I never thought it was possible: I’m in recovery from a lifetime of addictive eating and have made peace with food. One day at a time, I get to enjoy a right sized body and a mind free of food obsession. I can help you get there too but there’s no quick fix cure. It takes commitment and dedication to lose or maintain weight, make peace with food and adopt lifestyle changes that will maintain recovery. You have to be willing to do what it takes. But I’ll support and guide you in a way that a non-food-addict wouldn’t be able to. I’ll share the tools, techniques and resources that have helped me reach the gift of food freedom. You’re not alone.
I reckon I was born with a food addiction. I’ve always wanted MORE FOOD. By age 11 I was yoyo-dieting, bingeing and starving myself. In my teens and twenties my weight yoyo’d up and down depending on my emotional state. I hated my body and always wore clothes that disguised my bum. My wardrobe was filled with clothes in different sizes so that I could be sure to find something that would fit. After going through a big change in my thirties my binge eating got even more out of control. I found myself going on food safaris and eating sugary, fatty and salty junk foods all day long. Here’s what I wrote in my diary on one of those average binge days. You can see all the foods I ate that day in the picture above.
For breakfast I had two apples; that’s my usual breakfast after my morning exercise routine of a 7km run followed by 30 minutes cardio and weights at the gym. Before lunch I ate a carrot because I felt really hungry. I hadn’t planned the carrot but I had to have it because I was craving ‘something extra’. For lunch, as usual, I had a plate of steamed vegetables. Even though that filled me up I had already made the decision to get more food. I left the office telling myself I was just buying herbal tea. But I knew all along that my secret intention was to pass a bakery. Once again, I was lying to myself.
I got to the bakery and that’s where it started. I bought two pastries. Initially I felt a deep sense of comfort but it only lasted for a couple of minutes. Then I started worrying about what excuse I was going to make up to explain why I had ventured out in the rain. Earlier my colleague had asked me to come out with her and I had told her I was staying in the office. The truth is I wanted to go alone so that I could binge undisturbed.
At the supermarket I bought a pack of chocolate biscuits. I ate the entire pack on the way to another bakery where I bought an almond croissant. While stuffing it down I was acutely aware that I could bump into someone from work and was taking extra care to turn into small side streets so no one would see me. I brushed off the crumbs and went back to a work meeting. In the afternoon I snuck to the shop downstairs several times to get more food. I consumed 4 whole blocks of chocolate in the bathroom downstairs. It would have been too embarrassing to get caught eating chocolate in the building, because everyone at work knows about my cholesterol problem. In public I’m known for being a really healthy eater. My binge eating is my secret. I’ve not told anyone about it.
On the way home from work, I had two slices of quiche, a chocolate brownie, an apple tart and a packet of Sushi. If someone had watched me, it would have looked ugly: I was walking down the streets, gulping down one thing after the other. Eating the last quiche I noticed that I wasn’t even tasting the food. It wasn’t satisfying at all but I kept eating.
I passed an overweight lady who seemed to be doing the same thing. She was walking down a quiet side street with a greasy bag in her hand, mouth full. I thought about stopping to ask if she was also a binge eater. Instead I walked past holding my quiche delicately pretending that this was the only thing I was eating tonight. The thought went through my mind that, if she really was a compulsive eater like me, she must have felt sad because I seemed to be a normal eater and she wasn’t. Little did she know.
Maybe she was thinking what I normally think when I see others eating pastries: Why can they get away with it and I can’t? How do they control it? It made think how many of us are out there, pretending that we eat ‘like normal people’ only to go bingeing, starving and purging ourselves behind closed doors? How many of us are desperately trying to control our food and live up to the cultural ideals of being thin, fit, happy, healthy, perfect? How many of us have wars in our heads about what to eat, what not to eat, when and how to stop eating, how to lose weight, how to keep it off every minute of the day?
Or maybe it really is just me…?
I ate the brownie thinking I should throw it away but I finished it anyway. Then I ripped the Sushi open in the plastic bag and poured the soy sauce over the pieces while walking briskly. I’m not sure why I was in such a hurry. It felt like I was doing everything really quickly so that it would be over before I had time to stop it. It was like I was on autopilot. I felt like such an addict. The thought came to my mind that I could have squeezed the Sushi pieces into a syringe and then injected them. It brought up the image I often get when I see the food vending machines in train stations. They’re filled with biscuits, lollies, chips and cakes. For me they could just as well be filled with bags of cocaine and heroin. Food has always been the number one, legal, easily attainable, and culturally accepted drug for me.
Having arrived at home I devoured three apples just because they were there. I don’t normally keep food in the house as I know I’ll obsess about it until I finally give in and eat it. Now I’m exhausted. I’m so full that I feel sick – it’s crazy how I can eat that much!!! But actually, I could eat much more than that!! I can’t believe I did it again. I had sworn that I was never going to do it again.
Right now I wish I could throw up and get rid of it. I even tried throwing up but I just can’t do it. I know that’s probably a good thing, but at this point I’m just worried about my weight. I just want it to go away. I don’t want to deal with the consequences. I’ll have put on around 1.5 kg. By now I have a feel for how much weight I gain based on the scale of my binges. I’ll never eat sugar and white flour again. I need a reboot, a detox, a green juice fast, something to lose all the weight.
I’ll have to starve myself tomorrow again. Except that I’ve already confirmed a work lunch. I had chosen a Sushi place because I normally allow myself to eat Sushi. But after this binge today, I can’t allow myself to eat anything. How can I get out of that lunch? I’m also worried that I won’t be able to sleep tonight. I can’t sleep after a binge because of the heart palpitations and the stomach pains. And if I don’t sleep, I’ll be tired tomorrow and that might set off another binge. As long as I can get out of the lunch and limit myself to a few cucumbers tomorrow I’ll be able to lose the weight within a few days. I have to get back on track.
What happened next? After a few days of dieting I binged again. As I found recovery, my binge eating and starving episodes gradually diminished. Today I’m free from food obsession and I no longer eat addictively, one day at a time. I no longer hate my body, and I even wear dresses! That doesn’t mean I’m cured. It means that my recovery has become my lifestyle. It’s my first priority. I follow daily actions to keep my food freedom. It is a chronic and progressive illness. I have accepted that there is no cure but it can be arrested if I continue to look after myself the way I do. The food addiction has forced me to look at all the uncomfortable feelings that I was stuffing down with food. I have to continue sorting out whatever issues arise in my life promptly to stay ‘spiritually fit’. That forces me to act with integrity in all areas of my life to the best of my ability. I’m grateful because without this food addiction my life wouldn’t have transformed in the way it has. I’ve discovered life beyond food!
Vanessa Kredler, Grateful Recovered Food Addict
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