I'm not exactly sure how my eating disorder started because I don't remember choosing to restrict or diet at any time when I was younger. I know that after high school I decided I wanted to make healthier choices and be in shape but I never started any particular diet or cut foods out. I was working in the kitchen of a nursing home, surrounded by food and treats all the time. I think I must have decided at one point that I wasn't going to eat the food and snacks that were always so easily available at work because I didn't want it to be a habit and something that I did every day while working.
And for a while maybe I did, because my first "binge" was while I was stocking the small kitchen rooms on each wing of the nursing facility. The kitchen rooms needed to be stocked with snacks, juices, ice creams, ect. for nurses to easily grab at a residents request. All I remember is in a split second deciding that I was going to eat two packages of peanut butter crackers and two fudge cookies as fast as I could before anyone saw me. But in the moment it didn't even feel like a decision it was just like next thing I knew my mouth was stuffed to the brim with crackers and I was just trying to chew and swallow them as fast as I could without even enjoying them. I remember after thinking what the hell just happened and why did I do that in such a rushed manor. I don't remember exactly how things gradually progressed after that but they did, and it seemed extremely quick.
I was thinking about food at work all the time because I was constantly surrounded by it. I was eating little ice cream cups and using pure will power every chance I could to decide not to eat something. This must have been when all the morality around food started because even though I would decide to eat something that I knew was bad for me, like a piece of coffee cake, I would think about it for a long while after and beat myself up for being weak. Eventually, working in that kitchen felt like an alcoholic working in a liquor store... I dreaded going in and having to fight urges every day. Birthday parties for residents became a nightmare because the whole time I would be thinking about what would be left over and how many mini cupcakes I would eat. I was pretty skinny at this time and it was a joke between me and co workers about how much I would eat and not gain weight. I really liked the job and the people I worked with, but I hated how much I would think about food while I was there.
The food thoughts were starting to spill into my everyday life and binges started happening at home. They we're pretty "small" at this point compared to what they would eventually turn into, but would be something like eating a whole sleeve of ritz crackers with peanut butter and then feeling so full after that I would force myself to get up and walk around the neighborhood to feel better. I didn't know why I had this urge to eat until I was too full and it was just a cycle of eating until that point and then swearing to myself that I wouldn't do it again.
Looking back working in that kitchen was nothing like what was ahead for me... I would have done anything to go back to my mindset and small "binges" that started this whole mess.
Eventually, I started a new job in the kitchen of a local hospital because the pay was better. Here, the kitchen was bigger and had a lot more variety of food, and the food was way better than nursing home food surprisingly. The kitchen also stocked the food court at the hospital so the chefs were pretty good.
When I first started I thought I was "safe" from the food because I wasn't as comfortable as I was at my previous job and therefore didn't grab food whenever I wanted. Also, the rules about eating the food there were "stricter", or at least that's how it seemed at the time.
It didn't take long for me to get comfortable there and by the time I had been working there for a year or so, I was eating whatever I wanted while I was there which was all of the bad stuff. Whether I was actually buying it in the food court or stealing it from the stock room I soon became an every day occurrence that I was eating junk. And I hated myself for it and for not being able to have the will power to stop myself. My actions and thoughts around food became 20x worse than when I was working in the nursing home and I felt more out of control than ever.
And NO ONE knew. Everything was a huge secret. It was something I dealt with 100% on my own.
It was also during this time that I moved out of my parents’ house (which was very small and crowded) for the first time, into my grandparents’ house so I could have more space and privacy. I remember making a vow to myself that I would not binge in this house and that everything would be better living here because I would be buying my own food and wouldn't have as much junk around.
Well that backfired completely and the binging and food thoughts were soon again worse than ever. I found myself alone a lot and it was so easy to sneak food into my room without anyone seeing. I would bring home cookies and leftover pizza and fries from work and just binge in my room. I would steal my grandparent’s food and always wondered if they would notice things going missing, because they would never ask. I remember waking up for 6am morning shifts and feeling hungover from the night before... not because of alcohol but because of all the sugar and fat I'd eaten just a few hours prior.
