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Dealing with an eating disorder

  • Published
  • By Team McConnell member
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing
I'm writing this without revealing my name, but I could be any woman, or man, you know. The gate guard who looks at your ID card in the morning, the mother taking her child to daycare or the bagger at the checkout in the commissary. It doesn't matter what I do for a living or how old I am. 

I do not look thin, nor am I fat. I have a disease. I have an eating disorder. 

It has taken me a long time to admit that I have a problem. My disease is much like that of an alcoholic, but my drug of choice is food. An alcoholic can possibly learn to live without alcohol, but people with an eating disorder are still required every day to face their demons at breakfast, lunch, dinner and every time they pass a restaurant or bake sale. 

My disease started around the age of 10 when I would binge-eat on sweets. Not just the typical eat two candy bars and feel kind of queasy, but eat a whole chocolate cream pie, a box of snack cakes, and a half of a gallon of ice cream. Three thousand or more calories at a sitting would not be unusual for me. I would hide it from my parents and friends, eating secretly and hiding the wrappers and packages in the bottom of the trash cans. When my friends would be offered something to eat, and they would say no, they just weren't hungry, I couldn't understand that. I was always hungry; no matter how much I ate. My best friend growing up was very tall and very thin, naturally. I always felt like the dumpy little friend tagging along. Although looking back I realize I was a normal weight, if not a little underweight at times. 

Teenage metabolism carried me through high school and college, but quickly the pounds started adding up with every pizza and cake that I would consume. After months of daily bingeing, I would extreme diet and exercise for months at a time to get down to my "ideal" weight -- the weight at which I thought I would be happy. I would get to that number on the scale and stay there for exactly 2.2 seconds and then start bingeing again; eating all the foods I had deprived myself of during my hyper-controlling period of dieting. This cycle would happen two or three times a year. 

When I would get "fat," I would get very depressed and seeing myself in the mirror with all that extra weight would just prompt me to eat even more. Some incident or event would eventually occur that would prompt me back into my dieting and people would exclaim about the weight I had lost when I got thin again. As my weight would go down, their compliments only encouraged me to continue with the obsessive dieting and calorie counting. Fasting and over-exercising were two other parts of my illness that were kept quiet. 

This cycle of thin and fat happened for many years. Probably more than most of you have been alive. I have kept it a secret for so long, from so many people. The only one that could have possibly had a clue was my brother, who would also indulge in sweets with me as a youngster. I knew that what I was doing was not good for my body, but I didn't know how much worse it could get. 

I started seeking help from a therapist when my child walked in on me during one of my binges. I didn't want to give my child what I was eating, not because it was bad for them, but because I didn't want to share. I knew I had to do something about my problem. I was not going to hand this disease to my child and see her go through the same things that I did. My child was my world to me and I just couldn't do that. 

I have been in therapy now for almost a year and things are a little different. Not a lot different, and not really for the better. I am on medication for my depression, but my bingeing has progressed to bingeing and purging, a disease known as bulimia nervosa. Before I started purging, they classified my as non-purging bulimia, and in my mind it was nothing too serious. I really thought that I could fix this problem, just like I had fixed so many other problems in my life; I would just make it perfect. Major stressors in my life have changed the dynamic of my illness. My disease is nobody's fault, it's not all in my head, and it is a real illness with real symptoms and real consequences. I know that someday I will work through this and recover.