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Food as joy

by Katie

I've been struggling with Bulimia for longer than I realised. It's only now that binging and purging have become daily occurrences that I realise the seriousness of my illness. I have always struggled with my weight. I remember being 11 years old and my mother taking me to the health food store to try and find vitamin/mineral deficiency that explained why I was "overweight" as a child. On reflection it all seems fairly simple... I was a teenager entering puberty. From that age onward I have been on a diet... restricting food and desperately seeking ways to sculpt my body into what I thought it should be.

I am 27 years old and currently at the beginning of my treatment with a psychologist. In my opinion I have always struggled with compulsive overeating. However the purging characteristic of my bulimia started in my early twenties as an infrequent means of riding myself of the guilt I would feel as a result of binging on food. When I say infrequent I mean once every few months. It was a last resort. Over the past 6 months or so it has evolved into a full blown daily habit. My binging is the result of an inability to deal with various emotions... stress, anger, boredom, loneliness. The cycle goes as follows. Some form of emotion triggers the desire to self-soothe with food. I binge and feel instant regret and shame. I purge to rid myself of that negative feeling. I feel disgusted by my purging which then leads to more binging to self-soothe. It's a painful and exhausting cycle.

These episodes typically occur when I'm alone. However I am no stranger to indulging my habit in public and have (on several occasions) purged in public bathrooms. I have purged on the street hanging out the side of my car, in my car into a plastic bag and any number of shameful venues. For me... food has become my soul source of joy and misery at the same time. Whilst sometimes I enjoy the foods on which I binge, typically my brain is telling me that I'm not in the slightest bit hungry and that these foods no longer taste nice. They taste like shame. But it's almost like there's another person inside me that continues to reach for more food even though I'm not hungry. I have no control over this person. I feel completely helpless and weak.

Some of the most shameful things I have done during binging and purging episodes include pretending that I am actually sick lying to my family and friends... and therefore making my need to be sick justified. Throwing up into a towel in my bathroom because the bathroom was right next to my room mates room and I didn't want to hear me. I have figured out strategies to indulge my habit... including learning which foods are most easily purged and forming particular attachments to these foods, throwing up in the shower so that the sound of the water will mask the noises I make and drinking excess water to make the purging process easier.

I am desperate to stop this habit. Food has become my whole life. It's all I think about. In my head its the only thing I believe that brings me joy. I am exhausted. I see other people eat a meal in a restaurant and see them leave food on their plate and I know in my head that to be able to do that (something so seemingly simple) is something I so desperately crave. I don't want to be ruled by food. I want to eat for fuel... not for joy or indulgence. I want to be able to deal with my emotions in a healthy and productive way that leads to positive thoughts and emotions. I know that seeing a psychologist is a step in the right direction and hope that I don't let my own impatience sabotage my recovery. I understand it's going to be a process... I just wish I was at the end already. I can't keep resenting myself.

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Article by Shaye Boddington
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