My Story: I Used To Binge Eat

"overcoming bulimia"When I was 17, I joined the gym for the first time in my life. To be honest, the main reason I did join up was that my mother was a member. I felt like it was just ridiculous for my Mum to be going to the gym and not me! So I decided to join up as well. Back then, gyms hadn’t figured out about locking you into a 12-month contract and I was able to just ‘trial’ 3 months.

I think I had a program written for me by one of the trainers, and I guess they showed me how to use the cardio equipment. I certainly wasn’t obsessive about it, but I do remember going quite frequently after school; my high school being just a short walk down the same road. It was just something I did now and then, and I guess I was eating much the same as any typical 17-year old girl.

Aside from the occasional but massive chocolate binges, that is.

I had been raised on a super-healthy diet, or at least what my Mum thought was super-healthy at the time. We went through various nutritional phases as a family, the key theme being low on sugars and treats. There were a few extremes – the Pritikin diet, which I think we all only survived for about 2-3 months, was a memorable example. High whole-grains and ‘healthy carbs’ but basically zero sugar (fine, good) and zero fat (yikes!).

I was (and am :)) the eldest child of 4 – girl, boy, girl, boy – with my youngest brother being born when I was 9 1/2 years old. I know that I saw myself and my family as being unusual in the way we eat. I was the kid with wholegrain salad sandwiches when no-one was eating or had even heard of them whole grains, and when all my friends had fairy bread. I never had juice boxes, just water. And snacks were fresh fruit and Mum’s homemade apple-bran cake (a treat!) I believe the recipe normally called for sugar, but during the Pritikin phase there was one stand-out occasion when it came out of the oven looking like a sunken field after an especially heavy UFO had been and gone.

After school snacks would be dried fruit and nuts, and maybe dark chocolate or carob (ugh); just a little. Which makes me laugh now as I would consider that (not so much the dried fruit) a perfect snack now! Funny how things often come full circle …

Of course our overall diet was fairly carb-dominant, which is what good nutrition was all about back then. I certainly wasn’t raised on steak for breaky! But it was never processed crap either. Mum had a keen interest in nutrition and based the way she fed her family on what she knew to be right at the time. So we had porridge or weetbix for breaky, a typical ‘healthy’ lunch as mentioned above, and only once a term were we allowed to get a ‘lunch order’ from the school canteen. I usually ordered a hot dog with sauce, and a choc-jam donut.

It’s only in writing this, actually, that I remember that. Little did I know that choc-jam donuts by the 4-pack or even 8-pack would later become one of my favourite binge foods.

Back then, however, those sort of foods were rare. We even had to surrender our ‘lolly bags’ after attending parties (they were saved for Christmas, although I don’t suppose we ever ate a whole year’s worth at Christmas … or maybe we did!)

Store-bought peanut butter was one of my favourite things to have as a treat. Mum used to make her own peanut butter, which I found bland and pointless compared to the salty-sweet goodness I’d tried at friend’s houses. One of my friends used to let me eat it by the tablespoonful when we were at her house. I remember eating it really fast in her kitchen, trying to get as much in as possible before my Mum came into the room and caught me. I was probably about 7 or 8 at the time.

Mind you, it wasn’t all homemade bran cake and carob-y treats instead of the junk food kids seem to naturally crave. We did have a bit of a softie in Dad. Mum would give in to the occasional family breaky at McDonalds (I think we even used to go there for Mothers Day breaky; an idea which I find semi-appalling now. Sorry Mum!), and after our annual family holiday to Bright Dad would always announce driving back that the car could ‘smell’ something it wanted and he’d turn toward Ferntree Gully Maccas saying that he had no control over where we were going … it was the best 🙂

We were often buffet-lunch attendees on a Sunday after church, alternating between Sizzler (cheese bread!) and Pizza Hut; where my next-closest sibling would always try to beat his own record at how many slices he could down before needing to throw up and being able to go back for more. After all, why go to a buffet if you weren’t going to take full advantage?

I suppose that buffet lunches were where I was first introduced to the concept of gorging yourself silly, and even the idea of making yourself throw up so that you could then fit more in. It seemed to be the done thing amongst the kids at least; certainly when I was in my early teens. I remember a massive lunch there with about 40 people and my cousin telling me the week before that it was important I didn’t eat anything in the morning, that way I’d be able to fit more in. It didn’t occur to us that we received regular and fairly balanced meals at home anytime we liked. After all – these were treat foods. And so we had to get them in while we could.

I remember my brother and my cousin going off to the bathroom after the first hour or so. When I had to go pee a little later there were chunks of watermelon in the sink. I don’t recall that this had any profound impact on my thought patterns about food, and certainly there was no concept for any of us that we had to look a certain way. The binging was just about the fun of being at an all-you-can-eat and wanting to be able to fit more dessert in! Of course I did recognise that it was odd behaviour, but I guess I thought it made sense just for that occasional purpose.

And I certainly wouldn’t have thought that years later it would be everyday behaviour for me.

I was naturally lean and lanky growing up, even though I truly wasn’t into sports by any means. Actually, and this may surprise you? – I was the academic one. The school nerd or square. I had close friends, but we were definitely not in the cool group. We weren’t absolute outcasts either, but we did keep to ourselves and we mostly excelled in the classroom.

This is an 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.


