How Early Did Your Food Issues Being? This Woman Was a Binge Eater at 8 Years Old

Today the anonymous blogger from Confessions of a Compulsive Overeater is sharing a bit of her story with us. I love hearing how things just sort of snapped for her one day. Read on, and then let me know if anything resonates with you! xo…Sunny

Piles of wrappers and other food debris have been a part of most binge eaters lives.

My eating disorder story began over 30 years ago when I was about 8 or 9 years old, when I became a compulsive overeater and binger. I had a mother who hid junk food from me because she said/knew I would eat more than my share and not leave enough for the family to enjoy, and I had a father who teased me in my teen years about my rear end being big. He thought he was a riot and that I knew he was teasing, but he had no idea how that “teasing” affected me.

For many years I binged on sweets like there was no tomorrow, always hiding the wrappers, packages and bags out of shame. My weight ballooned up and would come down when I would diet, only to balloon back up again. It was an ugly cycle. As I got older and got married, it continued. When we went to parties or events, my mind was busy centered on the food, instead of enjoying time with friends. When we hosted parties, I loved cleaning up because then I got to devour leftover desserts when everyone had gone. I lived to eat, instead of eating to live.

I thought about food all the time. I would think about what I would eat next before even finishing what I was currently eating.

My recovery first began in December of 2007, soon before I turned 40, when one night, the words “compulsive overeater” somehow popped into my head. I got on my laptop and did some googling, and found my way to the Overeaters Anonymous website. They had a list of questions that asked something to the effect of “are you one of us?” I answered “yes” to most of them. This was both horrific and wonderful at the same time. There was the shame of having a sickness, a disease, an eating disorder, but at the same time, being an A-type personality, I was thrilled there was a name for what I was doing and realized that I could get help.

So my passion then became getting help for myself. I went to OA meetings, I found a therapist, and I got honest with myself and my husband. I wrote him a very long, cathartic letter revealing all of my food/eating secrets. He knew I liked to eat sweets, but had no idea that I did so much eating in secret and how much I thought about food/eating. I cried off and on for days. Decades of my secrets had finally come to the surface. OA helped me to realize that I was not alone. Through therapy I learned that the things I wrote about earlier in my childhood are what turned me to the comfort of food. I was not getting the nurturing and love that I needed from my family, so I found it in food. This pattern repeated itself over and over again as I got older and had become deeply ingrained even though I married an amazing man almost 13 years ago.

I have been binge-free since I realized and embraced that I had an eating disorder. I lost the extra weight I had been carrying and have maintained the loss for 20 months now. I did this by counting calories, weighing and measuring food portions, and working out. I also weighed myself every day. Oddly enough, I had weighed myself and have counted calories for over 20 years, even when the numbers of either/both were astronomically high. I felt like food was the only thing I could control in my life.

In January 2010, I started to just get on the scale once a month. The mere thought of that gave me heart palpitations, but it turned out to be quite simple.

Then in late March, a certain calm or peace came over me and I decided I was ready to delve into the world of Intuitive Eating. Six months prior, the mere thought of giving up my calorie counting, weighing/measuring my food portions would have had me laughing in your face, but at the end of March, all the therapy, eating disorder books I read and blogging gave me the awarenesses I needed to make the giant leap of faith.

Several months later, I can’t tell you how empowering and freeing it is to have dropped that white-knuckle grip of control I had on my food. I have come to learn that “normal” eaters overeat occasionally. The difference is that they don’t focus on it and beat themselves up about it. They just put it behind them and move on to the next meal or day.

The “voices” in my head that roared like a lion when I was in the throws of compulsive overeating and bingeing have become the whispers of a mouse.

Anonymous will be back tomorrow or the next day with another post—a post totally focused on intuitive eating and how she deals with food today.

I can relate to so much in Anonymous’s story! I had my first weird food situation at around 7 years old, when I ate 13 Christmas cookies after my mom told me “not to blow it” at Grandmas on Xmas Eve. What about you guys? When did your food issues begin? xo…Sunny

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25 Responses to How Early Did Your Food Issues Being? This Woman Was a Binge Eater at 8 Years Old

  1. Julia says:

    I’m looking forward to her additional post tomorrow about intuitive eating. I’m for the most part fine with eating now, except that I still count calories (something I’d like to be able to stop doing). I’m just afraid that if I don’t count, I’ll overeat. Hopefully her post tomorrow will help!

