Research shows that people who experience trauma during childhood such as physical, sexual or verbal abuse are more likely to grow up to have eating disorders and/or addictive behaviors. Big hugs to Anna, 27, who’s sharing her Real Story of recovery with us today! xo…Sunny
In high school I didn’t have a boyfriend; I had food. While my girlfriends were out finding their first loves, I was at home with all of mine—chips, ice cream, cookies, popcorn, and bread spread thick with butter. Sometimes my relationship with food was pure bliss filled with things to love, like how delicious it was, how it made me feel better, kept boredom away, and satisfied me. But, the good times would never last.
Eating at home alone always started off as salty, sweet bliss. The comfort I found in a giant, bowl of Cookies’n’Cream and a bag of potato chips almost can’t be described in words—almost. The first few cold, creamy bites paired with a salty, crunchy fistful of chips would make my eyes roll back in my head a little. That’s how good it felt.
But, the buzz of yum wouldn’t stick around for long. Before I knew it, I’d be elbows deep in the gallon trying to breathe between huge bites and hurriedly planning what I was going to eat next, and then after that, and then even after that. Post-binge I would leave the significantly depleted kitchen rubbing my aching jaw and my ready-to-burst stomach. I’d get in bed, under the covers and swear that was the last time I would ever eat that way. And I meant it with all of my heart, until the next morning when the call of the food was louder than any decision to stop. Again, after a day full of food I would head to sleep in so much pain.
The truth is that for as much pain as the bingeing was causing, it was also numbing me to pain I had no idea how to deal with. When I was five I was sexually abused. Episodes of abuse continued until I was nine years old. Those awful experiences left me full of secrets, shame, and emotions I was too young to make any sense of. Eating the way I did kept the secrets I carried stuffed under huge amounts of food. It also kept my body safe under a layer of fat that I was certain rendered me completely gross and unattractive to boys.
I never really told anyone what had happened. I was sworn to secrecy at such a young age that it stuck, and I also thought maybe the abuse was something I caused or invited, so I kept it all to myself. Without guidance or support, the effects of the abuse were mine to carry alone, and it was exhausting. When I was 17, I started to crack under the pressure of it all. Anxiety attacks led me to therapy, and therapy got me to open up just enough to let in some healing. For the first time in my life I told someone about how I was eating and with a bit of investigation, we began to link the food to my past.
I wish I had pages of space to tell you everything about the years that followed, but just know this: with the help of therapy and support groups I’ve gone from a sad girl filled with self-hatred to a woman who has so much kind, compassionate love for the struggling girl she used to be. I can say now (without pride or boastfulness) that I love myself. I care about myself the way a parent would care about their child. I’m my biggest advocate and that is because I’ve opened up to others and let them love me until I learned to do the same. That’s why I’m opening up to you here, because every time I do I get to grow and heal a little more. Trust me, you don’t have to do this alone. —Anna, 27
Abuse isn’t the only childhood trauma that can push us toward bingeing. For me, it was my parents’ divorce. Do you think that a circumstance, event or series of events in your childhood helped shape your disordered eating?