This question comes from Poppy in the UK
I stumbled across your website today, and saw that you were giving advice to people with eating disorders so I hope you don’t mind me asking for some advice and a fresh perspective.
I’ll try and keep it short! My story goes like this: I developed anorexia around 14/15, which then turned to bulimia. There was never any huge event as a trigger, rather a small accumulation of things. Ive always had low self esteem, my parents broke up, we moved to a different country, i had a very unhappy time at a boarding school, plus my mum (a past bulimic) is a personal fitness trainer and is vigilant about food/exercise (though she means it lovingly). My way of dealing with all that was to take it out on my body. I never do anything by halves, and always go for the extreme option.
I then went to therapy, got my family involved etc and managed to stopped purging. But that was the easy part. I have had some periods of less bingeing, but its never really gone away.
Over the past year since September, during my Gap Year, the binges have got worse and worse, and I began to spiral deeper into depression (which I suspect had always been present but I’d manage to keep going until I’d finished school). Things in my personal life made the binging worse, and the bingeing made the depression worse. I went back to therapy and was put on anti-depressants as I just wanted to sleep and never wake up.
In March I went travelling, and I came home in June. The anti-depressants had begin to work, and generally I was feeling much happier (though not happy with my body as I’d gained nearly 2 stone since last summer from bingeing!). Whilst I was travelling, I binged occasionally, with increasing frequency till I came home. Since I’ve been home, Ive been dieting and overeating on and off. It feels surreal, and I can’t believe its still happening.
I’m so confused, as I have the support of my family, I have all this information and education about EDs that I’ve learnt and am feeling happier so why am I still bingeing? I am now embarassed by my body and I just want to be free of this shameful habit.
Would you be able to advise me of a sensible next step?
Thank you so much for your question. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re still dealing with bingeing. But what a great accomplishment for you to have overcome anorexia and purging. That’s truly amazing and I hope that you give yourself accolades for that. You are already in your recovery process. Remember, it is a process and you will keep getting better.
It seems from your note that you feel very ashamed that you are still acting out with food, despite how far you’ve come and it seems as though you feel that because you are so knowledgeable you shouldn’t still be struggling. Isn’t it amazing that we can have all the education in the world about food, nutrition, eating disorders, yet still be very in our eating disorder? I think that’s probably more normal than you would imagine. I cannot tell you how many women I’ve seen who are very successful yoga teachers, personal trainers, and even an Olympian who have come into my office and struggle greatly with food. And they have so much shame about it. They think they’re the only one. You are definitely not alone. However, because so many people have so much shame, they tend to suffer alone, believing that they are the only one with this problem or that they need to be strong for others or put up a good facade because they believe that they have to be perfect. Is there anyone in your life who might be like this?
As I said in my email back to you, it seems that although you are getting support from family, therapist and loved ones, you don’t seem to have peer support– that is support from other women who are going through the exact same thing as you are at the same time. Groups like Eating Disorders Anonymous (http://www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org/) Overeaters Anonymous – (in the UK http://www.oagb.org.uk/) can help you to meet other folks who are struggling in the same ways that you are.
As far as the binge eating, I know that you are struggling and unhappy with your weight gain, but I would encourage you to stop dieting completely and begin to eat what your body needs to be healthy. When you restrict foods, bingeing is on the other side. You might start by telling yourself that you’re allowed to have any binge food that you want… but only after you eat a healthy meal. So, if you’re craving a giant piece of cake, you tell yourself that it’s okay to have it, but first you must eat a piece of fruit and some veggies with some egg or protein. Then, if you still want that cake, go ahead. You might find that you are able to eat a moderate amount of it without bingeing once your nutritional needs are taken care of. If you cannot, you then know that you are bingeing for emotional reasons. This is a good time for you to pick up the phone and call a support person, someone who is struggling and healing with you or to go to a meeting. If you cannot find any support groups in your area, you can also find online support. It’s okay to go to meetings online and meet people that way. You can make recovery friends that way and still have people to chat on the phone or to instant message with.
Here are some resources that might be helpful for you:
I hope that this answers your question and you’ve found this helpful.
Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.