Wohw! This is a little bit scary! I'm about to tell you something that I never shared with anyone for 20 years. It's been my secret since I was around 11. Not even my parents knew about this. I did tell them 1,5 year ago, but it still feels recent to me. After I told my parents, I also told my friends and very recently I feel ok to share it with anyone. The reason why I decided to write it down, to be honest about it and to share it with the world, is because I feel like helping other people who are struggling with the same thing.
IT'S OUT! Ok, there we go. I guess I'll just say it and then I will go from there. For 20 years of my life (which is 2/3 of my life) I've struggled with an eating disorder. I hate to call it like this, because it sounds so real when I do. There is no other word for it though and it is what it is. The eating disorder I struggled with is bulimia. It started when I was around 11 and it lasted until the beginning/mid 2020. I now dare to say that I'm fully recovered and you have no idea how happy that makes me. For 20 years I've kept this secret and to be able to say it out loud and to talk about it, feels very freeing. And quite scary, that too. Because the reason that I kept it a secret, is because I was ashamed. The fact that I couldn't control myself around food, whilst I'm so organised and precise in most other aspects of my life, was not something I was happy to share. I was even too ashamed to ask for help, even though I had multiple opportunities to do so. Apart from that, for most of the time I didn't even know I was dealing with bulimia. I didn't know it actually was something known. For myself I always called it 'my food addiction', because that is how it felt. I felt addicted to food and I actually think that in a way it is exactly like an addiction. The problem is that you can't just cut off the addiction and stop eating. You will need to eat to survive. This is what made it so hard to recover.
WHAT IS BULIMIA? This is what the dictionary has to say about it: Bulimia - an emotional disorder characterised by a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging. With this I agree and disagree. I agree with the way they explain the practical side of it. It is indeed extreme overeating and purging. I just do not fully agree with the distorted body image. I didn't really have a distorted body image. I also didn't hate my body, I never really did actually. I wasn’t always super happy with my body, because I always tried to lose a couple of kg’s, but I never felt hate.
WHAT DID BULIMIA LOOK LIKE FOR ME? The first memory I have and what I believe was the start of it all, was when I was in school. I was sitting on my chair and looked down at my legs. I was wearing shorts and I remember thinking that my legs looked rather big. I wouldn't say that I told myself I was fat, but it was more an observation.
Not Fussy I was never a fussy eater. When I was a child I basically liked all food and I had zero trouble finishing what was on my plate. In fact, most of the time I was always up for seconds. I was never fat though. I was quite tall for my age and I wasn't skinny, but just a normal, healthy Dutch girl. However, I suddenly made that observation that my legs looked big. I suddenly became aware of my body. It was around the start of puberty. I also had my first period when I was 11 (I can't remember if the observation I made was just before or just after this, but I think before) and I was always a bit ahead of everyone else. Even emotionally I would say. I've always been very aware and very serious about things. Where everyone else was being a child, I felt like the adult. Maybe, this is why I suddenly made this observation as well and took it so serious.
Losing Weight I do not know exactly at what point I consciously tried to lose a bit of weight, but I do remember that it was something I was aware of. At the same time, I also found myself in the pantry again and again and again. Instead of not eating, I actually started to eat more than ever. I remember many days, throughout my teens, where I opened the pantry door or the fridge door, realised what I was doing and closed the door again, without eating something. It was like my head was playing tricks on me. Something made me go to the food, but then I actually knew that I shouldn't eat the food. This became an obsession and the forever dialogue in my head. Over time I became very good at eating things without anyone noticing. I didn't know I was having/creating a problem though. The thing I cared about mostly, was that no one would notice that there was food missing. I only ate 2-3 biscuits from that pack, then another few from another pack, I took a few hands of crisps and a few bits of chocolate etc. When something was nearly finished, I took the risk, ate it all and hid the packaging in the bin, hoping that no one would notice it was gone. I didn't eat because I was hungry, I ate because I wanted to experience the pleasure of taste. Whenever I ate a lot, I tried to compensate this by not eating or eating very little the next day. This is how it all started in my early teens.
