So by now you have hopefully read Part One of my story. If you haven't, please do. You need to read that part first for this post to make any sense.
Let me first begin by saying thank you. I was so nervous to post this, because you never know how people will react. Will they think of me differently? Will there be virtual crickets? The response has been so incredibly overwhelming and truly humbling. Your messages and your comments make it so worth sharing this journey.
Part Two of my story is the flip side of Part One unfortunately, and for me this phase was much harder on me than Part One. This is the part that no one ever talks about or wants to admit to. To be honest I was almost thinking about skipping this part. But then you wouldn't get the whole story. And what about those girls who have experienced this part? Not including this part of my journey would only reinforce the idea that it's okay for no one to discuss this subject. It would be like me saying that it's something that you should still be ashamed of even after you overcome it. I labeled it Part Dough because that play on words so accurately describes my addiction with food that began. After about 6 months of struggling with not eating, I went to the other end of the spectrum.
When the switch hit, it hit hard. One day I brought home a batch of chocolate chip cookies that my mom had sent back to Athens with me (most likely in hopes that I would finally put some food in my mouth and gain a few much needed pounds back). I hadn't eaten anything but Diet Coke, popcorn, salad and hot chocolate for so long that the thought of putting anything with a significant calorie count in my mouth absolutely terrified me. So I started with just a bite, and managed to finish that cookie. But then something happened. A frenzy began. Before I knew it I had eaten the ENTIRE batch. Yes, that would be about 20 cookies. And it felt wonderful.
It had been so long since I had really tasted any food or filled my stomach that I just couldn't stop. The feeling of fullness in my stomach did indeed make me feel sick, but it was so comforting in the most twisted way. I had felt empty for so long that those 20 cookies temporarily numbed this empty feeling. I've never tried any sort of drug, but I'm pretty sure that the high I got from that protective feeling that food gave me is sort of what it might feel like.
I wish I could say that this was a one time thing and I swiftly began the road to recovering and healthy eating, but this wasn't the case. Now instead of not eating, I started this awful cycle of bingeing. Eating became an addiction. I would go to Zaxby's and order 3 full dinner plates and eat every.single.bite. I worried that the cashier might get suspicious so I would write down the order on a piece of paper before I came in and read it off so that they would think I was ordering for a group.
My mom would ask where all of her baking chocolate had gone. She had purchased several of those large value packs of bars for cooking and they were all gone. I would tell her I had used them for a new recipe because I couldn't bare to tell her that I had snuck down to the pantry after everyone went to bed and had taken Lord knows how many pounds worth of chocolate back to my room and devoured every piece. I would eat until I thought my stomach would literally pop. I would eat until every inch of my body was swollen from the sudden onslaught of calories and sodium. Looking back I don't know how in the world it was humanly possible to consume the amount of food that I did. Every type of yummy food you can think of I have a story about. Blizzards? Yep. Peanut Butter M&M's? Yes again. McDonalds burgers? You betcha.
There is a very distinct difference though between overeating and bingeing. The thing that makes bingeing so awful isn't just the amount of food that you eat, but the state of mind that you are in when you do so. Of course everyone has days where all they want to do is eat everything in sight. By bingeing I don't mean that you sit down on the couch and then realize that you have eaten the whole bag of chips. Oops. I don't mean that you've eaten ice cream every day in a row for a week because you just love it that much. I mean that you are completely consumed with thoughts of food and that you're ashamed of it. You don't think of how badly you want that piece of cake. That's perfectly normal to do. You think of how badly you want to sneak off into privacy with the entire cake and eat every bite without anyone finding out. And that when you go to the grocery store to buy that cake you plan on devouring you're going to pick up some cookies and a jumbo-sized value pack of Skittles. When you get to the checkout you've decided that you'll act like you're hosting a party, because why on earth would someone buy all that food just for themselves? You want food not because of hunger or because of a sugar craving you're having. You want food because it fills some other void and makes you feel safe. Food fills that void and doesn't talk back or ask questions. It fills that void and doesn't ask for anything in return.
This is the part of eating disorders that no one talks about. People can talk about and admit to anorexia because that involves skinny people who can fit into small sizes and have great looking legs and flat stomachs. Even though anorexics are not healthy, they are in control. Bingeing isn't sexy. Who would want to admit to stuffing their face uncontrollably and gaining tons of weight? Ew. That's disgusting. Instead of solving the real issue, I now used food in the exact opposite way to fill the void that was still there. It's like putting a butterfly band-aid on a war wound and thinking that you won't bleed out.
The bingeing wasn't necessarily the worst part of it though. The worst part was when I freaked out after realizing what I ate. A few times I felt so sick I tried to throw up, but apparently my body just won't. I'm ashamed to admit that no matter how far I stuck my finger down my throat nothing came up. I would google how to make yourself throw up and try every tip imaginable because my stomach hurt so badly. Nope. No luck. So the only option I could come up with was to not eat anything for the next few days. And thus the cycle went. Binge, then eat nothing but broth or coffee for 3 days. And of course go work out like a mad woman to burn off everything. Then I would be so hungry the cycle would start over again.
After several months of this I had put on 50 pounds. Yes, you read that right. Fifty. As in half of one hundred. You can't imagine what this does to your self esteem or body image to go from one extreme to another. I only had one pair of jeans from high school that would fit. They were supposed to be oversized, baggy wide leg jeans, but they fit me like regular, tight boot cuts. So I would wear those and a coat wherever I went to disguise the gain. It would be 78 degrees outside and I still had that darn pea coat on. I would be pouring sweat, but I would rather bear that than risk someone possibly seeing that I had packed on so much weight in such a short about of time.
Some friends and family in my life say they never noticed this rather large weight gain. Some may truthfully not have noticed just how much weight I gained. But I know some people did. I remember when I would walk in a room that people would first glance down at my thighs instead of my face. This would only lead to me feeling even worse about myself, which would in turn lead to eating more.
This period of my life lasted longer than the first part of my struggle. It took me about a year and a half to actually address the issues that caused everything in the first place. I'll talk about the sweet, amazing process of recovery in my post tomorrow night.....