When I was writing my book, experts told me that it’s incredibly common for people to use several different disordered eating behaviors over their lives. You might start out with extreme dieting or purging, but then fall into bingeing, then boomerang back to restricting again. That’s why I asked Angie to share her story. At different times in her life she has fallen on all different spots on the disordered-eating spectrum—and I thought many of you might relate. xo…Sunny
Hi, my name is Angie and I’m recovering from multiple eating disorders. I hope my story does not trigger anyone, but some readers might find the content triggering. Please consider your health and wellbeing before reading. My eating disorder journey started with compulsive overeating when I was 10 years old. We lived in military housing on a remote area of the base. There were only eight houses on the street which was the entire neighborhood. I felt very isolated from peers. With few friends, and busy parents, I had a lot of time on my hands. I filled that time by eating. When I was not in school, I ate and watched TV. I ate not because I was hungry, but because I was lonely and scared.
My parent’s marriage was ending and I wanted to feel safe, secure, and full. Food helped to fill some part of me, at least temporarily, so I ate. After several weeks of this type of eating my Mom noticed weight gain and started to monitor my food consumption. I started to sneak eat, and, when she caught me, she made it clear that if I wanted to be liked and accepted, I needed to be thin. More than anything I wanted to be liked and accepted so I literally stopped eating to drop the weight. It worked. I seemed to find more approval from my parents and peers so I began an obsession with anorexia. Sustaining a life without food is difficult so my entire existence became focused on how to not eat, but appear to be eating. I checked out of life by obsessing about food to avoid reality.
My body dysmorphia could not have been worse and I began to have negative self-talk 24×7. As I struggled with physical hunger, I lost all perspective about food. When I did eat, I engaged in bulimic behaviors to purge the food that I had consumed. I do not want to detail my bulimic practices, but, to this day, those days of living with anorexia and bulimia were the most destructive and devastating days I have known.
By some miracle, a family member forced my parents to recognize my life was at risk and I was hospitalized. By the time I was hospitalized I had hit bottom and was completely ready for recovery. I began a long program of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). While the hospitalization was only five weeks, my outpatient therapy continued for years. I learned so much about myself and what life could offer. With the official diagnosis of my eating disorders and depression, I realized that I was sick with diseases that affected other people: I was not alone. Realizing other people had recovered from these diseases was a relief so I embraced the CBT and used these tools for a long, sustained period of recovery.
After 15 years of recovery I had some major life changes occur and I relapsed. Not a little relapse; it was a devastating relapse that snuck up on me. At the time I started to relapse my life was so busy that I didn’t think about how my change in eating behaviors might signal the onset of another eating disorder. Things started slowly. I would binge when alone. I rationalized the binges by congratulating myself for not restricting or purging. The binges left me feeling terrible and I could not stop bingeing. I did not want anyone to realize I had a problem so I became preoccupied with trying to maintain my weight and size while bingeing. I felt terrible inside and out. What was wrong with me? I was trying so hard not to be anorexic and bulimic that I didn’t realize my behavior fell into a newly identified category of eating disorders: Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
Given my life with a husband, two young children, and full-job was so hectic, I felt like the only way I could find help was to reach out online. After months of searching online, I found healthygirl.org. When I read Sunny’s story, I cried. I felt so much relief to know that I, again, was not alone. I read more about BED and realized that I had fallen into relapse. As I struggled to recover from BED, I put a lot of rules on my food consumption and became obsessed with healthy, ‘clean’ eating. Months later I realized that this behavior was in-line with yet another eating disorder: Orthorexia.
Stunned that all of my coping mechanisms were leading me to eating disorders, I finally asked for help and restarted cognitive behavioral therapy. I had stopped CBT when I was around 20 years old due to a change in health insurance, but, at 35, realized it was the only way I was going to find help. I have found recovery (again). Today I am grateful for my recovery and careful with my life. I realize that even after years of recovery, little things can happen and I can be triggered into restarting an eating disorder. Yes, there are a lot of issues that I have skimmed over, but I hope this part of my story helps anyone struggling with multiple eating disorders realize that you are not alone and recovery is possible. Thanks for reading. —Angie
Have you ever bounced from one strange eating behavior to another? Perhaps extreme dieting to bingeing and back again? Where are you now in your journey? xo…Sunny