STOP! Hear me out! Hear my story!
Once, a long time ago, I struggled with bulimia and I won. It kicked me in the head during my second year of pharmacy school, which was a killer. My childhood sweetheart, who this little Hoosier farm girl from Indiana followed to the sprawling metropolis known as St. Louis, Missouri, decided to move on to somebody with a bigger chest who surely gave out more.
I felt totally alone and abandoned. My self-esteem plummeted. My farm-hearty appetite began turning to food for comfort, particularly flour-based products: donuts, bagels, and brownies. For about two years, I wrestled the demon of self-insecurity, and food helped me feel better for an hour.
So I ate and ate and ate. However, I was a young girl, and I didn’t need my biochemistry to tell me I couldn’t eat that way and “be healthy.” Or eat that way and look foxy. I knew if I ate that way I would get fat. I wasn’t afraid of the weight I was; I was afraid of the weight I would become.
So I got it out of there, with exercise and vomiting. And thus began a terrible cycle of eating, overeating, being mad at myself for overeating, trying to not eat, overeating, over exercising, obsessing, vomiting, obsessing, and overeating. (Please note, I tried laxatives only once, but I was so sick I wanted to die. So laxative overuse is not the source of my slow GI tract.)
I was out of control, and I HATE being out of control so I sought help from my volleyball coach and athletic director at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. Great women. I saw a medical doctor who unbelievably said, “It is a phase. It will pass.” I visited counselors who worked on remodelling my body image, self-esteem, and relationship skills. All VERY, VERY good things.
A summer break came, and I went home to the farm. I embarrassingly had to tell my mom all that I was going through, and she immediately got me to see a medical doctor and a counselor, excellent practitioners. Mom’s response was instrumental in my recovery, and I thank God every single day for my mom, for many, many reasons.
Over time, my mental self got a great makeover, and I reigned in my bulimic impulses. I didn’t hide in the bathroom with the shower running and throw up. I no longer scheduled an extra hour on my workout to compensate for extra calories. I no longer obsessed about food to the point of running out on special bagel or donut runs in the late evening.
But you know what really didn’t get redesigned? The way I ate–despite meeting with a nutritionist who told me things I already knew and tried vainly to employ regarding moderation, portion quantities, and food choices. I still preferred six chocolate chip cookies to a steak. Three donuts to start the day. Fresh baked bread at Biaggi’s Restaurant followed by pasta with a creamy white sauce and bread pudding for dessert.
I had my self-esteem, a great metabolism, and I knew I looked “okay.” And that was enough.
I was in control of my mental and psychological response to eating food now, but I was still not in control of my eating. I had just learned to accept it.
I have always loved processed carbohydrates, and LOVE should NOT apply to food. However, it did, and aside from my two-year struggle at a very tough time in life, I have never viewed my carbohydrate cravings as a problem. I was the kid whose Halloween and Christmas candy was gone within a couple of days. The guest who never said “no” to the offer of a treat. The mom who baked her heart out for parties.
My brain likes carbohydrates. Period.
“Food and addictive drug use both result in the release of dopamine in the mesolimbic regions of the brain (at least in animal studies), so one gets a sense of “reward” and happiness from eating. Obese versus lean individuals show greater activation in the addictive behavior centers of the brain in anticipation of receiving “palatable” foods” (from Emily Deans’, M.D. site, a blog post on Eating Disorder, Obesity, and Addiction)
For many years now, bulimia has been behind me, left totally in my past. It may have stolen a couple of years of my life when my childhood sweetheart took his “bon voyage” of me, but it allowed me to gather and build my fragile self-esteem.
I conquered bulimia and I came out MUCH STRONGER on the other side. Moved on. Kept the boyfriend, actually (married happily now for 16 years). Ditched the eating disorder. Gained self-esteem and a “well, I guess it’s good enough” kind of body image. Bulimia was horrible, and I promised myself I would NEVER go back there. And I never have.
Part 2 of my story to come in 2-3 days. Thank you for reading. Is this blog altruism or insanity? Haven’t decided yet.
You may be interested in Part 2.