What My Binge Eating Disorder Looked Like

No food post from me today. I wanted to do something to acknowledge I struggled with binge eating and anorexia for many years. And although it’s no longer a real day-to-day battle for me, I remember the feelings all too well. And thought I would share with you what my eating disorder looked like.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I binged probably once a week for most of my late-twenties. It started off as my “cheat day.”   I was in the midst of my trying-every-diet-under-the-sun phase and I liked the idea of a full 16 hours of eating whatever I wanted. It soon became a habit I both dreaded and looked forward to.

I usually picked a day when my husband Abe was working, a time when I knew I’d be alone. Scheduling it so that I wouldn’t have anything the next day, either – that way I could be sick the following day “in peace.”  The morning would start off half-heartedly trying to talk myself out of the planned binge.  I promised to fuel my body with a nice hearty breakfast, like a bagel and egg sandwich. But the idea of “freedom” had been planted in my brain.  I would find myself on the street an hour after eating.  Convincing myself I just needed “a little something.”  Just like a drug addict.

I would stop into the pizza shop, and enjoy a thick Sicilian slice. “Honor your cravings,” like all the diet books tell you. I’d be the only one there, the first customer at 11 am. Then I would wander into the health food store, telling myself I’ll pick up something healthy to satisfy my sweet tooth.  And that would be it. I wouldn’t allow myself to eat the rest of the day, until dinnertime. A bag of yogurt covered pretzels, malt balls, and fig bars would be purchased from the bulk bins.  I’d circle around the block, eating them. I’d pass by people on the street and wonder if they knew what a mess I was.

Back home I’d try to distract myself from whatever was in the kitchen by watching TV or playing video games. “How can I still want more?” I would wonder. But there it was – that bottomless pit feeling. Not hunger, but emptiness. I would finish whatever was carb-y and easy to shove into my mouth.  Anything from a loaf of bread to a box of cereal. Ashamed that Abe would come home and know I binged, I would go back out to the supermarket to replace it.

While at the grocery store, I figured I might as well pick up some more stuff to “enjoy.” It was like the last supper. I prayed this would be my last binge and figured if I was going to go all out, I’d have to go ALL THE WAY. Wandering the aisles, I’d try to figure out what I wanted.  That if I could never have it again, what would it be?

For some people this may seem like a fun game. “What would your last meal be?”  But for me it was torture. Nothing was good enough.  Not even the items that had taunted me all week while I’d been dieting. I must’ve spent an hour walking around.  Removing packages from the snack aisle, putting them back.  Finally I would decide on something sweet (like a box of cookies).  And something salty (a bag of chips).  Another something sweet (a chocolate bar. For dessert.)

Of course, I would pick up whatever I needed to substitute back at the house.

This was “the fun” part, when I’d accepted that I was going to fully binge.  While I still felt physically and mentally capable of handling it.  I’d inhale everything I’d bought within an hour.  When my stomach wouldn’t take anymore I’d stop and sit in my food coma.  Then polish off some more when I had any room. Usually I would make it through all the sweet purchase, half the salty.  Then a bit of the second sweet, and some of the replacement food.  All done before Abe came home.   By this time, I’d already called him hours ago (probably before I went to the grocery store).  Just to let him know I was feeling sick so he wouldn’t be surprised to find me sprawled on the couch, incapable of movement.

That evening, whenever Abe wasn’t in the same room with me (like the bathroom) I would take my grocery store purchases from their hiding places and shove them in my mouth.  Quickly, afraid he might enter and walk in on me any second. Even though Abe was fully aware of my eating disorder, he never did “catch me.”

Some nights I enjoyed being pitied and allowed myself to feel the sickness.  This was an effective method for not being expected to participate in the following day.  And other nights I would pretend nothing was wrong.  Telling Abe I wanted to eat out that night and then ordering the fattiest, most calorically-dense thing on the menu I could find.  Then only eating half of it. I would be proud of myself that it appeared that I was eating “like a normal person” in public.

I always slept hard the night of a binge – 10 to 12 hours.   Sometimes the next morning I’d have another “lighter” binge day.  Some days I wouldn’t have any problem not eating all day, except for a “sick meal” of soup in front of my husband. At the same time that it was scary for me.  I knew I was out of control and feared this cycle would never stop.  It was also extremely comforting. I always knew what a binge would feel like – before, during, and after. A few times the binges made me so sick that I involuntarily threw up.  I would have food-poisoning-like symptoms for days.  And I would vow to Abe and myself to never repeat the behavior again. But I would.

It’s been at least a year and a half since my last binge, maybe longer. I’ve gotten through it with the help of my husband, family, friends, and an eating disorders specialist.  But mostly myself. This blog has been instrumental in helping me figure out my new relationship with food as well. I’ve definitely overeaten at times since then, but I have not repeated any of the psychological behaviors that accompanied my eating disorder.  I no longer lie to my husband or myself. I still can’t quite believe that that was my life for so many years, that I have been able to shed this part of my life that I was sure would never go away.

