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How My Family Contributed to My Binge Eating Disorder

Candy Wrappers - Binge Eating Blog Post

Before this story begins, I want to tell you the end: I’m healthy now. I don’t define myself by what I eat or how much of it I eat. The food thoughts aren’t always on repeat. When I look in the mirror, I’m happy with the person staring back at me...even if I’m not 100% satisfied every single day with the body I live in. That’s normal. And I’m OK with it.

But I used to think about myself the way other people used to talk about me.

The Way You Speak to Children Becomes the Voice in Their Heads

When I was young—way too young, to be honest—my family would always comment on my weight. We would go visit grandparents or aunts and uncles for the holidays, and I always knew how I’d be greeted when we walked in the door: no, not with “so good to see yous” or “I’ve missed yous”. Instead I’d hear “Better lay off the cookies, dear,” and “Don’t let her into the kitchen or we won’t have anything left for dinner” or “Wow, you have lost weight, you look great.”

Sometimes I’d say to myself, “It’s just teasing. That’s just their way of showing they care. Teasing means love.” I said it. So did they. But I didn’t believe it, even though I wanted to. After hearing it every time I walked through the door for years, I realized that teasing isn’t love. It just hurts. But they were the only family I had, so if I wanted less teasing and more love, maybe I had to do something about it.

I Tried to Be What They Wanted Me to Be...But I Couldn’t

Around middle school is when I started dieting with my friends. Low-fat here, juice cleanse there, you name it I’ve probably tried it. This began the yo-yo of my life.

No matter the diet, I didn’t last long on any of them. Each time I would start a new diet, I felt great. It was empowering to be able to stick to the diets. But after few days (I didn’t last beyond a week on almost any regime) I’d be starving and grumpy and looking for some chips or something sweet to fulfill my cravings. My emotional well-being was tied directly to my blood sugar level and the number on the scale, and I had no idea how to stop.

Binge eating. That was the name for what I was doing. If I knew it, I didn’t want to know it. People “binge” all the time, right? Netflix, “cheat days” for those impossibly fit people who make all those YouTube videos, every holiday in the US, ever...it’s all binging, right? Except most people know when to stop. I didn’t. I couldn’t. One night after a particularly hard day while on a “diet,” I caved. Out came the chips, then the Ben and Jerry’s, and next thing I knew I had eaten half my kitchen. That’s when I realized that I was finally tired of living in a prison that I created for myself.

It Was Time to Be the Me that I Wanted to Be, that I Was Meant to Be

I had spent so long trying to fit what “they” expected of me. When I couldn’t, I’d look for comfort in food, which meant that eventually I didn’t fit much anything at all. That made me feel guilty, so I’d try, fail, and eat. I needed out of my self-destructive cycle.

Treatment wasn’t easy—how could it be? I tried for so long and failed so many times on my own. Treatment is about having the support and help you need to get through the hardest time so I could be me again.

And because I learned how to get out of the hardest situation I’ve ever found myself in, it wasn’t so hard anymore. I learned about myself and more about my eating disorder that I didn’t know before. I learned how to really feel my emotions—and allow myself to feel them—and how to further my spirituality. I learned how to treat my body with respect and how to nourish it. I learned how to assert myself in an appropriate way. These are all things I took with me to make me a better me.

Learning to Cope Differently

I look back on who I used to be like an old friend—I see the old me as someone I still care about but no longer really know. Her problems aren’t my problems anymore. Her way of dealing with challenges aren’t mine. I have compassion and empathy for her and for people like her...but that’s just not who I am now.

I use the skills I gained in treatment to help me through tough spots. I journal daily and meditate to help myself stay calm internally. I don’t think about food or weight the majority of the day anymore and can devote that time to something else like getting connecting with a friend, taking my dog to the dog park or working on a creative project that serves my passion. I lead a richer life than before. I don’t feel or live in the guilt and shame I used to feel and that is the best thing, I can feel whole again.

I escaped from the prison I once lived in and don’t ever want to go back...and I don’t ever need to go back. I am free from my eating disorder.

 

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