Maura's Story of Compulsive Overeating
Hi. This is really gut-wrenching for me. I'm at work right now, and surreptitiously typing this, desperately hoping that no one will look over my shoulder.
What is compulsive eating? It is my nemesis. It is my greatest enemy, my greatest fear, the specter that haunts my life and steals my serenity, that teaches me to hate myself - something I have treated as a "friend" for the last fifteen years without realizing how much I was betraying myself by continuing the "friendship."
I have always had a distorted relationship with food. When I was very young, I remember being very thin and being known in the family as a "picky" eater. I was literally frightened by unknown foods. I felt "safe" with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, plain pizza, Pepperidge Farm white bread, Charleston Chews, and Bumble Bee tuna. (I think I must be the most brand-loyal person I know! A marketer's dream...) Through the beginnings of recovery, I have kind of figured out that my idea of "safety" in familiar foods has a lot to do with my environment when I was a child. Both of my parents were (are) alcoholics - my mom was a screamer, my dad was passive-aggressive. There was a lot of yelling at dinnertime. I could never predict what my parents would act like, but at least I could predict and rely on the comforting taste of macaroni and cheese casserole. At this time, I didn't overeat, I think; I just had an amazingly limited palette of foods that I would willingly eat. I resisted (just about the only way that I was not the "perfect" daughter) trying new foods vehemently.
As far as I can remember, I began to overeat compulsively in seventh grade. It was a tough time for me (as it is for most girls) - physical development, social isolation, emotional imbalance. At this time, I began to look to my mother for guidance, but she was so wrapped up in her own problems that she had little or nothing to give --- except her example. Aside from being an alcoholic, she was a compulsive overeater herself, retreating into the bedroom after her nightly fights with my father to eat and read romance novels. And eat she did. Two bags of Ruffles Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, 2 liters of Coke, maybe a box of Wheat Thins all in one sitting.
I began to eat for comfort then, and gained weight as I was developing a woman's body. The taunts from my classmates at being slightly chubby led me to eat even more, and grow more and more fat. I think, at this time, I might have broken the growing dependency, but in eighth grade my self-loathing was increased a thousand-fold when I was sexually abused by my brother. And so the cycle increased - food comforted me.
I Didn't Want To Be Like My Mother
Around this time, I remember my dad saying something to me about my weight gain. "You don't want to be like your mother, do you?" (with all the disgust he felt for her obvious in his tone). I, too, shared his hatred of her size and moods and eating habits; being compared to her by him only made me feel worse about myself. I fixed that by coating it with ice cream, candy, Yodels, Ring Dings, Cheese Nips....
I'm twenty six now and weigh around 210 (5'7"). Despite some "success" in my life (I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a private university and have a steady job as a teacher, a wonderful boyfriend, and a few good friends), I really hate myself. I manifest this hatred with my eating - when I'm sad, I eat. When I'm lonely, I eat. When I'm bored, I eat. When I'm feeling bad about myself (most of the time!), I eat.
It's funny. For years, I congratulated myself for "recovering" from my sick childhood. I'm not an alcoholic, I've never done any illegal drugs, I have a great education and a good job and a clean apartment and friends. But this year, I finally sought help for depression. Around January, I was very close to killing myself. I chose not to, (duh!), mostly because the father of one of my students committed suicide last year, and I've witnessed what havoc and torture that has caused her family. I resisted all drug therapy at first - I could talk about that for another 20 paragraphs! - and started "cognitive" therapy. Although I made some progress with cognitive work, I was still bingeing and hating myself and crying often. Finally, after three months, I tried Prozac. It's been a relief from my most acute depressive symptoms, but has not arrested my compulsive eating. My HMO is not agreeing to more one-on-one counseling for now, so I recently started trying 12-step groups. [I had always resisted 12-step programs - my mother is, I'd say, a compulsive AA member...and I never wanted to be like HER!] I went to a couple of ACA (Adult Children Anon.) meetings, a CODA meeting...then finally, TWO DAYS AGO, I walked into an OA meeting.
I feel some hope right now. Weight Watchers didn't work (lost 35, gained 50), "willpower" didn't work, beating myself up over and over again didn't work...I have some hope that OA might work. As a lapsed Catholic and big-time doubter, I don't know how to work in a "Higher Power." But I'm filled with hope. For once, losing weight isn't my first priority. I'm really going to try to love myself, treat myself better. I hope losing weight will be a product of that.
Physical symptoms? Depression. Fatigue. Muscle aches. Asthma. Irritable bowel syndrome (I think that's what it's called.) Backaches. Pain from waistbands that are too tight. Pain from bras that are too tight. Stretch marks.
None of that is as bad as the inner pain, the low self-esteem, the shame, the isolation, the embarrassment. This is what I really want to work on.
Thank you so much for this site, and for all of you who shared your stories with me. God bless you all; I wish you all recovery. Naming this has been important to me. Hearing your words of hope and wisdom has been invaluable.
My name is Maura, and I am a compulsive overeater and an adult child.
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Tracy, N. (2012, January 14). Maura's Story of Compulsive Overeating, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder/mauras-story