Lake Effect Series: Binge Eating

When Hollie reached out to me to write an article I immediately had to write something up.  Though I have been a few years removed from my “demons” they will always be there.  I’ll give you a little bit of background about me though.

I am a 26 year old runner.  I’m 5’5 and 118 pounds.   I’m now married and am holding down a full time job.  I guess that is all you really need to know for the story.

It all began in college.  I was a runner and had the dream of running at NCAA nationals.  Though I was a D3 runner, my zone was pretty tough competition and on a cross country course you had to be running 5:50 miles.  I was at the cusp of this and running 5:55 miles on difficult courses.  I had been doing everything my coach wanted me to do.  I had logged miles, perfected my speed work and my body felt as it should (it was sore on cue and I had fresh legs on cue). I was never underweight and at that time I weighed 125 pounds.

125 pounds is not underweight for my stature and I had very little muscle.  I was a typical cross country girl.  I was built like a rail or a middle school aged boy.  I had a little bit of insulation but not too much.  Since I was doing everything else my coach asked and not breaking through my plateau I started to diet.  Not in a very restricting way but in a way to come down to the lowest possible weight for my height. (112 pounds).  I would still be in the “healthy” category.  I didn’t want to drop weight too quickly because I feared I would lack energy for running.  I just wanted this weight at the regional competition and then I would go back up.  I didn’t care about weight to look good or because I had poor body image, I wanted a lower weight to be faster.  Of course I did this all behind my coaches back.  I don’t know if he would have agreed but I didn’t want to rupture our relationship.

———-

For the first few weeks it went according to plan.  After about a month I was 118 and I felt stronger than ever.  I also was getting faster and everything felt easier.  Then in the second month I started to take everything for granted.  I thought losing weight was easy and I was starting to miss eating more junk food.  It wasn’t that I ever ate a lot of junk food to begin with but mentally I felt like I was missing out.   I wanted more food and I began to crave everything I wasn’t eating.

One day I was at the grocery store picking up a few things and I thought the fresh baked cookies looked really good.  I bought two of them and headed home.  I ate them both on the way home in the car.  It wasn’t a big deal at all.  I was treating myself for such a great workout, treating myself because I hadn’t for a while.  Just treating myself.  I hadn’t avoided treats at all and treated myself a few times throughout my month of “dieting”.

But when I got home I immediately felt guilty.  I felt like my world had come crashing down and I began crying hysterically.  Everything had gone wrong and I wasn’t going to make it to nationals because of these cookies.  My day was ruined.  What happened next doesn’t even make sense to the outside eye but I went back to the grocery store.  I bought a dozen cookies and a cookie cake.  Roughly 3000 calories and I devoured it all in the car.  I couldn’t stop myself and it was like I was addicted and someone was forcing me to eat this food.

I didn’t vomit or puke it up.  I never suffered from bulimia.  I suffered from binge eating disorder. 

I have never had as low self esteem as the morning after and feeling bloated and asking myself what did I do?  I weighed myself and weighed 126.  Did I gain 8 pounds in one night?  Impossible.  My workout that day suffered and I couldn’t even hold a 6:30 pace on the track (which is huge considering I was able to normally hold 5:30 pace for 400 repeats).  Within a few days my weight and body went back to normal and I stopped weighing myself daily.  I was back at 118.

That must have been a trigger of “oh you can do this and stay at that weight”.  I ended up binging 2000-5000 calories several more times during the season.  I couldn’t force myself to throw up.  So I sat in empty parking lots cramming as much food into my stomach until I couldn’t anymore.  Once I felt sick I went to bed.  It gave me the same similar high that running did.

I decided not to weigh myself the rest of the season.  I felt my self esteem going downhill quickly.  I felt lethargic half the time at practice.  I couldn’t tell anyone.  I wasn’t weighing myself because I was always bloated from binging. I figured if I did what I did my very first binging session and ate well the week before regionals I would be fine.

I would make it nationals and feel great. 

I don’t know what oblivious world I was living in though.  I began weighing myself during the week up to Regionals.  My first weigh in I was 138.  138?!  I had never weighed that much in my life.  I figured it was water weight and bloat.  The day of regionals I weighed 133.  That doesn’t seem like a lot but I had gained 14 pounds in a month and not realized it.  I had simply thought it was water weight.

Regionals came and I ran a 5:58 paced race.  I missed nationals by roughly 25 places (in a 300 person field).  I ran a slower pace than the very first race of the season.  This was an extremely flat and fast course on a perfect day.  If it had been the first races conditions I would have ran closer to 6:10.

After that race and several cries I realized I was not in control of my life.  I decided I was never going to binge again but that was short lived.  I binge ate off and on for 2 years until I was 25. I told no one.  I lived alone.  I was in a viscous cycle of binging and then dieting. I cycled weights from 120-140.

I wish I could tell you about a magical moment I had to stop.  The moment came when one day I decided I was done with this aspect of my life.  I wanted to get my life into control.  I had said that multiple times but for some reason this was the time.  So at age 25 and one month I stopped.  I haven’t binged since and I never want to again.

