Breaking the Cycle: My Story of Binge Eating Disorder and Body Dysmorphic Disorder
I’m struggling a bit with where to start this post. Honestly this is not a topic I discuss very openly with anyone except a select few close friends, family, clients who can benefit from it and my therapist. It’s certainly not a topic I imagined I’d be writing a blog to post on the internet about. So I start by asking for you to be kind when reading and commenting.
How can anything I could possibly write regarding binge eating disorder and body dysmorphia even scratch the surface of these topics. So let’s start at why I’m even attempting to write about this topic and we’ll work from there. Ryan and I are working on a marketing project. I asked him to upload any and all pictures or videos he has of my progress to our shared google drive. He has significantly more than I was expecting all at varying stages of my journey. I started to look through them and it’s what happened next that I didn’t see coming. My stomach turned over and my heart sank as tears welled up in my eyes. I was absolutely disgusted by what I saw. At that moment I didn’t see progress. What I saw filled me with shame and embarrassment. I thought I shouldn’t have been wearing those crop tops. I thought “how could you have felt proud of yourself when these were taken”. Pictures that were only 6 months old horrified me. I began to question if I was currently seeing my physique accurately. I decided that there was no way I look the way I think I look. Hell apparently I’ve never looked the way I think I look. When I left work that day I went home and had my biggest binge eating episode to date. It was intentional. I was aware of what I was eating and how much and I didn’t care because at that moment it didn’t matter. At that moment I believed I had made no progress.
For those of you who are new to RHC or stumbled across this blog in your search for help let me tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Stephanie. I’m 41. I’m a certified personal trainer that specializes in women’s fitness and weight loss. But I wasn’t always into health and fitness. I spent most of my life up to this point working in the healthcare field. It was never truly work I enjoyed. In fact I hated it. But despite the toll that being an overworked shift worker takes on your body I never changed or thought about change. That was just life. In 2015 I reached an all time high weight of 260lbs. My joints hurt, I struggled with getting short of breath quickly, my cholesterol and BP were high. Something had to give so I began a journey towards weight loss never thinking it would be the thing that changed my life. Over the past 7 years I have slowly, steadily and with Ryan’s coaching lost 115 lbs and learned the habits and behaviors to help me keep it off. Fitness made such an impact on my life that I finally saw a reason to change that career. But I also have a diagnosis of binge eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. So let’s take a moment to define these conditions.
Binge Eating Disorder- Frequent and recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of food (often enough for two or more days) in a very small period of time. It is similar to bulimia nervosa without the characteristic purging. It is the most common eating disorder but also the most under-recognized and under-treated.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder-Obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance that is often extremely minor or imagined.
As I sit here typing with a clear head I can honestly say these conditions go back almost as far as I can remember. The earliest episodes of BED I can recall were probably when I was 12 or 13 years old. I would often eat entire packs of oreos and blame my dad (sorry Dad but to be fair you ate your fair share of cookies too). When I baby sat neighborhood kids I would eat anything I could and try to hide the wrappers. The BDD probably started a little later. Maybe 15 or 16 years old. I was always uncomfortable in my body and I always thought I was the biggest girl in the room. When I look back on photos from these time periods I can see now that I was not heavy at all. I was an average teenage girl and an average size. At some point in my 20’s I began dieting. In hindsight I didn’t need to diet then but so began a decade plus long struggle with binge eating and then restricting to try to compensate.The first diet I can recall doing is Atkins. There were many others to follow. Some of these diets had me eating as low as 500 calories per day. I justified the low calories because obviously the expensive supplements I was taking made it safe to eat that little….it’s not btw ever safe to consume that few calories. Each diet yielded the same results. I lost weight and then gained it back and then some. Each diet also made the disordered relationship with food and my body worse. I spent so many years trying to hate my body to skinny and I eventually gave up and just accepted the weight gain and lived that way for some time.
In 2012 my family physician referred me to a local clinic that only works with eating disorders. I was hesitant to even make the appointment. Eating disorders? That’s absurd I thought. If I had an eating disorder I would be skinny. No. I was incorrect. Eating disorders present in all different people of all different shapes and sizes. I worked with that counselor and a dietician at that clinic for some time. Did things get better? I actually don’t know. Maybe. At least now I knew that every binge eating episode happened at night, often in the dark and gained a small understanding of what some of the things that triggered this behavior were.
Fast forward to the present day. I finally learned to love my body to health. Not only have I lost the weight in a healthy and sustainable manner. I found that my calling is to help others do the same. My binge eating is controlled through medication and other techniques. It still happens though and it’s usually linked directly to a stressor I’m struggling with. I lock my pantry door at night. I know how to open it obviously but taking the step to unlock it forces me to focus on the moment and if I’m really hungry or just looking to eat my feelings. Generally when it’s the middle of the night the answer is the latter. The BDD i don’t know if I’d say that’s controlled. Depending on the day I see a lean woman who’s hard earned muscle definition is starting to show, or a shrimp with no muscle and most often the person I see is my before picture. I was recently asked by a client if they will ever stop seeing the before picture when they look at themselves in the mirror. I can’t answer that because I’m not there yet; if I ever get there I will let you know. I do believe these are things I will battle forever.
I guess the whole purpose of me writing this is to say that wherever you are on your personal journey, remember that your mental health struggles are very real, very valid and equally as important to address as your physical health. They are not mutually exclusive and very much go hand in hand. Give yourself some grace. Take care of your mind and your body because that’s really all we have.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder of any kind don’t be afraid to talk to someone. You can take your control back but you need support to do it. If there’s no family or friends you are comfortable reaching out to; call or text The National Eating Disorder Association at (800)-931-2237. They can provide you with support, resources and treatment options.
I don’t know if this will actually help anyone or if it’s just a bunch of word vomit. If this resonates with you in any way and you need help with learning how to balance your weight loss and emotional eating, consider booking a consultation with me. I see you. I understand you. I am just like you.