I regularly feature Q&As with individuals who’ve recovered from eating disorders, binge eating, negative body image and any kind of disordered eating. If you’d like to share your story of recovery, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at [email protected].
Here’s part two of my interview with love2eatinpa, who writes the must-read blog Confessions of a Recovering Compulsive Eater. Below, she shares what led to her recovery from compulsive eating, how she marks the milestones, her current perspective on food, how she opened up to her daughter about her eating disorder and much more.
If you haven’t read it yet, check out part one here.
By the way, you can read other stories of recovery here.
What led to your recovery?
I think finally really talking about and analyzing what happened in my childhood that led me to look at food as the comfort and nurturing I was missing made a big difference. My current therapist also really opened my eyes to how I was kind of missing life because of my preoccupation with food. I also started taking an estrogen supplement in mid March and I think that has affected me in a positive way as well as I think I was hormonally imbalanced for the past few years.
Another thing that was huge was just changing my mindset in general. Through my therapist I learned that if I frame foods as being “forbidden” then I’m already setting myself up for failure. If I just look at it as plain old food, not something that has magical powers over me, then it really makes a difference. It took some time to adapt that mindset, but it really works. I also realized that some of the things I did regarding food were actually things that “normal” eaters did, as opposed to my looking at it as being part of my disease. That made me feel better too.
Another thing that has helped in my recovery is the binge-free bracelet that I wear. My first therapist asked how I was marking my daily/weekly achievements of not bingeing, and through some brainstorming, we came up with the idea of a bracelet. I bought the materials at a craft store and have been wearing / adding beads to this bracelet for each day, week, month, year (accordingly) that I have been binge-free, and it has become a badge of honor for me. I am currently 27 months binge-free and I really don’t want to break that streak.
What have been the toughest parts about overcoming compulsive overeating and how do you get through them?
The toughest part I guess was really looking at my food obsession in the big picture and not framing foods as forbidden. I had to learn to trust my self and my body, and gain some self confidence that has been missing in my life for too long. Attaining those things gave me the courage to take the giant leap of faith to do Intuitive Eating, dropping all the weighing/measuring of food, calorie counting and weighing myself daily, and just trusting in myself. It has been quite empowering and freeing. And, in all honesty, dropping all of those controlling habits was easier than I expected.
I’m sure many tests still lay ahead of me, like going to a dessert buffet, but if I stay in the great place in my head where I am right now, and know that I can have some dessert without going crazy and having no regrets, make people the focus of events, not food, then I will really know that the eating disorder is behind me.
What insights have you taken away from your struggles and recovery?
The insight I have gained is that food does not have magical powers. I am in control of the food. It is my choice as to whether or not I eat it. I do not need to eat as a reward for a good day or as a pick-me-up for a bad day. I do not need food to celebrate things. Food is just fuel for my body. Yes, it can taste very good and I should enjoy it when it is very good, but food is not the be-all-end-all that it used to be for me. I have learned that at events, people are more important than the food, that that is where I should put my focus and attention. I am learning that I need to “eat to live” instead of what I’ve been doing all these years, which was “living to eat.”
You wrote a powerful letter to your daughter revealing your eating disorder. How do you suggest parents who’ve struggled with similar issues approach this topic with their kids?
Thank you! I have learned through MamaV at “We are the Real Deal” that kids are more perceptive than we think. I would suggest to other parents to be open and honest with their children about their eating disorders. Your children may not know exactly what is going on, but they definitely see you are doing something regarding food and it is better to be up front with them instead of allowing them to make up in their heads what they think you are doing. Though my 10-yr old daughter probably doesn’t really understand a lot of what I told her in the letter, I feel like I have opened the door to further conversations about this topic. I want her to know that she can come to me if she or her friends experience anything like this and that hopefully I will be able to help.
What can families do to help a loved one who’s struggling with compulsive overeating?
They can help by offering support. Though I firmly feel that a “normal” eater can never truly understand what it’s like to be eating disordered, they can still support your efforts by listening when you need to talk about it, by not bringing trigger foods into the house, by helping you at outings and by not saying mean, teasing things about your weight. Basically following your lead as only you can tell them what kind of support you need.
What resources (books, websites) do you recommend for individuals struggling with an eating disorder?
Some really great books I’ve read are:
1. “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
2. “Wasted, a Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia” by Marya Hornbacher
3. “Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating” by Geneen Roth
4. “Stop Overeating Today” by Camille McConnell
5. “Goodbye ed, Hello Me” by Jenni Schaefer
6. “Eating in the Light of the Moon” by Anita Johnston
I think anyone who blogs about their eating disorder is a great help; there are too many blogs to list.
OA and their literature is also a great resource.
Anything else you’d like readers to know about your story or compulsive overeating in general?
That it really is a sickness, a disease; it’s not a matter of not having willpower. We cannot just stop overeating without proper help. Unlike an addiction to drugs or alcohol, I think eating disorders are harder to overcome because one must have food in order to live.
Also, most eating disorders come from childhood issues so I feel it’s important to find a good therapist so you can work through those problems. I think it is only then that true recovery can begin and take hold.
An enormous thank-you to love2eatinpa for her insight! I’m honored that she wanted to share her story on Weightless. Be sure to check out her inspiring blog.
Do you struggle with compulsive eating? Are you working on your recovery? What resources do you recommend?
P.S. Caitlin O’Meara, a media student at Mount Lawley Senior High school, is putting together a short documentary on eating disorders — how they affect the lives of the individual and their family. She’s looking for someone who’d be willing to share their story on camera and who lives in Australia. If you’re interested or know someone who might be interested, please email Caitlin: Caitlin.O’[email protected]