Guest Post: Confessions of a Binge-eater
We are currently en route to the Far East! Hong Kong here we come.
It was the craziest week leading up to our departure and included a trip to A&E, a trip to a specialist burns unit, an emergency dental appointment and a speedy visit to Wales. Despite all of this, we just about left in one peace.
Anyways, I have an insightful, touching and honest guest post from the lovely Claire.
Confessions of a Binge-eater
Hi everyone! I’m Claire from Almost Skinny Vegan Food I’m lucky enough to have the chance to do a guest post while Sarah’s away (thanks Sarah!)
This is a fairly deep topic so we need to get to know each other fairly fast ok? I’m a food lover, blogger, vegan, artist & teacher living in Melbourne. I’ve always loved food but we’ve had a rocky relationship to say the least. As Sarah has also struggled with food this seemed like an appropriate topic to share with you all. I’m in a good place food-wise now but it’s been a long road. I’m where I am now partly because of people like Sarah & Tina @ Best Body Fitness (http://www.tinareale.com) being open about their food battles. If this strikes a chord with you then acknowledging something’s up is the first step. You can make a change. You deserve the best! I want everyone to know there is always hope.
So- Let’s start at the very beginning- it’s a very good place to start! (yes I like the sound of music, don’t judge)
I have used food as a drug and coping mechanism (unknowingly) for the majority of my life. I have overeaten since before I can remember, as a child I have been told I once ate the entire biscuit tin when my mother had a friend over…she was mortified and I didn’t get any dinner.
The reason we never had any junk food in the house was because I would eat it…ALL. To find out about it now from others is embarrassing to say the least but the point is even as a child I overate- I ate because I loved food, I ate to get praise and attention, I ate because it made me feel good. When I was happy- I ate, when my mother died- I ate, every opportunity I had- I ate. I ate more than all the other kids and if we were left alone at the dinner table I would eat their food too. Seriously.
So needless to say there were rules put in place- I was exercising like a trooper (ballet, swimming, gymnastics, netball, athletics, karate, tennis etc.) so my weight was higher than it shoul
d have been but not *that* bad. I remember being aware of my weight at about age 6 when I have distinct memories of running laps of my friend’s garden to make sure I sweated enough to lose weight. But as a kid I got distracted at the next mealtime. Life continued and as a pre-teen I rebelled- the only rule when we went out alone was do not buy sweets so obviously we used to do so every time we went out alone. We would buy bags and bags, eat as many as possible before we had to be home and then hide the rest. The more freedom I had the more food I had access too… (You can see where this is headed can’t you)
More freedom = more food = increased weight gain = unhappy = increased food intake. The cycle got increasingly worse. The thrill of doing something ‘naughty’ made it increasingly appealing and having a friend alongside made it socially acceptable. As time moved on the severity of the problem increased. The binges increased in size and frequency.
As a teenager I was moved halfway across the world- so of course I ate. Dealing with trauma/emotions/ hell of puberty- I ate, insomnia/depression/anxiety- I ate, school workload was overwhelming- I ate, friend/boy drama- I ate. I would get through the school day with food- hard swimming training- breakfast, classes, recess, classes, lunch, classes, buy food on the way home, eat whilst doing homework, dinner, binge on junk.
I was still doing large amounts of exercise through this so my weight, whilst it was steadily increasing, was not reflecting my eating habits. I was eating to the point of overfull nausea but I would starve myself for extended periods to make up for this disgusting behavior that made me hate myself and regular ove
r-exercising and injuries were normal. I would go through intense cycles of deprivation (whilst continuing the exercising…I actually fainted whilst doing a beam routine in gymnastics and got some impressive injuries) but the cycle would continue… I would go on strict diets/fasts to try and get my weight under control, be incredibly strict for months then one slip up and the sugar/caffeine/salt/fat rush would grip me again… on more than one occasion I remember the extreme body response to that awful food. My heart beating out of my chest, hearing the blood rushing behind my ears and the noises of the world fading, my vision fading to white and everything looking overexposed, the blurred vision that would only pass hours after the food was eaten, the bloating, digestive issues, pain and nausea and then the inevitable intense cravings for more. If there was ever anything left I would have to eat it, even if I was fighting back the gag reflex it had to be gone. I would eat until my stomach was rock hard and my breathing was impaired, until I could do nothing but lie down and pray it would go away.
I truly believed I deserved this pain because I was weak enough
to allow this behavior, this food to take control of my life.
I kept this hidden from everyone around me but on occasion there would be evidence uncovered. My father tried everything to get me to stop- so when I was mad at him I ate; I was grounded for eating on numerous occasions and food had well and truly become the dominant force in my life. The binge starve cycle continued for years, getting worse when I was struggling in life and slightly better when things were good.
