I have an eating disorder.
I hid it from my family, closest friends, and people in general. I went through a journey of recovery, only realizing in my recovery what exactly it was that was happening and sharing it with a few people I did not know in my daily life. It is only in recent months that I have started to tell people of the battle I have overcome, talking about the ways in which I suffered alone and found hope in the darkness.
You see, having an addiction of any kind is hard. Alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or food are all challenges within themselves to overcome. But when your addiction is food, your battle is one of the key things you need to survive.
I have Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Brought on in my teenage years, I would secretly eat large amounts of food when I was on a “diet”. You see, I have been overweight most of my life. Which caused concern for my parents, who would try to limit what I could eat and guide me toward healthier eating. This usually meant that when they were on a diet, I was on the diet with them. In moderation of course. The diet they typically partook in included one day a week where you could eat anything you wanted. Restriction and precise measurements would be enforced Monday-Saturday. When Sunday would roll around, all of that would go out the window. I think this is where I learned how to binge. And because the things from Sunday would stick around for most of the week, I would eat large amounts before they got home in the afternoons, going as far as stuffing the wrappers deep in the trash if I finished something. I’d eat until I felt I would burst, go lay down for a bit, and then eat dinner with the family like nothing had happened before.
As time progressed, this became normal to me. I would eat my normal meals throughout the day (dieting or not) and in the afternoons before my parents got home I would stuff myself full of food to the point of feeling sick. The older I got, the easier it became to binge. Driving to the store, purchasing anything I wanted, eating all of it in the car on the way home, and discarding the evidence. No one knew my secret. Yet, while no one knew what was actually happening, I was gaining weight steadily. The binge cycles would come and go, some months were heavier on binge’s while others had barely any. The cycle continued for years, well into college and following into grad school. Looking back now, I realize that this was going on for ten years of my life.
The reality of what I was doing to myself did not hit me until I was in the first week of my health journey, in December of 2014. My saving grace came from a wonderful woman on Instagram, Jen, trying to help other women through the very same struggles she went through. Discussing in detail about her own struggle with binge eating, the various cycles, and the mental battles, I had my light bulb moment. It was like everything made sense after searching for years to find out why I kept putting myself in this cycle. It had a name, a medical name, with real points explaining in detail the many things I was doing. I did not want to be a part of it any longer. I wanted to release this demon that held a tight grip on me. Through Jen’s help, I started working on the mental aspect of my disorder, really digging deep to find out why I felt the need to binge.
It took two years to go through this recovery. Months with Jen, months on my own, learning my triggers, loving myself through the process. This is not something I could recover from in a week. I had to undo ten years of binge habits, discovering what life could look like without binging, learning how to not be afraid of food, and the list goes on. It’s a strange thing to realize you’ve had an eating disorder for years and to end up in a recovery process all at the same time. I am forever grateful for Jen and the role she has played in my life. Without her, I don’t think I would have ever realized I had an eating disorder or that it was not normal to eat an absurd amount of food followed by a “normal” meal. My recovery process has not been conventional, but it worked for me.
Even though I now am on the other side of recovery, I still recognize the beginning of old habits occasionally. I believe that this, binge eating, is something that I will deal with for the rest of my life. Granted, I am in a better place and it is easy to manage now. Most days I do not even think about my disordered eating. I just live my life, free from the chains of food. There is hope for anyone dealing with addiction. If you want help and are ready to move through it, reach out. Find someone you trust and ask for help. You’d be surprised by the willingness of those who love and care for you to get you all the help you need. There is freedom on the other side of addiction.