Trigger warning: Do not read if you are in treatment for an eating disorder. I do not use numbers in this article to prevent triggers for recovered binge eaters.
Every National Eating Disorder Awareness Week reminds me of my struggles with binge eating and how desperately I need to bring awareness of this eating disorder.
I always thought a binge eater was someone who ate a large amount of food in a closet. But in reality, anybody can be a binge eater and not even realize it.
Anybody, like myself.
I referred to my binge eating as a restriction of meals before I had an official name for this eating disorder. I am confessing to you that I am a recovered binge eater. I suffered with binge eating on and off for over 7 years. I started binge eating at the age of 16 because of stress from high school. I was in the drama program at my school and I was a heavy girl compared to most of the actresses I performed with. I have always struggled with my weight since puberty. The actresses who were cast in the lead roles are always thin and I was always cast in the supporting roles. I aspired to be thin thinking that I would be cast in lead roles and not supporting cast roles. I always felt left out and it hurt my self-esteem. I felt that all my thin friends were always going on dates or had boyfriends, whereas I was hardly ever asked to go on dates.
I watched on TV and in movies how the thin girl always got the guy and he saw her as beautiful. I wanted to be seen as beautiful but I felt that my weight prevented the beauty from being shown. I read Seventeen Magazine and Teen People Magazine which gave me the beauty standards of thin equals beautiful and it will bring attention from guys. In fact, it depicts unrealistic portrayals of women and as a teenager, you are sucked into this belief. I thought restricting meals and only eating once a day would help me lose weight and be thin. My stomach would be growling in class and I had decided to ignore it. I wanted to be thin and I would sacrifice my hunger and my health to do this. The restriction, however, of my meals to once a day led me to not lose weight and in fact, gain weight. This caused me to suffer from negative body image.
After I graduated from high school and attended college, I began to eat two meals a day still thinking that restriction of meals would lead to me being thin. This is not true and still struggling with weight gain. I tried different diets like Weight Watchers, and Calorie Counting. I would lose 10-20 lbs. at a time but after I stopped the diets, I would put the weight back on. After I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism at age 20 and PCOS at age 24, these health issues made me address my binge eating disorder. This is the reason I became the secretary of Project HEAL (Help to Accept, Eat, and Live): Central Florida Chapter which aims to bring awareness of eating disorders, fundraise for those treatment for eating disorders, and promoting positive body image. With the support of my boyfriend, he had a big impact on telling me that I need to overcome my binge eating. He would call me out when I would try to avoid eating especially when I am busy. He still checks on me asking me about making sure I eat my meals regularly and my progress.
I overcame my binge eating by exercising, eating three meals a day plus snacks, and managing my stress. I figured out that it is important to stick to scheduled mealtimes, as skipping meals often leads to binge eating later in the day. The strategy that helped the most was to stop dieting. The deprivation and hunger of strict dieting can trigger food cravings and the urge to overeat. Instead of dieting, I focused on eating in moderation. I always listen to my body and I practice the method of mindful eating. I keep a food diary which tells me what I am eating, when, how much, and how you’re feeling when you eat.
I am at a healthy weight and I am proud of my body. I think it is beautiful and I will not let society control my body. I still have temptations to binge eating especially when there are busy weeks in graduate school, but thanks to my boyfriend’s support and my friends, I have the power to rise above and fight this eating disorder.
Featured Image via Lee Price.