I used to be obsessed with food.
It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up, and the last thing I thought about before my mind finally shut down and I fell asleep for the night. I was constantly obsessing about what I had eaten, what I wanted to eat, what I was going to eat next. I looked at recipe books and food blogs and ate and thought and planned and ate…and hated myself for all of it.
I remember looking at food and seeing numbers. Calories. I divided foods into safe and unsafe foods, good and bad foods.
Once I wanted egg-in-a-hole (if you do not know what this is then get yourself to my house with haste and I will make you a delicious breakfast). But I couldn’t have it of course. Too many calories. Too much fat. So I modified it. I nixed the egg. Eggs are bad for you. I also tossed out the butter. Butter would most certainly make me fat.
So I picked up a slice of spongy, disgusting 40-calorie bread and misted it with cooking spray.
Then I cooked it in a frying pan. And ate it.
It tasted weird and metallic. It was disgusting. But I ate it and pretended it was good, pretended that it satisfied me and congratulated myself on my self control.
And then I inhaled a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and half a block of cheddar cheese.
You see, the flip side of this sort of restrictive behavior for me was bingeing. All that denying myself, all that carefully controlled portioning and measuring and counting and managing–it was like stretching a rubber band. Once it reached its limit, it would snap back–with equal and opposite force.
A binge was a complete loss of that control. I would just start eating and my brain would shut off; and I would have no clear memory of how I came to be standing in front of the pantry, holding an empty box of Wheat Thins and a decimated bag of trail mix.
I was so, so ashamed of this “dark side”. I just knew that people would be disgusted with me if they knew how I really was. Lazy. Undisciplined. Weak. Every time I binged, I was left with a sickeningly full stomach and a massive black cloud of shame and self-loathing.
What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop eating? I tried to counteract the massive amount of calories I would consume in my binges with purging, and with exercise. I remember eating 8 pieces of pizza and then forcing myself to go on a 5-mile run, as if to atone for my “sin”. (And just in case you think that is a good idea, let me tell you that it is a very, very stupid idea. I once had to run into a hotel and vomit into a bathroom toilet because five pieces of jalapeño and pepperoni pizza do not make a good pre-run snack.)
I remember high school sleepovers, where our snacks of choice were Doritos + sour cream and anything we could find to dip into canisters of vanilla frosting. I remember watching a movie, snacking on the Doritos, and not being able to stop. I remember wondering how the other girls could just watch the movie, seemingly uninterested in the food; when all I could think about, all I could focus on, was that there was food next to me. I would wake up the next morning with a food hangover, feeling nauseated and bloated, and all I wanted to do was go home and hide.
I literally could not concentrate on anything else when there was food in the room. Parties and buffets were torture. Everyone would be mingling, talking, and all I could think was when are we going to eat this damn food?! It was like this pressure built up inside of me, and I needed to eat so I could move on and think about something else.
I used to bring my lunch to school–and eat the whole thing before first period started. I literally could not ignore the fact that there was food sitting in my backpack. It would be there, taunting me, consuming my thoughts, until I gave in and ate it to silence the voices.
One time I ate 36 cookies in one sitting. (Not that you’re aware enough to count when you’re bingeing. But I checked later, and that’s how much the recipe made. I ate all of it.)
I was disgusted with myself.
I never, ever thought I would be able to escape that cycle. I didn’t think I was strong enough. I used to pray every day that I could have a normal, healthy relationship with food. I prayed that I could overcome this demon that haunted me; prayed that some day food wouldn’t rule my life anymore. And yet it happened, again and again and again.
My prayers were answered, but it took a long time. I had hoped I could overcome it in a month. It didn’t take a month. It didn’t even take a year. It has taken several years of trying and failing and trying again, of changing my thought patterns and reimagining my relationship with food and with my body. There were so many times that I felt like I would never break free. It didn’t seem like I was making any progress. It was only when I looked back and compared myself to where I was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, that I began to see the changes.
I rarely binge now, and I don’t restrict. I can honestly say that I am not controlled by or afraid of food anymore. It is possible. It won’t be quick, and it won’t be easy, but it is possible.
Since I occasionally get concerned emails when I talk about depression or disordered eating, I want you all to know that almost all of this stuff is in the past for me. Writing helps me to process things though, and if you are struggling with something like this right now, I want you to know you are not alone and that you are not trapped–there is hope. I found a few really honest blogs when I was struggling and it helped me so much to realize that I wasn’t the only one, and that I wasn’t weak or lazy.
If this post was upsetting or triggering for any of you, I am so, so sorry. That was not my intention at all. Please let me know in the comments. I can preface all of my ED-related posts with a warning if that would be helpful, so you can skip the ones that wouldn’t support your recovery at this time. I will not be offended; I have had to stop reading and watching things in the past because they were triggering for me. Taking care of yourself comes first, and it’s hugely important that you be honest with yourself regarding what is and is not okay for you.