It’s scary, you know. To have a secret… a big one. To hide a part of yourself from the world, because you are scared of what the outcome may be.
Loss of friends.
Loss of credibility.
You don’t want any of that. You don’t want to face those consequences, so instead you suffer in silence. Your thoughts and feelings bottled up. Choking on the screams that would call for help. Suffocating on the emotion that you can’t let spill out.
So here you are, curled up in bed at Friday night. Your stomach aches. Your face streaked with make-up from the tears. Your hand still moves from the jar of peanut butter back up to your mouth. You do not want to eat anymore. You have been binging for almost an hour. You cannot seem to stop although you desperately want to. You are so full that your stomach is expanded and is begging you to stop. The tears down your face outwardly show the pain you are in. If anyone were there, they would rush to your side, wipe your tears, and take the food away. They would see how this hurts you. But you are alone. No one even saw you grab the food, because it’s been hidden under your bed. You’ve been binging every few days for weeks. You’ve put on close to 20lbs in the last two months, which must be odd to everyone close to you because they see you post your daily gym grind and healthy meal prep on social media. And somehow, you’ve maintained a smile on your face whenever you are out in public so no one knows the hurt you’re feeling; no one understands that you’re in pain.
You are a binge eater.
You hide food so no one knows you binge. You can’t stop even when you want to. The immediate post-binge feelings of guilt, disgust, regret, and disgrace keep propelling this vicious cycle. You feel stuck. You don’t know who to turn to or where to go from here.
This was me.
After my first season of competing, I put back on the normal weight that anyone would after a show. After all, it’s not realistic to look competition day lean year-round. I struggled with that mentally though. I had an extremely hard time accepting my post-show body. In fact, I hated how I looked after my show. Lucky for me… I had just what I needed to make myself feel better. There, hidden beneath my bed, was packages of Oreos (limited edition flavors), two bags of rice cakes, and jars of flavored peanut butter. Oh, and a knife (for the peanut butter, of course). I kept those things hidden in my room, so my roommates wouldn’t know about them. After all, I was now a “fitness competitor” and I had an example to set. It was my little secret.
But… little did anyone know, there was a much bigger and darker secret I was hiding from more than just my roommates, I was hiding it from everyone. I was suffering from a binge eating disorder.
There is one night in particular I remember binging, because it was the night I recognized I had a real problem and needed help. On this night, I had one rice cake with peanut butter and an Oreo and thought, “That’s it, that’s all I need.” What a treat, right? Wrong. The next thing I know an hour had gone by and I had been eating the entire time. I had demolished a whole packet of rice cakes, three-quarters of a jar of peanut butter (I had already eaten some of it the night prior), and a handful of Oreos. My stomach was aching, I was crying, and I was still funnelling food into my mouth.
Let me break this down for you via calorie count, so you can understand the true volume of this binge:
1 package of Quaker Rice Cakes, Chocolate:
14 rice cakes per package
Total Calories: 840
3/4 Jar of White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter:
28 TBSP per jar, assuming approximately 21 TBSP consumed as 1/4 of the jar was already gone
Total Calories: 1,890
Oreos (Birthday Cake and Reese’s Peanut Butter flavors):
I probably had three of each flavor, so let’s assume 6 total Oreos
Total Calories: 450
TOTAL BINGE: 3,180 Calories
3,180 Calories… That’s almost two full days worth of food that I had consumed in the matter of an hour, while laying in bed, in tears, desperately wanting to stop eating, but unable to stop from shoveling food into my mouth. And this was AFTER already having eaten a day’s worth of healthy meal-prepped meals (probably 1700-1800 calories).
Yes, this one night stands out to me. But sadly, this was a very common occurrence. 3-4 times per week at night after a day of perfect eating and a solid workout, I would binge to the point of tears and tummy aches. I didn’t understand it. Why couldn’t I stop? What was this vicious cycle? Feelings of guilt, depression, sadness, and anxiety of further weight gain loomed over me.
At this point in time, the “hot topic” on social media was FAR from the “find balance” message spread today. Instead, most posts incessantly slammed in the idea that if you ever cheat on your diet or take a few days off from the gym, then you were just cheating yourself and you didn’t want it bad enough. It was like constantly being bombarded with messages that I was not good enough, dedicated enough, and it was my own fault that I was binging — it was my own lack of self-control. It had nothing to do with an actual eating disorder, I was just lazy and had no discipline. That is what the fitness industry was telling me. So I believed it.
