National Eating Disorders Association

‘BINGE’ Creator Angela Gulner Uses Dark Comedy to Shed Light on Bulimia

Diana Denza, Communications Associate

Editor’s note: BINGE may be triggering to some readers in recovery. With that in mind, we’ve excluded links to the series within this piece.  

BINGE is a dark comedy series about bulimia and addiction centered on an out-of-control young woman who struggles with bulimia and alcohol abuse. The main character, based loosely on creator Angela Gulner, accidentally enrolls in a treatment center and has to face dealing with her illness. The series intentionally pushes boundaries in depicting Angela’s struggles. The truth is often shocking, offensive, and even hilarious in its absurdity – which is exactly how one could describe BINGE.

I had the opportunity to interview Gulner about her own experiences in recovery, why she decided to create a dark comedy series, and what we can expect next. Check out our interview below!

Diana Denza: BINGE was inspired, in part, by many of your personal experiences. Can you tell us more about your own recovery journey? 

Angela Gulner: Well, I first started struggling with anorexia, and I quickly started bingeing. I had a hard time dealing with the anxiety of weight gain and feeling full, and so the purging started. I engaged in a starve, binge, purge cycle that was terrible and all-consuming. Every time my symptoms flared up, I promised it was the last time, that I’d fix it and be “normal,” but I couldn’t.

My first year of college, I went to a treatment center. The staff was really great, but I was 20 and just wasn’t ready to let it go. I didn’t like feeling the way I felt, and my eating disorder went into remission for almost a year, but when college got hard or life circumstances flared up, it started all over again. I then entered graduate school. I was in Harvard’s acting program for two-and-a-half years. It sort of snowballed, and when I graduated, the bulimia was out of control again. I spent 10 long years of being really consumed in this cycle. 

It was always on my mind. It always consumed 70-99% of my thoughts. The thing that became the tipping point for me happened four years ago. I started to abuse alcohol in addition to bingeing on food. I spiraled into a really terrible place. I started calling rehab centers when I was drunk. I wanted help; I just didn’t know how to get it.

I accidentally found this treatment program in California, and at the end of the intake appointment, I found out I actually signed up for a partial hospitalization. We never want to admit we’re struggling as much as we are, so I took a couple more weeks to think about it. All I could think about on set was food; all I could think about was how miserable and sad I was. I couldn’t do the things I had moved to California to do in the first place.

I started a PHP program at The Bella Vita. I was able to get treatment before I was kicked off of my parents’ insurance. I spent 10 years in this horrible cycle, and I was done. I did everything they told me to do, and I got better. I didn’t think it was possible. 

I’m about three-and-a-half years into recovery now, and it’s like I’m living a completely different life. I feel like I have a much more healthy relationship to food and my body. I trust my body again. 

DD: How did BINGE get started and what has been the reaction toward it?

AG: When I was discharged from the program in Pasadena, I was so eager to hit the ground running and be an actor and a creative person, but the industry is really hard. It’s really hard to get representation and bookings. It can take decades to make a break.

I decided I would start writing roles for myself. The story I had in my mind was my eating disorder. My roommate loved hearing all the stories I would come home with from treatment. Even in the darkest times, there is still humor and humanity. I roped my good friend Yuri into it, and we wrote it really fast. We fell in love with it, and with the characters.

I got representation for the script, which is something I wasn’t intending. Our representation liked it, and the people we showed it to liked it. It was a tricky sell, because there are so many misconceptions about eating disorders, and it felt hard to get people to invest in the idea.

In Hollywood, it takes a really long time. The development process is so slow. We felt like there was an audience for this, and we decided to produce it on our own and put it out there to get some buzz, so we could meet with executives and they could see the demand for this. That was our strategy behind it.

Our 25-minute pilot already has 120,000+ views on YouTube. We’ve had bites here and there, and we’ve had some exciting press, but the coolest part of it all is that I’ve just been flooded with emails from people all over the country sharing their experiences with eating disorders and even depression, bipolar, and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Our bravery really resonated with people. It’s been humbling and touching. The eating disorder community response is something I hoped for, but I had no idea it would hit this hard. I was actually nervous that it could be too triggering or feel too irreverent, but thinking about it over the last couple of weeks, I realized that we don’t give people with eating disorders enough credit.

Most of us are driven, smart, accomplished people who have a thing we struggle with and a lot of the media that exists makes us seem too much like victims. We decided we didn’t want to dumb it down or worry about being too triggering. Maybe the in-your-face aspect of this show seems more genuine. 

DD: It sounds like BINGE feels relatable to so many who are struggling. Is there a fan message in particular that stands out to you?

AG: The one that stands out most was written to me by someone who didn’t have an eating disorder, but struggles with bipolar disorder and being on the autism spectrum. The email he sent me was so moving and honest and vulnerable. He gave me a history of what was going on in his life during the time that I knew him, and how hard it was to hide the side of himself that struggled. He felt that his struggles made him unlikeable.

Being a woman in Hollywood, we worry a lot about being unlikeable, and his email reaffirmed that we keep our lives fractured: what we present to the world vs. how we struggle inside. It was touching that someone who never had an eating disorder was still able to watch it and see his experiences reflected in it. 

Being vulnerable and truthful can empower people around you. Being able to feel like there is some sort of community is really powerful and has turned the year upside down for me. Now I’m feeling like people really do want to connect. 

DD: Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself? 

AG: I have an amazing blind bulldog who I am absolutely obsessed with. She looks like a mini hippopotamus and I’m one of those really dorky dog moms who buys her clothes. She has her own Instagram account: @blindbinah. I also have a tortoise, a bird, and a bunch of fish – I’m an animal freak. 

DD: What would you say to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder?

AG: It sounds cheesy and I know it sounds generic, but I just keep saying that it can change. If you are able to find a support system that can help you tolerate the discomfort, it can change and it can change fast. After four months, I was intuitively eating after 10 years of struggling and it was manageable because I had a really strong support system.

Your life can be bigger than it is now. You deserve to live a big, full life and your brain can think about more than just food. If you stick with it, you can do it. You can change or tolerate and redirect the feelings about your body. You can have the feelings and not act on them. 

DD: What’s in the works for BINGE?

AG: We want it to expand into an Orange is the New Black type of thing. We’re looking to divide the series into exploring what goes on both in the treatment facility and in Angela’s personal life. We’ll see different types of eating disorders and different, varied people struggling. 

Right now, we’re trying to create buzz and share the pilot with as many people as we can. We want to build conversation so that Hollywood can’t ignore us. We’re too loud to be ignored!