Cabbage Soup, Master Cleanse, Zone, South Beach—How All These Diets Just Led to Binges

A big thanks to Nina at Help for Eating Disorder for sharing her Real Story of recovery with us today:

After years of crazy diets—including, yech, the cabbage soup craze—Nina is an intuitive eater and free from bingeing and restricting!

I was always an active and athletic child – heavily involved in sports at school, dancing on the weekends and competing at a national level in rhythmic gymnastics. Food and weight had never been an issue. My weight always stayed within a healthy range, mainly due to all the exercise and at home the meals were always home cooked and un processed. During college, many of the physical activities stopped and I started to face new emotional problems of shyness, isolation and excessive drinking. I turned to drinking and controlling my weight to keep my focus off the things that were really bothering me.

I started my first diet in 2000, a strict Atkins diet that at first was miraculous. I lost a lot of weight but I grew disturbingly obsessed with food and dropping even more weight. The extreme dieting created a boundary between me and the world. I stopped going out, I lost friends, I refused to eat out at restaurants and my weight plummeted to a new low, where I lost my period and had to be hospitalized. The years that followed saw my diet and weight loss obsession increase even further, but I started to lose the control that I once had.

Binge eating started – first it was a one-off, and then increased to a weekly “treat”. Eventually it was a daily happening that I had no control over. I gained a massive amount of weight and was unable to stay on any diet that I tried. And boy did I try! I went on every possible diet that I could find – from the Cabbage Soup, Master Cleanse, Fit for Life, Zone, South Beach, Raw Food, Macrobiotic and Juice Fast. I started each one with enthusiasm and vigor, believing each morning that this would be “the one”. Only to find myself hitting every bakery on my way home, and crying in the grocery store, furiously adding binge food into my cart, unable to comprehend why I just couldn’t stick to it.

I started to see that perhaps the only problem wasn’t my frustrated weight loss attempts. Perhaps it had something to do with the disconnect that was going on between my body, soul and mind. It was starting to affect every area of my life. I lost a great job, my fiancé and had very few friends left. The binge and purge episodes were getting longer – sometimes I didn’t leave the house for days.

So with the same enthusiasm that I went into each diet with, I now transferred into trying to get help. But what was this problem that I had? Binge eating? Bulimia? Overeating? I researched it all, tracked down every therapist and support group that dealt with these issues and was more determined than ever to get better.

My personal rock bottom was knowing that I would die if I continued to live this way. I knew that there would be no way that I could have a child, a relationship, a job or care about anything other than food and my weight. It was a selfish existence in hell!

The process of getting better was not quite what I expected. I wanted someone to come into my life, hand me a magic pill which would remove this obsession from my warped mind. I wanted to live – to be able to enjoy my life, to go out, to travel, to have a relationship without constant thoughts of what I was and wasn’t going to eat, how much weight I was planning to lose and calculating how many hours I wold need to spend at the gym to burn off the excess calories. My life had come down to food and numbers, and I hated it!

However, there was no magic pill. What there was, however, was a journey into myself, into understanding that I had the power to change and that anything is possible if you have enough commitment and dedication to your health.

I saw therapists, I talked about my circumstances in support groups, I wrote in a journal, learned to meditate and ask for help when needed – instead of turning to obsession with food and weight.

I also had to move away from the dieting mentality and towards health. I knew that every time I tried to heavily restrict my eating, the result was more binge eating and self hatred. I had to change my relationship with food, to view it as non-threatening and to trust my internal hunger signals.

I now consider myself recovered from eating disorders and a healthy, intuitive eater. I eat food that I actually like; I have a healthy body, exercise because it makes me feel amazing. I love trying new types of exercise – anything from running to kick boxing, yoga and dance.

Most of all, I hope I can help others who are struggling with an eating disorder by passing on the message that complete recovery is possible. I was always trying to find someone who had been through the same hell as me and had recovered to a point where they had a healthy relationship with food and was no longer obsessed and controlled by it. I do live this way and I hope to reach others who are struggling and let them know that they can too – there is a way out.

I agree with Nina wholeheartedly: There is a way out! It can be tough, and it can take a years for some of us, but if you keep going, keep seeking help and trying new steps toward recovery, you can be free of bingeing and food obsession. Did Nina’s story bring anything up for you guys? xo…Sunny

8 Responses to Cabbage Soup, Master Cleanse, Zone, South Beach—How All These Diets Just Led to Binges

  1. Nina says:

    Thank you Sunny for posting this!
    Yes - there is a way out!
    It is possible to recover and to live with freedom.
    My lesson has been that diets always fail and lead to binge eating and misery.

  2. Katie says:

    Wonderful story, Nina. Thank you for sharing!

  3. T says:

    I really needed to hear this. This morning i woke up and couldn’t find an ounce of hope.
    In the process of recovering from years of anorexia, I have flipped to the other side of the coin and have been binging/starving uncontrollably.
    The positives of this are that my weight is restored to ‘healthy’ now, which has only been possible with the binges, but i feel like i’m losing myself to another eating disorder now.. when i am supposed to be ‘recovering’. what a mess!!

    Thank you for the encouragement

    • Sunny says:

      I’m so glad you reached out! The same people and tools that helped you recover from anorexia can see you through this part of your journey. I know so many people who have had similar experiences. Recovering from starving only to begin bingeing. You’re not alone.

  4. Chelsea says:

    Diets for someone with an eating disorder are usually disastrous. Diets are often part of the behaviors that LEAD to an eating disorder.

  5. Rach says:

    I can relate to this so much. I’ve been through the same thing, havind had anorexia, only to develop a binge eating disorder in which I am still recovering from after a year and half. Stories such as Nina’s give me hope that it will not last forever. Thank you for posting this :) x

  6. Natalia says:

    How amazing to know and feel that we are all supported in this…for the longest time I felt so alone with my eating issues, and the entire healthygirl site has helped me to know, that there are others like me. We can share our struggles and triumphs, and help each other remember, that recovery and getting better is always always possible.

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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.