When I fly today, I hear a lot of comments about my physical appearance. Buckling into a jumpseat might warrant a “you’re so tiny!” or when I pull out my roasted veggies and kale salad in the galley I might hear a “no wonder you are so thin!” to which I am always appreciative. I used to hear things like “you’re so fat, you’ll never make the cheer squad” “when are you due?” and other juvenile jokes about my stomach and weight. I work hard for the body I am in control of now. No one ever guesses that I was twice this size for quite some time. While I have worked just as hard to separate my ego from my spirit and live a higher vibrational existence, I am grateful for the small reminders of how much happier my life is now.
I am a binge eater.
From the national eating disorders website, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is defined as an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. Binge eating disorder is a severe, life-threatening and treatable eating disorder.
Just like any other addict, I have “triggers” that I must avoid. There are situations that make it a battle to my core to fight it off, and there are still times to this day that I give in. My last purge was election night and I called my husband immediately after for support (and maybe a little berating, because I knew I shouldn’t have done it.) It’s so very important when you deal with any type of addiction, mental disorder, disease, and just in general– to have a strong support system. I don’t believe we were ever created to be alone, and so of course we need a strong team that loves and supports us.
KNOWING YOUR TRIGGERS
If you aren’t a binge eater, you may be picturing someone hiding in a closet and gorging on “bad foods” followed by a trip to the bathroom. While it can definitely look like that, it is more often than not a slow process that might look like just a regular “cheat day” followed slowly and sneakily by a nonchalant visit to the bathroom if anyone is around. Triggers are synonymous to nouns: people, places, things. Mine change every now and then. At the moment mine include peanut/almond butter, sweets (barring 70%+ dark chocolate), pizza/any bread item really, heavy drinking, and currently– political arguments over social media (not even kidding). I believe knowing what your triggers are is one of the MOST important parts of controlling an eating disorder. No matter how silly you might think a trigger is, you have to get honest with yourself. If you aren’t sure what your triggers might be and think you might be suffering from an eating disorder, just be aware of yourself in your daily interactions.
It was a bit hard for me to realize I am a binge eater growing up, because I come from a family of heavy eaters. We were all larger than we should have been, and eating was always the focal point of our gatherings. I have been an athlete since I started school, so eating a lot was sort of brushed under the rug or a right of passage. I’m also from the south, where healthy eating is not a common way of life. I have so many food sensitivities that I was pretty much sick all the time with “stomach bugs.” I just didn’t know it was actually food sensitivities at the time. At one point during high school, my choir was raising money to go to Europe by selling Krispy Kreme donuts. At the end of my shift I would buy a box, which amounted to one dozen, and eat the whole damn thing before I got home. Then I would jump on the treadmill and run until I threw up. My parents didn’t know and I never told anyone.
During my first week of college, my step-dad who raised me from the age of five, committed suicide. Food and alcohol were the only comforts I had left. I stopped purging because I was too numb to feel shame, guilt, or any other pain. During that year alone, I gained around forty-five (that’s 4-5) pounds. Friends, that is SO VERY DANGEROUS! I can’t even imagine the levels of my cholesterol, insulin, or blood pressure, or how hard my heart must have been working to keep me alive. Our bodies are the most wondrous and intriguing machines ever created. We are literally designed to heal ourselves and survive…
SURRENDER TO YOUR OWN HEALING
…but before we start to heal, life might sometimes throw us our new “rock bottom.” I thought things couldn’t get worse. I lost my scholarship to college and dropped out. I entered into a terrible, abusive relationship (another form of purging) that enhanced my eating disorder. But then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer just before my 21st birthday. The Universe literally said, “Happy Birthday, Carissa! Now is the perfect time to wake up!” My doctor saved my life and my mind that day by telling something I desperately needed to hear: You are too young to be living like this. You have to change your lifestyle right now. You can heal this. Or you can check out. It’s all up to you.
Not the typical western doctor, right? So I embraced who I am that day. I broke down. Hard. It was day one of my journey. Since then, I have embraced that maybe all this happened to me so that I can help you who are reading this, or someone you love. I love all parts of myself, which is what healing means. I even love these parts of myself that are scarred and nothing like the happy, positive person I am today. She is all of me. I surrendered to my guilt, shame, grief, pain, and anger. I surrendered that I didn’t know what to do next.
In Light is the New Black, Rebecca Campbell says that hitting rock bottom is the best thing that can happen to you. I agree. It’s there in the rock bottom that we surrender our ego and admit we need help. That’s when our healing truly begins.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, please click here for resources from the National Eating Disorders Association.
Love & Light,