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My Experience with Compulsive Overeating

By , Calgary, Canada
I’ve spent the better half of four years flirting with an eating disorder. Today, I’m admitting that I have one.

Am I anorexic, the epitome of strength, grace, and control? No. Despite the meals skipped and pro-Ana sites visited in the last few years, I’m not anorexic. Unfortunately.

Am I bulimic, the embodiment of Machiavelli’s famous quote, “The ends justify the means,” willing to do anything necessary to reach a goal? No. Despite the countless attempts to purge, I’m not strong enough to actually commit to bulimia. Even though a friend has recommended it.

I’m a compulsive overeater. No, you haven’t just walked into a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous. I’m just trying to tell myself that my behaviours are actually a disorder, and a diagnosable one at that. “What behaviours?” you ask. The answer is a tough one to stomach (pardon the pun): binge eating, yo-yo dieting, and being reluctant to eat in public, among other things. Not to mention the guilt after said binges, the depression resulting from the climbing number on the scale and the ballooning figure in the mirror, and the withdrawal from those who care about me - why should I be worthy of their love when I can’t earn my own?

Enough complaining. I’m writing this essay to trace the road that I travelled to get here, in order to help others from walking the same path, to the same Hell. Okay, so it’s a bit idealistic, but couldn’t it happen?

I’ve been larger than my fellow classmates for as long as I can remember. In grade two, another girl called me “chubby,” humiliating me in front of all my friends. But I think my battle truly began with my parents.

My parents met in their mid-twenties at a gym. Dad was working there, and Mom was working out. They began dating, and the rest is history. When I was born, the focus that my parents had on nutrition and fitness didn’t change, and I believe they went about instilling these values in me the wrong way. I don’t pretend to be omniscient. I don’t know where they went wrong. But I do know that throughout my childhood, we argued about sugar and physical activity almost daily. No child should worry about the shape of his body, or how many sweets he consumes. And certainly, parents should not have to force their child be active outdoors - the child should want to. Maybe I just hated exercise and craved too many treats, but I think that it was something more than that. I think that my parents, somehow, emphasized their values incorrectly.

Mom always refused to keep junk food in the house, so when it was around, I ate all of it. I believe, looking back, that I’ve had a tendency to binge eat ever since I was a young child. Of course, as I grew older and gained weight, the arguments between my parents and me on this topic only became worse. My own concern for my ever-expanding waistline laid dormant until grade eight, when the combination of a tactless doctor and a few bullies sent me over the edge into the inescapable world of self-hatred. A timely visit to Mexico with my rather thin best friend and her family did not do much to help matters, either. My parents’ anxiety also increased, and they began to place me on strict and unpleasant diet and exercise regimes.

I particularly remember Easter of that year, which my family spent at my best friend’s cabin. Her mom bought chocolate Easter bunnies for her two girls and for me. When Mom caught a glimpse of the three bunnies, she told my best friend’s mom to return the one that was for me - I didn’t need the extra sugar. Even now, nearly four years later, remembering that day makes me angry.

At the beginning of 2007, when these fateful events were occurring, I began visiting pro-anorexia websites. I do not remember where I got the idea, nor do I remember my first visit to one. The images and quotes scared me at first, so I visited them only periodically, not wanting to fall headlong into that world. But throughout grades eight and nine, I began experimenting with skipping meals and other ideas from these websites - until my best friend and others in our group caught me, in March of 2008. They told my parents, who, rather than telling me that they would love me no matter what, immediately threw me into another, stricter, diet, in an attempt to get me to lose weight “the healthy way.” Due to my bingeing and my reluctance to obey my parents, I continued to gain weight, they gave up, and I soon found myself back in the realm of pro-anorexia.

I won’t go into great detail with the events that occurred in June of that year. Essentially, my friends caught me again, I did some stupid things, a huge fight ensued, and I lost them. That Tuesday became a day that I would never forget. It was almost three years ago, and I still remember watching my best friend literally turn her back on me - an action that caused me to collapse to the floor, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. During that summer, as I laid awake night after night, I came to see - unequivocally - that if I’d been thinner to begin with, the whole Ana thing never would have been a problem, and I’d still have my best friend. So what was my “logical” decision? To delve deeper into a “wannarexic” lifestyle, at a high school far away from my ex-best friend, where no one would know or care about my eating habits.

Throughout grade ten, I taught myself to skip lunch, subsisting on only breakfast and dinner. I then learned to skip breakfast as well, dirtying dishes in order to trick my family. Did I lose weight? No. Why not? Because I began to binge eat in earnest, spending most nights alone in front of the television with a package of crackers and a tub of peanut butter. Did my new friends, those who hadn’t known my former troubles, quickly find out? Of course. They strongly disapproved of my actions, and we soon began to argue. Talk about déjà vu. These friends, however, ignored my choices and refused to discuss my body with me, allowing our friendship to continue but placing a wall between us. I was lonely. I missed my best friend. So I created a “thinspiration” journal and started a pro-Ana blog, using them to motivate myself to continue skipping meals - which, of course, was completely useless with bingeing and without any exercise.

In June of 2009, my friends became concerned, and once again alerted my parents. This time, my parents took a different approach - they visited a therapist to talk about me. I never heard the outcome of that session, and still, they never said those seven little words: “You’re perfect just the way you are.” Instead, we created a new health and fitness plan, to help me lose the weight once and for all - and I was committed! But my compulsive overeating prevented me from sticking to it, and once more, I quit. Since then, my yo-yo dieting (including an attempt at the Dr. Bernstein diet) has resulted in maintaining (or even gaining) weight. I began to realize, through my dieting failures, that I may be a binge eater. I did some research. I diagnosed myself with compulsive overeating disorder, but thought that I could fix it by myself.

I’ve had to survive my self-hatred throughout grades eleven and twelve without Ana by my side, so I’ve chosen other coping mechanisms. I still want and need, desperately, to lose weight, but I no longer have the willpower to skip meals and so won’t allow myself to visit pro-Ana sites or work on my “thinspiration” journal - it’s too hypocritical. All I do is eat. Last summer (2010), in an attempt to stop bingeing, I began cutting. I use a razor blade to mutilate the parts of my body that I hate the most. But no matter what I do, I cannot stop eating. I began to ask myself: why? Why can’t I change this behaviour? Why is it that no matter how desperately I hate my body, even to the point of considering suicide, I cannot kick the habit of eating everything in sight?

This brings me back to my original point: I have an eating disorder. I cannot stop on my own. But I’m far too stubborn to get help.
Please, please don’t let this happen to you. If you need to lose weight, do it the healthy way - even though I can’t. Never get caught in the uncontrollable world of binge eating, skipping meals, visiting pro-anorexia sites, and hating yourself.

This is my story. Don’t let it become yours.





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