On January 19th of last year I started an Instagram page as a place to compile the thoughts, feelings, trials & tribulations of what life is like trying to lose weight. Ironically, this was after I had already lost 60 lbs. and found myself on the other end of gaining some of that back following a pretty traumatic 2 years.
I can’t remember exactly how much I weighed at the start of that account, but when I posted the first photo of myself, I remember believing that one year down the road I knew I wasn’t going to see the same person.
Well, here I am.
To be fair, I see some parts of myself much clearer. And there are certain ways that I have seen growth and strength and courage. And others in which I have retreated.
I thought I knew why I started the account. Ultimately I think I believed that posting on that account (and also seeing other people’s content) would inspire me, motivate me, and hold me accountable. It didn’t exactly do that.
You see, I’ve been binge eating for years. I remember staying home from school while I was in the 3rd grade and literally cleaning out the pantry over the course of the entire day. Bags of marshmallows – gone. Crackers – gone. Raisins (which, PS – I didn’t even like) – gone. Things that normal people find disgusting, I probably ate. I was eating just to eat, not because I was hungry or needed fuel. I was bored, I was sad, I was happy, I was feeling left out, I was feeling lots of things — and so I ate. Eating was my solution to any emotion or problem – it was my celebration, and my condolence. It was like that book called “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” except way less adorable.
There have been mentions of this binging on my part over the course of the last year via that account. Purposefully, I have been as subtle about it as possible. Admitting to “struggling” with food prep, celebrating NOT stopping by the grocery for a late night Ben & Jerry’s fix, etc. But I have wrestled with the name of it, and its implications. Saying it means I have to do something about it.
For the last year I have seen binge eating become “a thing” socially. The two images below speak to this precisely.
I cannot speak for others who wrestle with binge eating, I can only speak for myself — but it bothers me to see these images. My truth regarding these two culture statements, is that it normalizes binge eating — makes it funny, makes it seem like everyone else is doing it (which is probably more true than not, but I digress), and even makes it somewhat okay. These images ignore the core issues that people who find themselves binging year after year truly face. We are in an age of over-indulgence, numbing, and dismissing the core issue while arguing about things that don’t actually matter.
Being raised to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” doesn’t exactly help. In many ways it’s taught me to do what I need to do in the moment to fix the immediate issue. This GOOD intention has stunted me from seeing how my current decisions have a serious and long-term impact.
The word “binge” has also taken on new identity over the last few years with pastimes like “Netflix binging.” Society says “everyone binges” but in reality – those who really binge are self-isolating, sore, and in need of help.
In the last year, I’ve turned 27. I wasn’t angry or upset about it at all. It was a very welcome thing. But since I’ve turned 27 and every time I’ve gotten the slightest bit sick or experienced even a small health issue, I have had an internal panic where I flash forward to being 55 and 25 more years into binge eating. Assuming I have no choice but to keep It feels helpless and isolating. Every little thing makes me more and more aware of how unhealthily I have cared for myself over these last 27 years.
One of the biggest issues I have with this label of “binge eater” is talking about this with people. My closest friends & family included. It’s a sore subject for me. Both strangers & friends who have stumbled onto my journey may think that because I’ve started some page and post about things like weight loss, clean eating, building muscle, and “finding healthy” that I’m an open book about it. But I haven’t been. I cannot discuss it. There is an emotional wall. Constructed by…yours truly.
When I started going to counseling for the first time (voluntarily) in 2012, my therapist actually gave me a book on binge eating after a few months, even though we never spoke those words out loud. I think I had mentioned something about “stress eating” and wishing I was more consistent with my physical activity.
That book is still on my bookshelf, and I’ve been *this close* to throwing it away several times. I haven’t had the strength to read even one chapter. It hasn’t been something I have been open to or willing to discuss internally with myself. So I didn’t.
A couple years after I started therapy, I still hadn’t talked about it but I was seeing a new therapist since the first moved to Germany. Again, I was silent and dismissive of anything related to my relationship with food.
But binge eating has became a real thing to me when I realized I gained every pound back after working to lose over 60 lbs. in the first place. The issue is within me.
And I think that’s the hardest part (actually). As the oldest child, I am stereotypically all of the following:
Responsible (generally speaking…)
These characteristics plus many more make it difficult for me to admit to myself (and to others) that I am deeply faulted, imperfect, and really wrestling. I can’t save myself from this one.
The mantra of “admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery” is almost so true for me that it feels uncomfortable. For the first time, I am more empowered to speak about my issue & getting to the heart of the matter.
The reality of admitting to these issues is that finding the perfect balance between input an output isn’t the issue at hand, it’s much deeper. Remember when I said I lost 60 lbs. before? Well, it’s true. But losing it again isn’t as simple. I obviously know how to eat less and put in more work. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. What I haven’t done before is opened up my heart and mind to the painful and underlying issues that are below the surface. It’s the things you can’t see that I so desperately need help with.
I want to face the reality of this head on so that I can live fuller. Eventually I want to have little babes of my own that I can love on and show them self-love in the most earnest and real way. I want them to see it lived out. But until then, I want to face this for myself. There are ways in which I’m sure I have no clue that this is holding me back, too. That’s pretty scary.
So in order to get there, I know I face a long road. But it’s kind of a big deal. The issues I face have layers. Kind of like an onion. I know I wrestle with the way weight loss and weight and body image are perceived and the way they are felt and experienced. I know I have strong feelings about the way men and women experience being overweight in very different ways. I know that there are sore subjects and triggers for me that make it different and make my experience harder than some, but easier than others. I know that this recovery is not about comparison.
So, these are my goals.
- Purposeful, open, and gut-wrenching therapy (frequency TBD, hopefully bi-weekly), specifically for binge eating.
- Seek out & establish an accountability partner(s).
- Join a support group where I talk with real people (face to face) about binge eating (scary).
- Run a half marathon in 2017.
- Try a new form of exercise: barre classes, kickboxing, for example.
- Ultimately & safely lose 125 lbs. in the next 18 months.
Other goals I have that are totally unrelated to binge eating and have everything to do with who I am and what I like and what inspires me (it’s good to care about things outside of yourself!).
- Get a DSLR camera and learn how to use it
- Take a class in graphic design / marketing
- Buy a new car.
- Read one book per month (I’m starting with Anne Lamott’s Stitches).
- Find a church.
There’s not much to be said to conclude this kind of post. To write it all down feels like a relieving and revolting at the same time. But here it is, plain and simple.
So forgive me while I take some time to focus on me. Meanwhile I’ll be taking really pretty photos of donuts instead of eating them.