One of my degrees from college was in Women’s Studies, where we studied eating disorders , dissecting and theorizing and exploring the subject ad nauseam. I never believed I would have one.   I truly hope that if any of you are currently struggling you know that recovery is possible. It may feel like two steps forward and ten steps back at times, but the guilt, the pain, the shame – the seemingly never ending struggle – does end. I can say that today with complete confidence and pride.

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55 thoughts on “What My Binge Eating Disorder Looked Like

  1. Can You Stay for Dinner

    Lynn, this is the best post I’ve read from any blogger in the past month. I feel so much. Since I was morbidly obese for most of my life, I really empathize with the feelings of addictive binging. I know that emptiness so so well. Thank you so much for your brutal honesty and openness.

  2. luvtoeat

    First of all Lynn, huge congrats on getting past all of that! For you to be able to talk about this with such openness shows how far you’ve come.  
    Secondly, thank you so much for sharing something so personal with us in order to help others be aware that they may have an eating disorder. The first step to recovery is to realize and admit that you have a disorder and ask for help. 
    Last but not least, LYNNCHENROCKS! Thanks for being so real and honest with your fans.   

  3. Wendy Lee

    I am very moved by the total honesty and insight in this posting. Thank you for your willingness to share all the gory details with the rest of us. I have recovered from a late-adult-onset anorexia nervosa complicated by PTSD. It is a vicious and pernicious disease and takes a lot of help from professionals and loved ones to overcome it. I didn’t know about this special week and it’s good to know that it exists. I’m glad you used it as an opportunity to fully explain what this disorder looks like, up close and personal. You are a fine role model for those of us who follow your blog. Thank you for being honest and open about something that is generally so hidden and furtive. It’s a gift to us all.

  4. Estela @ Weekly Bite

    Hi Lynn,

    This is such a moving post! Very real and honest. So many readers will benefit from this post. You honesty is very much appreciated!

    And most importantly… I’m so glad you’re healthy and happy! 🙂

  5. Graze With Me

    Congrats for finally living binge-free! From what I can see you eat very balanced and well portioned meals now.

    It really surprised me the way that you described the something sweet, something salty and something for dessert mission. I do that all the time. I mean, they’re small items but that sweet/salty, back and forth is my demon. I’m always grabbing items and then putting them back & saying no to myself. I’m not sure it’s something I need help with but my snacks and meals are always something sweet & something salty.

    I’ve been known to hide in the kitchen around the corner from my husband (usually after a afternoon/night of drinking) and shovel cereal or almond butter into my mouth as fast as I can. Not good… I get really embarrassed when he catches me.

  6. Chelsea

    You have me in tears. Thank you so much for sharing and putting into words what is so hard. I struggle with this. I struggle with the feelings behind eating, the food hiding, and the shame. When I talk about it people don’t really understand and say things like “Well sometimes I overeat too.” Overeating and binging is completely different. Thank you again.

  7. Kim

    I think it’s so great that you shared this. It’s really courageous. I feel like lots of people avoid the details of their day-to-day illness. Maybe it’s shame, or fear of judgment. I know you’re helping so many women feel like they are less alone. And you’re giving them hope with your recovery.

  8. Ameena

    Lynn, I am so sorry you have been through so much. Even after meeting you I really had no idea because you are so confident and pretty. So great of you to share your experiences on the meaningful day. I’m glad that you are recovering and doing well now!

  9. Serena

    Lynn, you’re amazing. 🙂 I want to thank you for sharing your story to the world – It is very brave & would intimidate a lot of people.
    xox

  10. DiningAndDishing

    Thank you for your honesty Lynn. It is so brave of you to share your story with everyone and I’m certain that these kind of actions can help out many girls and women struggling with the same thing at this time. So glad you are doing so well now 🙂

    – Beth @ http://www.DiningAndDishing.com

  11. Melissa

    Thank you for this post!! It really hit home for me. I struggle with binge eating especially when I am stressed and always feel so disgusted with myself. It doesn’t matter what it is, if I am upset and want to binge, I will find something. It’s been so hard trying to turn this around. Thank you so much for your honesty. It is good to read about someone else who struggled with the same thing and overcame it.

  12. Amanda (Two Boos Who Eat)

    This is a fantastic post , Lynn. I can relate to some the behaviors for sure. I’m so proud of you for moving past it and sharing your story with others.

  13. anutritionisteats

    Lynn, This is such an inspiring post – I really hope that it can show others who are struggling that it is possible to get past an ED. Thank you for sharing and being so open and honest.

