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].
I first discovered the blog Confessions of a Recovering Compulsive Eater when I came across the powerful post “Letter to My Daughter: Mom Has An Eating Disorder” — and featured it as one of 20 inspiring body image posts on Weightless.
Since then, I’ve become a big fan of the blog and blogger, who goes by the name “love2eatinpa,” and who I greatly admire. In addition to her personal blog, she also contributes to the fantastic body image blog We Are the Real Deal. Above is her gravatar, which, to me, symbolizes her recovery and the idea of joyful eating, of enjoying all foods, including chocolate.
I’m thrilled to present an interview with love2eatinpa about her struggles and recovery from compulsive eating. Like all the posts on her blog, the below interview is honest, thoughtful, inspiring and insightful.
Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to blog about your struggles.
I’m a 42-yr old mother of two, happily married for 12-1/2 years. I grew up (and OK, I guess I still am) a tomboy. I think my interest in playing sports and working out has been a tremendous help throughout my entire life, not only as a stress-reliever, but to help keep my years of out-of-control eating from making my body unhealthier and heavier than it could have been.
I started blogging in October of 2009. When I realized I had an eating disorder in late 2007, I found that when I was around other people who also had the eating disorder (or people who are just great listeners!), I felt like I could talk about my food issues for hours and hours. I have been a freelance writer for years, so when I heard about blogging (long after it was popular of course; seems I’m a bit slow!), it seemed like a natural fit as a therapeutic outlet for me. I quickly learned that the blogging community is an excellent form of therapy and support.
My blog is written anonymously because I am not ready to “come out” about my eating disorder to all of my family, friends and blogosphere about who I really am. I don’t know if I still feel some shame about this weakness or disease, but perhaps one day I will reveal myself to all. At this point, only my husband, daughter and some close friends know about my eating disorder.
How and when did your compulsive overeating start?
My compulsive overeating / bingeing began when I was about eight or nine years old. I loved sweets and would eat a lot of them when given the opportunity. As a latch-key kid, I was often home alone and would walk around the corner to the supermarket to buy bags of junk food, then bring them home and consume them in one sitting. I would then hide the finished bags of candy/cookies/cake/ice cream in the supermarket bags and then bury them in our trash can so no one could find them.
What do you think contributed to it?
After being in and out of therapy for the past two years I learned that a few things contributed to my eating disorder. First is that my mother was not, and is still not, a very nurturing person. I know she loved me, but she apparently didn’t give/show me love in the way that I needed it when I was a child.
I turned to food for comfort and nurturing. In hindsight, she was not a role model; never presented herself as someone I could talk to or be close with. I grew up very independently, not close to anyone in my family. In addition, it was my job to unload the grocery bags when she came home from shopping every Friday night. I would always unpack some goodies, like double stuff Oreos, for instance, and then when I would go to eat them that night or the following day, they weren’t in the snack drawer. My mother hid them from me because she knew I would eat more than my share, and not leave enough for the rest of the family to enjoy. I would truly scour the house looking for them but could never find them. I learned through therapy that my mom was giving me a message – you cannot be trusted with food.
Lastly, when I became a teen and was getting a little bit chubby, my father would tease me about the size of my rear end. This went on for years. I know he thought he was being funny, but I never had the guts to stand up to him and tell him that he was hurting my feelings. To be honest, I don’t think it would have mattered anyway. He is not someone who could ever recognize that what he says can hurt someone, and he thinks he doesn’t say or do anything wrong still to this day. He’s a real character.
What motivated you to seek treatment?
Well, for 30+ years, I thought I just had a sweet tooth, someone who filled their face with junk when given the opportunity. One night in December of 2007, the words “compulsive overeating” popped into my head. I got on my laptop and started Googling. I eventually ended up at the Overeaters Anonymous website where I found a series of questions which basically asked – are you one of us? I answered “yes” to most of the questions. This was both terrifying and wonderful at the same time.
As an A-type personality, I was happy to finally have a name or a little compartment to put these food issues of mine in. It was also oddly comforting that if there was a website and a whole organization for people who ate like I did, thought about food like I did, found crazy ways to eat food like I did, then I must not be the only one. On the other hand it was terrifying and shameful. I had a disease, an addiction, a sickness. I was like an alcoholic or drug addict, but my weakness was with food.
Well, if I was sick with a disease, I knew that I had to do everything in my power to get rid of it. I hated living the life of a compulsive overeater. I would stuff with my face with food like there was no tomorrow and then feel sick physically and disgusted with myself mentally afterwards. I would always vow to start being “good” the next day. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes I wasn’t.
So I was determined to get treatment so I could stop living this unhealthy life and began the next day binge-free.
How did you go about seeking services?
The first thing I did was write a very long letter to my husband explaining what I had learned about myself while Googling that night. I told him my crazy food consumption secrets and all of the wild things I had going on in my head about my obsession with food. This was a huge catharsis to get all of these secrets off my chest. I did A LOT of crying. In fact, I cried off and on for days. I had no idea that I had so many feelings about this buried so deep inside, which overflowed out of my body in the tears.
The next thing I did was go to several OA meetings. They say you should go to six to find the one that is most comfortable for you. I think I found my “home” meeting on my fourth try. The people at these meetings come in all shapes and sizes. I realized that you often cannot tell from the outside what people’s vices are. At this point in time, you cannot tell by looking at me that I’m a recovering compulsive overeater. (Of course back when my weight was yo-yoing, one might think that I had a problem with eating too much food.) I realized that there are probably moms and dads I see at school who rely on drugs, alcohol (or food) to get them through their day.
I found comfort in knowing that there were other people at these meetings who obsessed over food like I did. Some people had ruined their lives, both their bodies and relationships, because of their food addictions. Fortunately, I had not ruined any relationships, but over the years I had taken my body on a roller coaster of weight between 105 – 172 pounds at my highest. I am only 5’3”. I went to a weekly meeting for about a year.
The last thing I did was seek a therapist. I found a wonderful woman who I went to for about four months. My goal was to discover why I had the eating disorder, where it came from. She helped me to learn that the eating disorder came from the things I mentioned above about my childhood.
A year and a few months went by. I remained binge-free, but was still struggling. I tried hypnotherapy which worked only for about two weeks. I soon realized it was time again for me to see a therapist. I asked a friend in the medical field if he could help me find a therapist who specialized in compulsive disorders, especially eating disorders. He found for me a licensed Ph.D. who not only specialized in compulsive behaviors, but was a recovered compulsive overeater himself. Jackpot!
I started seeing him in the summer of 2009 and had my last appointment, although the door is still open, at the beginning of April. He opened my eyes to so many new awarenesses. He showed me how being so obsessed with food was making all the other parts of my life smaller. We went more in-depth about my childhood, as well as talked about how I perpetuated those childhood-learned behaviors through my life in other relationships. He helped me to see what I was missing out there in the world because I was so preoccupied with food.
Lastly, I started reading books recommended by fellow sufferers I met via my blog. They have been a huge help too. I really feel like knowledge is power and you never know what words are going to really resonate and help you.
Thanks so much, love2eatinpa, for sharing your story! Again, stay tuned tomorrow for part two of our interview, where love2eatinpa talks about her recovery, what she’s learned, the resources she recommends and much, much more.
Do you struggle with compulsive eating? How did you find help?