I’ve struggled with my relationship with food for as long as I can remember. It was always my outlet, my coping mechanism, the way to turn off my mind. I can remember jumping on the fat free band wagon back in high school. Fat was the enemy and I obsessed about every fat gram in every piece of food I ate. Thinner was always better. It always equated to more confidence, more social adeptness, more happiness.
I guess the real trouble started in college. I gained your classic 15 plus some pounds during my freshman year while eating a diet of cheap beer and bagels. But hey, they were both fat free!! In my desire to get rid of the extra weight, I discovered group exercise the summer after my freshman year. It didn’t take long to get hooked. I lost weight and I felt great.
I returned to school loving my new body but uncomfortable with the attention I was getting as a result. I started to eat less and exercise more to escape those uncomfortable feelings and other social anxieties. I fueled my body off copious amounts of diet soda, artificially sweetened coffee, broccoli, and carrots. I exercised obsessively. At my lowest, I was 104 pounds. My menstrual cycle had been absent for close to two years and my resting heart rate was 38. I remember thinking what an accomplishment it would be if my heart rate dropped to 35. Less was always more.
This was very difficult to sustain and my parents were very worried. They encouraged me to take a semester off and go into treatment. I started eating more and exercising less and outwardly things were starting to look up. My weight started to increase and my resting heart rate became normal. My menstrual cycle returned.
But this is also when I secretly started overeating. It started with a bag of cheese doritos after everyone had gone to bed at the beach. Gradually this bag turned into ice cream, candy, and pretty much any other processed thing I could get my hands on. And all of this was a secret. No one knew and I was a master at deception. I only ate when I was alone and I hid the evidence.
I remember the end of the day, after work, was always a really tough time for me. I would often stop at one gas station on the way home and get some sort of snack in an ‘acceptable’ quantity. I would eat it while I was driving and then I’d stop at another gas station. I would throw out my trash and get some other sort of snack. Again, in an 'acceptable' quantity. I would always end up at Roy Rogers or McDonalds and get an ice cream. One because I love ice cream and two because it could be eaten with little mess and no trash.
I ate things people thought I would never even touch. And when one of these food raids was over, I felt horrible. And I would say things to myself that I would never EVER say to another human being. I felt worthless, ashamed, alone. I hated every ounce of my body.
I had become involved in the fitness industry while I was in college and I exercised frequently. That did a good job of keeping my weight in check but it also deepened the shame. I’m an instructor. I’m not supposed to have a food issue. I am supposed to be thin, fit, toned, etc.
This out of control compulsive eating and binging went on for longer than I ever restricted – probably 8-9 years. And it was harder than restricting because of the way it made me feel about myself. There was a pride in restricting but a deep and dark shame in binging.
I felt so out of control when it came to food. It was all or nothing. It was a constant source of struggle. A constant battle. I constantly wondered what was wrong with me and why I couldn't get a handle on this. I had a general idea of what I should do but could never actually do it. Clearly something was wrong with me. Clearly I had some deep seeded issue from my childhood that was never resolved. But I had a wonderful childhood. I grew up surrounded by love and support. I actually wished on some days that I could pin-point some specific trauma that made me like this. I just wanted to let this go. I just wanted to be able to move forward. But I was stuck in this detrimental cycle of overeating, feeling ashamed, and promising myself that tomorrow would be different.
But fast forward to today and I can honestly say that I am in a place where I feel at peace. Where the candy from the holidays is still in the pantry and isn't constantly calling my name. Where I can eat a piece if I want and don't feel the need to stuff the empty wrappers deep into the sides of the trashcan.
The journey to today wasn't easy and the healing process has been very gradual. But I feel healthier and more alive at 38 than I ever have before and it is the most beautiful feeling in the world.
How did I get there? That's what this blog is about. To share what I've learned as I've healed my own dysfunctional relationship with food. It is my intention to offer hope and insight to anyone else who struggles.
I will NEVER claim to have it all figured out and I am constantly growing and evolving myself. But it is my hope that as I share my truth, it will help you find yours!