I was enslaved by Bulimia and a Binge Eating Disorder for 20 years. Today, I am free. I’m no longer a prisoner to self obsession, self-hate, shame and depression. My life is no longer unmanageable. I am well. I have inner peace. I am happy. But the journey wasn’t a straight line and it never ends.
Alone in a dark room, surrounded by wrappers and packages and cartons of all kinds of food, the only light in the room came from the television. Thinking out loud, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop eating? I’ll just throw up and it won’t matter. I’ll start the new diet tomorrow. I won’t throw up again. Tonight is the last time…..’ On the phone: “I’m sorry, I am not feeling well and can’t go to the concert with you tonight.” (subtext: I look disgusting. Two months ago, when you all saw me, I was gorgeous and 40 pounds lighter. My face is swollen and I’m too fat/too tired/too foggy/too unattractive/too….and everyone will notice how much weight I’ve gained. They’ll all be looking at me being disgusted). “I’ll see you all later.”
Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia, Food Addiction, Eating Addiction, Compulsive Eating, Emotional Eating. All the diagnoses and labels speak to the same disease -- an Eating Disorder. Never did a doctor identify my acute health crises as an eating disorder, even though it pushed me to the brink of death several times. And I never told them those threatening health crises were the consequence of laxative abuse, vomiting, starvation and binging. Because I did not know.
In this culture it seems it is up to the afflicted to diagnose themselves, unless they are seeing an informed provider or a loving friend suggests what the problem could be. That being said, had I known, I still would have been deceptive about my relationship with food and obsession with my physical appearance. I was bereft of spirituality, mental well-being and integrity. I could not admit to anyone, much less myself, that I had no control over my perverse behavior with food. I was obsessed with wanting to be thin. But even when I achieved being thin, I saw my body as fat. When I had excess weight on my body, I saw myself as thin. It was the only way I could get to work.
Many wonder what the difference is between poor food habits and an addiction. Addiction can be part of your ancestry. Or it can be part of your chemical makeup. In someone with an eating disorder, pleasure centers in the brain light up and get stuck when something tastes good. The addict anticipates the first bite with lustful excitement and seeks (unconsciously) what I refer to as, negative stasis. Numbness. The food addict will go to all extremes, risking their precious lives trying any gimmick to be thin. To be accepted. To be loved.
Getting well with a binge eating disorder and/or bulimia is one of the most difficult of addictions to manage. Enticement is everywhere. Managing a food addiction requires a good nutrition-based plan for eating. Some practitioners promote eating smaller meals 5-6 times a day. This is a sentence to think about preparing and consuming food ALL day long. This approach is based on the theory of keeping metabolism functioning on high and blood sugar regulated. I believe true management is based on 3 meals a day -- at no less than 4 hours between and no more than 5 hours apart. Meals should be well-portioned and well-balanced. Flexibility can be applied as food addicts need to reduce their attachment to food as exciting and as solace.
Building a strong support team is crucial to success. This is created through groups such as Overeaters Anonymous and Anorexics Bulimics Anonymous. ABA. (as well as podcasts of their speakers/online meetings/phone meetings), psychotherapy with a specialist and group therapy with others recovering with the disease of addiction.
As with any other addiction, the way out is through. There are many underlying issues that pulse through an eating disorder. It is imperative for an approach that heals the past pain and handles current challenges. There is a high rate of childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse in the eating disorder population. However, eating disorders can develop anytime along the trajectory of the decades of one’s life.
Many of us are dedicated to helping awaken those suffering to the source of their uncontrolled behavior as the illness that it is. It is up to the afflicted to acknowledge that they have a disease and to learn a new way of living through recovery management. No one else but the person with the addiction can assume the responsibility of getting well. The afflicted are not responsible for being sick. But they are responsible for doing what it takes to arrest the addiction through proven approaches and practices.
Courage is needed to change. Change can occur following the acceptance of being defeated by the disease of addiction. Change takes courage, commitment, continuity.