I have been putting off this confession for almost a month and it’s because I’ve never talked about it with anyone before. Not that I have never been caught. In fact, I am still in a bit of denial to say that I ever had this because it wasn’t something I did on a regular basis. Why I feel compelled to share this now is because I know I am not the only person who has struggled with eating disorders. At this point I see clarity in my actions and I see light in my recovery. Hopefully this will help someone in a similar situation. Usually, someone who is identified as bulimic has excessive periods of binge eating and then eliminating that food immediately. For me, it was through purging.
I can’t remember exactly when I dabbled with this; only how, and that after a week my sister caught me in the act while on the other side of the bathroom door that I had locked. We didn’t lock doors in our house unless we were up to something not good. I remember her asking me, “Are you okay? What are you doing in there?” I said, “I’m fine. I just don’t feel good. I’m better now.” That was that. Getting caught gave me so much anxiety that I stopped.
While many bulimics are triggered to purge in order to lose weight I didn’t really identify with that in the beginning. When I started I was in great shape and weighed 110 lbs at 5’2″. I just really liked food and wanted to eat more. So, to make more room I got rid of what was there and then ate more. Simple. I enjoyed eating and binging, obviously, to a very unhealthy degree. I justified my actions by knowing that I was only going to do it “one more time.”
Years later when I moved out of my mom’s house and into my first apartment I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. I had my own job, I was making my own money, paying for college, living with my boyfriend, paying bills, living the weekends as I wanted, and visiting the local fast food places whenever I so pleased. The binge-eating started to come back very slowly and I had gained a good amount of weight. In fact, I hate looking at pictures of myself in my early twenties. I wasn’t exercising as much, busy with studies, work, and late night partying. After awhile, I started “treating” myself to french fries and burgers after work and I would eat in my car before my boyfriend came home. However, it wasn’t an order of a burger and fries. It wasn’t even a burger and fries extra large combo. It was two orders of extra large fries, double cheeseburgers (that’s plural), salad, large ice tea, and an extra order of fries. I would eat it all, throw away the garbage in the large dumpsters in the back of the apartment complex, and purge before anyone would notice.
I was at my worst during this time. It got to the point where purging was no longer a means to make more room to eat more. I had actually gotten myself to enjoy the whole process of getting the food out of me so I could have that empty feeling inside. It felt good. It was a relieving release. The only way to get that feeling was through purging. Is it possible to be addicted to throwing up? Well, yes, it is.
Around the age of 22 and 23 I noticed that the only clothes I could fit in were fitness clothes. They laid comfortably on my body and stretched very conveniently whenever I sat down so I could let my belly stick out to its content. I liked the way that jogging jackets, sweaters, and coats covered my fatty arms and if I zipped them up it would appear as if I had an hourglass figure, when really I was more of a circle. That’s right. Fitness jackets zipped up pushed the sides of my body like a corset. By now I was around 160 pounds.
One day I was shopping at a grocery store and ran into one of my aunts. This aunt knew me very well because she had been friends with the family for many years and watched me and my sister grow up. We all had traveled together, broke-bread many times, and visited often. I went up to her and said, “Hi! It is so good to see you. How are you? How have you been?” She quickly replied, “Oh…I’m doing well…you?” We had a little bit of friendly chatter before moving along our own ways. Later that week, my mom and I were talking on the phone and she had mentioned this encounter. I said, “Oh, yeah. It was good to see her. We-” Mom cut me off before I could tell her what we said and she cautiously informed me, “It took her awhile to recognize you. Jessica…how do I say this? She said she didn’t recognize you because you have gained so much weight. You look like a different person.” I was surprised and very offended. How could she not recognize me? I didn’t look that different. She just said that to scare me and get me to lose weight. She doesn’t know me anymore. I’m fine. I began to own and defend my unhealthy habits by embracing my body and deceiving myself to believe that I loved who I was just the way I was. I was embracing my full figure and not apologizing for who I was; for my body. But it kept bothering me. Why?
Months had passed. I had not purged in that time, but my eating habits didn’t improve. My job was sedentary. I took a break from college. I had become someone who never drank coffee to someone who drank coffee all day. The acidity from the coffee made me bloat so much it would tighten my pants around the waistline. I would get so uncomfortable that I would take bathroom breaks just to loosen my pants and let my hips breathe. You would think this would be a wake up call, but it’s very easy to go buy clothes in a larger size. So, problem solved.
Other things started to slowly fall apart. My boyfriend and I started to become detached. He was working and going to school, I was working all the time, and it seemed our times of intimacy were floating away. I just felt like he didn’t find me attractive. It made me insecure and I started telling myself, “Well, if he doesn’t find me attractive then no one will.” I kept on with my eating habits and purging every now and then. It felt good to feel that “release” again. Hello, old friend.
Around this time work-life felt better than my personal life. I had received a promotion and was doing well in the sales/marketing departments. During my lunch breaks I went back to my old habits of binge eating, or treating myself to a yummy meal, and then purge at work. Whenever I ate out I would enjoy what I wanted and then excuse myself to the restroom and purge. In fact, I remember going out for sushi with my boyfriend and his friends. We had enjoyed plenty of sake, beer, and sushi. I knew that afterwards we would all head out to the night life in Tempe, AZ and bar hop. So, I had excused myself and purged. I can remember wiping my face, eyes (because you do tear up), nose (because your nose runs heavily), and toilet seat (hiding all evidence). I washed my hands twice with soap, smiled to make sure nothing was in my teeth, put a piece of gum in my mouth, fixed my hair, and thought if anyone is wondering why my eyes are blood shot it’s because of the sake and beer. Perfect plan. Your eyes get blood shot from the pressure from vomiting. Lastly, I refreshed my makeup because the pressure from vomiting can also open the capillaries in your face. No one noticed anything and I felt “lighter”, relieved, and ready to party.
