feminism. She enjoys watching Netflix, playing her ukulele, and hearing others’ viewpoints about the world we live in.