Proper Binging When I was 16 I got a job at a supermarket and started to make my own money. I suddenly was able to buy food myself and it felt amazing to spend it on the food I wanted most, without anyone noticing that there was food missing. Then when I was 17, I moved out of my parent’s house and moved in with my boyfriend, who I later married. This is where I really lost control and my food binges caused a lot of weight gain. About 2 years after my wedding I was almost a 100kg, the heaviest I've ever been. Around this time I also had 2 big chances to ask for help (I had that chance every second of my life of course), because I went to a psychotherapist and a nutritionist for a while. I remember very well, how much I doubted about telling my psychotherapist about my food binges. I didn't do it. However, I did tell her that something that gave me stress is that I tried to lose some weight, but I didn't seem to be able to. This was such a thing for me, that I remember telling her with tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt like such a failure. She suggested a nutritionist.
Nutritionist At the nutritionist I had another big chance of spilling my secret. I didn't. In fact, I pretended to be the perfect client. When I think about it now, I still feel embarrassed a bit. Every week I had to go to her and every week I had to weigh myself, with her watching. She made me a meal plan and I pretended to follow it perfectly. There were days that it went well, but there were many days where I binged. It was hard to pretend to follow the meal plan perfectly, whilst the scale was showing the same number or even an increased number. Many times, basically all the time, I didn't eat on the day of the appointment so I'd weigh less. When the appointment was finished it often ended in a binge, feeling I was finally able to eat after not eating all day. After the binge, I always told myself that I would start again on Monday (we all know this mind trick, right?). I did manage to lose some weight though, but after a few weeks I binged so many times a week, that the scale started to show weight gain. I told her how I had no idea how this was possible, that of course I sometimes ate an extra sandwich now and again, but that I really followed the meal plan the best I could. She suggested to cut most carbs for a while. So, I did. I bought low carb bread and ate more things with zero or less carbs. In a way, I also convinced myself that I wasn't able to lose weight because of those 'nasty carbs'. Eventually I did manage to lose almost 20 kg's, but I was so tired of lying and pretending, that I told my nutritionist that I was happy with my weight and that I would like to stop going to her. In real life, I was not happy with my weight and I felt like I was in more trouble than ever, but I just couldn't do it anymore.
Purging The 20 kg's came back over the years of binging and purging. About the purging. Purging can mean several things: over-exercising, fasting, using laxatives and of course making yourself throw up. I lacked discipline for over-exercising, but I tried it many times. I also tried and sometimes succeeded, to throw up. Luckily I hate throwing up so much that this wasn't something I did regularly. Ironically, I also didn't want to make myself throw up, because I was scared that I would develop Anorexia and I didn't want to develop an eating disorder, right?! Instead, I used laxatives. I'd take a few pills at the same time and this way I knew that the next day all the food I ate would be flushed out of my body. It made me have the worst stomach cramps, but I didn't care. I almost liked the feeling, because I knew that the food was going to be out of my body soon. Using the laxatives was something I knew was very wrong as well. To my family and (now ex-) husband I said that I had a bug or perhaps I ate something wrong (yes, laxative pills!). However, because I knew how bad the pills were, one day (about 7 years ago I think) I promised myself to never use them again, no matter what I eat. I luckily kept this promise and this is why my most common way of purging was fasting. Not eating anything for a few days, one whole day or half a day, skipping meals, living on only apples or smoothies.. this was my way to make up for the crazy number of calories I ate in a binge. This has been my way almost since it started, but during my marriage I discovered detoxing. Instead of not eating, I told myself and everyone around me that I was doing a detox. I kept doing this until I cured myself last year. There was another time when it got really bad. This was when I just moved to the UK. In the UK I suddenly got a more steady income. My binge eating, again, peaked! I was mostly on my own, there were new products I wanted to try all around me and I had the money to buy whatever I wanted. I again gained a lot of weight and again I tried to make up for it. During this peak I also used laxatives, but I also did my 'detoxes' more than ever. Everyone knew how much I loved detoxing and everyone thought I was super being healthy. I must be, because I loved doing all sorts of detoxes. If they only knew..
Detoxing Detoxing became an obsession. It was my way of trying to teach myself to eat properly. A detox was a new start. The longest and most extreme detox I did was a 6 day fast. It was meant to last 7 days and it was meant to make my body adjust to eating in a normal way (where is the logic in that?). On day 6 however, I was watching tv and the word 'peanut butter' was mentioned. I got such a huge craving for peanut butter, that I rushed to the cupboard and ate the whole jar and I binged afterwards. I'm sure that I told myself something like 'on Monday I will do another detox', because this is what I did. It was my common approach; telling myself I will make up for it later.
