National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This week, February 22-28, is national eating disorders awareness week. Eating disorders are a very serious issue, and many of us with auto-immune disease are all too familiar with them. Before diagnosis, when your body is wasting away to nothing and you can't figure out why, people may be concerned that perhaps you're not eating. Or maybe the fact that you can't eat like a "normal person" causes you to go crazy about food.

The most common forms of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, which is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss, and Bullimia Nervosa, the cycle of bingeing and purging. But there's another one that's recognized by the National Eating Disorders Association that is not widely discussed, and that is Binge Eating Disorder.

Binge Eating Disorder is exactly what it sounds like, binge eating without the purge. It's characterized by frequent episodes of eating large quantities of food in short periods of time, feeling out of control over eating behavior, feeling ashamed or disgusted by the behavior, and several other behaviors including eating when not hungry and eating in secret.

To be honest with you, I didn't realize until today that this third disorder even existed. I mean I knew it existed, I just didn't realize that it was an 'official' eating disorder. This is something I have struggled with for a very long time. It's no secret that I can put away a hefty amount of food in a short period of time, there have even been a few occassions where I came very close to purging, but my hatred of vomit held me back. But what I know is a bigger problem is my issues with eating in secret. Before the Crohn's diagnosis, there were so many times that I would hide what I was eating, out of shame or embarrassment. I'd go through the drive-thru and order up a supersized value meal and eat the whole thing in my car. Then I'd stop at the store and pick up an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's and eat it in my bedroom so that my roommate wouldn't see. I'll go to the convenience store in the middle of the afternoon and buy a bag of Fritos and at least one, maybe two candy bars, plus a bottle of soda and finish the whole thing off in minutes. I'll eat two different dinners if I can't make up my mind about which I want more.

After diagnosis, I was so focused on getting healthy that it got better. I was sticking to the GF diet and eating very well. Now, almost a year later, my old habits are back full force. I eat way more than I need to, and I can't tell you how many times in the past week alone I've hidden my food. Last Wednesday night I had a meeting to go to after work. I didn't have any food in the house, so I stopped at a pizza joint to pick up dinner. I have a cheeseburger sub and fries, with a soda. Yes, I was eating a regular sub roll, and fries that were probably cooked in a shared fryer. On my way home from the restaurant, I checked the windows to see if my roommate was home or not, she wasn't, phew! Since I didn't want her to see me 1. eating gluten, or 2. eating such a large amount of food, I devoured it all in minutes. By the time I was done, I was so full, I felt as if I would surely throw up. I went to the meeting, and then after I went to a restaurant to meet up with some friends. They had already eaten, so I just had some water. I went home and crawled into bed, still uncomfortable (4 hours later) from the dinner I'd had. I woke up at 4 in the morning with this horrible lump in my throat, acid indigestion? heartburn? I don't know but it felt a little bit too much to me like I'd almost thrown up in my sleep. Sorry for sharing, but it's the truth and I have to admit it.

Because of the medication I'm on, my stomach issues are not nearly as bad as they used to be, which makes it that much easier for me to continue with these horrible habits. Even though I know how destructive they are, I can't break the cycle. For people that don't have these issues, it's easy to think "well why don't you just stop" but for it's just not that easy. Some might say that it's a deep rooted emotional problem that causes these vicious cycles. I don't particularly agree with this theory, at least not always. I do believe that part of the problem has to do with the addictive nature of the types of foods that I get addicted to, refined, processed, gluteny, sugary foods. I know that when I clean up my diet the cravings go away, I eat normally, I don't hide, the disorder behaviors go away, but one slip up leads to two, which leads to a complete reversion to the old habits. How do we break the cycle for good? Elaine Gotschall had it right when she titled her book "Breaking the Vicious Cycle" because that's really what it is.

This is not an easy blog post for me to publish, but if it helps people out there to recognize destructive eating behaviors and hopefully find a way to fix them, then it's worth it. Actually, just writing it out and admitting that this is an issue for me, is helping me a lot. I'm abusing my body by treating it the way I do. I will never be healthy if I keep it up. Not only does it affect my body, but it affects my life in general as well. This past week, not just Wednesday night, my eating was horrible. By Thursday I was feeling so crappy that I almost called in sick to work. Friday was worse, but I tried to push through. Friday night I had plans to go out with friends, I went shopping for a new shirt, went home and had a healthy GF dinner in the hopes that it would help me to feel better, despite the massive headache. I had some time before I had to head into the city so I thought I'd watch some TV and before I even felt myself falling, I was dead asleep on the couch. I woke up much later in the night, and not only had I missed the fun but I had let the friends down too.

