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Notes from a compulsive overeater
Posted by Toni in FGG Guests,Health + Beauty
Iím a Compulsive Overeater.

People who meet me are taken aback if I mention that I am Ė present tense Ė a compulsive overeater. ďBut youíre not fat!Ē they protest. Yeah, and Joe the alcoholic who hasnít had a drink in twenty years isnít drunk, but heís still an alcoholic. My last eating binge was twenty-six years ago.

Iím going to pause for a minute and just breathe that in; I forget sometimes the enormity of it.

I hated my life when the food was out of control. The up-and-down weight was part of it Ė itís embarrassing to see someone at one size in June and be a whole different size in September Ė but the real agony was the bondage. In contrast to popular belief, there is no freedom in turning into the drive-thru when part of me didnít want to but a stronger part really did. I was a slave to trying the next diet just because it was Monday (despite that I hated diets and knew they didnít work). When it got bad enough, I knew that even if I would never be thin, I had to find a way to be free.

Fast-forward two decades Ė Iíve been both free, and thin, for a really long time. Free is better but I wonít lie: thin is nice, too. I no longer diet or agonize over food. Sometimes I eat too much, sure, but Iím never ďgoing offĒ of something because thereís nothing to go off of. I look healthy and normal. But while I am healthy, Iím not normal. I'm still and always will be a compulsive overeater.

So how have I come to this place?

> Rather than think of it as a negative thing, knowing and readily admitting what I am is the path to emancipation. It tells me that I need to take the following things seriously to maintain the gift Iíve been given.

> Having some kind of spiritual life. Iím no Mother Theresa, but without contact with a higher power, Iíd still be looking for God in a bag of Doritos. Willpower runs out. Spiritual power doesn't.

> Willingness to help other fat people. I can feel bad for the homeless, the terminally ill, or victims of domestic abuse. But other than giving money, I canít do anything for them because I donít understand their experience. I do understand hiding food, stealing food, bingeing alone, and hating myself later. Nobody can help an addict like another addict, and helping others improve their lives makes me want to keep doing the same with my own.

> Eating within some gentle, flexible parameters. For me, thatís pretty much three meals a day, because if you only start to eat three times, you only have to stop three times. And, for the most part, natural foods. Anything beyond that gets diet-like and crazy-making. Iím a vegan and I know that helps keep me thin, but I wasnít able to let go of animal products until after I was able to stop succumbing to the compulsion to eat just to get a fix.

That list may seem simple, but if I were to give up on any of them, Iíd almost certainly binge again. This is who I am. I could reject my spiritual life and not turn to drugs or gambling; I donít relate to those. Cookies, however, I get.

This is a syndrome. Overeating and binge eating are the extreme end of it. When I donít want to go to the gym for days, Iím not overeating, but Iím in the syndrome. When I want to stay in and watch TV instead of go out to a networking event that would further my career, Iím in the syndrome. When Iíd rather eat alone, even the most nutritious, moderate, and beautifully balanced meal ever prepared, thatís the syndrome.

As an imperfect person, I dance around with that syndrome. I recognize it and, thanks to that list Iím committed to, it hasnít in all these years gone as far as gaining back weight (Iím sixty pounds lighter than I used to be) or even to a binge. But weight loss isn't the point. I'll say it again: Iím a compulsive overeater. That fact will remain as long as I live in this body and have this brain. The point is that I used to think it was curse, but now I understand that itís a gateway: to understanding myself, to plugging into the endless energy and wisdom of a higher power, and to being of use to others in the world.

Victoria Moran (http://www.victoriamoran.com) is a holistic health counselor (HHC, AADA) and the author of books including Creating a Charmed Life, Fit from Within, and The Love-Powered Diet.