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When Your Food Eats You

Ferocious Cupcake

Bite Me!

This is the story of a dysfunctional relationship.

My name is Susan, I’m a compulsive eater. My relationship with food is dysfunctional. I’ve spent 73% of my life with this obsession, this disease, overweight and hating my looks. I’ve eaten food from off the floor. I’ve stashed food in my car. I’ve stolen it and hid it.  I was always planning a) when/ what to eat and b) when I was going to start a diet/exercise plan.

Friday nights always seemed bleak without something to celebrate the end of the week. Driving home from work I’d pick up Chinese food, or Italian food or fast food–enough for 4 people. Then, in the dark with a movie playing, my eyes just rolled back in my head like a shark in a feeding frenzy.  I’d eat till it hurt. As soon the pain subsided a bit, I’d return for more. By late evening, in pain with a distended stomach, I’d reproach myself for such disgusting, greedy, pig-like behavior. If there was any left-over food, I’d throw it in the trash. (In my madness I’d toss the food in its container because deep down I knew I might want it later.) Then, yes, I would get it out of the trash to eat it the next day. After vowing to start a diet someday, I’d conclude my evening by heading for the bathroom to purge over the toilet with a wooden handle down my throat.

Many times I resolved to go on a diet. It never lasted. Before long the food demon would  yammer in my head. No matter if it was the middle of the night, I’d throw a coat over pajamas, rain or snow, to drive to the nearest 24 hour store for chips, ice cream, candy bars, cupcakes and cookies—all at once. (Best get extra for the weekend so I wouldn’t have to leave the house.) Saturday night, repeat Friday because after all I deserved fun!. Sunday night I over ate to console me over the past weekend and the dismal return of the work week. During the work week, I’d wake thinking about food. Was there anything good in the house to eat? to look forward to getting out of bed? All day: what am I going to eat next, what am I going to eat next, what am I going to eat next…

I didn’t like parties because all the food taunted me. There was no way I could eat what I wanted, in public without humiliation. I liked to eat my food in private where I could change into an eating machine without witnesses. Such is the nature of this disease. Isolation and closet behaviors. I had to keep it all hidden because who could possibly love someone so sick? Overeating is a vicious cycle: I’m fat and ugly so I hate myself; I eat to comfort these feelings; I stay fat and ugly.

I didn’t want to feel my feelings. I always wanted to be sedated by the pleasure of food, my favorite drug. When I felt lonely or depressed, food comforted me.  When I was happy and wanted to celebrate, food gave me that sense of party.  When frustrated, angry, anxious, food calmed me down.  Bored, food gave me entertainment.  What a wonderful friend, what an insidious foe.

Food became a poison. A poison. Here’s the  Wikipedia definition of poison: Poisons are substances that can cause disturbances to organisms… when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism. It’s like digitalis.  Comes from the foxglove flower, is used as medicine to treat heart conditions, but when a sufficient quantity is taken, it kills you. Was it killing me? I certainly wasn’t living my life.

Passage from my journal on July 12, 2010:
“Started Overeaters Anonymous today at the Main St Methodist Church. I’ve decided I need to get in touch with feelings more. I think I eat to get distracted from them. I met Judy at OA. Told her I didn’t like “huggy-feely” groups or overly emotional ones. When they held hands and formed a group circle, I opted out. Also kept silent in the serenity prayer. I don’t feel like part of the group yet. Sheila suggested I go to at least 6 meetings. I’m going to try for 3 this week. I haven’t wanted to tell anybody I know. Wouldn’t it be grand if I learned willpower, maybe lost all the excess pounds. Getting thin is very scary. It’ makes me feel very exposed, vulnerable! I have an inherent shyness (modesty?) that I haven’t shed when it comes to my figure. I always find it wanting– dumpy, poor posture, clumsy walk.”

So, I found myself at an Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meeting. Don’t know how I got there but I’ve been in recovery ever since. We’re not unlovable because we have this disease; love is the very thing we need in order to recover. (From “A New Beginning”)  I now realize that mine is a spiritual disease which caused a psychological disease which  translated into a physical disease. I now practice identifying and feeling my emotions. Painful or pleasant, it’s how I want to live life. I say my prayers to my Higher Power and practice abstinence.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

My name is Susan, I’m a grateful and recovering compulsive eater.

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