As my then boyfriend (now husband) became closer I let him into my world. He thought it was hilarious that I had hiding spots around my room for food and that I had rituals to sneak food into the house so I could binge. Until now I had been alone in my behavior – but now, I had another partner in crime, someone else was eating too (nowhere near as much might I add) but it must not be that bad right? It became normal & fun for us to over eat together.
Again, it just kept going… until after one particularly deep deprivation cycle where I learned to love feeling empty, the dizzy spells and cold that accompany starvation (in reaction to how fat I looked in my wedding photos) I discovered chewing and spitting. Disgusting I know but when you are that desperate to eat bad food but terrified of gaining weight it seems like a completely rational decision. I would waste more money than I care to calculate, lie to get out of social engagements to stay home and binge, stay awake at night thinking about how I could get more food and c&s until my face was swollen, mouth was bleeding and so sore I couldn’t talk. This it what it took to make me realize I had a serious problem. Until now I had convinced myself that I was in control because I could starve/over exercise to compensate but c&s took over my life.
Even though I was open with my husband about most things- this I kept hidden because I knew it was bad. Eventually I told him what I had been doing (partly because money laundering was the other option) because I was in such a bad place. Thankfully I was blessed with the most understanding husband i
n the world who instead of getting mad at my weakness- helped me get through the shakes, headaches, nausea, insomnia & wall scratching agony of detox. Anyone who thinks sugar/fats/processed foods aren’t addictive needs a wake up call.
I would love to be able to tell you that I went vegan and everything changed effortlessly overnight but through some of the above time I had already adopted a vegan lifestyle. It was yet another one of the diets that I truly believed was the answer to my problem- I mean, you can’t get fat eating vegetables! (actually you can, think Chinese take-away) Whist I had based my decision on ethical concerns I’d by lying if I said weight loss wasn’t an additional motivation. But despite good intentions I became a junk food vegan, falling into the same bad habits I had as an omnivore.
The amount of time, energy, money, thought, obsession I’ve spent over food makes me sad. I’ve been fighting this for longer than I care to remember. I’ve done things I wouldn’t do to my worst enemy. I want so much for it never to happen again but I’m not delusional, I know this is an ongoing relationship. The path may seem flat now but life has a way of testing your resolve.
To be perfectly honest I have no idea what my turning point was. There was no one moment where I had an epiphany about how vegetables would save my life but by adopting a healthier attitude to food was definitely linked to being more aware of what I was putting in my body. I had walked the line between starvation/restriction/over-exercising & binge eating- never listening to my body, only abusing it. Where was the middle ground? How did I stop bouncing between the two and just eat normally? I started my food blog to try and keep myself accountable, to help me make the right decisions.
The more I read, the more I understood the direct correlation between my diet & physical discomfort & mental/emotional turmoil. From being vegan I turned plant-based after reading of its benefits and have never felt better. Trusting in the foods I know will nurture my body has given me the freedom I have craved for a decade. I now eat well, enjoy cooking and indulge in healthy desserts daily. I am only able to admit to all of the above because I’ve moved far enough past it to realize I can do this forever. I want to do this forever.
I receive compliments regularly on my appearance- my hair, skin, nails, body are all showing the signs of proper nutrition and my mind is clearer than ever before and focused on what matters- but by far the best compliment I receive is that I look happy! Because, you know what- I am happy! I’m not hiding anything, doing anything I’m ashamed of or stressed about food. I’m not restricting, over exercising or even dieting. I am enjoying eating what I want, when I want. I eat large quantities of whole foods and am still losing weight.
It all comes down to the fact that it’s just not worth it. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I deserve better. I deserve to live a long, happy, healthy life and so does everyone else. Learning to love and respect yourself is a huge step in overcoming a great many things and food (or lack there of) addiction is no different. Learning to feed your body rather than your emotional hunger has been key for me. Focusing on the true hunger, actual hunger- feeding that and nourishing your body & strengthening your mind is what helped me have the strength to build new healthy eating habits. Having the self-belief that even when times get tough you have the inner strength to pull through can make all the difference. Believe in yourself- trust that you will make the right decisions- you might surprise yourself!
Every day I feel stronger and my mind is clearer. I can look at food as just that, food. I can enjoy the taste of a small bite of something without feeling the need to consume the entire quantity or punish myself. I can eat until I’m no longer hungry rather than over-full. Mindful eating and enjoying nourishing unprocessed vegan food is working wonders for me.
I know this has been a long post but it’s a big topic! It’s been lovely to meet you and if you want some delicious & nutritious recipes feel free to head over to my blog. If there’s anyone struggling with food and needs someone who understands to talk to I’m here to help! Or if you just need some vegan/healthy cooking advice I’m good for that too. I hope you all have a wonderful day.
All the very best,
What are your thoughts on this? When I get back from travelling there’s a lot on eating disorders and veganism that I’d like to reflect upon and share with you. See you in a couple of weeks!