Binging So I've talked about my binges and how they gradually got worse, but I didn't tell you what a binge is exactly and what it feels like. Why can't I just not binge? Why couldn't I just follow the simple meal plan? Why was I so ‘hungry’ all the time? Why couldn't I just eat normal meals and snacks, like other people do? These are the questions I asked myself a trillion times and I can imagine that these are the questions you have after reading my story so far. I will try to explain what it feels like whenever I binged. It always started with an argument. Not an argument with someone else, that might eventually lead to emotional eating, but I argued with myself, in my head. Eating and not eating was something that was always in my head. This is what I did all day long, I was consumed by these thoughts. I wanted to eat, but I told myself that I shouldn't. I shouldn't, because I would never lose the weight I gained, it's not healthy for my body to consume so much (crappy) food and if I'd eat something, it might end up in a binge. This was the thing; I was quite alright whenever I didn't eat. I was able to not eat for very long time. I never felt dizzy or light headed, I was able to live my life and do everything I wanted, without the lack of food affecting me. But whenever I started to eat or whenever I ate something unhealthy, I couldn't stop myself anymore. Why couldn't I stop myself? Whenever I gave into a binge, I felt powerless and at the same time it felt really good. I felt so good, because the argument that I had with myself, which was so exhausting to have all the time, was gone for a while and I was able to let go and not think anymore. I felt powerless, because I wasn't able to stop eating. I didn't just eat one big meal, a whole bag of crisps or a pack of biscuits and then felt satisfied afterwards. Oh no.. it was much more than just indulging or overeating a bit. I was losing all control. It felt like I wasn't even myself anymore. All I could think of and all I cared about was eating. To give you an example of what I was able to eat in one binge: a bag of crisps, a bag of sweets, 2 burgers with lots of sauce, 2 sugary yogurts, another bag of crisps, 2 big bars of chocolate, 4 sandwiches, a bag of popcorn and a tub of ice cream. And this was not spread over 1 whole day, mostly it was spread over 2-3 hours. Whenever I baked something, a cake, brownies or whatever, I would eat it all. Sometimes I even started baking, so I could binge on it as soon as it came out of the oven. Whenever I was close to a supermarket, a cafe or a restaurant that I liked or any place that had food, I was always fighting myself to go or not to go. This is just an example though, because I ate other things as well and the sweets and crisps I ate, varied with brand and flavour as well.
Guilt Did I never feel full? Oh yes I did! This wasn't a reason for me to stop though. I had this trick so I was able to eat a lot. After eating something salty, I'd eat something sweet, so I felt like eating something salty again and this way I was able to eat something sweet again etc. I ate until I felt sick and I was in physical pain. Not a little nauseated, but often I felt so sick, that I had to lie down. It made me feel numb and many times I just wanted to go to sleep. At the end of the day, after waking up and/or the next day, I felt puffy, bloated and bad. And although I felt very disappointed at myself, again, I never felt proper hate towards myself. Maybe I did once or twice in my teenage years, but I think it was more anger towards myself instead of hate. Over the years I've sort of became used to it and only the feeling of disappointment was left. I also always cheered myself up (the forever positive person in me I guess), with telling myself that on Monday I'd be all good forever and from the 1st of January I will be good forever and from my birthday I will be good forever and when summer starts I will be good forever and after the summer I will be good forever.. you get the idea! It never worked, or at least it never worked for more than 2-3 weeks.
Feeling Miserable Was I always feeling miserable, every day? Oh definitely not! I love my life and I am a very happy and positive person. I also didn't binge every day or even every week. There were weeks that I'd binge 3 or 4 times a week, but there were also times that I ate normal for a few weeks. There were times where I'd just eat a lot every day for a few weeks, but I wouldn't call this a binge. I'd eat a lot of food (not all healthy), what kind of kept me from binging. This wasn't always only unhealthy food though and in fact, overall, I always ate extremely healthy food as well. I ate a whole foods plant based diet all the time, even on most of the binge-days. Which I think helped me a lot, because my body is very healthy and I always have a crazy amount of energy. But as soon as I felt that I gained weight, I restricted myself again and I was back in another cycle. The cycle that I didn’t recognise, not even after so many years. It took me a while.
