November 8, 2010


One of the toughest experiences in my weight loss journey was the moment when I realized that I had an eating disorder. For most people, the term "eating disorder" conjures up images of supermodels and actors with bones sticking out and diets of coffee and cigarettes - and I had the same singular mindset. Someone with an eating disorder is either anorexic or bulimic - I had never learned of any other grounds. I had never really considered the semantics of it - that my severely disordered eating habits were, in fact, an eating disorder. But really, labeling it was the least of my problems at that point. The actual issue at hand was much bigger.

Like many people, I would eat whenever I was stressed out. Or when I was sad. Or when I was happy. Or when I was bored. Unlike most people, though, this was not just a little uncontrolled snacking here and there. It was ... well, unbelievable, really. Thinking back, I am amazed not only at the quantities of food I would eat, but at the speed. In college, I would go to every shop in the plaza across the street from the dorm - chinatown, may 2010a breakfast sandwich from Dunkin' Donuts, noodles with everything from the Chinese restaurant, a toasted sub from Blimpie's, and a pint of Ben and Jerry's from the convenience store. It would be gone - all of it - in under fifteen or twenty minutes. At the end of finals during my second semester of grad school, I spent $50 at the grocery store on crazy amounts of junk food, and I ate it all within ten minutes. I would eat until my mind felt numb - then I would fall asleep, and when I'm asleep, I don't have to deal with the problems at hand.

The food was bad enough, but the speed made it worse - my mouth would get sore and my stomach would hurt incredibly, but I loved it. Feeling pain meant focusing on something other than the fifteen page paper due in three days. Unfortunately, when I would wake up from my food coma, the paper was still there, needing to be worked on, and I would feel gross and ashamed.

Shame is another key component of this. I was extremely private about my eating habits. I very rarely ate in public, and if I did, I would pick at my meal so I could take it home and eat it as fast as I could. I had a friend who always joked about the fact that, over the eight or ten years of our friendship, he'd never seen me eat before. I mean, clearly I was eating sometime...

I remember one time this past spring semester when I was coming home on a Friday around noon - I had skipped breakfast and I was absolutely ravenous - and the McDonald's that the bus passes on the way home was having a Filet o' Fish deal - double the pieces of fish per sandwich for $2.99. I went, got two sandwiches, folded up the bag and hid it in my backpack, and then headed back to my apartment so I could eat them. When I got home, I put the sandwiches on the table and then went into my bedroom to change into after-work clothes, and suddenly I heard the front door open. october 2010 - 60 lbs lighterMy sister's afternoon class was canceled, so she was home early. She saw that I had two McDonald's boxes and asked if she could have one since she is also not a breakfast eater and so she too was pretty hungry.

I am so ashamed when I reflect on my thought processes of that day. I eventually gave her one of the sandwiches, but I was so mad at her. Enraged, even. And not just in the moment, but for days afterwards. Now, as I look back with a clear mind, I wonder why I was so furious. Because she took away the food? Or because she took away the privacy in which I conducted my secret eating rituals?

I'm very proud of the progress I have made so far - I have not binged in nearly three months, and that has not been easy, especially with the stresses of a full-time job, bills, friends, and family. But like with people who have problems with drugs or alcohol, my food addiction and my history with binge eating disorder are things that I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. It should hopefully get easier, but it will never go away completely.


Life as a Caterpillar said...

Thnak you for posting this. I feel stronger for reading it.

These photos make me happy- you look simply amazing in the blue top- there is a PROPER real smile there and you are glowing with happiness
What a wonderful photo


Christine said...

Man, I can *SO* relate to this. In fact, just this weekend I talked about binge-eating. Here I've lost nearly 100 pounds and am only TWO POUNDS from my final goal weight...and still I find that that the binge-eating monster rears its ugly head for me. An emotional moment had me sitting in a corner-market parking lot stuffing cookies into my house. Oh boy.

When you have an eating disorder, I don't know that it ever goes away. You learn healthier coping techniques, you learn to not let the ED rule your life, you learn to not let the ED derail your weight-loss attempts. But it's always there, lurking in the background. Don't turn your back on it, and even though you're not binging now, please continue to work on the mental and emotional issues surrounding the past binging. But congrats to you for being three months binge-free. That's fantastic, and congrats to you! :-)


Anonymous said...

It's true...that addiction is never cured. I have done everything you talked about, including the eating super fast. I still fall off the wagon and have binges (including a little drinking binge this past weekend). I think recognizing it and never giving in, continuing to struggle is the key. Throwing in the towel is not an option. Having acknowledged your issues, being open about it, and striving to overcome is amazing. And you are succeeding! Life is long. Keep it up.

Anne H said...

Awesome words - you are a strong person and a great writer!
Pain sucks - but sometimes it helps guide us to what is at the root of deeper issues.... not just the symptoms....
Great progress! With weight loss as a bonus!

Amy said...

It's so true that eating disorders can go the other way.
Food is such a funny thing. I know Oprah has often talked about food being an addiction on her show... but it's actually the hardest addiction to deal with. Why? because if you're addicted to heroin or crack it's not essential to your survival, it's the opposite. Sure it's probably very hard to quit and recover from, but being addicted to food is worse, because food is essential to your survival, you can't avoid it, you have to feed yourself, and making the correct decisions isn't easy. It's easy on paper and easy to say you'll do it, but actually following through is an entirely different thing.
I will applaud anyone who has lost hundreds of pounds and kept it off more than someone who cut a drug addiction.

Ann (-50 lbs in -60 lb challenge) said...

What a powerful post! Thank you for the insight into your struggle. You have come such a long way!!

Jessica said...

Thanks for sharing more of your story. Sometimes it is hard to realise that overeating is an addiction.

Anonymous said...

I too never thought of someone overweight as someone with an eating disorder until I realized what I was eating and how much of it I was eating. I too eat in secrecy and I still get self-conscious at times. Saturday night I was out with friends at a restaurant and I was feeling great, dressed to the 9's and a group of people passed our table as they were exiting the restaurant and all the men were staring at me. I looked at my friends and asked "Why are they staring at me? Is it because they've never seen a fat girl eat?" and it bugged me but one of my friends said how nice I looked and it dawned on me that someone may be staring at me because they find me attractive. That thought never entered my mind..I instantly assumed it was b/c I was eating!

Retta said...

Yep... did all that. I could especially relate to the secrecy part. I'd get it all bought or made, turn on the tv, and zone out, eating til I could burst. In private, always. Or if in town, I'd park somewhere where people could not see me. So sad...

You've come a long way, and I liked seeing the joy on your face in the progress pic!

Julie Lost and Found said...

I have done all that also. I began binging in secrecy in high school and still struggle with binging during times of stress.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Sonya @ Eyes on the Hourglass said...

I'm so proud of you. Thanks for sharing. You truly are not alone. If you've read about "my story" on my blog, you'll know I went to an eating disorder clinic in the past and have had issues of my own with binge eating.

It's so hard especially when stress is at an all time high, but keep doing what you're doing because it seems to be working!

WTG girl.... Keep up the great, great work! No more food coma's for you!!!!

Tim said...

Well done!!! You've done brilliantly so far. It was a very inspiring read. A lot of it I can relate to so it's great to see other people who have gone through a similar thing and are doing great.