It was hell for me and every day I would vow that I would do something different or change but the cycle continued.
I started dating my now boyfriend of 4 years at this time, and for a short while things got better because I was very cautious of what I would eat around him or even in the days before I knew we were going to hang out. The last thing I wanted was to be bloated and gross feeling when I was trying to impress him.
This was short lived again though since we got very comfortable very quick, and my habits crept back in. He still didn't know about my food issues until about two years into our relationship, and I don't think he really knew the extent of it until I started this program.
I felt so bad about how my eating disorder affected our relationship. I was miserable a lot of the time for what probably seemed to him like no good reason. I wouldn't want to be intimate or even have him touch me because of how bloated and full my stomach would feel. It made me feel that much worse about myself and I hated how unfair it was for him to have what only seemed like half of me.
I felt as though I would be a totally different person if it wasn't for my eating disorder.
I loved my life so much and felt so grateful for everyone and everything that I had but I felt like I could never fully enjoy it because I had this dark cloud of an eating disorder following me with every step I took.
Happy memories were often clouded by food thoughts and I felt like I couldn't be present with family or friends. Holidays were scary and turned into binge fests because of my all or nothing mentality. Working out became a chore because I was always so low on energy and motivation. I remember actually wishing that I was one of those people that would just exercise for hours after a binge to make myself feel better, but never had the motivation or will power to do it.
I tried to throw up many times after binges, all ending in failure and frustration that I couldn’t just “get rid of it all the easy way”.
So many nights were spent binging and telling myself never again. All of a sudden, I had been dealing with this for four years and I couldn't believe my life was "wasting away."
In 2015 I learned a hard lesson on how short life is. My best friend whom I had grown up with was tragically killed in a car accident. I knew that I had to do something about the way I was living my life because if I died tomorrow, I would have so many regrets about the time and energy I wasted on food and food thoughts.
My friend undoubtedly lived her life to the fullest and I wanted to be able to say I did and am doing the same. I wanted to be authentic and truly feel like the health and fitness fanatic my friends and family saw me as.
Throughout all this, I felt like such a fraud because I always talked about my passion for healthy living, yet I was struggling so deeply and no one knew.
I eventually told my doctor about my struggles and never followed through with the nutritionist and therapist she recommended meeting with. Instead, I decided to try some more on my own.
I spent a lot of time researching binge eating disorder and watching Youtube videos on other people’s experiences with it and how they overcame it. Nothing seemed to stop the binges though. Eventually I watched a video with a girl who talked about a book called "Brain Over Binge" and I ordered it right then and there. I read the book and couldn't believe how simple it all was. I couldn't believe how much sense it made and thought it was too good to be true. I thought this was my cure to it all and started just telling myself that they thoughts about food were not me but a part of my brain that just wanted me to survive even though I was doing "fine". After a while nothing was changing and I was left feeling even more stupid that I knew exactly why this was happening to me and I still couldn't just find the will power to not give into the thoughts. I struggled again for another two years on my own.
In these two years nothing changed besides the fact that I was really starting to feel some of the long term adverse effects from binging. In the earlier years of my disorder, I felt like I could bounce back from a binge in just a day or two and then move on for a while, or until the next binge.
More recently, I feel like it takes more than a week to feel normal again, if I could even make it through the week without binging. I was getting bloated and puffy a lot. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and if I didn’t eat something within 30 minutes or so, I would get extremely nauseous and even dry heave.
With a little research I learned the nausea was from my blood sugar skyrocketing from a binge the night before, and plummeting in the morning. I really thought I was in the beginning stages of type 2 diabetes.
I also was gaining weight which scared the absolute crap out of me. In the first two or even three years of my disorder, it somehow did not seem to affect my weight at all and when I noticed it was, it felt like it was too late and I had gained ten pounds overnight. I was also spending tons of money going to various doctors and getting various tests to figure out why I was so bloated all the time, whether I had binged recently or not. This is something I still struggle with today.
