10 Critical Lessons I Learned From Having a Binge-Eating Disorder

An inspiring story from YourTango on one woman’s personal triumph over her eating disorder.

My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I felt tortured, thought I was a failure, binged and gained weight rapidly. My family worried about my health, and I felt . . . hopeless. It wasn’t until my mom staged an intervention that I finally realized I needed help with a problem that I thought was my weight. So, to the Internet I went. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for, but I knew it wasn’t for conventional weight-loss programs because I’d tried them all before. I ventured into eating-disorder cyberspace and came across Binge-Eating Disorder (BED), which described my behavior perfectly.

The Binge-Eating Disorder Association defines BED as “the most common eating disorder in the United States. An estimated 3.5 percent of women, two percent of men, and 30 to 40 percent of those seeking weight-loss treatments would qualify clinically as victims of Binge-Eating Disorder. The disorder impacts people of all ages (including children and adolescents), races, and levels of education and income. We categorize Binge-Eating Disorder as recurring episodes of binge-eating, feeling out of control while bingeing, and feeling guilt and shame afterward.”

Could it be possible that I had an eating disorder? I began calling eating disorder treatment centers, and the phone screenings resulted in a diagnosis of BED and entry into a day-treatment program for five weeks. The first day of treatment was so emotional and scary, but I had an epiphany!

I realized I wasn’t a failure because I couldn’t lose weight or stick to a weight-loss diet. I actually had a disorder that was hindering me from getting healthy physically and emotionally. You see, binge-eating and being overweight were symptoms of much larger concerns in other areas of my life.

After years of struggling, I began my journey to recovery, and here’s what I learned from my BED:

    I used food to cope with difficult feelings resulting from traumas in my childhood, yo-yo dieting deprivation, and a life that was stressful and unfulfilling.Recovery from BED is not about losing weight but about creating a normal relationship with food. This was the hardest concept to wrap my head around! A slow, mindful, intuitive, balanced and a nonrestrictive approach to eating is the way to a normal relationship with food.Identifying emotions is hard but well worth the effort. I started to find my true self, and I’ve discovered that I’m pretty awesome just the way I am!Weight-loss diets and crash diets don’t work.No one can recover alone; my BFF from treatment is my lifeline.Beating yourself up results in internal bruises that are pretty tough to heal.The number on the scale is not the most important thing in life.Transformation from an eating disorder is a practice and doesn’t happen on a perfect or straight path.Do things like eating healthy or exercising because they feel good not because you should.Recovery and transformation are possible, and it’s possible to heal your relationship with food!

My Binge-Eating Disorder served as a catalyst to change my life completely. I now deal with emotions without using food, which I practice every day, I left my job and am pursuing my passion of helping others overcome emotional eating issues. I moved south where the gray days of Winter turned into yellow, sunny ones. My relationships are better, and I’ve learned how to live life without binge-eating.

Recovering from my eating disorder was a roller-coaster ride filled with tears, laughter, amazing women, supportive family, profound realizations, deep soul-searching, joy, and success, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

More From YourTango:

5 Ways to Own Your Hot, Sexy Self5 Ways to Get Out of a Funk in Less Than 24 HoursThe Exact Amount of Time to Spend in the Gym For a Longer Life

Image Source: Shutterstock

10 Critical Lessons I Learned From Having a Binge-Eating Disorder

An inspiring story from YourTango on one woman’s personal triumph over her eating disorder.

My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I felt tortured| thought I was a failure| binged and gained weight rapidly. My family worried about my health| and I felt . . . hopeless. It wasn’t until my mom staged an intervention that I finally realized I needed help with a problem that I thought was my weight. So| to the Internet I went. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for| but I knew it wasn’t for conventional weight-loss programs because I’d tried them all before. I ventured into eating-disorder cyberspace and came across Binge-Eating Disorder (BED)| which described my behavior perfectly.

The Binge-Eating Disorder Association defines BED as “the most common eating disorder in the United States. An estimated 3.5 percent of women| two percent of men| and 30 to 40 percent of those seeking weight-loss treatments would qualify clinically as victims of Binge-Eating Disorder. The disorder impacts people of all ages (including children and adolescents)| races| and levels of education and income. We categorize Binge-Eating Disorder as recurring episodes of binge-eating| feeling out of control while bingeing| and feeling guilt and shame afterward.”

Could it be possible that I had an eating disorder? I began calling eating disorder treatment centers| and the phone screenings resulted in a diagnosis of BED and entry into a day-treatment program for five weeks. The first day of treatment was so emotional and scary| but I had an epiphany!

