My Story (Part 2): I Used To Binge Eat

kat-eating-cakeRead part one here.

Somewhere between the grain-bed soggy salad sandwich lunches of primary school, and the chocolate/biscuit/donut/pizza/chip binging of my early twenties, I basically stopped eating.

It happened gradually, and it wasn’t until I woke up one morning at the age of 17 and realised I literally couldn’t get out of bed that I was fully aware of what I was doing.

But before I almost stopped eating? I ate very well indeed. Perhaps too well.

At the age of 14 and 3 months, my family and I moved to Germany. My father had been relocated for work; the company he worked for (as Managing Director of an engineering firm) was opening a German branch and Dad happened to be both up for the position and in command of decent German language skills. We’re not German; I think he had decided to learn partly as a bonus to his work but perhaps also just out of interest.

My reaction to the upheaval? I was NOT interested in moving overseas. Are you kidding me? The history and grandeur of Europe was something I was both unaware of and uninterested in becoming aware of.

I was just starting to enjoy some independence and freedom, from unsupervised outings with my friend’s to the delights and terrors of stamping my mark on the world as another teenage girl desperately trying to fit in and be cool.

Unlike some of my high-school peers I didn’t have any issues with puberty ‘chub’, but just because I was naturally long and lanky didn’t mean I had managed to graduate into the cool crowd.

I do remember that I cared about this less than when I was at primary school, but it was still a factor. I enjoyed making new friends and continuing some of my primary school friendships, I excelled at most of my subjects and felt confident about what the future held for me. I had a lot of fun at high school, both in and out of class, and I think perhaps I even had a little more freedom in terms of mixing my normal healthy school lunches with occasional treats either from Home Ec classes or begged or borrowed from friends or the school canteen.

My pocket money had been elevated to a more impressive status of ‘allowance’, and I was learning to budget for everything from my own school books and uniform (Mum added money for these sort of things to my allowance rather than just pay herself), to gifts for friends and regular tithing. And, of course, I always made sure there was some leftover for chocolate. I managed to make a name for myself as a choco-holic from a young age, to the point where in later years my friends would give me gifts such as 2 kilos of my favourite liquorice bullets, or a massive vase layered with different coloured M&Ms. (THAT may still be the most excitement-inducing gift I ever received!)

For now though, the attempts to starve myself thin and the excessive indulgences of my later teens were still years away.

I had much more important things to focus on, like being able to afford some fashionable clothes and whether or not my school socks should be worn low around the ankles or scrunched all the way to the knees. And, of course, being witty enough to hold my own with the smart-aleck boys at school and try and generate some interest without having to actually (or really wanting to) follow through on anything.

The move overseas was right at the beginning of my Year 9 school year, and it was quite a brutal uprooting. I had my ‘group’, I knew what was and was not hot in Aussie teen-fashion, and I felt like I was just starting to grow out of the shy, awkward, hand-me-down style persona of my childhood years. So basically I was annoyed about having to leave and enter a new and uncertain world; one where I knew none of the rules. And where, worst of all, I would have to enter the German school year by going backwards – starting at half-way through their Year 8.

But after a fancy ‘all-you-can-eat’ send-off by my friends at Sizzler, and a bucketload of thoughtful gifts, I was on my way. We all were. And yes, I guess there was just an ounce of excitement at what might lie ahead but mainly there was that dreaded fear of once again having to figure out how to fit in.

In retrospect, the 2 years we spent in Germany ended up being amongst the most impacting years of my life. In many wonderful ways as well as many confusing ways. They were years in which I tried alcohol for the first time (elderberry wine at age 14 in a German pub with a couple of older American boys and one German female friend!), years when I had my first kiss and developed an obsessive crush that would last into my early twenties, years when I was thrown wildly out of my comfort zone by for the first time ever NOT being top of the class but instead struggling to keep up with a language I at first didn’t want to know about and in the end came to love. Heck even in English class I fell behind as the Germans obsesses about rules of grammar I’d never even heard of! And then looked at me in horror when I couldn’t perform sample sentence structures on command.

In Germany I watched people parade around unashamedly naked at suburban pools, I bought beer from service stations and drank with my teachers while on school camp in Holland. I cut off all my hair and started wearing hugely oversized American football team puffer-jackets, and I travelled miles on the train to find cheap Levi jeans. I came back to Australia with my family at age 15 for 3 weeks and felt wildly sophisticated in my baggy maroon crepe pants and crisp white shirt while all my Aussie friends looked at me like I was an alien. I learned to ice skate, and I watched fairly graphic make-out sessions take place at church youth group events and camps. I wagged school with my friends and I learnt French and a little Spanish. I fell in love with fountain pens, and remain so to this day. (Nobody writes with a ball-point in Germany; not even kids. Quelle die!)

I had my first job and I became even more obsessive about books while doing work experience at the City Library. I came home with armfuls of old fashion magazines and dreamed about being beautiful and a model. In Germany I became very much of the person who I still am today, and in some ways I miss that time more than I ever missed Australia; even thought it’s now been 16 years since we lived there. In Germany I found true independence and started learning to make my way in the world.

And in Germany I got fat. Or at least good’n’chunky.