Going Vegan First of all, I want to state that my decision to go vegan has nothing to do with my eating disorder. I went vegan purely for the animals and later also my health. I did ask myself if going vegan made it worse, but I can't say that it has. I also can't say that it made it better though (sadly). In my teenage years and during my marriage I binged a lot on meat. I loved meat! I even remember one time, that I got on my bike, got a pack of mincemeat at the supermarket, cooked it when I got home and ate it all by myself. In restaurants and buffets, my plate was always full of meat. It’s something that I cannot imagine ever doing again. I also ate quite a lot of eggs and drank a lot of cow and goat milk etc. When I went vegan, I obviously didn't binge on meat anymore, but I replaced it with other things; meat substitutes or something totally different, like crisps or whatever. I didn't eat more or less on a binge after I went vegan. The funny thing is, that I can say in all honesty, that I never ever had a difficult moment being vegan. I never craved meat or milk or eggs or anything that contained something coming from animals. When biscuits contained milk powder, my head simply didn't see that as food anymore. I literally don't see animal products as food anymore and this is why I never craved it. This is how I know that going vegan didn't have any influence.
Jealousy I'm not a very jealous person. I'm happy the way I am, I'm happy with what I look like and I can genuinely be happy for someone else, even when it's about something I would love to have as well. However! The one thing that made me very jealous was the way other people were able to eat in a normal way. Many times I didn't only crave food, I craved the way people lived their life, without eating all day long. My days were always about food; to eat or not to eat.. Binge and making up for it. Every day, for 20 years!
Emotional Eating Whenever I ate a lot when people were around (this does not come close to what I would eat in a binge), I would always make excuses; I'm on my period, I will have my period next week, I just love this so much, I always eat so healthy that I can afford to eat a bit more now etc. I actually started to believe it myself as well and it gave me the freedom to eat. Some people did notice that it sometimes happened a bit more often, like my mum. She then just said that I was an emotional eater. I thought about this a lot and I sort of admitted it, but I mostly used it as an excuse. This is because my binge eating wasn't only when I felt sad, angry or upset. I also binged when I was happy, feeling good and in low stress periods of my life. So yes, it was when I felt an emotion, but this wasn't necessarily a negative emotion. The thing is, that I didn't only lie about this to other people, but I actually lied to myself about this.
Recovery I’d say I’m recovered for almost a year now. I do sometimes have the same obsessive thoughts, but I know how to handle this now. I gained some weight during my recovery, but I fully accepted my body and I love my body the way it is. Do I still want to lose weight? I would love to weigh a little less, but I love it even more that I just love my body unconditionally and being happy with it, without the forever struggle around food. To not have my day involving 92375482347328473 food thoughts is a weight off my shoulders (pun intended). I cured myself, as in, I didn’t go into therapy or anything like that. After 20 years I managed to cure myself and I’m so proud of myself for this. It wasn’t just one thing that cured me, but there are a few keys that help when you want to get rid of bulimia (and maybe also other eating disorders or things you struggle with).
The Keys: -Knowing myself very well and understanding what and who I am. -Fulfilling my life’s mission and focusing on that. -Understanding how my body works and how important gut health is. -Intuitive Eating!!! -Strengthening my immune system and balanced hormones. -Meditating and focusing on spirituality.
Do you struggle with an eating disorder or do you struggle with something else? I’ve created 4 courses that will teach you all about these keys. They are called the Light & Love Courses and you can buy them via this website. CLICK HERE for more information about the Light & Love Courses. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me. I’m thinking about creating a separate course about overcoming an Eating Disorder, but I do recommend to start with the basics in my Light & Love Courses. This will already help you so much.
Thank you so much for reading my story. I really hope that I can help other people with this post. I want you to know that you do not have to heel ashamed when you struggle with the same thing or with something similar. After telling people, I realised that many people struggle with bulimia and by actually being open about it, we can help each other. This is also why I wrote the courses, to help anyone who wants to discover their true self. Sending you lots of love!