I realized I wasn’t a failure because I couldn’t lose weight or stick to a weight-loss diet. I actually had a disorder that was hindering me from getting healthy physically and emotionally. You see| binge-eating and being overweight were symptoms of much larger concerns in other areas of my life.

After years of struggling| I began my journey to recovery| and here’s what I learned from my BED:

    I used food to cope with difficult feelings resulting from traumas in my childhood| yo-yo dieting deprivation| and a life that was stressful and unfulfilling.Recovery from BED is not about losing weight but about creating a normal relationship with food. This was the hardest concept to wrap my head around! A slow| mindful| intuitive| balanced and a nonrestrictive approach to eating is the way to a normal relationship with food.Identifying emotions is hard but well worth the effort. I started to find my true self| and I’ve discovered that I’m pretty awesome just the way I am!Weight-loss diets and crash diets don’t work.No one can recover alone; my BFF from treatment is my lifeline.Beating yourself up results in internal bruises that are pretty tough to heal.The number on the scale is not the most important thing in life.Transformation from an eating disorder is a practice and doesn’t happen on a perfect or straight path.Do things like eating healthy or exercising because they feel good not because you should.Recovery and transformation are possible| and it’s possible to heal your relationship with food!

My Binge-Eating Disorder served as a catalyst to change my life completely. I now deal with emotions without using food| which I practice every day| I left my job and am pursuing my passion of helping others overcome emotional eating issues. I moved south where the gray days of Winter turned into yellow| sunny ones. My relationships are better| and I’ve learned how to live life without binge-eating.

Recovering from my eating disorder was a roller-coaster ride filled with tears| laughter| amazing women| supportive family| profound realizations| deep soul-searching| joy| and success| and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

More From YourTango:

5 Ways to Own Your Hot| Sexy Self5 Ways to Get Out of a Funk in Less Than 24 HoursThe Exact Amount of Time to Spend in the Gym For a Longer Life

Image Source: Shutterstock

My Fight With Orthorexia: How Healthy Habits Turned Into an Eating Disorder

One writer’s battle with the eating disorder orthorexia sheds light on the question: “Is there such a thing as eating too healthy?” Our friends at Shape share the story with us here.

Easter dinner was my downfall. Nope, I wasn’t scared witless by a dude in a rabbit suit. Instead, it was food that had me in the bathroom, crying so hard I used up an entire roll of toilet paper, waterproof mascara running down my face. See, I’d been invited to a friend’s home to eat a feast that she’d spent all day preparing¡ªI remember roast beef, a ham, two kinds of homemade rolls, potatoes, gravy, fruit salad with whipped cream, buttered beans, asparagus glistening in oil, Greek salad, and at least four different desserts¡ªbut there wasn’t a single thing I could eat.

As everyone chatted and filled their plates and unseasonably warm spring air filled the room, I got more and more panicky. I had to take something. I couldn’t be “that girl” and just sit with an empty plate while everyone around me gorged. Finally, I settled on the salad. Usually those are safe bets for me, but this one had been pre-dressed and had cheese¡ªmounds and mounds of finely grated fresh Parmesan. But it was my only choice, I thought, so I grimly sat in my place (labeled with a cute name card straight off of Pinterest) and scraped bits of cheese, one by one, off each leaf of lettuce. (Read more: Is Being Neurotic About Food Unhealthy?)I thought I wasn’t being obvious, but soon everyone was watching as I painstakingly denuded my salad. “Oh, I made sure there were some vegetarian dishes for you, Charlotte,” my friend said helpfully.”Well, it’s the cheese…” I stammered, blushing up to my hairline.”She must be vegan!” someone else said.I heard my husband sigh.I wasn’t vegan. I wasn’t even a vegetarian. I was something so far beyond either of those things that there wasn’t even a name for it. I had exactly five things that I would eat: apples, cashew nuts, green leaves, artichokes, and pomegranates. My weirdly strict menuwasn’t because I had a lot of food intolerances or because I was super picky. The truth was that I have always adored food, all kinds of it. Every single thing on that table looked amazingly delicious to me¡ªand I was sure it would taste good too. But I couldn’t eat it because I didn’t think it was healthy. I was paralyzed by my sad plate of salad; I couldn’t even eat a bite. There was no way I could get all the cheese dust off.”You need help,” my husband whispered to me. “And when we get home, we are getting some for you.”I started crying.For anyone who has ever gone to a holiday meal while on a diet, this isn’t exactly new territory. But the lengths that I would go to to preserve my so-called healthy eating were so extreme that they became, well, downright disordered. My eating disorder had a name, I just didn’t know it at the time: Orthorexia.Orthorexia is “a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful.” It isn’t officially classified as its own eating disorder, although I and many others think it should be. Similar to other eating disorders, orthorexics are obsessed with controlling theirbodies through theirfood intake and will go to great lengths to do so. But that’s where the similarities mostly end. I wasn’t concerned with calories or even really with my weight or appearance; for me it was all about food purity. (Read more: Could You Be Orthorexic?)Ironically, this descent into madness hadallstarted with a sincere desire to “get healthy.” Unfortunately, I had no idea what that meant.