    • love2eatinpa says:

      i never thought that i could stop counting calories as i’ve been doing it for decades, no matter how crazy high the number got. for some reason those numbers were important to me. i too was afraid if i didn’t count that i would totally overeat, but somehow, when i listened to my body, i didn’t overeat and in fact lost a few pounds. who knew?!!?!?

  2. Astrid says:

    I never really had weird food situations growing up. I was a “normal” kid with a very good appetite. There was a certain pride with finishing my meals and eating all of my food. My dad would make sure that I was eating enough, because growing up, I had a huge growth spurt and was very lanky as a young teen.
    I remember one day at a restaurant. My order came with a huge side of fries. I remember being very focused about eating those fries. There was no guilt associated, I just wanted my parents to be roud of me for eating those fries! And they were! I felt like it was such an achievement. At that point, food was a way to please people. If I ate what people offered or wanted me to eat, I could make them happy.
    Another time was when I was about 16. I was at a friend’s house and her mom had just made cake. Even though I had already had dinner and dessert, I did not want to disappoint her, so I had a large piece and a big glass of milk. Well, this made me sick, and I threw up. Again, there was no guilt, and I didn’t feel like I had done something wrong. It was a simple incident of eating too much and getting sick. But looking back, I am seeing that eating was a way to make people happy with me. I took pride in being the one that never turned down a food offer.
    I actually have never thought of things this way before. Thank you for this realization!

    • love2eatinpa says:

      that is really interesting, something i never really thought about – kids who eat more just to please their parents/others. it makes me think twice about encouraging my kids to eat, so thanks!

  3. I actually made a blog post about the start of my eating issues back towards the end of May.
    http://sharperharper.blogspot.com/2010/05/mortified-child.html

    Basically, the end result – too much weight gain within a year caused my pediatrician to freak out. She put me on diets and was even more alarmed that within my next visit, I had gained twenty more pounds. She didn’t believe me that I was sticking to the ‘diet’ she recommended, when really, I was.

    Only a few months ago, did I discover, that twenty pound weight gain was normal. Not for my age range, but as a girl/woman. It’s normal for a girl to gain twenty pounds prior to the year of her starting her menstrual cycle…and that’s just what happened to me.

    That pediatrician still messed up my mindset around food…Dieting, Overeating, and later binging/restricting/purging became my central focal point. Fourteen months into recovery right now. (With a lapse once in a while…but life couldn’t be better without the obsessing.)

  4. WOW. Relate Relate Relate. I was already chubby at 8 or 9 but i believe that is about the time that my eating really became addictive. Funny thing was I was just thinking about who it all started this morning. MY STORY about that is that: I am natuarally really empathetic, my parents had a lot of emotional baggage…early on I took alot of their emotions on. Scarey emotions that i NEEDED TO ESCAPE. it some ways i am thankful for food…as a child it SAVED ME.

    AWESOME that you discoved intuitive eating. Counting and weighing can become another way food controls us. FREEDOM is so much nicer.

    If your interested in my story…check out my blog at http://www.radicalhateloss.com.

    • love2eatinpa says:

      yup, we use food as kids to escape because we had no other form of power and yes, it does save us. then the escape or defense mechanism becomes so ingrained in us that as adults we are still using those same behaviors even though we have “power” now. and yes, freedom is SO much nicer.

  5. […] but certainly not least, I am fortunate to be doing a two-part guest blog on the fabulous Healthy Girl blog today. Part 1 is running today. Check it out if you have a […]

  6. Trish says:

    My compulsive eating started around the same age, maybe younger. I remember hiding under my dining room table with a bowl of those Andes mints my mom put out for guests at Christmas. I don’t even know how many I ate…there was also an incident with an entire box of cinnamon TeddyGrahams, which I ate so many of I got sick and still can’t eat them to this day. I never really understood what set off my compulsive eating, and at this point it might be too hard to figure out…as long as I’m dealing and healing, I’m okay with that.

  7. Kate says:

    My weird eating habits started so early. The weird thing is that my sister was also weird about food, but since she was super skinny no one would say anything to her about it. So i was always told to stop eating and if my sister was found sneaking food, no one would mention it because at least she was eating.

    Part of my problem with seeking help was I could never fit in with what was wrong with me. I never drove around in my car eating fast food or buying day old bakery cakes. I mostly ate large quantities of food that was available to me, often when I was stressed out or otherwise feeling bad. I didn’t start binging until I went on a diet and had a definitive list of foods that were “bad.” Then I would binge on anything in that list.

    I’m very nervous about having kids right now, because I’m sure the food weirdness from my mom mixed with the addictive tendencies from my dad’s side of the family mixed to create my ED–something I will do everything and anything to prevent passing on to my children.

