I’m happy to welcome back the anonymous blogger at Confessions of a Compulsive Overeater with a guest post about how her body image has changed over the course of recovery. To anyone who’s still suffering with body obsession, 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.) xo…Sunny
When my compulsive overeating and bingeing began before the age of 10, I don’t recall being concerned about my body. I was a tomboy, an active child, so all the junk food I was sneaking and shoveling in my mouth didn’t really show up on my body. Then puberty hit.
During my teens, my father would tease me about the size of my rear end. Perhaps his teasing was meant to be a gentle hint for me to watch what I was eating, but the hint was not taken kindly. Again, because I was a tomboy, my head was more into playing sports than about fashion and how I looked. I still didn’t even really know what body image was. By the time I graduated from high school, about 40 pounds overweight, I started to become aware that I was heavy and started to wear clothes that hid my weight.
Then when I went away to college, the big achiever that I am, I ended up gaining 20 pounds instead of just the freshman 15. By that point, none of my jeans fit, I was bursting out of my bras and the only clothes that fit me were sweat pants and baggy shirts. As a college student, I had no money to buy new clothes. Like many women, I felt like my weight gain would be hidden by my baggy sweaters and sweatpants. I did not feel good in my skin, but knew of no way to stop consuming tremendous amounts of food in a frenzied manner. I had no idea I had an eating disorder, I thought I had a sweet tooth and loved food.
I loathed the summer and having to put on shorts or a bathing suit. Clearly my body image was quite poor. I did not love myself or the body that I was in.
After college, close to 20 years passed of living these behaviors of bingeing and dieting, until I finally realized that I in fact had an eating disorder all these years. The words addiction, eating disorder and compulsive overeater horrified and shamed me. At the same time, it gave my A-type personality a “label” to put on my eating issues, which was great for me. I embraced the eating disorder and threw myself into recovering with a passion. That was about 32 months ago, when I was a few months shy of age 40. I immediately started going to support group meetings and therapy. Later, I entered the amazing blog community of the eating disorders/health/fitness realm, then recovery and intuitive eating blogs, and read some really great books. As of this moment, I am 32 months binge-free and counting. I now eat mostly only when I am hungry, and I know that it’s ok to enjoy desserts in moderation. Nothing is forbidden. Taking that label off has made all the difference in the world.
This combination of therapies helped me to recover. I recovered my mind, body and spirit. I learned what in my childhood caused my eating disorder to begin; then I, ahem, digested it and then put it behind me.
Throughout all of these years, I had always exercised to some extent but after discovering I had an eating disorder, my workouts became even more focused. Instead of just doing cardio workouts, I added strength training. Wow, what a difference that made! In fact, I just did my first sprint triathlon in August and will be doing two more in September.
I lost weight, but more importantly, all the aspects of recovery have enabled me to love myself and my body again.
I’ve learned that I’m worthy of nurturing myself in mind, body and spirit. Through doing those things, my body image of myself has changed from one of shame to one of – look what my body can do!
Instead of hiding my body in baggy clothes as I had done for so long, I now wear clothes that fit me and show a healthy body that I am proud of.
In the midst of bad body image, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling “proud” of your body, isn’t it? But that’s what recovery brings for many. It sounds as if exercise and becoming athletic was part of the key for Anonymous. I can relate to that—when I started jogging, ever so slowly back in 2002, after years of avoiding most kinds of exercise like the plague—I found that it made me think of my body differently. I felt it differently and lived in it differently. I started to connect with my physical body in a way that was positive rather than hate-filled or critical. More on that tomorrow.
For now, has your body image changed during recovery? Are you still stuck in a pretty bad body image place, or have you found some relief; and if so, how? xo…Sunny