Binge eating disorder (BED) is a topic that’s rarely talked about. Not only that, but there are so many myths and so much stigma attached to this serious disorder.
That’s why I’m thrilled to present today’s interview with Sunny Sea Gold. Sunny is the author of the recently published (just yesterday!) book Food: The Good Girl’s Drug: How to Stop Using Food to Control Your Feelings. She’s not only written a fantastic book, but she also shatters the stigma surrounding BED.
The book is half memoir, half self help. In it, Sunny shares her struggles with and recovery from binge eating disorder. Plus, she busts a lot of pervasive myths, provides accurate info about BED and offers a variety of tools for recovery.
She also features interviews with other women who’ve struggled with BED and experts who provide insight into the disorder.
I’ve read the book and highly recommend it. (Check out my review of it here.) It’s powerful, accurate, well-written, incredibly relatable and inspiring.
Sunny also writes the blog Healthy Girl, which has become an entire website with resources on disordered eating and body image; and serves as deputy editor at Redbook magazine.
In part one of our interview, Sunny talks about BED myths, what helped her recover, the toughest thing about writing Food: The Good Girl’s Drug and more!
Q: Unfortunately, binge eating disorder (BED) is so highly misunderstood. What are some of the most egregious myths out there that you’d like to clear up?
A: Great question, Margarita. One myth is that you must be overweight or obese to have it. Certainly many binge eaters put on weight because of the extra calories they take in—and studies show that 25 to 40 percent of people who present for weight loss surgery meet the guidelines for binge eating disorder.
But restricting and dieting is also a big part of the disorder for many people, so your weight may be completely “normal” even if your behavior with food is not. My weight stayed quite normal for many years.
No one, including a doctor, can tell that you have eating issues just by looking at you. It’s not about weight, it’s about your behavior with food.
Another totally horrible thing I heard recently was from one of the young women who reads my web site, HealthyGirl.org. After she opened up to a guy friend of hers and told him she thought she might have BED, he said it didn’t exist and that it was just an excuse that “fat people made for being overweight.”
Obviously, this kid was just speaking out of pure teenage ignorance—but the sad thing is, the weight bias and ignorance he’s spewing is something even adults espouse sometimes.
Q: In the beginning of your book, you talk about how you avoided going out because you said that you’d “get so wrapped up in my insecurities that I felt deathly afraid of being around people.” I think so many people struggle with similar insecurities and do miss out on meaningful events or just relaxing and having fun. How did you finally overcome this?
A: It was interesting, because on the outside I seemed very outgoing. None of my friends would’ve known that I had those fears or feelings. They just thought I was a flake, and knew that sometimes I’d cancel plans for no reason.
Getting over that social anxiety was all a part of recovering from the eating disorder and the bad body image for me. When I started truly feeling better about myself—who I was, completely separate from how I looked—it got easier.
And when you’re not binge eating, you have less desire and fewer reasons to isolate yourself. You don’t wake up bloated and sick, you don’t feel so depressed.
Q: What treatments and tools helped you recover from BED?
A: I always say that the trifecta of my recovery was self-help books, therapy, and support groups. Each of them were so important in their own way. And that’s why I have a whole section devoted to each one on my web site. I want to help other people find the right tools, too!
Gentle exercise and meditation became important for me, as well—those became tools I used to manage my emotions and stresses instead of food. Ongoing skills I could use for the rest of my life.
Q: Your book is incredibly honest, sincere, and at times, heartbreaking. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
A: Re-living the difficult scenes of my life. Because I’m recovered now, and have dealt with the underlying emotions around my upbringing, and around different traumatic experiences, I don’t think about those things very often any more.
But in writing them down, I had to delve in again. It brought me to tears more than once, but that was also a good thing!
I think crying is very healthy and cleansing. And feeling the emotions helped me put myself back in the place that some of the readers might be right now.
A huge thank-you to Sunny for her thoughtful responses! Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of our interview!
What about Sunny’s interview resonated with you? What do you think are common myths about binge eating disorder? What has helped you recover from BED?