    • love2eatinpa says:

      it’s interesting that both you and your sister grew up with food issues, yet you were singled out. oh how i wish our parents were aware of what they were doing as we are today!

      i have a 10-1/2 yr old daughter and an 8 yr old son. so as far as having children, i can understand how you would be anxious, but know that you know SO much more than your parents did. You will be able to teach your kids about listening to their bodies and to instill in them a strong sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, which our parents didn’t do for us. we have the ability to learn from our parents mistakes and do our best to bring up “normal” eaters.

  8. I have been reading this wonderful lady for quite a while now & I am so impressed with all she has done!!!! One amazing women!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It shows you that anyone can overcome!!!! And not only overcome but continue to challenge oneself!

    Yes, I sarted eating too much & the wrong things early in life. It was what was in the house in my case & had family that just over ate & ate the wrong things.

    • love2eatinpa says:

      aw, thanks for your kind words, jody!
      i don’t think years ago that many people know all the benefits of healthy eating. food meant comfort and love and unfortunately still do now for some of us.

  9. Food Addict says:

    Wow – this is really powerful, especially if you have been there done that. I think my binging began when I was in high school. Before that, I remember eating too much here and there – but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I became obsessed with food and how much I could eat in one sitting.

  10. […] For those of you who didn’t feel like clicking over in yesterday’s post, here is part of my ‘real story’ as posted on Healthy Girl. […]

  11. I love this post! I’m a huge fan of Confessions of a (Recovering) Compulsive Eater. You’ve come such a long way, and I’m so happy for you! Thank you for sharing your story and for inspiring others.

    To me, this is a great example of the importance of taking small steps and doing the hard work. While you might not be able to imagine yourself liking your body or not counting calories or not bingeing now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t work hard and get better. It may seem overwhelming now, but if you take small steps every day, you’ll get there. It takes time to work on food issues but it’s sooo worth it, and your story is a wonderful reminder of that.

    Thanks, Sunny, for posting this!! :)

  12. […] philosophy at HealthyGirl.org before, and it’s one I ascribe to myself. Day before yesterday, she gave us a little taste of what her life was like before recovery. I’ll let her tell her own story, but I found it inspiring how she went from […]

  13. Heather says:

    I could relate to aspects of this post, having had a difficult relationship with food from an early age. I can also relate to the importance of reading lots and feeling informed, and getting therapeutic help, and support from people around you.

    I was less comfortable with the dieting before recovery part. I’m not sure that telling readers this was particularly helpful or necessary, as I’m not sure calorie counting, weighing and measuring (unless following a recipie) is a positive way to health. Whilst I can really see why the author would do this, and also appreciating that we will all go a different route, I can see how people may misinterpret this to mean that one last diet is okay.

    For me, I am running with the accepting myself and trying to change myself from the inside out – listening to my inner self-talk; calling out my Critic; replacing negative thoughts with ones on a more positive spin. I truly believe these are the things that will lead to long-lasting change. Eating healthily and exercising more comes far easier when you like yourself, and trust yourself. In those moments, I feel “recovered”.

    • love2eatinpa says:

      i totally hear what you are saying and appreciate your response.

      i think that had i known that i had an eating disorder all those years and had the resources to change myself from the inside out first, that i probably would have gone that route. unfortunately, my therapy happened to fall into place in conjunction with the weight loss (this time, as i had been yo-yo’ing for years).

      but as you said, we are all unique and often go on our own path’s to recovery. i’m just grateful i got there! :)

  14. Healthy Girl says:

    […] this story will give you hope! (Then feel free to read her earlier HealthyGirl.org posts on how early her bingeing started—8 years old—and how she found her way to intuitive eating.) […]

  15. Sarah says:

    My eating problems started as early as 5 :S in fact i can’t remember a time when i ate ‘normally’. I remember being 5 years old, and sitting in a class photograph, thinking in my head how fat i must look. I remember coming home from school and sneaking junk food and hiding away with it.
    Then started extreme dieting at around 10, which would then pave the way for huge binges that could last a few days, or months, until my obsessive exercising or dieting would kick in, in an attempt to reverse the damage.
    At about 14 i threw up for the first time. And all of these EDs kind of merged together, and i just couldnt control my eating.
    At 20, i’ve been eating ‘normally’ for a month now after seeing a dietician who specializes in EDs. I also have my first appointment with a psychologist this week.
    I know this is going to be the hardest thing to do, but i will do whatever it takes to fight this.

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.