I have a very vivid memory of the first time I ever experienced shame over eating too much (or, at least, the first episode that I can recall).
I was young, probably around age 4, and we had another family with young children over at our home for a backyard cookout. I remember sitting in the sand box, having eaten so much that I threw up (not purged, but had just eaten to a point of such extreme fullness that my body couldn’t hold all that food in). The dad of our guest family came over to me and said, “I’m sorry you threw up Melinda, but you know why you did, don’t you? Because you ate too much.”
Though I’m sure he meant no harm in saying that to me, the intense feelings of shame that his comment created in me were so vivid that I still feel that shame in my bones to this day as I reflect back on this formative episode.
This wasn’t the last time that I would feel shame over my eating behaviors ― not by a long shot. Now, as an adult, I know that my disordered behavior around food, which has persisted throughout my life, has a name: Binge Eating.
Here’s the official definition of Binge Eating Disorder (BED), courtesy of NEDA:
“Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.”
Especially around the holidays, when triggers are everywhere and it seems like binge eating is almost expected of us, I personally spend a lot of time and energy focused on managing my behavior around food. I’m moving toward a way of behaving around food that is based on love and respect for my body, rather than guilt, shame, and stress.
If this is something you’re working on as well, you’re not alone. NEDA reports that 3.5 percent of women are affected by BED, but my informal survey ― based on recounting the conversations and experiences I’ve had with other women over the course of my lifetime ― tells me that many more than that have been affected by these unhealthy eating behaviors and the emotional roller-coaster that accompanies them.
I’ve struggled with binge eating all my life—but I’ve never allowed this part of my life, which up until this post has been a secret, to prevent me from living at full amplitude, and pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Just because you’re struggling with BED doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you, or that you can’t still become the woman you want to be and do all the amazing things that you were put on this earth to do.
We get there by sharing with one another and leaning on each other for support. Join us on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 on my Facebook page for my live broadcast on this topic. For the first time ever, I’ll be publicly sharing my own history with BED and how I’m healing my relationship with food, even during the mania of the holidays. And sign up for the #healthyatanysize community to receive weekly messages of support and access to an amazing community of women who are working on this stuff, too!
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.