First, a story...
My husband had clear IBS symptoms for several years before he ever considered seeing a doctor. He always attributed the symptoms to other things (like lactose intolerance), or he just assumed that everyone dealt with these issues and kept quiet about it. Eventually, the symptoms were bad enough that he decided to see a doctor. The doctor couldn't believe he had been suffering for so long on his own, and it's been totally under control for years now thanks to some simple medication and slight lifestyle changes.
Why is this relevant? Well, this week I finally admitted to myself that I have binge eating disorder. Maybe it should have been obvious, but everything finally became clear to me this week. It's not just cravings. It's not just a "bad relationship" with food. It's not something that everyone else deals with. It's a disorder, and I've decided to see a mental health professional about it.
Even though I've had this issue since I was a teenager, I had it under control for awhile. When I started using SparkPeople, the accountability of tracking kept me from bingeing for a long time. Every time I've had a successful bout of weight loss, it's been because I stopped bingeing. Every time the weight started to creep back on, it was because I started bingeing again. Lately the episodes have become extremely frequent. It went from every now and then in very stressful situations, to every time my husband was out of the apartment, to every time he was in the shower or taking out the trash. I hate it and I never WANT to do it, but it's a seemingly uncontrollable urge.
The situation is not good. It really never has been. And lately, despite the exercise and the well-planned, well-intentioned meals, the bingeing is crippling my healthy lifestyle.
The crazy thing is that I've managed to hide this from my husband for almost 9 years now. We've lived together for about 5 of those years, so that really took some doing. At first, he didn't seem to think it was a big deal... after all, I don't secretly stop and buy fast food on the way home or eat entire pints of Ben & Jerry's or anything like that. I'm not morbidly obese. How could I have an eating disorder? The more I told him, though, the more he's realized that I'm really not ok. Suddenly all these seemingly isolated incidents in our past make a lot more sense to him now. (Like the time I ate an entire Costco jar of Nutella and he actually caught me... "I thought you really just liked Nutella!" lol)
It was REALLY hard to confess some of my worst episodes to him, especially the ones that involved sneaking around and telling him lies of omission (i.e. eating an entire bag of chocolate chips and then pretending we never had one in the first place... and counting on his bad memory to get by). He's been extremely supportive, though, and he really wants to help me get better. Just having it out in the open with him has been TREMENDOUSLY cathartic, and honestly, I haven't felt to urge to binge in 4 days now. What's the point? It's not a secret anymore. It's lost a lot of power already.
Since I admitted this to my husband (and myself!) and started trying to schedule a visit with a psychologist, I have felt incredibly relieved. I had read that extreme restriction and dieting can lead to binge episodes, but honestly, I was secretly eating entire jars of Nutella while my husband and I were still ordering burgers, fries, and donut sundaes for dinner, so I don't think this has to do with my focus on healthy eating.
That said, I do need to ease up a little. There's no point in tracking a 1200 calorie day if I'm binge eating 700 calories worth of crap. (Bingeing on relatively innocuous things like protein bars, chocolate chips, peanut butter, granola, etc. adds up!) I'm way better off giving myself permission to eat a little more during the day (especially more fruit, since it staves off the sugar cravings). That's been working really well for me for the past few days. I think that might be the answer for me.
Anyway, sorry for writing a book, but I really had to get this off my chest. The more people I tell, the better I feel! I've felt so ashamed for so long that my initial reaction to the realization was, "No one can know!!", but every confession seems to lighten the load. Aside from my husband, my mother knows, one of my best friends knows, and the exercise bulimia friend knows. So far that's it, but I'm looking forward to telling my other close friends soon.
And now there are all of you too. Thanks for that.
P.S. If anyone else out there thinks they may be suffering from this, here's a pretty good description of the symptoms, etc: