Real Stories: Sunny's Story

Hi all! I’m creating a new section on the site called Real Stories, where I’ll be collecting the food/body/life stories of lots of women in the community. Look for it soon right up there in the top right corner. If you’d like to share your story, write it up in no more than 600 words and email it to me!

To kick it off, I thought I’d re-post a bit of my food/body story here. Comments welcome, as always.

Me, happy and healthy on my wedding day, almost exactly three years after I took the final steps toward recovering from binge eating disorder.

Research over the last five years has found that binge eating disorder is actually twice as common as anorexia and bulimia combined in women of all backgrounds and ages, including teens. I was one of them.

In high school, I’d skip lunch just like the other girls or pick at fries when we’d congregate at McDonald’s. But when my parents started fighting–and ultimately, talking divorce–a puzzling, frenzied pattern of eating started to emerge. At 14, I sat on top of our German shepherd’s doghouse in the middle of the night, a can of frozen orange juice concentrate in one hand, a spoon in the other, crying and scooping the syrupy stuff into my mouth until it was almost gone. At 15–alone a lot, with my father out of the house and my mother working more than one job I ordered and ate two small pizzas the night I broke up with my first boyfriend.

Soon I was sneaking into the kitchen almost every night–praying my mom wouldn’t hear the wooden floors creak– to eat three, four, five pieces of bread with butter and peanut butter or to nuke a huge plate of chips and cheese for makeshift nachos. When I babysat my neighbors’ kids, or cleaned their houses for extra cash, I spent half the time rifling through their cupboards, stealing their kids’ Little Debbie snacks and potato chips.

I thought I was a pig, and a freak, because I couldn’t stop this weird, secret, uncontrollable eating. I started wearing big, baggy sweaters or sweatshirts over leggings to hide what I thought was an unacceptably fat body.

When I ate seven candy bars in a row one afternoon, I knew there was something desperately wrong. That’s when my mom sent me to Mitch, the family counselor both she and my dad had been seeing throughout their divorce. He gave a name to what I had been doing: compulsive overeating–what’s now also known as binge eating disorder–and he gave me a book to read, Feeding the Hungry Heart, by Geneen Roth.

While it was one of the most important things I’ve ever read, the true beginning of my recovery, it was meant for grown ups. Women with kids. Married women. I couldn’t fully relate to the people in the book. That’s one reason I started HealthyGirl, to be a resource for teens and young women who want to stop overeating.

Today, I’m no longer binge eating. I’m a health editor at Glamour magazine in New York City, and am at a trim, healthy and stable weight. After years of hating myself, hating my body, and abusing it with way too much food, I’m finally healthy and happy. I want you to be, too!

5 Responses to Real Stories: Sunny's Story

  1. Tamara says:

    Ugh, the bread and butter and PB. Doubly dangerous if it’s a “light” butter spread so you can tell yourself you’re not eating /that/ much. Triply dangerous if it’s a homemade white loaf with no pre-slicing. I’ve been known to top the stuff with raw shredded cheese, chocolate chips, and gobs of vanilla ice cream in binging mode-I was that desperate for a fat/sugar boost. I never ate frozen juice concentrate, though. I suppose it’s like sorbet.

    You looked Gorgeous with a capital G on your wedding day. I like happy endings.

  2. Roberta says:

    I love reading this site, your story is very inspiring Sunny! :D

  3. SalingerGirl says:

    I have been reading your site for a few weeks and I just wanted to say that it is one of the most inspiring and realistic one for any young woman struggling with overeating and body issues out there. Thank you so much for providing such grounded tips and hopeful stories.

    • Sunny says:

      Thank you so much for saying so. :) It means a lot that this is touching people. We’re so not alone-and all the responses has been getting are proof of that… :)

  4. Mindy says:

    Sunny…you look so beautiful in that picture! But most of all, you look happy. :)

    I’m starting to experience problems with food myself. It is really painful.

    On my wedding day, my mother forced me to wear an extremely tight girdle under my gown because she thought I looked heavy. I was uncomfortable and depressed on what should have been one of the best days of my life.

    Most people have said that I look “fat” in my wedding pictures. I was about 140 lbs. then, but people have made a lot of insensitive comments just because I actually had a figure that filled out my wedding dress. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who believe that if a woman is petite with big hips, she needs to lose the curves.

    My experiences with binge eating were like this…I would be ashamed to eat in front of anyone, but in private, I would literally stuff myself with food.

    After the end of a painfully abusive relationship, my depression spiraled out of control. I became inactive and overweight. I would binge on ice cream, chocolates, and anything decadently sweet. It was my way of healing from the trauma of an unhappy life.

    It doesn’t help that I constantly hear how I’ve “piled on the pounds” and how tight my jeans are.

    Hopefully, I will be happy and healthy someday. :(

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