People who compulsively overeat repeatedly consume excessive amounts of food, sometimes to the point of abdominal discomfort. However, unlike bulimics, they do not get rid of the food with any of the methods mentioned earlier. In fact, most people with this type of eating disorder are overweight from the constant bingeing and have a long history of weight fluctuations.
Because compulsive overeaters feel out of control with their food (and often eat in secret), there seems to be a high incidence of depression, in addition to the serious medical complications that go hand in hand with being overweight.
The cycle began when I was 11 or 12. I wore a size 1 and thought I looked fat. I dieted, starved, exercised, overate, and ended up a size 9. I did the size 1-9 dance several times until I finally graduated to the 9-11 routine. This continued until I ultimately reached size 13.
The turning point from "eating problem" to "life-threatening disorder" happened in my adult years after the break-up of a serious relationship. I just couldn't face the anxiety of the dating world again! It was also right after my grandmother passed away and my father had a heart attack. Starting a high-powered, senior-level job, my binges became out of control. Suddenly, walking home from work, I felt an urgent need to eat; I stopped at a grocery store, a deli, and a restaurant, buying chips, cakes, ice cream, and cookies. I reached my apartment and rushed into the kitchen, still wearing my heavy winter coat and hat, and started shoveling cake into my mouth. My hands were shaking and not able to get the cake in fast enough. I finished the entire cake, a pint of ice cream, and 20 Oreos before I was finally calm enough to take off my coat and order Chinese take-out.
This routine went on night after night for months. Within six months, I was up 85 pounds, and for the first time in my life, I topped 200 pounds on the scale. I was depressed, desperate, and terrified. I cried on and off all day long—in the shower, on the train, and in my office, frantically searching for help from diet centers, obesity researchers, and hospital programs. I frequently and seriously contemplated suicide. I was humiliated and weighed 250 pounds. I felt like a heroin addict, only I was addicted to food.
With the understanding, support, and guidance from trusting, caring, and knowledgeable practitioners, a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, group therapy, and anti-depression medication, I am presently working my way out of this perpetual hell. I now follow a nondeprivational approach—all foods in moderation. Believe me, it took a lot for me to be willing to try this because all I've ever known is either 150-calorie
Healing Connections, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that prevents eating disorders and body image disturbances through education. Healing Connections offers lectures and workshops to area schools and businesses, and also provides referrals for those looking for treatment. For more information, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please call 212-585-3450, or visit www.healingconnections.org.
diets or 20,000-calorie binges. Today, I allow myself a chocolate bar if I really crave one, and if I need to overeat (not binge) because of a heavy, stressful workload—I give myself permission.
I presently weigh 185 pounds, eat normally, and, at 45, have a rebirth of hope. —A 45-year-old compulsive overeater
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