After a few years of poor runs and even poorer self esteem resulting, I’m finally able to run and enjoy myself.  I’m finally getting the personal bests that I sabotaged myself from the last few years.  I am the person I want to be.  Though I was never officially diagnosed with a problem, it’s obvious that I had disordered eating that led to a 3 year eating disorder.

Where am I now?

I am currently training for 5ks to redeem myself from my college days.  Not a day goes by I don’t regret buying those cookies and opening up that door.  A door that I could not overcome until I grew and became more confident in myself.  Though I regret it, I know it helped me grow.  I am a happy, successful person and can say that I have truly never been happier.  I am glad I made the promise and followed through of never binging again.

I often think about eating cookies and cake but right now I fear that one cookie by myself will lead me down this path.  Instead I go out to eat and get dessert with friends.  When the meal is done, we leave.  I haven’t been triggered since although I haven’t put myself into situations that I feel I might be triggered.

I hope no runner or person every struggles through this.  Thank you for reading my story.  Thank you Hollie for putting this series together and running for this cause.  Every small amount of money raised counts and is used, just as every small amount of awareness is taken by someone and used.  So thank you and have a Happy Holidays.

13 thoughts on “Lake Effect Series: Binge Eating

  1. Such a great post, thank you for sharing your story! I think it’s so interesting what you said about how you didn’t crave junk food until you suddenly “couldn’t have it” and then it starts triggering you to want things you never wanted before. It’s crazy how we can do that to ourselves, and I’ve done the same thing! When I try to cut out something entirely, I find myself obsessively wanting it. Now that I’ve relaxed with my eating, I don’t find myself eating an entire box of cereal in a day, or munching my way through a box of crackers at night. I’m glad you were able to turn things around and I’m sure your story will help others!

  2. An eating disorder the media rarely ever focuses on. It’s sad that the same mental distortions as anorexia or bulimia are going on but because there’s no effort to get rid of the calories, well than that’s just a willpower problem. Good for you for being able to get control of your life back. That’s no easy task.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. Even though I’ve never experienced full on binges, I can definitely relate to the feeling of wanting to stuff my face with something as soon as I label it as off-limits. I suffered from restrictive eating for years, so I guess my brain just doesn’t take kindly to those kind of boundaries being imposed on it again.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have experienced periods of this too in my life and it’s really tough to break. It’s nice to read someone else’s perspective on it because it’s really not talked about much but is important to spread the message.

  5. I empathise so much with all of this. Even though I’ve never been anywhere near this calibre in terms of running, I was at my peak in 2010 and progressively getting faster, having overcome (or so I thought) the BED that had plagued me for my entire life until the age of 21. At that time I had things completely under control, and I ticked along so well for four years until I ended up with a serious (for me) IT band injury which sidelined me for three months. All of the bingeing demons came back. I coped for the first month, but after that the pain of not being able to run was just too much and I could put down 10,000 calories in a day. Mostly I ended up with isolated binges of 3-5000 calories, but gradually those 10,000 days became more frequent. When I was able to run again none of the fear and anxiety went away, so although I didn’t binge I was still eating 4-4500 calories per day, and even though I was burning off 3000+ through exercise (I compulsively eat just as much as I compulsively work out, though the two aren’t completely related) I piled on the weight. I ended up at 140 lbs (I am only 5ft 3ins) by August 2012 and I was beyond heartbroken. I’d binge eaten my way through multiple stress fractures, but I still don’t think I deserved to get so heavy in such a short period of time (I was under 100lbs in 2010, and running a 1:30 half felt easy to me…). I have fought SO hard to lose some of the weight, but I still struggle with compulsive overeating every single day. It doesn’t help that I have PCOS, so to lose weight I have to eat far fewer calories and carbs in particular than everybody else. I wish with all my heart I could be a success like you, and get my eating behaviours under control :( I totally agree that bingeing gives the same high that running does, which is probably why I resort to it whenever I am injured and unable to run.

    No-one talks about BED or COE because it’s not ‘fashionable’ or ‘glamorous’ – there are no Instagram accounts dedicated to recovering from it and I always feel disgusting for suffering from it and shunned by society. Thank you so much for sharing your story and making people like me feel less alone.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. The pressure of College athletics is something I can relate to. Wanting to do well and not sure exactly what to do to keep up and get where others expect you to be. I’m glad you were able to realize that there are other ways of doing things- we all have those defining moments in our lives, as I am sure that was one of them for you. You seem like you really have a great head on your shoulders and I am sure that you are going to do great with your training- I hope you have a great holiday.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I cannot imagine the pressure and stress a person goes through during athletics in college. People won’t realize that eating disorders or disordered eating is way more than just anorexia and bulimia.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. As someone who still struggles with Bing Eating Disorder, it is lovely to know that there may be a day where it doesn’t steal my joy anymore. Thank you, Hollie, for raising awareness and for finding those who are willing to share their stories to help others.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t think many people consider the other realms of eating disorders that aren’t bulimia and anorexia, which is a huge problem. There are so many other aspects to eating disorders and without shedding light on the “unpopular” ones, it can be even more tragic because people don’t understand they ARE disorders and there IS help.

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