It's one thing to be sick because you have a disease that is incurable, it's entirely another to be making yourself worse by your own dangerous habits. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired, and of making excuses for it. I'm tired of letting people down because I'm sick and tired all the time. Today I feel like crap, my back hurts, my body aches, I'm tired, I've gained weight, I'm bloated, I don't want to go out because none of my clothes fit right and what I see in the mirror makes me feel even worse. I'm really good at talking about this, but it's about time I did something about it. This past year with all the doctors visits and this blog, they are huge steps forward. I've recently taken some giant steps back but isn't that always the way? I'm ready again to get back on track to health. I can't wait to see the new doc in May, maybe in the meantime I can get in to see that nutritionist. Moving forward...


Jennifer said…
Wow. I'm impressed that you were able to write about your "secrets." I, too, have caught myself exhibiting unhealthy behaviors from time to time. I have to consciously pull myself back.
Kudos to you, and I hope it only continues to get better.
suz said…
I too was a binge eater for a great deal of my life and as the third recognized and often forgotten eating disorder, I wrote an article about my experience with it for a school publication in college to bring it to light.

I don't do it anymore (unless you count the occasional and unbearable pms) however, I want to when I make a fresh gf cake, or when I see a candy bar that I shouldn't eat (I'm supposed to be staying away from chocolate at the moment-kill me.)

It's a hard war to wage with your mind and body, but when you give in, you always lose in the end. I wish you much luck in getting back on the right track. Lord knows it took me a long time, but can be done!
Unknown said…
Simply being aware of your bad habits or cycles is a HUGE step in being able to conquer them. I think you have the right attitude & I'll help you however I can! :-)
Liz said…
Jenny, that was the most honest post I have ever read. You are going to help a lot of people by talking about this -- and you've helped me out too.

This is step number one: writing it down and acknowledging it -- telling people about it. It's the most difficult step I think when trying to make a change, but you've now got it behind you. I'm here if you need a workout or nutrition buddy. I recently started writing down every single piece of food I put in my mouth in a food diary -- it makes me slow down and really take a look at what I eat. Seeing a nutritionist sounds like a great next step for you.

Thank you for bringing this to light: you're a bold and honest woman that I look up to.
Steph said…
I have SUCH a bad sweet tooth that I hide what I eat (and how much) ALL the time. I am so ashamed to admit it. For the most part, I was doing this without even realizing I was doing it. All of the sudden it dawned on me what an unhealthy habit it was, and now I'm trying to get real and be honest with myself. I'm trying to cut significantly back, but as always, I crave it more when I'm not allowing myself to have it! So I'm letting myself have small amounts (because face it, sometimes a girl just HAS to have some chocolate or she's going to go on a killing spree) and that's helping me to not gorge myself on it. It's all about the baby steps. I'm trying not to beat myself up too much when I fall off the wagon. The way I look at it, if I go just one day without eating an entire bag of candy, it's an improvement from where I was before!
sallybranwyn said…
Congrats on getting this out there and in the open.

My suggestion is one that I'm hoping you won't take offence to: have you consider seeing a psychologist? I know a lot of people think they're crackpots, but having studied psychology, I wanted to let you know that it may be a route to look into. Basically what you're discussing is an addiction. That's what psychologists are trained to deal with. They might at least have some methods to help you deal with this on an emotional level.

The nutritionist will be great for the actual application to your life.

And don't worry about Friday, all you missed was a creepy bald dude that quoted from American Psycho and some other skeevy guys flirting with skanky girls. (i.e. the typical Boston bar scene...yikes)
Lisa said…
Wow. You are truely a brave person. Thank you for being so open and honest. You are helping so many people, you probably don't even realize it. I also have a tendency to binge eat, although I never wanted to put a name on it. When I'm home alone during the day, I'll eat everything that's "bad" for me that's in the kitchen and then feel awful for the next couple of days. So, you are not alone. Try not to be too hard on yourself. If it helps to get the feelings out on your blog...then write more! I, for one, will be reading and feeling right along with you!
Lisa said…
Hey Jenny,
I subscribe to Oprah emails...I received this one this morning. I thought you might like to read it. The link is:

I already eat breakfast, but I'm going to try keeping a journal. :)

Have a good day!
Lisa said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said…
I'm not sure the link copied correctly...
nikki8 said…
Jenny, Congratulations for having the courage to face the truth and seek support. I can relate to what you described in so many ways.
One tool that has helped a tremendous deal is a podcast called "Inside Out Weight Loss". Look for it on ITunes. You won't regret downloading it. It's a weekly 25 or 30 mins podcast that you can listen to while you exercise. Start with episode 1.
Keep blogging about all these issues.

Popular Posts