Overcoming an eating disorder

Our reader found a way to deal with her bad relationship with food and writes about her new found love for her body.

My name is Tam and I am a compulsive eater.

I have eaten my way through divorce, retrenchments, the death of both my parents, various broken dreams and dead end jobs as well as two horrendous relationships and several moves across continents.

That's a lot of food.

And under all that food are all the buried emotions I stuffed deep down with a pizza or chips or chocolate or ice cream. They weren't properly dealt with.

They just lay under every layer of fat I threw on top of them to keep me sane, to keep me from crying, to keep me from screaming and stomping my foot, yelling, "THIS IS NOT FAIR!"

In hindsight it would probably have been best if I did the yelling and stomping at the time I felt like yelling and stomping. Instead, I quite literally swallowed my feelings, washing them down with a litre of ice cream or a whole pizza or an entire bag of chips.

I didn't end up with a scary BMI by accident or some odd genetic quirk. I did this to myself, and I did it so that I wouldn't have to deal with the powerful emotions I thought I was unable to face. Cause and effect.

A Women24 reader,Tracy-Lee, bravely exposed her eating disorder, detailing how it has affected her life and her view of herself.

Several people commented that she should change how she eats.Telling a person with compulsive eating disorder to eat smaller portions, go on diet or eat healthier foods is like putting a burger and chips in front of someone with anorexia nervosa: pointless and painful.

Compulsive Eating Disorder  is not one that can be helped by going on a diet or the gym or reducing portions and changing food choice. The compulsive eater does not eat for enjoyment or nourishment, but to obliterate negative emotions.

How does this work?

When I used to binge, I would eat until I had that Christmas Dinner Full feeling. With that came an almost liquid calm sensation akin to taking a strong dose of codeine. I probably stopped tasting the food after the second bite, chasing that high.

Healing from the disorder has required me to become brutally honest.

Compulsive eaters notoriously don’t express emotions – we prefer stuffing them down with cake – so I decided to start there. I faced my reflection in the mirror and took my naked self in completely.

I am size 22(46). I weigh 107 kilos. I eat to make myself feel better. I hid food and binged in secret.

It’s not enough to simply admit to being a compulsive eater, though. Admission requires that action be taken, something else that compulsive eaters don’t really like doing.

I found a marvelous amount of support from my friends and from an online community called Sleek Geek.

Transformation came when I took responsibility, began expressing myself and began to love myself.

I chose to live, and live fully. I realized that I did, in fact, have a choice.

I could continue to allow the eating disorder to dominate my life, or I could take back control and be the one who decides how I deal with stress and emotional upheavals.

When I embarked on my journey towards health, I weighed 112kgs. The size 22(42) was threatening to cut off my circulation, but I wasn't ready to bump up to size 24(48). No one was loving me more (or less) because of my size.

In fact, it didn't seem that those who love me actually cared what my size was. And it became clear: First love yourself, then make the changes.

It has completely revolutionised how I go about transforming myself. I am transforming my shape and my life BECAUSE I love myself. Losing the weight and releasing the compulsive eating disorder won't make all the bad things in life go away.

Neither will keeping the status quo. I go to gym because I love how I feel going to the gym and because I love my body exactly as it is - all 100+ kilos of it, the whole size 22, with it rolls and lumps and bumps and big boobs.

I choose healthier food because I love the energetic feeling that eating healthy brings me.

My self esteem no longer relies on hearing someone tell me that I am sexy or that I am beautiful. I know I am.

Which caused my cousin no end of grief when she said, "You’ll be beautiful when you lose weight,” and I responded by telling her:  "I am beautiful now"

There is hope for healing from compulsive eating disorder. It's great that no one has power over my self esteem with their words anymore.

It's empowering. It’s liberating. And because I love who I am right now in this moment, I can transform my health from a place of love, not longing or fear.

For more on compulsive eating disordesr and how to transform it read Tamarai's blog.

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