As a little girl, I found out very quickly that food could be my comfort and my friend, and also my worst enemy. Crazy how a necessity to live can turn into a life of love and hate. My relationship with food has single-handedly been one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my life.
A little history. My parents were very young when they had me, teenagers in fact, and they did the very best they knew how, so I want to make that disclaimer. This is not an attack on them, but a depiction of how food became an obsession and my first addiction.
I always felt a sense of aloneness. While my parents were also growing up, I kind of was along for the ride. They divorced when I was four and I traveled to and from NY every year to stay with my Dad every summer and Christmas. When I was young these times were fun, but I was left to myself a lot. I played by myself and really did not have any friends. The same was true at my mother’s in SC because we lived in a trailer and kids did not want to come there. Food was my way to feel connected and grounded and loved.
I can remember my very first binge clearly. I was probably around 9. My stepmother had bought Captain Crunch (OMG STILL SO GOOD) cereal and I had a bowl as a snack. I wanted more, so I did, I felt the high of the sugar, the feeling of excitement, and my stomach was not full, so I kept eating until I almost finished the box. I was high as a kite, secure, and content for only a minute that was soon to be followed by guilt and shame. I wanted to hide the box, maybe no one would notice? So I put it back in the pantry and hoped that I would not be found out. This started the pattern, the cycle, and the never-ending quest to hide my secret.
I dealt with a lot as a kid and was coping the best I could. Food helped me cope and now I have learned that I need to have compassion for that little girl. There was addiction in my family on both sides, trauma, drama, and many instances that shaped me. I felt shut out, confused, and hurt a lot. Lonely would be the word I would use to describe most of my childhood, until my middle school years. It was then that dance became a major part of my life, a sport that was completely body-focused, however, it was my life and I loved it with all my heart. I had finally met friends and was feeling connected.
I had always held onto extra pounds as this was my body type. I was pretty much ostracized by every adult (family, dance teachers, and strangers) for it and it only added to the shame of eating and binging. I never felt OK or that I looked good. I can remember being at a family vacation and my cousins who were skinny and blonde and perfect as far as I could tell, were told they could have candy. When I went to get some I was met with a “Are you sure you need that?” So I quietly walked away and watched my cousins enjoy being a kid and savoring the sweet goodness. Later on, I ended up sneaking the candy and ate it in the bathroom, so hopefully, no one would see.
As a dancer, I was told that I needed to lose weight from the age of 12 until my adult years. I was never good enough, always trying a diet, and never succeeding. I joined weight watchers during my freshman year in highschool...weight watchers, a calorie-restricted diet during the crucial growing periods of puberty. I was finally praised for “losing the weight”. I was so hungry and all I wanted was comfort. During that time I had a friend who was similarly going through the same struggles. We drove then, so we would go to Bojangles or any other fast food place and sneak the large fry and whatever else we felt like getting that day. It was our little secret.
This turned into binging and purging. I started with laxatives (was introduced by older friends) and thought I had found a miracle cure for eating. I eventually found my way looking down a toilet bowl gagging myself more times than I like to remember. It was so debilitating, shameful, and sad. I would constantly beat myself up for not being able to control it. I would starve get thin then gain it all back. I was always worried I was being judged and I barely would eat in front of others. This cycle of behavior restriction-binge-secret-shame was constant in my life until I was finally honest with my life coach. Yes even into my adult years...up until my late 30’s I was actively binging and purging. Opening up was the best thing I could have ever done. We stared at it, I was forced to face it, and she helped me work through the emotions and the root. I developed tools that help me daily to get through the urges and I can proudly say I have not purged in 5 years. I do however still struggle with binging from time to time. My episodes are typically centered around loneliness and stress. Now I can identify this trigger and move in another direction. It is a work in progress.
I am disclosing this story to you because I want you to know that if you struggle with this you are absolutely not alone. It is important that you know that. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It has taken years of work, being honest with myself, and gaining solid real education about nutrition that has gotten me to a point where I can navigate and make choices with my higher self. I am not sure it will ever be 100%, and anyone with an eating disorder can understand this. It is just like any other addiction, but unfortunately, you cannot cold turkey quit food.
If you need to open up I am here. Don’t let the shame and guilt hold you back towards a life you deserve. There is a way out. I am always here to support you. Email me. I want to hear your stories.