I’d grown up, like many of my peers, on white-bread sandwiches with processed cheese followed by a Little Debbie chaser. Adding peach slices in heavy syrup made it healthy (in addition torounding out the “processed orange” theme on my plate). I’d grown up in the fat-phobic ’90s. As long as everything was fat-free, I thought I was set.Obviously, I needed guidance.

So I read every book, website, and magazine article I could get my hands on. I determined that if I did exactly what the experts suggested, then I could figure out what the “perfect” way to eat was. For instance, take this little gem about milk (one of the first studies I ever read): Lose Four Times the Fat and Build Twice the Muscle Drinking Milk! The study sounds believable. But then, they almost always do,at least to me. My love of research was probably one of my worst orthorexic weaknesses. Even the best study is not infallible, and I know it, but those researchers, they always sound so sure of themselves! And they’re smart! So I did what they said and dranka cup of milk post workout.But it wasn’t long before I realized that researchers’ second job (after doing all their cool experiments) is to argue with each other.For example, this study,Milk Studies Misleading¡ªMilk Does Not Aid in Weight Loss,manages to refute allmilk studies. Since Itrust other people’s knowledge (particularly science-y types) more than my own, I just got confused.Was milk the best thing ever or the worst? Should I drink it?I tried to logic my way through by analyzing each study. What were the sample sizes? Research institution? Longitudinal? Case study? Animals? Ouija boards?Eventually, I would giveup and just make an arbitrary rule: Dairy products are out.Once you’re thatfar down the crazy path, you either let your brain explode or you have to decide something. And this rule might have been fine¡ªlots of people don’t eat dairy and live healthy lives! The problem was, I then repeated the rule for grains,eggs, meat, soy, nuts, fruits, tubers, beans, cheese, bread, sugar, artificial sweeteners, cereals, canned produce, frozen produce, juice, anything microwavable, and caffeine¡­which is exactly how I got to that fateful Easter dinner, crying my eyes out in the bathroom.It took seeing myself through my friends’ and loved ones’ eyes to realize how unhealthy my “healthy” diet had become. I started a treatment program for eating disorders. (Which makes it sound simpler than it was. Real life is messy.) My extreme food restriction combined with my love of exercising had really damaged my body. It took months to work through the physical and mental issues I’d created. Eventually, I found real healing through medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (a treatment typically used for obsessive compulsive disorder, which makes sense since orthorexia has a lot in common with OCD), and Geneen Roth’s Intuitive Eating program.It’s been years since that Easter dinner. Today, I proudly say that I eat everything.I still make an effort to make mostly healthy choices, but nothing is strictly off-limits. In fact this year, I’m the one cooking the holiday meal and I’ve already bookmarked dozens of decadent recipes. I plan on trying them all!

Image Source: I Eat Everything / Charlotte Hilton Andersen

My Fight With Orthorexia: How Healthy Habits Turned Into an Eating Disorder

One writer’s battle with the eating disorder orthorexia sheds light on the question: “Is there such a thing as eating too healthy?” Our friends at Shape share the story with us here.

Easter dinner was my downfall. Nope| I wasn’t scared witless by a dude in a rabbit suit. Instead| it was food that had me in the bathroom| crying so hard I used up an entire roll of toilet paper| waterproof mascara running down my face. See| I’d been invited to a friend’s home to eat a feast that she’d spent all day preparing¡ªI remember roast beef| a ham| two kinds of homemade rolls| potatoes| gravy| fruit salad with whipped cream| buttered beans| asparagus glistening in oil| Greek salad| and at least four different desserts¡ªbut there wasn’t a single thing I could eat.

