After many years, I’ve recently come up with the courage to open up about my binge eating journey. And I was honestly amazed and deeply touched by the response I got. So many people reached out to me in public and in private. To encourage me, to thank me, to tell me about their own struggles. This is why I decided to keep sharing about my journey.
Disordered eating is a thing – but does it have to be?
I think it’s important to know that we are not alone. That way more people suffer from a messed up relationship with their bodies and food than we are aware of. And while it may be increasingly “normal” to be unsatisfied with how we look, to go on diets and torture ourselves with excessive workouts, it’s neither desirable nor necessary.
In this post, I want to explain how I ended up with disordered eating habits, primarily binge eating.
How I got into binge eating
I know that it all started way earlier, but I now want to focus on the parts that are most obvious and that I am responsible for. In 2014, after about 2 years of not really giving a sh*t about anything, I got back into a “healthy lifestyle”. The transition took place one step after the other.
Healthy habits turning toxic
First, I started to work out every day. Then, I lowered my carb intake because I read and heard they were “bad” and “made you fat” (I had eaten a diet high in complex carbs for my entire life until that point and was perfectly fine, but that logic didn’t occur to me back then). I had a pretty busy life at that time and ate most of my meals at university, so I started to meal prep. I then heard about intermittent fasting and limited my “eating window” to 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. I started to weigh my food and track my calories. As a next step, of course, I started to cut my calories.
Honestly, everything was going really well. I felt healthy, energized and in charge. I also felt a lot of stress and hunger, but – sick as I already was at this point – I found pleasure in that.
People started telling me that they admired me for my discipline. They complimented me on my “good shape” and asked how I managed to get into it. I had every reason to believe I was on the right track.
Then, I started to fast. I would consume nothing but water, tea or black coffee for one day per week. Every once in a while, I would also go on a 3-5 days “juice cleanse”.
Trendy terms for sick behavior
As a result, I sometimes wouldn’t eat solid foods for days of even weeks, covering my sick behaviors with trendy terms like “fast”, “detox” or “cleanse”. Now don’t get me wrong: I do believe that all of these things can be extremely beneficial if done with the right motivation and under professional guidance. None of this was the case for me. I just used them to justify not eating.
Inevitably, the first binges started to happen about a year later (even though I had already binged on various occasions before all of this started, but that’s another story). Some days, I would simply eat whatever the f*ck I could find and as much as I could possibly get in, which obviously made me feel terrible and guilty. When I could still control the binging episodes to some extent, I would simply call them “cheat days” – once again just reframing my disordered eating with fancy fitness terms. When I felt like I was loosing control, I tried to “make up for it” by exercising more and adding additional “fast days”.
Best shape of my life
With two workouts a day, one “fast day” and at least one binge per week, I was in the best shape of my life. But I was also miserable.
I wouldn’t go to parties, because I didn’t want to be “tempted” with “forbidden foods”. I wouldn’t go on dates, because the thought of eating a full meal after 6 p.m. accompanied by a drink was more frightening to me than the prospect of dying alone. I wouldn’t go on trips, because I “couldn’t” break my workout routine.
I was isolated, sad and increasingly sick. I lost my period. I was constantly tired and sore from over-exercising or sluggish and lethargic from over-eating. I had gotten to where I thought I wanted to be and discovered it was the worst place on earth.
To be continued…