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My Binge Eating Story

Mar 1, 2018 | Health & Fitness Lifestyle

No training and nutrition tips this week. In fact, this week is a pretty important week. If you didn’t know, it’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

This week has meaning to me because throughout my life I have dealt with disordered eating behaviors and binge eating disorder. I’m not here to laden you with facts and statistics but just to tell my own story. I apologize, it might be a long one but I will do my best to condense it.

My whole life I was pretty skinny. I was lucky in that I ate what I wanted (super sized fries and a McFlurry for dinner anyone?) and didn’t think twice about it and kept my small frame. Throughout my childhood and high school years I danced and spent a lot of time outside so I was pretty active.

2008: Dancing all the time and still trying to lose weight even though I am clearly very thin.

2008: Dancing all the time and still trying to lose weight even though I am clearly very thin.

 

When I graduated from high school (2008, so old now) and went on to further my education that was when things started to change. I went from dancing at a local studio to dancing a top pre-professional ballet school. These girls were on a whole different level and they had the bodies to show it. There is a difference between normal thin and ballet thin. I was now surrounded by girls with zero body fat on their limbs and I was forced to stare at myself in a leotard (very unforgiving) next to future prima ballerinas. It didn’t help that I had a boyfriend at the time that told me maybe I should lay off the ice cream for dessert every night.

At this point I decided I wanted to lose 5-10lbs (2.2-4.5kg) from my already thin frame. And so began the restricting. It was innocent at first, I just started to eat less sweets. However, I wasn’t losing weight so I started to cut out other things like dairy, fried foods, and anything that resembled a dessert, and even most meat. Now, you have to understand, I didn’t know shit about diet and nutrition back then. But despite my efforts I stayed the same and always ended up coming back around to my old eating habits.

This went on throughout my college years. I literally spend four years trying to lose that 5-10lbs. At the start I didn’t think too much of it but by my senior year the feelings of guilt, negativity, and an attachment of self worth to the way my body looked had crept in. I remember crying over a dessert because I felt like I didn’t deserve it. This is not healthy behavior. I thought, if I could just lose that weight I would be happier.

After I graduated I moved to Australia for a year. At this point I was no longer dancing so I turned my attention to long distance running. I thought if I ran a lot and ate as little as possible I would finally lose weight. I ran 5-12 miles (8-19 km) every day. By this point my list of off limit foods had grown. I had cut out all fried food, dairy, bread, white rice, anything remotely resembling dessert, even fruit because of sugar content (lol), and more stuff that I probably can’t remember. I was eating 1200-1400kcal during this time. I was exercising so much and eating so little that I often felt ill and would get migraines. It was toward the end of my year in Aus (late 2013) that the binging started.

My first distinct memory of binging was one night there were people over and we were playing Dungeons and Dragons. We decided to order a bunch of pizzas for dinner. That night I probably ate almost two whole pizzas to myself. I ate until I was in physical pain from the amount of food.

I moved back to the US for a year and things only got worse. This was when I was just starting to get into the gym and lifting weights. I discovered body building and the Bikini division. I wanted to look like those girls. ‘This is it!’ I thought, I will look like these girls and then I will be happy. Of course, that’s not what happened. You see I never lost that 5-10lbs that I wanted to lose from back in 2008. I hadn’t gained any weight but I wasn’t leaner. So my natural response to this was to restrict more. I was now down to 1000-1200kcal a day. But as my restricting got worse so did my mental state and the binging. I would cry and scream about how I didn’t look the way I wanted. I even cried quite a few times while I ate my tilapia and broccoli because of how miserable I was. My menu was now restricted to white fish, chicken breast, egg whites, and green veggies. That was it. A ‘treat’ to me was a Quest Bar.

 

2013/2014: What I looked like during the peak of my restrict/binge days. A little more muscle and still relatively thin but body composition wasn't great.

2013/2014: What I looked like during the peak of my restrict/binge days. A little more muscle and still relatively thin but body composition wasn’t great.

 

You can’t eat like that however without some sort of repercussion and that was binging. I tried to hide it and keep it under control but once I started it was nearly impossible to stop. I would eat a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s, as many pieces of candy as I could without drawing suspicion, cookies, spoonfuls of peanut butter, even fruit it one sitting. I would eat until I was ill or so uncomfortable that I could barely move. The worst part was the emotional toll. The overwhelming feelings of guilt, disgust, and worthlessness because I had failed. I kept telling myself I just needed more self control.

The other worst part. This wasn’t even my all time low. To counteract the binging, I restricted even more to 800-900kcal a day and even had days where I ate 500kcal. If I finished the day at 500kcal, I thought it was a good food day and felt like I had achieved something. However, I was utterly miserable. My relationship with food and my body was shattered by chasing the perfect physique. My all time low was when I did my one and only purge. I sat there on the bathroom floor thinking, self, you are heading down a very dangerous road, is this really what you want to do. The answer was a hard no. I vowed that I would never purge again, and I didn’t.

At this point I had other stressors going on which compounded the situation. I was in a job I hated and I was getting ready to move back to Australia and leave my family permanently. Things started to turn around though. I quit that job and started to educate myself a bit more about diet and physique competitions. It was around this time (early 2014) that I discovered flexible dieting and macro tracking. I learned that is was possible to eat foods you enjoy and maintain a fit physique. From there I got better. I started eating more, threw out my list of off limits foods, and eventually saw a psychologist. One of the most important things I learned in therapy was not placing so much of my value and self worth in how I looked. This is what allowed me to break free of the eating disorder mindset and finally train for fun and strength and eat for enjoyment and fuel.

 

2016: A couple of years into flexible dieting and eating more, probably around 1700kcal here. Finally put on a little muscle!

2016: A couple of years into flexible dieting and eating more, probably around 1700kcal here. Finally put on a little muscle!

 

There were obviously bumps along the way but now 4 years later and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been mentally. I have a healthy relationship with food and my body. It’s taken me years to get to this point and more than one psychologist. Of course I still have days that aren’t great but I haven’t even had anywhere close the urge to binge for about three years.

 

2018: Four years of flexible dieting, three and a half no binging. Some serious body composition changes.

2018: Four years of flexible dieting, three and a half no binging. Some serious body composition changes.

 

If you’ve made it this far. Thank you for reading. If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, or even disordered eating behaviors and thought patterns, don’t stay silent and know that you are not alone. Tell someone. I was not open about what I was going through and in the long run it did more damage (hello thyroid problems). If you feel you don’t have any friends or family members to reach out to there are a lot of communities online and even through social media that can offer support.

Eating disorders do not discriminate. They can affect any race, gender, age, etc. Eating disorders often wear many faces as well. Just because someone doesn’t look like they have an eating disorder does not mean they are not struggling. My goal with this post is to encourage others to not stay quiet. If we can be open and honest about what we are going through, we can help and support each other.

“If we knew each other’s secrets, what comfort we would find” – John Churton Collins

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