Real Story: TV, Nachos and Secrecy

Thanks to Erica, 21, who’s sharing her very honest, inspiring Real Story today. She’s proof that you can get better! xo…Sunny

I cringe when thinking back to the summer of 2007, right after my freshman year of college.Many nights I’d lie awake in bed watching Nick @ Nite until four in the morning while my parents were fast asleep.  On the surface, I was relaxed and calm.  But suddenly, I would feel a mental tug and hear an inner voice telling me I wanted something.  I needed something.  Like an insect drawn to bright light, I’d carefully turn my doorknob, tiptoe past my parents’ bedroom, and slowly creep down the seven stairs (stepping in the crevices where the creaks aren’t as loud) and into the kitchen.

I’d start by eating a cinnamon raisin bagel—one side cream cheese, the other side peanut butter.  This would leave me full, but not fulfilled.  Next, I’d scour the cabinets for something chocolatey.  Ah-hah—M&Ms!  I’d eat at least 50.  But then I’d need something salty, so I would melt shredded cheddar onto a checkerboard-sized platter of tortilla chips.  Crap, I remember thinking. Now I’ve really blown it.  So much for toning up this summer. So I’d proceed to preheat the oven and pop in a family-sized frozen pizza, and while waiting for it to cook have some more M&Ms standing in front of the kitchen television.  I recall one time, in the midst of my trance-like binge, a Victoria’s Secret commercial came on featuring supermodel Adriana Lima and I scoffed out loud, “You bitch.”

I began overeating during my junior year of high school, but since I’ve always exercised regularly and have stayed fairly slim, I was able to keep my secret life safely hidden from everyone other than my parents, best friends, and uh, golden retriever. The height of my bingeing was during my freshman year of college and the summer thereafter.  I was adjusting to college life, beginning my first real relationship, butting heads with my roommate, coping with my Mom having lung cancer (which, thankfully, she is now fully recovered from), and grieving when my boyfriend left me without a trace and with absolutely no closure whatsoever; these things definitely took their toll on me.  By mid-summer I knew I had more than just an average case of occasional overeating; I Googled “eating disorders” online until I found a description of binge eating disorder—I knew instantly that this is what I was suffering from.

I immediately told my parents, who were nothing but loving and supportive, and a couple of weeks later I began therapy.  The most helpful thing that my therapist taught me was how to be mindful.  I learned how to really tune in to what was going on in my head before, during, and after a binge. This in turn led me to thinking about how I could actually tackle the issues that were stressing me out head-on instead of turning to food to cheer me up (because it rarely did for more than five minutes).  Along with therapy, I read books on BED and self-help books in general to keep me inspired.  (Two of my favorites are Overcoming Binge Eating by Chris Fairburn and Secrets about Life Every Woman Should Know by Barbara DeAngelis.)

By the beginning of my junior year in college, I began to notice that my binges were becoming smaller and smaller—my stomach could no longer tolerate all that food being shoved into my system.  They were also much less frequent, going from three to four times a week to three to four times a month.  Now, my binges (microscopic in comparison to what they were) occur about once or twice a month.

I believe I’m at the point in my recovery where I can focus not only on not bingeing, but also on eating as healthily as possible.  (I’m working on getting those 8-10 servings of fruits and veggies in each day!)  But the most important thing for me is to stay away from that all-or-nothing, black and white thinking; if I have a big slice of cake, that doesn’t mean I’m “bad” and that I should say “screw it” and eat everything else in sight. Whether I have a small indulgence or an outright binge, my main goal is to stop feeling sad and guilty about it and to get right back on track.  And with the new year here, I’m ready to check this off my mental list of healthy accomplishments. —Erica, 21

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13 Responses to Real Story: TV, Nachos and Secrecy

  1. Sunny says:

    Wow–I love this Real Story. Erica is a lovely writer, and her story is so relatable! Inspiring, no? xo…Sunny

  2. m says:

    Waaaw, I admit, I envy Erica :) I wish I could do the same some day.. And I agree with you Sunny!

  3. Tamara says:

    You know, I used to eat that much during binges too, but reading the list it’s astonishing! How on earth did we fit half a pizza into our stomachs, much less a pizaa + nachos + chocolate + anything in sight?

  4. Brittney says:

    This was amazing. Thank you for sharing, it rings true to my own, and I can only imagine, so many others’ stories.

  5. Katie says:

    Wonderful, Erica! Thank you so much for sharing. I especially appreciate your comment about the “black and white thinking.” I second the Fairburn book recommendation.

  6. [...] But I won’t lie to myself. It has a lot of power. Check out Erica’s story. [...]

  7. jaobrien1 says:

    Only after reading this real story did I realize that there are other people out there dealing with the same problem as me! As a a former “health nut” and skinny person I have felt ashamed about the weight I have gained from binge eating and I have been to embarrassed to admit to anyone my uncontrollable eating and addiction to food! Binge eating for an entire year has negatively impacted all aspects of my life including my health and happiness. Today was the first day that I read anything about “binge eating disorder” and I realized that it will be okay to reach out for help. I want to change and overcome this so badly, so I took the first step and admitted my problem to my mom. Thank you so much for your relatable story this was the sincere voice that I needed to hear!

  8. Brandy says:

    Erica, this was very well written and mimics my own story. As a married mom of two, I tend to binge on those darn kids’ snacks- Goldfish, pudding cups, crackers. And if there is ice cream in the house? Forget about it, that sucker is mine and no one else will get any. :( I also have “all or nothing” thinking.
    I’m glad to say I am better than I have been, and with Weight Watchers I am trying to make a lifestyle change. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. Jessie says:

    I try to remember to praise myself for little successes (mostly because of this website!), but I still struggle with “all or nothing” thinking too. Some days anything sweet or salty or crunchy will trigger a binge. “Are you really hungry? What is actually going on?” I ask myself, but sometimes I still give in to the binge. Your story reminded me that I AM doing better. After a pretty out of control day yesterday I have been struggling, but I have also decreased my binges from almost daily to just a few times a month. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder that I AM in control.

  10. [...] consider myself to be pretty deep in the recovery stage from binge eating disorder.  (Check out my history—I wrote a “Real Story” for the site several months ago.) It’s been one heck of a [...]

  11. [...] reader and contributor Erica is back today with a guest post about finding herself in a bit of a tougher spot than usual with [...]

  12. Grace says:

    This was such an awesome and inspiring story to read!! Today is the first day I’ve ever really looked into anything about binge, and when my Seventeen magazine came in the mail i saw an article on this, with this website at the bottom, and immediately went there. I feel that I’ve been a binge eater for about a year, and I have never really before looked into or admitted it until now. Some weeks are worse than others, but I know its something I’m going to need to control eventually because I see it taking a toll on my health, mood, and body. I keep contradicting whether or not I even have this problem, but I’m pretty sure I do and thats just my mind trying to talk myself out of it. Anyway, thanks so much Erica for this story, it really helped me and gave me confidence that I can change this!!

  13. [...] binge eating disorder for the new April issue (on stands now)! I was interviewed for it, as was Erica, a HealthyGirl.org reader and guest blogger who I interviewed for my book. With so many girls [...]

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