As everyone chatted and filled their plates and unseasonably warm spring air filled the room| I got more and more panicky. I had to take something. I couldn’t be “that girl” and just sit with an empty plate while everyone around me gorged. Finally| I settled on the salad. Usually those are safe bets for me| but this one had been pre-dressed and had cheese¡ªmounds and mounds of finely grated fresh Parmesan. But it was my only choice| I thought| so I grimly sat in my place (labeled with a cute name card straight off of Pinterest) and scraped bits of cheese| one by one| off each leaf of lettuce. (Read more: Is Being Neurotic About Food Unhealthy?)I thought I wasn’t being obvious| but soon everyone was watching as I painstakingly denuded my salad. “Oh| I made sure there were some vegetarian dishes for you| Charlotte|” my friend said helpfully.”Well| it’s the cheese…” I stammered| blushing up to my hairline.”She must be vegan!” someone else said.I heard my husband sigh.I wasn’t vegan. I wasn’t even a vegetarian. I was something so far beyond either of those things that there wasn’t even a name for it. I had exactly five things that I would eat: apples| cashew nuts| green leaves| artichokes| and pomegranates. My weirdly strict menuwasn’t because I had a lot of food intolerances or because I was super picky. The truth was that I have always adored food| all kinds of it. Every single thing on that table looked amazingly delicious to me¡ªand I was sure it would taste good too. But I couldn’t eat it because I didn’t think it was healthy. I was paralyzed by my sad plate of salad; I couldn’t even eat a bite. There was no way I could get all the cheese dust off.”You need help|” my husband whispered to me. “And when we get home| we are getting some for you.”I started crying.For anyone who has ever gone to a holiday meal while on a diet| this isn’t exactly new territory. But the lengths that I would go to to preserve my so-called healthy eating were so extreme that they became| well| downright disordered. My eating disorder had a name| I just didn’t know it at the time: Orthorexia.Orthorexia is “a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful.” It isn’t officially classified as its own eating disorder| although I and many others think it should be. Similar to other eating disorders| orthorexics are obsessed with controlling theirbodies through theirfood intake and will go to great lengths to do so. But that’s where the similarities mostly end. I wasn’t concerned with calories or even really with my weight or appearance; for me it was all about food purity. (Read more: Could You Be Orthorexic?)Ironically| this descent into madness hadallstarted with a sincere desire to “get healthy.” Unfortunately| I had no idea what that meant.

I’d grown up| like many of my peers| on white-bread sandwiches with processed cheese followed by a Little Debbie chaser. Adding peach slices in heavy syrup made it healthy (in addition torounding out the “processed orange” theme on my plate). I’d grown up in the fat-phobic ’90s. As long as everything was fat-free| I thought I was set.Obviously| I needed guidance.

So I read every book| website| and magazine article I could get my hands on. I determined that if I did exactly what the experts suggested| then I could figure out what the “perfect” way to eat was. For instance| take this little gem about milk (one of the first studies I ever read): Lose Four Times the Fat and Build Twice the Muscle Drinking Milk! The study sounds believable. But then| they almost always do|at least to me. My love of research was probably one of my worst orthorexic weaknesses. Even the best study is not infallible| and I know it| but those researchers| they always sound so sure of themselves! And they’re smart! So I did what they said and dranka cup of milk post workout.But it wasn’t long before I realized that researchers’ second job (after doing all their cool experiments) is to argue with each other.For example| this study|Milk Studies Misleading Milk Does Not Aid in Weight Loss|manages to refute allmilk studies. Since Itrust other people’s knowledge (particularly science-y types) more than my own| I just got confused.Was milk the best thing ever or the worst? Should I drink it?I tried to logic my way through by analyzing each study. What were the sample sizes? Research institution? Longitudinal? Case study? Animals? Ouija boards?Eventually| I would giveup and just make an arbitrary rule: Dairy products are out.Once you’re thatfar down the crazy path| you either let your brain explode or you have to decide something. And this rule might have been fine lots of people don’t eat dairy and live healthy lives! The problem was| I then repeated the rule for grains|eggs| meat| soy| nuts| fruits| tubers| beans| cheese| bread| sugar| artificial sweeteners| cereals| canned produce| frozen produce| juice| anything microwavable| and caffeineïwhich is exactly how I got to that fateful Easter dinner| crying my eyes out in the bathroom.It took seeing myself through my friends’ and loved ones’ eyes to realize how unhealthy my “healthy” diet had become. I started a treatment program for eating disorders. (Which makes it sound simpler than it was. Real life is messy.) My extreme food restriction combined with my love of exercising had really damaged my body. It took months to work through the physical and mental issues I’d created. Eventually| I found real healing through medication| cognitive behavioral therapy (a treatment typically used for obsessive compulsive disorder| which makes sense since orthorexia has a lot in common with OCD)| and Geneen Roth’s Intuitive Eating program.It’s been years since that Easter dinner. Today| I proudly say that I eat everything.I still make an effort to make mostly healthy choices| but nothing is strictly off-limits. In fact this year| I’m the one cooking the holiday meal and I’ve already bookmarked dozens of decadent recipes. I plan on trying them all!

Image Source: I Eat Everything / Charlotte Hilton Andersen