Trigger warning: body image and eating disorders. Please don't read below if you're recovering from or suffering with these issues.
In the last seven years, I've gained about 60 pounds. My weight has fluctuated a bit, but the bulk of those pounds hit within the last 12 months. I have been making excuses or rationalizing what happened.
- I don't work out 5-10 hours a week like I did in high school.
- I don't eat well.
- My metabolism must be slowing down.
- I'm stressed.
- This is just how my body is.
- I've always been big.
These are mostly lies. True, I don't work out as much now that I'm not on colorguard and I am stressed a lot (read: all the time), but I did have some periods in the last seven years where I was eating way better than I had in high school.
There are two glaring errors related to that list.
Number one: I have not always been big. For years, I've been telling myself that I've "always been big." I believed it until a couple weeks ago when I was going through old photos. I discovered this photo from my senior year of high school (2005):
This is not the image of someone who is overweight. I was fit and mostly healthy. Even though I didn't eat very well, I worked out multiple times a week. I weigh about 160lbs in this photo. According to BMI, which I have discussed as problematic, I was already borderline obese! At 165lbs, I would be classified as obese. Five more pounds and the girl in the above picture would be obese? That can't be right. Anyway, I was convinced.
My mom didn't help. She would occasionally pat my stomach and recommend crunches to get rid of that "little paunch" below my stomach. (Did it even exist?) When I got my license, she encouraged me to lie about my weight and put down 140lbs, leading me to believe that 1) I was overweight, and 2) I should be ashamed of my weight. I don't think she realized what she was doing, but it hurt. It convinced me that I've always been a plus-sized person, which is such a lie. I think I may have had body dysmorphic disorder, but it didn't lead into any kind of eating disorder in high school.
Number two: I have an eating disorder. This is an item that I never would have included in that list of excuses. When Mike & Molly debuted in 2010, I was fascinated with the idea of Overeaters Anonymous. I remember watching Molly work out on an elliptical machine while her slender mother and sister ate chocolate cake. Molly's mother says, "as I've told you before, the key to watching your weight is moderation, plain and simple." Dear god, that will fix everything! I never knew that eating in moderation would make everything better! The rest of the episode contains quips about Mike's and Molly's weights and eating habits, all to peals of laughter from the audience (or laugh track).
I looked up Overeaters Anonymous and quickly dismissed that I had any problem. I read the Is OA For You? page but felt so embarrassed that I didn't want to take it any further. Much later, I attended one online meeting, but it was so hokey that I never went back. Plus, as a person questioning her faith, I hated the idea of the Twelve Steps because so many of the steps rely on a "higher power."
Yesterday I think was a breaking point. I received some news that stressed me out right before I had the lunch I brought from home (to save money, which is another huge point of stress for me). As soon as I finished eating, I went to the café downstairs and bought a slice of pepperoni pizza and two Reese's cups. I ate them in my office with the door mostly closed, hoping no one would enter and see that I was eating two lunches. There wasn't a feeling of hunger; there was a numbness. I stopped at Wendy's on the way home for a Son of Baconator, medium fries, a medium soda, and a junior Frosty. A couple hours after devouring that, I ate a bowl of ice cream. About an hour after that, I ate another bowl of ice cream because I was feeling sad again about the news from earlier, and I cried as I ate. I told my partner that I obviously have a problem, to which he responded, "I know, but you didn't. You can't do anything about it tonight. I know you're stressed, and I know that makes it worse. Finish the bowl you have--don't get another--and then go to bed."
So I did. I've started seeing a therapist. Well, I saw her once. I was supposed to see her Monday (August 27), but her office had to push the appointment to September 10 because she decided to take vacation. Not sure why she didn't already have that blocked off on her calendar. She had wanted to see me two weeks after my first meeting, but I work until 5pm, so I had to push it back to 2 1/2 weeks in the first place. By the next appointment, it'll have been almost a full month since we first spoke. I feel (unreasonably) betrayed by this. It makes me want to cancel the appointment entirely, but I need help.
There are my issues in a nutshell: body dysphoria and compulsive overeating. I would like to say that today is a new day and I can start fresh, but that's impossible. I can get better, but I have to deal with the underlying emotional issues before I can resolve my weight and eating problems.
My name is Amber, and I am a compulsive overeater.