29 responses to “My Story: I Used To Binge Eat”

  1. Crystal says:

    Hi Kat,
    Your post nearly had me in tears and I just wanted to congratulate you, not only on your success in overcoming your eating disorder, but on your bravery in writing about this very personal experience. I have also had problems with binge eating in the past and this gives me hope for the future and proves to me that any bad habits or patterns can be turned around and used as a driving force for positive action.

    • Kat says:

      I’m so glad the post touched you Crystal … there definitely is hope for anyone to change any behaviour. We don’t have to be a product of our past if it means going back to destructive habits!

  2. Julia says:

    Thank you so much for writing this and I look forward to a future installment.
    It is so nice to hear about other people who are health and fitness freaks like myself who have struggled earlier in their life with these sorts of issues.

    I too have suffered many bouts of binge eating and I must say it’s been many months since my last binge attack. I can’t recall exactly how long, but I do truly feel that I’ve had my last food binge! 🙂 It is liberating.

    Thank you again, I know it’s hard, but we all support you and love to be a part of the growing of other like-minded people.

  3. Lou says:

    I am sitting at my desk at work, goosebumps and tears. This means so much to me, and I know it will mean so much to another person as well. I struggle daily with feeling like a fraud for my ‘behaviours’, when I eat so well and work out most of the time, portraying this healthy image. It is an important story to share and i hope to one day have your courage. Thank you.

    • Kat says:

      Thanks Lou, I appreciate your comment … I don’t think any of us need to feel like a fraud; everyone has/has had stuff going on that the rest of the world doesn’t see. That’s life, isn’t it?

  4. Tanya says:

    Thank you so much for sharing that Kat! You are so right people do look at “exercise/health freaks” and think that it is easier for you some how but we are all human and all have our struggles of some sort. I definitely have a binge eating past (occasionally I still have to fight the urge) so I really appreciate reading your story and I appreciate how much courage it takes to remember and share it with us. I look forward to the next installment.

    • Kat says:

      Thanks Tanya. I think there are a lot of girls out there silently fighting the urge … maybe it’s better not to be silent all the time 🙂

  5. Melanie Wenona Leano via Facebook says:

    this is beautifully written Kat… I look forward to reading my of your journey (but only when you are ready to share it) xxx

  6. Deidre says:

    good for you to be able to write about this stuff – it can be so hard.

    I had parents who were pretty obsessive about healthy eating. I remember going to friends houses and loving their peanut butter and white bread and NEVER eating sandwiches at home because of the whole grain bread with super thick crusts and all natural peanut butter! Le sigh.

  7. Calina Ouliaris via Facebook says:

    Beautiful words – thank you for sharing!

  8. Helen Jaman via Facebook says:

    Thanks for sharing – touched and related to on many levels !

  9. Talitha says:

    Thanks Kat, really great to see where you are coming from and to add more depth to your persona. I straight away now feel like I can relate to you more. Thanks for your honesty.

  10. Laura says:

    Thanks for sharing such a personal part of you Kat! Very proud of you and how liberating for you xxx

  11. Karls says:

    I relate to your story… My Mum was also very keen nutrition and would keep a mindful eye on any additives or preservatives that were in our food. I’d always overindulge given the opportunity. I’ve struggled with my weight ever since I left home and still struggle with binging on the bad stuff. I’ve recently realised that food and mood are intrinsically linked and am making a few necessary changes. Thanks for sharing your story… I’m a big believer in honesty helping others – hence running my way out of depression.

    • Kat says:

      Honesty with yourself is the most important thing, isn’t it? It’s great to hear you’ve been able to make changes 🙂

  12. Cara Mollica via Facebook says:

    Thanks for sharing Kat:) Beautiful article which gives so much hope to others who may have been or are in that situation

  13. Christine says:

    THANK YOU so much for posting this Kat. As someone who struggles with food issues, I really hope you continue posting the story for us. I would love to hear how you broke the cycle and any advice you would have for those of us who are in a similar position.

  14. It sounds like you are doing good excavation work in figuring out the roots of your story. Thank you for sharing this.

  15. Johanna says:

    Hi Kat,
    You’re my hero, thank you =)

  16. MT says:

    Hi Kat,

    I relate very much!! I also grew up in a healthy household although this wasn’t what really sparked my binge eating. I guess I first developed unhealthy eating habits when I was 14 I got glandular fever and took a lot of time off school – probably more so than I needed to. I grew up with a father who had high hopes for me to be a world class athlete again probably more so than I wanted to. He controlled all aspects of my training and socialising so when I got glandular fever I took it as a ticket to freedom to finally be able to do the things that I want which basically was lie in bed watch TV, sleep and eat lots of pasta and apricot delights… From then on I guess food became a crutch and comfort for me. I have since gone through 5 occasions of binge eating periods each time putting on about 10-15kg but I have been able to lose my weight. However it has occurred to me that whenever I go through a crisis I seem to revert back to this behaviour. I am currently in my 6th occasion of binge eating I have put on 15kg but I am focussed on kicking this habit for good and developing a better relationship with food, although the weight isn’t coming off as easily as it previously has. Do you have any tips on how you overcame this?

    • Kat says:

      I had professional help, as well as a great desire to get over it. I do think you need professional help; it’s not something to battle alone. The book ‘Bulimia: A Recovery’ (I think that’s what it’s called) is also very good. Good luck with your journey 🙂