Coming Out: A Post About My Eating Disorder & Where I’m Taking It From Here

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It’s not a subject that I’ve spoken about much in public, but I’m coming out of the closet: I have suffered with disordered eating for the majority of my life.

The disorder I have wrestled with is called compulsive overeating/binge eating disorder and is very scary to admit to in a public forum.

People who suffer from COE/BED will often restrict food intake in front of others and then eat excessively in private, going to great lengths to hide their disorder from friends and family. COE/BED sufferers are plagued by fantasies about their binge sessions, where they can consume more than a day’s calories in one short sitting. There is no purge (like in bulimia), so the energy of the binge just stays in the body and manifests as rapid weight gain.

To give a little perspective to the non-disordered, my favorite quote about eating issues goes something like this: “When you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, you put the proverbial tiger in a cage to recover. When you are addicted to food, you can put the tiger in the cage, but have to take it out three times a day for a walk.”

I would gorge myself on crappy food to the point of feeling sick. I’d go to ridiculous lengths to avoid people identifying my disorder – including switching up the stores at which I’d buy binge food or stopping at a couple different fast food joints in one trip to avoid a judging glance from the employees over a massive food order. I’d eat in the bathtub or in the car to keep from being seen in rapid consumption mode. I hid food everywhere – under the bed, in dresser drawers, in the console of my car. When I ate in front of people, I’d make excuses for the quantity of food I was consuming, saying things like, “Oh man, I’m starving! I haven’t eaten all day!” – even if I had eaten an entire bag of potato chips twenty minutes earlier.

Through it all, I dealt with the resulting effects: being called a “cow” or “pig,” being constantly teased all through school, being instantly friend-zoned by dudes I was really into despite my ~sparkling~ personality, being in plus-sized clothing by the time I was 13 (before plus-sized clothing existed on the scale it does today), being completely uncomfortable in and disconnected from my body, and developing a very sharp sarcasm to deal with it all. I became extraordinarily critical of others as a defense mechanism – like, “yeah, I might be fat, but at least I’m not XYZ.” All of that served to feed the best, so to speak, putting me smack dab in the middle of an addiction cycle, overeating to hide my shame about overeating to hide my shame about overeating.

In the throes of my disorder, I remember thinking, “If I have to have an eating disorder, why can’t I have one that makes me look good?” Ugh. Totally fucked up, right?

In talking with several women in my life who have also battled eating disorders, I’ve found that there is this common thread of shame that goes hand-in-hand with the struggle. I want to take this lid off the beast of shame and give it some room to breathe. Letting this blog post go to print is one piece of that for me and, I hope, for other women & men who are suffering or have suffered from disordered eating. It’s scary to admit you have a problem and takes a lot of strength and courage to ask for help in making vital changes to your life.

For me, finding yoga was one of the first steps towards me getting in control of my COE/BED. My father’s death slowed my progress for about a year, until I discovered JourneyDance and made the decision to finally let go of my disorder once and for all, in one of the classic JourneyDance choreographies known as the Fire Ceremony. There really is something to practicing modalities that put you back into your body when you’ve spent so much time trying to escape it.

I’ve lost seventy pounds to date. I’m out of plus sizes for the first time in my adult life. When I reach my goal weight, I will be half the size I was at the height of my disorder. I will be an entire person lighter.

 

Though I still struggle almost daily with the urge, I have been scary-hiding-in-the-closet-freakout-pile-of-shame binge-free since June of 2012. It’s something I’ve been actively working on since 2010. It hasn’t been easy. But conquering one’s life’s greatest challenges never is.

So, you may be wondering… why come out about this now?

I’m incredibly excited to announce that I have been hired to lead JourneyDance classes at Project Bliss, which is a “non-medical, community-based residential home to promote the affordable treatment of eating disorders” in Arlington, Texas.

Project Bliss is a pretty cutting-edge program that offers tried-and-true eating disorder treatment modalities (like therapy and meetings with dietitians/nutritionists) with mind-body wellness programs like yoga and – now – JourneyDance.

Just look at all the studies coming out lately about the now scientifically proven benefits of meditation and yoga. It’s not a bunch of hogwash, this shit works.

I think Project Bliss offers an innovative approach to the treatment of disordered eating and other behavioral health issues. I love that they combine science and spirituality. I think that’s key – it certainly was for me.

Yoga has taught me that no matter what conditions I have to face, I can control my reaction (thank you, Bikram Choudhury and your 105-degree “torture chamber”). Dance has taught me that I have the power to create my own reality, choice by choice and movement by movement (thank you, Toni Bergins). Those concepts have allowed me to sit here at my computer and type in awe about how my life is no longer ruled by my compulsive need to binge on food. I never thought I’d be able to say that.

It makes me deeply grateful that I have the opportunity to take my life experience and use it to help other people in a similar place to where I once stood, where every meal was an ordeal and a reason to beat myself up. I am proof that it is possible to change an unhealthy relationship with food and overcome a lifetime of disordered eating. And now it’s my job to help other people realize that about themselves.

Have you suffered with any kind of eating disorder? Is it time to take the lid off your shame? If so, please feel free to share your story in the comments. 

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