I ate canned ravioli for lunch, coupled with oven-warmed bread rolls and butter. I bought warmed ‘Bretzeln’ from the school vendor at the 10am breaky or while out on weekends. I went to ‘Fests’ with friends and ate gingerbread, cinnamony-sugary-almonds, and more beer. I don’t think I’d heard of what a ‘carb’ really was but I definitely knew how to enjoy one. My friends and I would eat french fries smeared in mayonnaise at the school pool in summer, and we’d always buy McDonalds and then Movenpick ice-cream while out and about in the city. At home I’d make batch after batch of chocolate-chip cookies and sneak a few up to my room at night. Sometimes I’d come downstairs for 2 more in the middle of the night. And then 2 more. And maybe another 2. I’d finally fall asleep with a sugar-satiated tummy and chocolate crumbs still on my lips.

I thought nothing of it at the time but now I wonder when that need to consume all of a junk food or baked treat began. It’s something I still battle to move past today; that little voice telling me to just keep going if I occasionally relax and eat something like a piece of cake, or some non-dark chocolate.

This is the second excerpt from a journalling piece I’ve started to write on overcoming binge eating. I realise that this may come as a shock to you as I do present a very confident and ‘must-have-always-been-healthy’ exterior to those who don’t know me closely, and even to some who do. I’ve been thinking about publishing this for a long time, as I speak to so many women who struggle with, or have struggled with an eating disorder and/or an often-painful emotional relationship with food.

I think in the end, it’s a story worth telling – without having gone through all of this I would not be the driven and eager student of nutrition that I now am, and I don’t believe I would have the ability that I do have to connect with women so closely about the emotions and mindset of being truly healthy from the inside out.

This was quite painful (and teary) for me to write, but also quite liberating. I will publish more of the story when I’m ready.


15 responses to “My Story (Part 2): I Used To Binge Eat”

  1. Crystal says:

    This is so well written and captivating. Having an eating disorder can be so isolating and hearing other people’s stories is so reassuring, even just knowing that you’re not alone in feeling out of control at times. Thanks again Kat, amazing stuff.

  2. charity says:

    Kat, thanks for sharing this. I think more of us with this problem need to know that we aren’t alone and aren’t weird or bad or whatever. I am too dabbling in the paleo world and am finding that my binge-fests have pretty much disappeared. Thanks for all you do. I look forward to your posts!!

    • Kat says:

      Hi Charity. The idea of women knowing they’re not alone; that’s the main driver for me in sharing this. Great to hear you’ve had some positive changes as well 🙂

  3. Hayley Williams says:

    Can’t say enough how I appreciate your honesty and openness in sharing this journey. I do hope everyone who reads is finds some hope and encouragement about turing the journey around, I also hope it gets forwarded to anyone who needs to hear it.
    thanks Kat, you’re bravery will help so many.

  4. Tanya says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Elisse says:

    Hi Kat,

    Thanks for a great post, good to see someone so motivated and on top of their game after a tough relationship with diet and exercise. Reading this today is kinda ironic, I just had a stressful morning and had a massive binge session this afternoon…Feeling very deflated after doing so well for about a month (but being to busy to stop and eat at all this morning probably was to blame)..Which brings me to the question… how do you pull yourself back together after falling off the rails?? Surely that must be the a big part of your journey that has been so successful- picking yourself up again.

    Would love to know what anyone else does too.

    • Kat says:

      For me it was always about writing … I would (and still do) journal about my reasons for wanting to create a healthy and happy relationship with food and my body. I still write that in my goal journal every morning! There’s no point beating up on yourself but there’s every point in using your thoughts to create a different reality the next time.

      Thanks for the comment and all the best with your journey Elisse 🙂

  6. Diana says:

    This really struck a chord with me. I’m going through this journey the last 2 years.
    In my teens and early 20s I did the same and I could get away with it because I was tall and skinny.
    Currently it’s a real struggle and I can’t share it with many people because I feel like I’m supposed to have it all worked out because I train and have studied quite a bit in the area and should have it all worked out. That makes it worse. If it wasn’t for loving weight training, I would have a real weight problem on my hands. I’m an emotional eater and when the trigger comes about.. I have a massive appetite. I’m slowly getting there, but it’s an emotional struggle some days, and it can be quite an isolated feeling. One day when I have it under control, I hope to write an inspirational story as yours. I think it’s better that it’s out there. We all have our stuff but someone can be the most confident liked educated person, and made so powerless by binge eating.
    It’s a journey and as soon as I can get through to the other side, I’m sure going to help inspire other women to get through it!
    I love your posts! You’re an angel!

    • Kat says:

      HI Diana –

      I think that even by sharing that comment you will already be inspiring other women on their own journeys. Don’t think you can’t do or be that person until you get ‘there’ wherever there is; I’ve found that ultimately we all just want to know that we’re not the only ones to have gone/going through this stuff. And you’re definitely not alone. If anything I’ve found that eating disorders are more prevalent among driven and successful health-aware women than not. It’s sad and tough but it definitely can be overcome. It can help to force yourself to learn replacement strategies for coping with stress … it will feel very forced at first but eventually enjoyable!

      Thanks so much for sharing 🙂


  7. Mere says:

    I know you posted this ages ago, but thanks for sharing 🙂