Just as I can’t remember exactly when this all started I also can’t remember exactly when this all stopped. What can I say is I just got tired of it. I wanted to get back to the younger me that ate healthier, danced, played music, and be free. I wanted a different life, but didn’t know where to start. I started beating myself up for being this way. It’s one thing to have bad eating habits, or choosing foods that are malnourished if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, I did. I grew up reading nutrition and health books. My mother fed me and my sister very well. So, what happened? An eating obsession is what happened and convenient foods were easy to get. An addiction to self-abuse is what happened and it was easy to hide. I mean, I’m revealing this in a blog while the only other person to even suspect of my bad habit was my sister when the purging was at its mildest. Crazy.
After taking a good look at myself I realized my purging was more related to the types of foods and beverages I consumed. If I knew I consumed too much junk food, or low-nutrient foods (like fast-food, micro-wave foods, processed foods, low-quality foods), or alcoholic beverages I would purge. It was as if I was subconsciously trying to cleanse myself while appeasing my glutinous self.
So, at this point, I just want to take a break and ask if you can relate. Can you relate? Have you done some kind of self-abuse because the “release” was just that good? Are you tired of it? Do you want to be free of it? For starters, do yourself a favor and don’t keep it to yourself. Get help and reach out. I wish I had done that so I could have gotten back to living happily and freely sooner rather than later. I wish I had been honest with myself and save all that money I spent on bigger clothes. I would have realized sooner that my boyfriend didn’t find me unattractive. We were just going through a lot with work and school, which were very time consuming. My insecurities had manifested this belief that I wasn’t worthy of anyone’s affection, even his. Finally, I would have not held so much resentment with my family about my weight gain. They were never trying to attack me; they were truly concerned about my health. They were right. I wasn’t feeling very well. Tired, lethargic, bloated, ravenous, and losing energy in my early twenties!! My bubbly self wasn’t really there. I was losing me and blaming it all on everyone and everything else. So, if my experience is similar to yours and you’re tired of it – get help. It is worth it!
The first thing I did was “Get Back to Basics” by re-reading books that helped me understand food. I was much younger when I first read them and thought I should read them again. Here are the books I read. I have no affiliation with these books. I’m simply sharing them because I find their information and stories to be very interesting, informative, and helpful. There’s a long list of books, but these were the ones to come to mind while writing this.
- Alkalize or Die by Doctor Theodore Baroody
- The Maker’s Diet by Doctor Jordan Rubin
- Skinny Bitch by Freedman and Barnounin
- The pH Miracle with Robert E. Young, PhD and Shelley Redford Young
- Wisdom of the Ages by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Another thing I did was change how I got my meals. I stopped going to the fast food places and stopped buying the convenient foods in the frozen aisle at grocery stores. I started cooking, which was very new for me. I had always enjoyed watching “The Two Fat Ladies”, “East Meets West”, and “Every Day Italian with Giada” on Food Network. I started dabbling with their recipes. Watching Giada smile and watching her knife work when cutting vegetables taught me to go in the kitchen and do the same thing. Put a smile on my face and start cooking. It turned out my food was pretty good and my boyfriend was more than happy to eat everything I made. By cooking I knew exactly what was in my food and the nutrients made me feel satiated sooner rather than later. I knew the food was good for me so the thought of purging didn’t take over. In fact, my love for eating well overcame my unhealthy fascination with the “release” feeling from purging. Things were turning around and I was beginning to see the light. Literally, the kitchen light, my brain light bulb – all the lights. Ha! Trying different recipes even broadened my boyfriend’s food choices, too. You should have seen his face when he first tried kimchi. I almost lost all his trust until I told him it was just cabbage. He took a small bite, pondered, and said, “Not bad.” Today, we both LOVE kimchi!
I got active again. Instead of treating myself to food after work I went to the indoor gym located in the same building my job was at. It was on the first floor while I worked on the fourth. I also got back into dancing and signed up for classes 2 times a week. I loved it. The performer in me was coming back! I remember tearing up after doing jazz walks across the floor. Yeah…jazz walks made me cry. Stepping out on 1 and raising my arms on 2, 3, 4 and snapping my head to the right on 5, and then back to the front on 6, 7, 8 brought back the former sassy and sweet Jessica. I felt lifted from the inside, but held my composure so I wouldn’t freak out the rest of the students in the dance room. Sometimes, when I got home before my boyfriend did, I would put on the Pussycat Dolls Album and strut around the apartment and freestyle. But you know that once I heard the front door unlock I would immediately turn off the music, stop dancing, and act like there was nothing to see here. NOW I feel like I’ve shared too much. Bahaha!
Home cooking changed my life. Reading and getting informed changed my life. Stepping out and getting hobbies changed my life. Getting back to basics helped change my life. Choosing to love and embrace health over a well-marketed and deceiving self-image campaign helped change my life. I hope you can change your life to be happier and freer, too. Peace.