At its worst, binge eating disorder totally took over my life.
It caused me to experience uncontrollable food cravings. Eating became an unconscious thing; it wasn't a lack of willpower, it was like I was on autopilot.
When I was binge eating, I would swear not to do it and the next minute I'd find myself stuffing food into my mouth. If someone had watched the process they would have seen me gulping down one thing after another.
During a binge, I didn't even take the time to taste the food and it wasn't satisfying at all. After a binge, I would be consumed with guilt and shame. Binge eating takes over your whole life and thrives in isolation and shame.
I couldn't keep any food at home without eating it, so I had to shop for each meal separately. I would spend days on 'binge safaris', going from one shop to the next and travelling to find specific foods. I felt so ashamed that I didn't want to be social and isolated myself. I sometimes cancelled social activities, such as dinner parties, because I'd binged and then felt I needed to starve myself.
I bought food and ate in secret in the bathroom at work. I never let my binge eating disorder influence my performance at work, but in hindsight, this probably put me under a lot of stress and caused my eating to get worse.
My boyfriend at the time broke up with me because of how binge eating disorder was affecting my moods and self-esteem.
Did you recognise BED before your diagnosis?
I've had issues with food for as long as I can remember. At around 10 years old, someone told me to stop eating because I'd get fat. From that moment, the war in my head started. I wanted to eat, but I also wanted to stop eating to avoid putting on weight. I started starving myself, which in turn led to more binge eating.
I recognised I had a problem with food but didn't have a name for my behaviour until I found professional help. It was a relief to learn I had binge eating disorder because it gave this monster a label. Before the diagnosis I believed I was the only person in the world doing these things. I was so ashamed that I didn't tell anyone about my behaviour for a long time.
What led to your seeking professional help?
My binge eating grew totally out control in my early 30s. Within a year I had moved from London to Paris, gone through a relationship break-up, fallen in love and changed jobs. I felt quite ungrounded.
I gained weight at a rapid pace and was scared of how the binging affected my mental health. I felt increasingly out of control and desperate. That's when I sought help from a counsellor who worked with me to gain awareness around my food, and what was triggering my binge eating episodes.
Do you participate in ongoing treatment or self-help?
I have a good support network. I'm committed to daily actions that support my recovery lifestyle. Things like planning my food, sticking to my food plan, talking to others in recovery, journalling, self-reflective exercises, spiritual pursuits, and plenty of rest and gentleness with myself.
How do you think your experience has influenced your personal trajectory?
Binge eating disorder has totally changed my life. Personally, I've had to look very deeply into what is causing my food issues and have reviewed my thought and behaviour patterns.
I've learnt to regulate my emotions to make better decisions and to live with confidence.
I've had to become very clear on what I value in life, what I can't control and how I want to live. My life's been totally rearranged.
What's the most frustrating misconception you've encountered?
I believe the severity of binge eating disorder should be more widely recognised and appropriate treatment should be more widely available. I'd like to see the relationship between binge eating and food addiction further explored.
I'm extremely vocal about my experience. I enjoy sharing my experience with people and helping people struggling with their food. I want to see binge eating disorders in the limelight of Australia's health concerns and for others to live free from the pull of addictive eating.
What has it taught or given you and can you find humour in it?
Binge eating disorder recovery has given me clarity, integrity and a deep appreciation for life and the people in it. I'm amused by the fact that I'm still a total foodie. If I relapsed, I believe my binge eating would be so much more ferocious than it ever has been. Recovery is an ongoing process and as such it needs continuous attention.
What does recovery look like for you?
I have worked through my baggage and am in recovery. My recovery has become my lifestyle and I'm still learning every day. It's my first priority. I've built daily actions, behaviours and habits into my life. I've transformed. I never knew life beyond binge eating disorder could be so fulfilling.
My life has totally transformed as a result of my recovery journey and I feel grateful that I developed binge eating disorder, believe it or not! Without this, I wouldn't know myself as well as I do now and have such clarity about my values. I'm not ashamed and have a healthy self-esteem and enjoy living in a healthy body
This interview first appeared in Muse Magazine.