Most people will know someone with an eating disorder. Even if they don’t know it. Even if they have been told. When they think eating disorder, they think anorexia and bulimia. They never suspect fad diets, laxative misuse, skipping a meal or extreme social media focused on appearance or food. My eating disorder isn’t obvious either. Even to my partner. Even to me! Binge eating disorder. It was all completely subconscious, even though I was aware that I was ashamed of it.
Whilst some peoples’ friends and family may ask about it and offer support when you finally open up, I discovered not everyone will. In fact, I’m pretty sure the friends I told forgot all about it within the first 10 minutes of me bringing it up. The health professionals told me I wasn't unwell enough to need their help too, and my family are more concerned about how I have not had kids yet. I’ve even had one of my friends shake their head in disapproval when I told them how much weight I’d gained over lockdown. But this story isn’t about them. It’s about me, and my journey; the first stage: the discovery of each piece of the puzzle; and the second: propelling myself out of the cycle.
Thinking back, quite often I was binging as though I was in a trance. I have vivid memories of finding 24 penguin bar wrappers from a 3am snack. And the frequent shoving of sweet, chocolate and savoury items, cycled round and round until I would feel physically sick. Even begging my partner to take away all the junk food in the house just so I wouldn’t binge on it during his weekends away. There were never any thoughts about the consequences, just about how disgusting I was – which made me do it even more!
When I joined New Leaf Recovery and Wellbeing College courses, that’s when I discovered the issues behind why I was doing it. And little by little, I peeled back each layer of my damaged soul and exposed the wounds that only the dedication of time and reflection could fix. With each appropriate response exposing the next piece.
I discovered I was stress eating to cope with my job. So, I learned self-compassion and quit. I was eating late at night because I wasn’t sleeping due to poor relationships. So, I learned how to set boundaries, communicate better and practiced gratitude. And the sudden depression and desperation followed by mass binging were due to feeling lonely and abandoned when alone. So, I practiced mindfulness and forced myself to be alone until I was comfortable with it. OK, that one was forced on me! But it worked!
Eventually, though, I started feeling better and finally felt in the right frame of mind to start a family; which is when I learned that I have Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This could have been viewed at as another roadblock to success – but I saw it as being the final piece of the puzzle that I had been searching for all along; for it gives me the solution to banish binge eating for good! The depression, poor self-esteem, bingeing – it’s all connected and happens to be symptoms of PCOS – my only challenge is to reduce the symptoms. Except PCOS causes weight gain and weight gain causes PCOS. And the hormonal imbalance (a symptom of PCOS) is worse with weight gain but also stops weight loss! And I needed to improve my wellbeing to get into a place to discover I had PCOS, but if I had discovered I had PCOS earlier, I could have taken the appropriate actions to improve my overall wellbeing that could have stopped the symptoms becoming worse. The catch22 dilemma I am currently facing. And the saddest part? It’s so common! And unnoticeable without a GP approving specific tests to identify it!
However, for those that do discover they have it, there is hope! A way to reverse it all. And I am on the path to recovery. Although the ‘bingeing’ isn’t completely over – it does feel more controlled, happens less often and overall, I am eating much less. Consistency and reducing the symptoms slowly is key. Now, my dinner choices are healthier and filling and sugar intake has decreased. Movement has increased and I now have less guilt about needing (or imposing!) a strict healthy diet too; all improving my sleep and stress levels.
My key drivers for success: fitting into the clothes I love and being able to hike abroad. And, of course, eventually, having the family and home I’ve always dreamed of.
Here’s to dreams and making them happen. Here’s to propelling myself out of the binge eating cycle and my goals to stay out of it.