I found Lydia through her podcasts because I decided I wanted to start listening to podcasts and decided to search and see if there were any about eating disorders. I found Lydia's and was addicted because it talked about all the same concepts that made so much sense from the Brain Over Binge book. I quickly listened to all the podcasts and moved onto materials that she had on YouTube and Facebook.
One day while I was at work, I decided what was the worst that could happen, and signed up for the free break though session, NEVER intending to join a program at the end of it all. But that two hour session was exactly what I needed to push myself into the next step.
I has struggled for far too long on my own and knew that if I was ever going to get over this, I was going to have to do something different. I felt like the only thing I had not tried was asking others for help. Despite the incredible anxiety I had over the financial commitment and what my boyfriend would think, I took the plunge. And it was the best thing I ever did.
My story now is one that is changing and different. My thinking isn’t so black and white or all or nothing. I understand exactly why I have binge urges and that the choice is always mine.
I have the tools now to recognize patterns of thoughts that do not serve me and keep me in the cycle of binge eating.
I am allowing with my food and although my relationship with food is still not perfect or completely free, I’m doing things I always said would be impossible in the past.
I buy food that I exiled from my home because I “knew” I couldn’t have them without eating them all. I can go into a grocery store and get excited about all the options I have rather than fearing all of those options.
At work, I don’t fear parties where I’m going to be tempted to eat “bad” food or worry about getting out of control and eating more than a person my size should.
I always used to worry about what others think of the food I’m eating and if that’s what I really eat even though I’m “skinny”. I also no longer despise when someone brings in treats to share and can enjoy them without a worry of thinking about them for the rest of the day or until they’re gone.
I don’t have the urge to sneakily eat them all myself so I just don’t have to worry about them anymore. The other day one of my coworkers surprised with me with a few mini Reese’s cups and instead of instantly worrying about having the will power to not eat them all in one sitting, I used my practice and ended up easily enjoying them throughout the week.
The best part of that whole experience was having the cups in my desk drawer and not even thinking about them! There was no will power involved, if I felt like have one or two I did, and if I didn’t they were out of sight out of mind.
When going out to eat, I feel so much less guilty about my food choices and the anxiety about how much I’m going to eat has disappeared. Now, I can easily decide when I’m full and pack up the leftovers, whereas before it was always a struggle to stop eating (despite being uncomfortably full) and took a lot of will power to put the fork down for good. I also no longer feel the urge to heat up leftovers when I get home or later that night because I didn’t feel like I got the chance to eat how much I truly wanted when I was with company. Or simply because I wanted to binge on them.
There’s been a few instances of me forgetting I have stuff like mini ice cream cones in the freezer, and then being excited that I get to enjoy them again. Snacks that would have been gone in a matter of days can now last weeks or months because I don’t feel compelled to eat them all right then and there.
Again, some days are easier than others and some require more practice than others but it’s still so much better than it used to be.
After the first month of the program I don’t think I binged at all.
The binging had just turned into overeating which I had to constantly remind myself was still much better than binging.
Sometimes I still overeat to the point of being uncomfortable, and I know that every time something like that happens, that I just have more data to look back on. Those instances are actually valuable because I can look at what I did in the past that worked, and figure out what happened and what I can do to make the situation better next time.
My journey to freedom is still ongoing, and may be on going for quite some time. When I have thoughts about where I should be and how long this is taking, I can easily remind myself how far I’ve come. Also that time often heals all, and it may take more than just a few months to solidify these new patterns of though and behavior that I’m developing.
I have the tools to continue on the right path and I know that it’s 100% up to me to continue my practice and change my brain.
Sometimes I have doubts that I’ll ever reach 100% freedom or leave my disordered eating completely in the past, but I know that those thoughts don’t actually matter because if I keep doing my practice consistently and fully, then it will lead me to freedom no matter what.
I’m so grateful that I finally did something for myself and to get back to the person I know I am. To live a full and authentic life that I can be proud of. My freedom to me means my life, and I’m so happy to finally be taking it back.