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What I Needed When I Struggled With Binge Eating Disorder

Kara Richardson Whitely

There is nothing quite like the sound of a cracking twig under a boot. Perhaps, a close second is the breeze in the canopy above, feeling the forest all around. Though, the best feeling of all, for me, is the sun on my face after embarking on a fun and joyful adventure.

The theme for this year’s #EatingRecoveryDay is #DontMissIt. Now, as we celebrate this journey of making peace with food on May 2, I find myself so grateful for the path to wellness that I have found myself on and excited for the journey ahead. I’ve been thinking about all the things in life I missed while in the throes of an eating disorder.

In my darkest days of binge eating disorder (BED), going outside was out of the question. I found myself locked in my body, consuming my feelings and ambitions with food. Since then, I’ve worked to understand the roots of my disorder. Each day is a conscious and deliberate step in a positive direction, even after tumbling every now and then. To me, recovery means not burying the everyday annoyances with overeating. That means being awake and alive to the joy and love that surrounds me. Being present – even when life gets hard.

Just as hiking a trail, you have to get over the rocks, face menacing wildlife (hopefully not that often) and divergences in the path and find your way to the summit. I have to go through the hard stuff and fear to feel the sun on my face and be present in the feeling of accomplishment and joy. I wonder how many years and experiences I’ve lost to BED, from letting my weight and diet overtake my thoughts.

It was an all-powerful force – from the time it took to consume and then replace things, to the things I didn’t do because I was so focused on covering my tracks, to the things I could have accomplished because I was procratin-eating – binging and grazing to avoid my to-do list. And how could have others helped? While I don’t like to dwell too much on the past, I sometimes believe that if BED had been recognized as a diagnosis sooner that my biggest challenge in life wouldn’t have been just brushed off as a weight and willpower issue.

The theme of #DontMissIt is so powerful because for so many years, these experiences were hidden from me, just as I tried to hide BED from others. In retrospect, it is the silliest notion, because at my highest weight, I was literally carrying that shame and suppressed emotions; they came along with me with every step, every labored breath. People could see that I was struggling with my weight when I, someone who loved hiking, would bow out from tamest hikes because my body hurt so desperately. My knee, under the pressure of excess weight, felt like it was filled with broken glass. How could someone have helped when I was really struggling particularly because I did so much to hide my eating and feelings? How did they miss it? Maybe they were afraid to ask. Maybe they didn’t know what to ask. Maybe the were afraid of hurting my feelings – especially because weight is such a sensitive subject. Surely they missed me as the adventurous soul I had once been.

What were the questions they could have asked, when I was in need of a companion on the road to recovery? Maybe something like…

  • Do you feel like you have episodes where you eat more than what most people would eat in the same time period (bingeing)?
  • Do you experience any distress around your eating, including guilt, shame or regret?
  • Do you often sneak food or eat alone due to embarrassment over what or how you are eating?
  • Do you feel like your eating is out of control?

I wondered when I’d be open to be honest and ready, to start the conversation. But as I celebrate Eating Recovery Day, I’m grateful for the moments I was ready to trudge through, to get through the hard parts, to now shine a light on BED so we can all be a step closer to feeling the light on our faces and experience the beauty in the world.

Kara Richardson Whitely is the author of Fat Woman on the Mountain, Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro, and the upcoming book, Weight of Being. She is a National Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate for Eating Recovery Center. You can also find her at Binge Eating Connection.