My 15 Year Battle With Food Addiction

Written by Her Soul Heals / Artwork by EIJA

Over the past 15 years, I’ve struggled with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). When I tell people I suffer from BED, they often confuse it with Bulimia Nervosa which is a completely different disorder.

The Difference between BED and Bulimia Nervosa:

People with binge eating disorder regularly and uncontrollably consume large amounts of food in short periods of time. Unlike people with other eating disorders, they do not purge and are often obese or overweight.

For women, BED is most common in early adulthood while for men, it’s most common in midlife. According to the NEDA, approximately 2.8M people in the United States have BED.

I have an unhealthy relationship with food in the same way some people suffer from an unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol. I know it sounds odd to hear someone compare a food addiction to a drug addiction but drug abuse and compulsive eating affect the body in similar ways.

An addiction isn’t something that we can snap our fingers and will away. I wish more people realized that disparaging a person for a disorder does more harm that good. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been told by ‘well intentioned’ people to “Just stop eating”. If I could, I damn sure would.

There have been times where my stress has caused me to eat to a point of becoming physically ill. In the past 10 years, I’ve gained over 100+ pounds and am at risk for diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.

My BMI is in the range of obesity and sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and can’t recognize the person staring back at me.

I’ve been going to therapy on and off for several years and in my most recent therapy sessions, I was able to come to the realization that the first step to getting healthy is accepting myself, as I am, in this moment.

Even though I need to lose weight for health reasons, and learn to manage my eating habits, I realize that this journey to health and well being will be that much more difficult if I don’t start being kind to myself.

Being kind to myself means not being afraid to ask for help, going to therapy every week, being mindful of my emotions, taking a moment to decompress when I’m stressed, meditating, speaking kind words to myself, making time for the gym, seeing a nutritionist, and finally, accepting that it’s okay to fall as long as I leave room to pick myself back up.

Last week, while speaking to my therapist about my food addiction, she asked me how I feel when I eat healthy and work out. I told her I feel great but my depression makes it almost impossible to put my health first.  

She then told me that exercise has been proven to help reduce depression but when one is depressed, it’s hard for them to do the things they need to do to get better. It’s a catch 22. In that moment, I realized that if I was going to get better, I needed to take my therapy and healing seriously.

I needed to fight the voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough and undeserving of happiness. Even though it’s hard to get up and go to the gym, I need to make an effort because I matter and baby steps are better than taking no steps at all and hoping for a different outcome.

My final words for the night are this – If you’re struggling with a food addiction, it’s okay to be kind to yourself. It’s okay to start and fail and start again. What matters is that you give yourself the room to  get back up when you fall.

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