Because of this, I kept my binging to myself. I didn’t tell anyone. Although, with my rapid weight gain it had to be obvious to everyone that I saw daily or that followed my posts. In fact, I stepped on stage at 111lbs on October 18th, 2014. By the time January 23rd, I weighed 145lbs (standing at 5’4” tall). The most I had ever weighed in my life up to that point (I hit 150 by June ‘15).
I thought food would make me feel better. And it did. The initial bite was always comforting. After that first bite though… it’s all downhill. When you’re crying and your stomach aches and you just cannot stop eating… that is not comfort. That is not happiness. There is no form of contentment found in that.
To this very day, it scares me to think of how much mental, emotional, and physical turmoil I was going through. It scares me even more knowing that I kept my mouth shut. That I didn’t speak up or ask for help. But you know what scares me the most? That hundreds, thousands, millions of women, young and old, around the world battle with eating disorders and do the same thing that I did… they keep quiet.
Talking about an eating disorder, or the possibility of having an eating disorder is not a sign of weakness. Just as keeping quiet is not a sign of strength. The decision to keep an eating disorder a secret is driven by fear: fear of weakness, of judgment, of disappointment, of the “never good enough.” This stigma must be lifted!
If you’re reading this and you have been saying to yourself, “This is me. I am there. I have reached this point.” If you’re reading this and you have been saying to yourself, “That was me. I’ve been there.” Know that you are not alone. You have never been alone. There are just too many of us that keep quiet.
Please, research binge eating disorders. Self-diagnose and then seek help! It will be the best decision you make, for your overall health and wellness.
Binge eating can be cured. You can stop. It is possible. It is hard. If I can do it, you can, too. Yes, I still struggle daily. I still fall victim to the occasional binge (I will proudly say mine are finally extremely infrequent), but today I am better and stronger. I continue to fight it each and every day. Everyone’s journey to recovery will be different. For me, it took a lot of soul-searching and self-acceptance. I had to come to a lot of very painful realizations of why I turn to food for comfort. I had to understand my triggers. I had to eliminate keeping certain foods in my apartment. I had to learn to really believe in myself and believe in my worth. Today, I am very openly gung-ho about SELF LOVE on social media and I completely believe in myself and how important and valuable I really am, but I didn’t always believe that. But before… My self-esteem was always very low. I had a “fake it til you make it” approach to my self-love and really faked having confidence in myself. It’s not easy to be vulnerable. It’s not easy to say, “I have a problem.” But it is necessary. You must look deep into yourself and understand why you are doing what you are doing… and you must ask for help.
I don’t ever really talk about this publically, but I realize now that it is necessary for my growth as an individual to be open about the times I’ve been broken; it is also necessary for me to speak up because I know that sharing my story could potentially help someone else facing this same struggle. I wish more women would share their stories.
One story in particular comes to mind for me, as it was her story that inspired me to find help for BED. Who was it? Jessica James.
If you do not know who she is, Jessica was an IFBB pro bikini competitor and Bodybuilding.com athlete, who divulged that she had also been hiding from her (very large) social media following that she was a compulsive eater. She would binge and then restrict in an effort to undo the damage from the binge. In order to spread her message, she shot a very compelling series of photos, featured in this blog post (with Jessica’s permission, of course), to showcase what her eating disorder felt like. You feel trapped. You feel like a slave to the food and to the weight scale. It was these moving pictures that I could so adequately relate to, as well as her openness about her struggle that inspired me to also move forward and free myself from binge eating.
You can be free, too. You are worthy of freedom from the eating disorder you are suffering from. You are worthy of freedom from the body dysmorphia it has caused. Right now, in this very moment, just as you are… you are worthy.
So, do it… ask for help! Know that you are not alone. I am here. Women like Jessica are here. We will stand with you and for you and offering a helping hand.
Have you struggled with BED? Are you struggling now? This can be a tough subject to discuss, so if you don’t feel comfortable commenting below… please, contact me via the Connect page on my website. Let’s talk. Let’s heal together.
P.S. Right after I reached out to her about this specific piece, this video went live on YouTube. It’s a spoken word piece in which Jessica so powerfully talks of her eating disorder and how it affected her life. It brought me to tears. It’s beautiful. Give it a watch!
*Photo Credits: Jason Little Photography