  14. katecooks

    i’ve read your story before but never quite realized how difficult it must have been to break such a strong and powerful cycle. i think that this is a great post and i think even someone not suffering from an ED can probably relate to some parts. i know i can. especially as a food blogger, food & eating can play such an strong mental role in daily life! you should be so proud of all your hard work 🙂

    xxx

  15. Cindy

    Amazing post Lynn! Amazing in your experience and that you are in a place where you can openly share it. Hat’s off to you!!

    So proud of you!

  16. Anna

    Thank you so much for posting this. I struggled with bulimia in high school and college, and know what’s like to have that push/pull relationship with food. Your trips to the grocery store sounds so much like mine– the careful deliberation of what to splurge on (even though I knew that I was just going to throw it up later), the guilt, the feeling that maybe this time would be the last time…

    Like you, I look back on that time in my life, and think, “I can’t believe I lived like that.”

    Bravo for being so open, Lynn.

  17. MarathonVal

    Lynn, congrats on getting through such a hard time in your life, and thank you for your candidness to speak about this subject. I just wish you lived in Chicago so that you could come talk to my students about this, who are often dealing with, or on the verge of, eating disorders themselves.

    You should be so proud of how far you have come!

  18. Lola

    Another incredible post, Lynn. I’ve been going through binge cycles for the past 6ish years (GAH that’s such a long time!) and I finally am starting to notice some real psychological changes within myself. The binges still happen, but this habit has been going strong for a long time so I’m trying to be patient with myself. I think your honesty is a huuuge part of your success in overcoming the issue. You give me courage to do the same! I’ve put so much effort into hiding it from everyone…it’s stressful and makes me feel ashamed and guilty for lying to all my loved ones. I know they would be nothing but supportive. No one would judge me. And yet, I’m scared to show the ugly little secret I’ve put so much energy into hiding.

  19. Melissa S.

    I am so sorry you have had to deal with so much, but I am so happy and inspired to see how far you have come and how strong you are!

  20. Gina

    Good for you. Stay strong. Stay aware. Be gentle with yourself, and proud of all that you have overcome and continue to deal with. Being healthy is a work in progress, and the progress is what matters. You continue to make progress each day and that is incredible, as is this post, and your generosity to share your story with others.

    xo G

  21. Lauren

    You are so brave to share this piece of yourself. I know that you have just touched so many struggling girls with your words of experience here.

    You’re amazing Lynn!

  22. Karla

    Thank you for sharing this. I really appreciate your honesty. As someone who struggles with bingeing it’s comforting to know that someone who is so inspiring has had struggles too.

    Thanks for showing me that my life doesn’t HAVE TO be like this! I’m working at it. Slowly but surely.

    You really are inspiring!

  23. Rosey Rebecca

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you were able to get through that period of your life. I love how honest you were in this post!

  24. whydeprive

    Thank you for posting this. Your story reminded me a lot of my struggles, and its good to know I wasn’t the only one. I used to polish of whole boxes of cereal too. Whatever was the fastest.
    Your honesty is really admirable.

  25. Wendy

    Wow Lynn, thanks for sharing this with your readers! This was so informative, real, and a nice change to the regular blog. I think you should write a book to further educate others. Please continue with the NED Awareness! I am very fascinated and always spread the knowledge onto my little second graders about encouraging a healthy body image. Thanks Lynn!

  26. Susan

    Lynn, thank you so much for sharing this. You are so strong and brave; things like this aren’t easy to share. It brought me to tears, not just because something like this could happen to someone as beautiful and talented as you, but because it’s happening more and more to so many girls. I hope that in the future, and with the help of organizations like NEDA, the stigmas and myths about eating disorders can be uncovered and discussed more openly. We should all be able to live in a world where we value our strengths and not succumb to isolating feelings of focusing on just our weaknesses.

    Okay, sorry for being so somber. In sum, you rock!!!

    <3 Susan

  27. kilax

    Thanks for sharing this. It makes me feel so much better to know I can relate to someone. I have those panics where I eat and eat, then wait until I feel better and eat more. Sometimes I want to eat and don’t know what I want so I buy a ton of stuff. And as soon as I eat something sweet, I want something salty! I wish I could quit this! Your progress is inspiring!

  28. Iris

    Thanks for sharing your story…I can relate to those behaviors, and I’m glad you’ve gotten to a healthier place. I’m sure it will help others to read your story.

  29. Marina

    Lynn, thanks for sharing your story! I knew some of it already since I met you and all, but I think it definitely helps other people who are struggling to know they aren’t alone! I remember my bingeing phase was a NIGHTMARE! I was so scared and upset by it. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have no control. And after being severely anorexic, I thought I was in control, but realized how out of control I actually was! I also think it’s great you’re taking questions. Blogging has really helped me too. At first I used it as a “crutch” in a way to help keep me in line. But now I just use my blog as more of a “fun” thing since my eating issues for the most part are over. Thank God!

  30. Margie

    Lynn, thank you for being honest and for sharing your story. I think it is hard for people to understand what it feels like to have a binge/emotional eating disorder. I can relate to many patterns in your story, because I have either done the same thing or a version of what you used to do. Your story puts a face to a ongoing and secretive issue. I think your progress will inspire many that you can overcome this disorder.
    Congrats and wish you well for years to come!

  31. SathyaSrihdar

    Lynn, I like your honesty by telling the truth of your disorder, really it will create awareness between the womens who are having the same thing.You will soon overcome out of this disorder.

    Hats off to your honesty,

    Take Care

  32. dana

    Thank you for this post
    it was amazing!
    I’ve struggled with basically exactly the same thing on and off for 7 years before going to seek professional help. . . Don’t get me wrong either, everyday has its challenges, ups and downs,.. but I hope you know by being so candid and forthright you are definitely helping and touching peoples lives as well as your own – – – just shows how beautiful of a person you really are! Whats the point of life if we can’t accept problems and struggles and help one another live life to the fullest!
    I love following your blog and think you are absolutely beautiful inside and out!
    Thank you thank you thank you 🙂
    have a great day!

  33. Lara (Thinspired)

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I think so many people can relate, including myself. Bingeing is a demon of mine as well. I am really interested in hearing more about recovery so I will definitely check out that post next. Any general tips or advice you have is so appreciated. Was seeing a counselor instrumental for you, or do you think you could have overcome the bingeing without it?

  34. Jessie

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, Lynn. What a difficult journey you’ve been on, and you are so courageous to tell us about it.

  35. aletheiazoe

    Sorry I’m so late on commenting on this, but I just came across it and have to tell that reading your story had me mesmerized. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this with the rest of us. Reading this gives me a much greater appreciation of your progress and your journey, and I continue to think you are a remarkable lady. 🙂

    xo Aletheia

  36. Maria @ a healthier Maria

    ummm I felt like I wrote that entire entry myself. Every so often I deal with the same sort of thing & I have literally never told anyone. Thanks for being so open!

  37. caronae

    Just found this post. Thank you so so much for sharing. While I don’t have a full-on binging problems, I do occasionally feel out of control, and it doesn’t feel good. I have gotten much better in the past six months, I think. You are right to point out that recovery and change are possible. We deserve to feel good about ourselves! 🙂

  38. seven

    thanks for this. i’ve been that girl spending an inordinate amount of time at the grocery store before, reading labels and picking things up only to put them back five seconds later. i always wondered what it looked like.

  39. Jen

    So relieved those days are far behind me (through years of hard work and persistence in recovery!). Glad there are people like you sharing your story with the world to help those who are currently struggling. <3

  40. Araceli

    Thank you for this post. Your past experiences are so familiar to me…it’s almost as if you were reading my mind. I wish I had your strength, this is seriously so much harder to control than I thought. I only hope that one day I will be able to put this all behind me. I genuinely admire you.

  41. Eileen

    Thank you so much. I am currently in treatment and it means so much to hear about your recovery. I know that everyones journey is different but, it means more then you can know to hear about yours. Keep up the great work.

  42. kt

    i am so glad that you wrote this.
    not only has it helped me to feel better about my BED, it has helped me realize that getting help from an ed specialist isn’t anything to be ashamed of
    it’s also given me hope that i can and will recover
    thank you

  43. Casey

    All I have to say is, thank you thank you so much for having the guts to admit to something I still have a hard time even thinking about. Thank you

  44. kaitlinwithhoney

    I’m reading this now due to your seven links post — what a wonderful, helpful, and inspiring post. I’m sure this was hard to write, but I cannot tell you how glad I am that this post is out there for other people who, I’m sure, need it.

  45. Cameo Morningstar

    Wow. You describe “The Binge” so well! It was almost frightening to read because I could so relate. I was similar with my binging. It started out as a “cheat day” and after awhile, (years, months, I dunno), it spiraled out of control. I can’t say I am fully recovered, (are we ever?) but I can say that I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was and I am currently “binge free”. Thank you for writing this! I am so glad I found your blog!

  46. Pau

    Oh, its already “2012” and “2013” is fast approaching. almost 2 years and 8 months passed away since you created this blog and I am so thankful that I read it today! Hoooray! Thank so much for sharing this and i’m looking forward for more! (: All I can say is “WOW!” this is so inspiring even though I was laughing at some points (:

    Allow me to share this blog. Thanks! (:

  47. Christina

    I randomly stubbled upon this blog and WOW. It is exactly what I am going through to a tee. You give me home for recovery. Thank you.

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